Monday, August 22, 2005


Checking sources, it appears there are errors in my previous article. The BBC News ran a story that the Monday deadline has been extended for three days. The ethnic dynamics are still the same. But according to this article, the Kurds disapprove of disregarding the Sunni demands. They (Sunnis and Kurds) agree on secular government in spite of their differences over federalism. This could lead to a counterweight to Shiite demands of an Islamic, Shariah-based government and legislature. Only time will tell. The fragile dynamics between the "interest groups" need to be respected if there is to be any peace.

Constitutional Iraq

The AFP reports that the Kurds and Shiite Muslims have agreed on a new constitution, leaving the Sunnis out of the final agreement. Up until the formation of the draft. Sunni members, along with Iraqi women's rights groups, had major qualms about several key factors in Iraq's future. Hastening the completion of the draft could prove problematic.

Iraqi women's groups were primarily concerned with the role of Islam in government. Shariah Islamic law, wanted by most Shiites to be primary legislative source for Iraq's family law, would set back Women's rights to a pre 1957 era. Women's rights have been relatively successful in the pre 2003 Iraq, where secular government was an exception to the region. Women could hold political office, be outside without a burka (full head to toe covering), and have near equality in matters of divorce, marriage, and property. If Shariah law is enacted, women's status in Iraq will be more likened to that in Iran and Saudi Arabia.
More about the Women's struggle can be found at the Institute for War and Peace reporting here.

The U.S., Kurds, and most Sunnis seemed mainly in agreement with women over the importance of secular government. However, the Shiites form a large plurality in Iraqi Parliament, holding more political sway than the Kurds and Sunnis. The U.S. has since given concessions to the Shiites over Shariah influence in order quicken the writing of the draft. If our goal in Iraq is to make the Middle East more helpful to U.S. national security, allowing another Islamic state to form won't help. Additionally, the spread of Medieval women's status will do nothing for democracy.

Then there is the question of federalism...

While, Kurds want their own autonomous regions in the north and Shiites want regions in the south, Sunnis have been vastly opposed to a federal Iraqi state. This is due to main Iraqi Oil production being located in these northern and southern regions. Sunnis are fearful that they won't have access to primary oil resources and the revenue that comes with it. Pushing through the draft of the constitution without Sunni consent on this matter is legal, given the majority of Kurdish and Shiite Parliament representation. However, the security ramifications of allowing federalism, in opposition to Sunnis, could prove problematic.

Including Sunnis in the political process is key to peace in Iraq. Most of the dissent in Iraq and insurgency is reportedly Sunni. Denying them further economic and political access will only increase their anger. Additionally, the Shiite radical cleric, Muqtata al-Sadr is opposed to Iraqi federalism. His large group of Shiite followers have previously been a major thorn in the side of U.S. forces. Denying his demands of a "unified Iraqi state" could twist that thorn.

Perhaps the Sunnis shot themselves in the foot by boycotting the January 30th elections. If they'd been more active then, an increased number in Parliament would have given them more negotiating power. Sunnis could negotiate for more secularism, more control over oil resources, a "unified Iraq." Now that the draft constitution is being pushed through, Iraqi and U.S. security forces risk further backlash. Political processes may resume control however in the constitution's October referendum, when Sunnis, Kurds, and women's groups will have another chance to voice their opinions.