August 30, 2005

"The major problem is one of who is agreeing, not what they have agreed on. "

NYU lawprof Noah Feldman, who was a senior adviser for constitutional law to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, has an important op-ed in the NYT today:
THE completion of Iraq's draft constitution, which will be submitted to the people for ratification in October, should have been an occasion for celebration. As most Americans are aware, it has not been. But while much of the criticism has focused on such areas as women's rights, federalism and the role of Islam, such concerns are largely misplaced. In fact, the text strives to balance democratic equality with the Islamic values that are popular with many Iraqi voters, and it sketches a workable if vague compromise on power-sharing between the center and the federal regions.

The major problem is one of who is agreeing, not what they have agreed on. The flawed negotiations of recent weeks, driven at breakneck pace by American pressure to meet an unnecessary deadline, failed to produce an agreement satisfactory to the Sunni politicians in the talks. It appears that the draft will be put before the people with their strong disapproval. The paradoxical result is a looming disaster: a well-conceived constitution that, even if ratified, may well fail to move Iraq toward constitutional government.

8 comments:

Sloanasaurus said...

"...It appears that the draft will be put before the people with their strong disapproval...."

I wonder what he means by this? What "people" will register a strong disapproval?

He is just assuming that small minorities (i.e. the less than 20% Sunni) will not accept political defeat and move on to the next task. Maybe he is right. If this is the case, then sooner or later the minority will have to stand and fight and lose because there is "fundamental" issue around every corner.

Too Many Jims said...

Sloanasaurus,

I took, from the context, that he was talking about Sunni leaders. I think that what he was trying to say was that the Sunni leaders would oppose the constitution strongly.

I suppose that you are right that if the situation cannot be resolved that the minority will have to stand and fight. Some would say that has already begun. With regard to the "and lose" part, one would think you are right if two conditions occur. First, you have a closed system where the minority does not have support from outside. Second, the majority is willing to expend its own resources and fight the minority. At least from a violence/military perspective, neither of these conditions curently exist in Iraq.

Simon said...

Where can we obtain a reliable english translation of the constitution? All I've seen online are summaries and cliffs notes, and - just as with controversial legislation - I'd rather read the real thing.

KAWyle said...

I can't vouch for its accuracy, but there's an English translation of the full constitution, apparently from the Associated Press, at the Sacramento Bee's website at http://www.sacbee.com/24hour/special_reports/iraq/story/2663648p-11175838c.html.

Karen A. Wyle

Sloanasaurus said...

"...I suppose that you are right that if the situation cannot be resolved that the minority will have to stand and fight. Some would say that has already begun...."

I have doubts that the Sunni's would put up much of a fight. Aside from the 1% of Jihadists, what would the rest of the population be fighting for?

In this case the Sunni's would not be fighting for the ususal causes such as independence, it would be just the opposite? Would Sunnis fight to attempt to maintain their dominance over the rest of the country? It seems that a full out civil war would be difficult to support on the Sunni side for very long.

Steven said...

The Sunni Arab negotiators want to run the country again. And they can go to hell.

After all, if they just wanted to govern themselves as they see fit, they'd gladly accept high levels of federalism and form a Sunni region. They want unitary government because that's the only institutional arrangement that would even potentially let them go back to the way it was before the war, when they could tell the Kurds and Shiites what to do.

The demands that the Baath party not be excluded from power is a further mark that what the Sunni negotiators are for is a restoration of the old genocidal Baathist Sunni elite. As is the continuing Sunni insurgency.

So they're unhappy? Screw 'em. Tell them that if they don't like the constitution, then sure, we'll abandon a federal Iraq. Instead, partition Iraq into three independent parts and pull forces out of Sunnistan. They start attcking Kurdistan and Shiastan, bomb Sunnistan flat and build a wall around it.

After running the country for 80 years, and running it as the local proxies of the Sunni Ottoman Turks for hundreds of years previously, it's time for the Sunni Arab Iraqis to figure out they're not in charge anymore. One way or another.

Too Many Jims said...

"I have doubts that the Sunni's would put up much of a fight. Aside from the 1% of Jihadists, what would the rest of the population be fighting for?"

To the extent we are talking about the insurgency, I do hope that you are correct that the fight cannot be sustained. Time will tell.

With regard to what they are fighting for, some may be fighting for Jihad others for return of a secular baathist state. However, some will undoubtedly be fighting (both politically and violently) against the type of fedralism that this constitution enshrines. It really is more of a "confederation" with the autonomous regions controlled by the Kurds and the Shia controlling the vast majority of future oil production and revenues.

Bruce Hayden said...

I think that the later is important here. The Sunnis don't have the oil, rather the Kurds and the Shiites do. But the Sunnis benefitted from it much more than the other groups did during the reign of Saddam Hussein.