Four Sunnis pull out of Constitution Committee in Protest
A Dozen Dead in New Attacks
‘ Over a dozen more people lost their lives in Iraq yesterday, including eight killed when a suicide bomber blew himself up outside the gates of an army recruiting center in Baghdad, the latest attack against the country’s security forces. ‘
Guerrillas also blew up an oil pipeline from Baiji to Baghdad.
Four Sunni members of the constitution drafting committee pulled out on Wedenesday. members of the Sunni National Dialogue Council, they are protesting the killing of Sunni members of the committee.
The National Dialogue Council, according to al-Hayat, is accusing “a militia associated with the government” [i.e. the Badr Corps of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq] of having carried out the assassination of 3 members of the committee, because of their “opposition to federalism.” The Sunni Arab contingent on the committee wants a France-style strong central government.
Meanwhile, the Shiites are pushing hard for personal status law to be put under religious courts (that is, matters such as marriage, divorce, inheritance, alimony, and so forth). A Shiite woman sent to a Shiite court judge for an inheritance case would typically receive only half the inheritance that her brother did, e.g.
Michael Jansen comments on the Sunni walkout. She also points to a worrisome tendency for professionals and experts to flee Iraq because of poor security and the looming threat of the imposition of a rigid interpretation of Islamic law. Since Iraqi news professionals are among those tempted to leave, we may increasingly find it impossible even to know what is going on in Iraq.
The head of the drafting committee, Humam Hamoudi, keeps saying that the new constitution will be ready even before the August 15 deadline. But it is also admitted that there isn’t the most basic agreement about things like federalism or its exact shape. There is something fishy about this certitude that the constitution can be finished so quickly, and my guess is that some sort of fix is in. That is, it seems probable that the religious Shiites and the Kurds have agreed to accept most of the Transitional Administrative Law or interim constitution, hammered out in part under US auspices in winter of 2004, but to make a few key changes to it that both sides can accept. Apparently putting personal status law under religious courts is one of them.
KarbalaNews.net reports that Wahhabi Saudi Arabia has issued an invitation to Shiite Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani to visti Riyadh. Iranian clerical leaders have gone to see the Wahhabi royal family, so this visit would not be unprecedented. Saudi Arabia’s Shiite population is estimated by some at 10 percent (over 2 million), and most live in the oil-rich Eastern Province, where many work on the oil rigs. Most Saudi Shiites follow the rulings of Sistani, though a few are Shaikhis and have a bond with the 200,000-strong Shaikhi community of Basra, while a handful are oriented toward Iran’s grand ayatollahs. Still, this invitation is sort of like having the Northern Ireland protestant leaders invite the Pope out for a visit to Belfast. Wahhabis and Shiites in general are not on very good terms. One suspects something is afoot, perhaps a Saudi attempt to mediate between Sistani and the Bush administration, representatives of which he refuses to meet.
The Iraqi Red Crescent society maintains that the US military is undertaking a new campaign against resurgent guerrilla in Fallujah.
54 percent of US troops in Iraq report that morale in their units is low. The percentage was even higher last year. The year-long deployments, constant mortar attacks, and the vulnerability to roadside bombs when in transit in Iraq appear to underlie a lot of the poor morale.
The BBC reports on Iraq’s small coterie of 750 court judges, responsible for 25 million persons, who still judge cases according to the Saddam-era penal code.
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told the national press corps in Washington DC that in his honest opinion, the Iraq War had been a mistake. He offered Indian aid for reconstruction and the Indian constitution as a model for Iraq’s and was willing to call the controversy over the US invasion a thing of the past. India, a rising superpower, is seeking a seat on the United Nations Security Council but apparently got no support from Bush.
Italian opposition leader Romano Prodi has pledged to pull Italian troops out of Iraq if he wins the next election, in 2006. At the moment Prodi, leader of the center-left Ulivo coalition, has a two-to-one lead over current rightwing Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. Even Berlusconi has talked about beginning the process of bringing Italian troops home. Italian troops are stationed at Nasiriyah in the Shiite south, an area that probably can increasing take care of its own security, though probably by resorting to somewhat unsavory Shiite militias.
Hannah Allam, on whose reporting for Knight Ridder in Baghdad I have often depended heavily, is slated to go to Cairo to open a new bureau in September. It is a very good thing for the world that brave reporters like Allam are out there building up bureaus. Many US news organizations have retreated from Middle East coverage. The last I knew, none of the major television news outfits any longer had a Cairo bureau.
Here is the al-Jazeerah report on Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani’s remarks about genocide and the dangers of sectarian conflict, from BBC World Monitoring:
‘ BBC Monitoring International Reports
July 18, 2005
HEADLINE: IRAQI VICE-PRESIDENT VISITS AL-SISTANI
Text of report by Qatari Al-Jazeera satellite TV on 18 July
Grand Ayatollah Al-Sayyid Ali al-Sistani was quoted calling on the Iraqi government to provide protection to its citizens from what he described the war of elimination. Vice President Adil Abd-al-Mahdi, who met with Al-Sayyid Al-Sistani yesterday, added that Al-Sistani expressed concern over the recent bombings especially the Al-Musayyab bombing and the killing of children in eastern Baghdad a few days ago.
Source: Al-Jazeera TV, Doha, in Arabic 0912 gmt 18 Jul 05′