Constitutions Fate Unclear Al Jazeera

Constitution’s Fate Unclear

Al-Jazeera early Saturday morning is reporting that some sort of deal has been reached with the Sunni Arabs on the constitution, but the situation is so muddled that I cannot be sure it is a firm agreement. [It was just talk, coming from speaker of the parliament, Hajim al-Hasani. The saga goes on.]

Dexter Filkins and James Glanz of the NYT reported that at the close of business, Iraq time, on Friday, the Shiites and the Kurds had effectively given up on trying to reach a consensus with the Sunni Arab members of the constitution drafting committee. The Shiites and the Kurds have reached compromises with one another, but were unwilling to mollify the Sunni Arabs. The big sticking points were a Sunni Arab demand for an end to the placing of disabilities on former Baath Party members, and the Sunni Arab opposition to allowing regional confederations to form that had an a priori claim on national resources. I continue to be disturbed at the big place the NYT coverage gives to Ahmad Chalabi and his perspectives. If anyone has been discredited, it is he.

As I said in my Salon.com article on Friday, I do not accept the narrative of the unreasonable Sunnis who would never compromise under any circumstances, or who are just dusted-off Baathists, as some Shiites charge. The criteria being proposed for sharing the oil wealth are that a) the recipients have oil wells in their territory; b) that the recipient is traditionally poverty-stricken or c) that the recipient was injured by Baath Party policies. Under these criteria, the Sunni Arabs are 0 for 3. So instead of getting, say, 20 percent of the petroleum revenues as redistributed by the central government, they are being offered 10 percent. Who could accept such a deal?

The Telegraph’s Oliver Poole reports from Baghdad that Sunni negotiator Salih Mutlak said, “The Iraqi people have to give their word now and reject the constitution because this constitution is the beginning of the division of the country and the beginning of creating disturbance in the country.” He called on Iraqis to reject the constitution at the polls.

Poole also reminds us that the squabbling over the constitution is an inside- the- green- zone issue. What are ordinary Iraqis exercised about? The heat, lack of electricity, gasoline so dirty and substandard that it ruins automobiles.

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