US and UN: Caught between Shiites and Sunnis
Two parallel reports from Baghdad, one from Alissa Rubin of the LA Times and one from Hamza Hendawi of AP, point to the increasing difficulties the US is having in satisfying the Kurds, Sunni Arabs and Shiites in Iraq.
Rubin [reg. req.] emphasizes the dissatisfaction of the Sunni Arabs, and the ways in which the UN might step in to mollify the Shiites. I am quoted expressing pessimism about Sistani’s flexibility.
Hamza Hendawi of AP reports from Najaf that an anonymous administration official told him that “there will be no new plan” on Iraqi elections. He says, however, that the present plan will be tinkered with in hopes that will make it acceptable to Grand Ayatollah Sistani.
Hendawi, who quotes me on Sistani, reports enormous anger among Sunni Arabs about the prospect of Shiite rule. But that is what any sort of democracy would produce.
What I don’t understand is why they don’t just have elections for two houses of parliament. Go back to the old Saddam scheme of 19 provinces (he had created an extra one for Sunnis) and give each province 2 senators. Such a senate would slightly over-represent Sunnis and might help mollify them and convince them that the Shiite-dominated lower house would not be able to excercise a tyranny of the majority. Another benefit of such a province-based senate is that it would give Kurds an incentive to want several provinces instead of just one.
I am hearing rumors, purportedly coming out of Najaf, that there will be big Shiite demonstrations throughout Iraq this coming Friday. One reason I am pessimistic that Sistani will back down is precisely that he has gone to the streets. He must have known that crowds will be hard to rein in if some basic modicum of his demands are not met, even if he himself is willing to compromise.