October 12, 2005


Deal in Iraq Raises Hopes For Passage of Constitution (Ellen Knickmeyer and Jonathan Finer, October 12, 2005, Washington Post)

Four days before Iraqis are to vote on their country's proposed constitution, Shiite, Sunni Arab and Kurdish power brokers reached a breakthrough late Tuesday that revived hopes of winning Sunni support for the charter and defusing the Sunni-led insurgency by political means, Iraqi political leaders said. [....]

[A]fter weeks of stalemate over a draft constitution that largely shut out the demands of Iraq's disempowered Sunni Arab minority and raised fears of even greater sectarian and insurgent violence, some Sunni negotiators accepted Tuesday's changes with clear relief.

"With the changes, I will give my full support to the constitution," said Mishan Jabouri, a Sunni Arab who was involved in negotiations. An opponent of the previous draft, Jabouri had said he stayed in the talks only at the coaxing of Middle Eastern diplomats.

"Before now, I felt like I am losing. We are losing our power, we are losing our country, and I am like a foreigner living here," Jabouri said. "Now everything has changed. This constitution, I think any Arab Sunni can support it."

"I believe the key part of the Sunni community will come on board," said another senior Iraqi official close to the talks. "We have come very far at the very last minute."

The deal was achieved largely because of what U.S. officials have called "tweaking" encouraged by U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad. The diplomat has pushed for unceasing negotiations to win Sunni approval since late August, when Shiite and Kurdish leaders of Iraq's transitional government approved a draft over Sunni objections.

The major concession from Tuesday's talks was agreement by the Shiites and Kurds that a committee be created early next year to consider amendments to the constitution, if voters approve it Saturday, said Ali Debagh, a top Shiite official involved in the talks. Any changes recommended by the committee would have to be ratified by a two-thirds vote of parliament and a national referendum, Debagh said.

The compromise appealed to the Sunni Arabs, observers said, because the changes would be put before a new parliament, to be elected Dec. 15. Sunnis have had comparatively little say in the existing parliament because they largely stayed away from the polls when the body was elected in January.

The poor Sunni still think they're a majority.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 12, 2005 7:58 AM

A committee to "consider" amendments that wil never be passed. Too funny. These Sunnis don't understand politics too well.

Posted by: Bob at October 12, 2005 11:13 AM

Bob: This is obviously a face saving manuever. If that's all it takes to draw some nontrivial fraction of Sunni leaders into the gov't, it's a total win.

Posted by: b at October 12, 2005 11:15 AM

B: I agree that it is a total win for our side.

Posted by: Bob at October 12, 2005 12:43 PM

What was good enough for the US is good enough for Iraq, apparently. Bill of Rights, anyone?

Posted by: BrianOfAtlanta at October 12, 2005 3:58 PM

It was a mistake here. Why should they repeat it?

Posted by: oj at October 12, 2005 4:03 PM