Sunni Arabs Rejoin Constitution

Sunni Arabs Rejoin Constitution Committee

The Sunni Arab members of the constitution drafting committee ended their boycott on Monday, and say they will attend Tuesday’s meeting. Parliament agreed to provide them bodyguards and conduct an investigation into the killing of two of their number last week.

Reuters reports deaths in the ongoing guerrilla war:

A suicide car bomber killed 12 Iraqi civilians when he detonated his payload in front of a hotel in downtown Baghdad. The hotel suffered heavy damage.

Another suicide car bomber attacked an Iraqi military compound at Nisour Square in western Baghdad, killing 3 Iraqi commandos and injuring 6 others.

In Dura, south Baghdad, armed guerrillas invaded a home, killing four persons including 2 women, and leaving 3 wounded, including a child.

Guerrillas assassinated the head of Samarra’s local council, Taha Ahmad.

Alissa Rubin of the Los Angeles Times adds:

A U.S. soldier also was killed near Samarra when an explosive device detonated under his vehicle, the military said Monday. His name was being withheld until his family had been notified.

There were new efforts to end the violence.

Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Chalabi said tribal leaders from the turbulent northern city of Tall Afar and government officials had reached an agreement under which tribal leaders would stop siding with insurgents and all armed men would leave the streets. In exchange, the government will release innocent residents from prison and provide much-needed resources such as electricity and water. ‘

It was announced that guerrillas combatting US troops managed to kill four members of the Georgia National Guard on Sunday.

The religious Shiites who have a majority in parliament and therefore a majority in the constitution drafting committee, are again pressing to have the country called “The Islamic Republic of Iraq.” They argue that Iraqis are “Islamic” and so it is just a recognition of reality. This argument hinges on not making a distinction between “Muslim” (belonging to the religion of Islam) and “Islamic” (exemplifying the ideals and culture of Islam). The majority of Iraqis is Muslim, but the Iraqi state is not necessarily Islamic. Those who don’t fall into the category of orthodox Muslims (Sunni or Shiite) probably amount to 5 percent of the population. There are 750,000 or so Christians, and smaller numbers of Mandaeans (Gnostics), Yezidis (you don’t want to know), and heterodox Turkmen Shiites. And, probably 15 percent or so are secularists of one sort or another; this group includes the Communists. That is, 20 percent of the country isn’t very “Islamic.” It is a significant group, bigger proportionally than African-Americans or Latinos in the United States. A constitution should not lightly disregard the views of 20 percent of the population. The Kurds and the Sunni Arabs are not thrilled about this Khomeinizing language among the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq.

The new US ambassador in Baghdad, Zalmay Khalilzad, came out against shariah or Muslim canon law on Monday. The Shiite majority wants to put personal status matters under religious courts, as in Israel and Lebanon. Khalilzad said that the US would oppose this move. (How many votes does the US have in the Iraqi parliament?)

A Kurdish member of the drafting committee objected to language that offered Iraqi citizenship to anyone who was stripped of it after 1963. The passage seemed drafted to exclude Iraqi Jews who fled to Israel in the 1950s. (-al-Hayat)

A joint study by the US Departments of Defense and State concludes that the Iraqi police are infiltrated by members of the guerrilla movement because of poor vetting by the US. It also criticizes a tendency for the US to quickly “train” large numbers of police as “cannon fodder” rather than focusing on quality.

Billmon reads the New York Times cannily and points out that some reporters in Baghdad have waited a year to tell us how discouraged last year’s military and civilian American officials in Iraq were. They referred to Paul Bremer and the Coalition Provisional Authority neocons as “the Illusionists” for their announced faith that Iraq could be turned into a Jeffersonian democracy with a little elbow grease.

What should be noted is that Bremer’s successor of sorts, John Negroponte was no less an illusionist. He appears to have thought last August that American Marines could make themselves popular with Iraqi Shiites by threatening to raze the shrine of Imam Ali. And he and the new crew at the American embassy in Baghdad seemed to think that they could shoehorn the ex-Baathist CIA asset Iyad Alawi into power by giving him the advantages of incumbency and some money and some old retired CIA guys as campaign managers. That is, their illusion was not Jeffersonian democracy but elected lite authoritarianism.

They didn’t seem to notice that Allawi’s Defense Minister’s constant denunciations of Iran were unpopular in the Shiite south. They did not notice that Allawi’s calls for ever more US bombing of Sunni cities such as Fallujah made him sound to most Iraqis like an Uncle Ahmad, not to mention a bit of a maniac. They didn’t notice that his high-handed lecturing of Grand Ayatollah Sistani on the separation of religion and state made him sound to Iraqi Shiites like an atheist puppet of the US. The Illusionism around Allawi and his twin doberman pinschers, Hazem Shaalan and Naqib al-Falah, was so persuasive that many in the US embassy in Baghdad still hoped in January of 2005 that Allawi could form (perhaps a minority) government and remain prime minister after Jan. 30. In actuality, Allawi’s list got 14 percent of the seats in the Federal parliament and almost nothing in the provincial elections.

It is too soon to know if the illusion well in Baghdad has run dry. No doubt we will be told about a year from now.

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