Death Toll Of 52 As Constitution Talks

Death Toll of 52 as Constitution Talks Fizzle

The Iraqi Parliament did not actually meet Thursday to vote on the draft constitution.

Edmund Sanders of the LA Times reports

” Thursday’s talks at the Green Zone residence of Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani broke down around 10 p.m. when Sunni negotiators walked out, according to participants. The Sunnis had been waiting for the powerful Shiite parliamentary bloc to present a counterproposal on federalism but left when the top Shiite leaders didn’t show. “What negotiations? There were no negotiations,” said Iyad Samaraie, a senior Sunni negotiator. ‘

Sunni Arabs object to Shiite plans for a provincial confederation in southern Iraq that would lay special claim to that region’s oil resources, reducing the Sunni Arab share (Anbar, Salah al-Din and Ninevah lack developed oil fields).

One of my readers noted that some press reports were saying that the national assembly postponed discussion. But since it never met, that cannot be correct. The further discussion of the constitution was postponed by fiat, by the Iraqi executive, in contradiction to a pledge made Monday. As I argued Tuesday, this high-handed way of proceeding, without parliamentary approval or constitutional sanction, suggests that the Iraqi executive has made a kind of coup and is just making it up as they go along.

The New York Times says that President Bush called Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, the Shiite leader. But the call seems to have been to no avail if the Shiites did not come to Barzani’s home for negotiations. The Americans are annoyed that the Shiites recently came up with this demand for a southern confederation and are urging them to compromise with the Sunni Arabs, fearful that any other course will prolong and exacerbate the guerrilla war. Poor Bush, who once ordered mighty armies into war and tampered with the US Constitution through his Draconian “PATRIOT” act, now is reduced to pleading with a pro-Iranian cleric to please make nice with the ex-Baathists. And he isn’t even succeeding in the plea!

The Los Angeles Times says that the Shiites and Kurds may just send the constitution to a national referendum on October 15 and forego a parliamentary vote on it. The precise language of the Transitional Administrative Law does not technically call for a parliamentary vote on the text, saying only that the parliament “shall write” the constitution by August 15 (amended to August 22). The Iraqi government now considers that the constitution has “been written” and so the parliament has discharged its duty. The next step is the popular referendum. I give the text of the TAL on this issue below.

I cannot imagine that the framers of the TAL intended that there be no parliamentary vote on the constitution. In fact, the full “National Assembly” or “Parliament” has not written the constitution. A committee of parliament wrote it in conjunction with 15 Sunni Arab appointees. Especially given the presence of extra-parliamentary members on the committee, I wouldn’t consider that the parliament had “written” the constitution unless it formally adopted it. Moreover, the text submitted on August 22 was incomplete. How does that fulfill the constitutional requirements?

In a bizarre twist, the Kurdistan parliament went ahead and approved the text on Thursday. Was that necessary? How can it be desirable that a regional parliament vote on it but not the federal parliament?

The whole procedure bears no resemblance to the rule of law. But as I have noted, if the prime minister, the president and two vice-presidents, and parliament agree on this interpretation, there is currently no institution that could gainsay them. So the interim constitution means what they say it means.

Guerrillas attacked a convoy of cars belonging to President Jalal Talabani about an hour’s drive south of Kirkuk on Thursday, killing 8 bodyguards and wounding 15 others. Talabani of course was safe in the Green Zone far to the south. But aside from the tragedy of the bodyguards’ deaths and injuries, this incident is likely a deliberate signal to Talabani that he is not beyond the reach of the Sunni Arab guerrillas. I.e. it is like when the Mafia visits your restaurant and leaves a couple of bullets on the table top.

36 bodies were discovered in a shallow river at Aredo, just west of Kut near the Iranian border. The men had all been shot in the head. Mass executions of this sort have been a feature of the unconventional guerrilla war that grips the country.

Guerrillas killed 6 civilians and wounded 15 others in the small town of Abu Sayda just north of Baghdad, when they burst into a cafe and sprayed the people inside with machine gun fire. It was a popular breakfast spot.

A roadside bomb in Hawija killed an Iraqi soldier and wounded three civilians, including a child.

In Baquba, two cars pulled up next to the automobile of a local Shiite caller to prayer (muezzin) and killed him.

Katsuya Okada, president of the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) says that if his party defeats Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi in the upcoming elections, he will pull the 500 Self Defense Forces contingent from Samawah in Iraq. He said, ”The Self-Defense Force is doing nothing in Iraq. The most important mission of the Self-Defense Force, supplying water to local communities, is over . . . They are remaining in Iraq only for the political consideration of the Japan-US relationship.’ ‘

Timothy Phelps at Newsday reports on the insecurities of religious minorities in the southern port city of Basra in the face of the rise of puritanical Shiite parties and militias.

Andrew Hammond and Fuad Seif explore the mystical Kasnazani Sufi order, characterized by social tolerance but a cult of body piercing (don’t let California find out about it). Kasnazani members have been targeted by Salafi (fundamentalist) guerrillas because they have supported the overthrow of Saddam, though once the order had a relationship to Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri, a high-ranking Baathist who is probably behind much of the violence in Iraq today.

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Article 61.

(A) The National Assembly shall write the draft of the permanent constitution by no later than 15 August 2005.

(B) The draft permanent constitution shall be presented to the Iraqi people for approval in a general referendum to be held no later than 15 October 2005. In the period leading up to the referendum, the draft constitution shall be published and widely distributed to encourage a public debate about it among the people.

(C) The general referendum will be successful and the draft constitution ratified if a majority of the voters in Iraq approve and if two-thirds of the voters in three or more governorates do not reject it.

(D) If the permanent constitution is approved in the referendum, elections for a permanent government shall be held no later than 15 December 2005 and the new government shall assume office no later than 31 December 2005.

(E) If the referendum rejects the draft permanent constitution, the National Assembly shall be dissolved. Elections for a new National Assembly shall be held no later than 15 December 2005. The new National Assembly and new Iraqi Transitional Government shall then assume office no later than 31 December 2005, and shall continue to operate under this Law, except that the final deadlines for preparing a new draft may be changed to make it possible to draft a permanent constitution within a period not to exceed one year. The new National Assembly shall be entrusted with writing another draft permanent constitution. ‘