Summit on Constitution Postponed
Sistani accepts Federalism in Principle
Only 38 percent of Americans approve of the job Bush is doing in Iraq, a steep fall. The president in particular lost the trust on this issue of the suburban young soccer moms and of men with a high school education or less. Less than half of Americans now say they trust Bush, and 55 percent don’t like the job he is doing, overall. A lackluster economy and high gasoline prices appear to be contributing to the malaise.
Iraq is a huge mess, with virtually no security for its citizens, where massive bombs go off regularly and unpredictably, and where dozens of men show up in the morning shot to death on sectarian bases. So someone should please tell me what the 38 percent who think Bush is doing a good job over there are smoking.
Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani of Najaf told Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari on Friday that he hoped the Iraqi constitution now being drafted would recognize Islamic law as the main source of legislation. A majority of the 71-person drafting committee is drawn from the Shiite United Iraqi Alliance list in parliament, a list Sistani helped cobble together and get elected.
Al-Sharq al-Awsat reported Jaafari as saying that Sistani “Concentrated during the meeting on the issue of the constitution and the importance of safeguarding the constitutional balance through mirroring the composition of the Iraqi people precisely, including all the religious, ethnic and political backgrounds.”
With regard to the next parliamentary elections, now scheduled for December, Jaafari considered it likely that it would be based on multiple electoral districts rather than making all Iraq one electoral unit as happened in the Jan. 30 elections. He said of Sistani, “The Sayyid clarified that there are many positive aspects of this system, and I personally am convinced that this choice is the best.” [Note that it is likely that the 18 provinces will form the electoral districts. The religious Shiite parties would only have to dominate the returns from 10 provinces to retain their majority in parliament. They can count on sweeping the nine southern Shiite provinces. They may also take Baghdad province again, and are well positioned to take the mixed province of Diyala. That is, they have an excellent shot at being able to form the next government under this system.]
He added, “Sistani counselled the Iraqi government to redouble its efforts to overcome the present obstacles with regard to improving the provision of services and establishing a rule of law without any discrimination among the members of the Iraqi people, in addition to respect for public property and its preservation.”
He denied that Sistani is annoyed with the Iraqi government’s performance, saying that the grand ayatollah appreciates the obstacles it is facing.
He explained with regard to federalism, “His excellency Sistani does not oppose the principle [of federalism], if the Iraqi people should choose it . . . as for the kind of federalism and its details, that is a matter that is left to the National Assembly.”
Jaafari also met with Muqtada al-Sadr, the young cleric and Shiite nationalist, at the latter’s house in the Hananah quarter of Najaf. Jaafari said after the meeting that Sadr emphasized “the need to provide services to the Iraqi people in the best way possible.”
Al-Sadr for his part said that Jaafari’s visit would serve to “strengthen the bonds between the government and the Iraqi people.” He added, “The Iraqi people do not want a constitution without services, security, or stability.”
Sadr’s followers have staged demonstrations over poor water quality or lack of water, and over lack of electricity, in Samawah, Karbala and Najaf.
A big meeting of Iraqi politicians scheduled for Friday has had to be postponed at least a day, and probably until Sunday.
In part the delay comes about because the Kurdish provincial parliament insisted on questioning the Kurdish members of the federal constitution drafting committee on Friday, and Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani insisted on being at the provincial parliamentary meeting. Barzani also dropped a bombshell into the deliberations by saying at a news conference with US ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, “The Kurdish people have the right to secede, and if they do not demand it now, it is because they recognize that the timing is inappropriate.” He said that the “present program” of the Kurds was to work for the building of a federal, united Iraq. One wonders how long the present will last. Some Kurdish figures were hinting around that they would withdraw from the constitution-drafting committee if they did not get everything they are demanding. They threatened that if the Kurdish delegation walked out, it would lead to the fall of the government and the dissolution of parliament. They also rejected the inclusion of Iranian-Iraqis (“Persians”) as a recognized ethnic group in the constitution, as the Shiites desire. (-al-Hayat). Some Kurdish figures have in the past spoken of the possibility of holding a referendum among Kurds after 8 years to deterimine if they want to remain in federal Iraq. In other words the Kurds are throwing a little bit of a snit, just to emphasize that they will have to get their way on some key issues, including their demand for a loose federalism (think: Switzerland).
Al-Hayat says that Adnan Mufti, the head of the Kurdistan parliament, put forward three issues on which the constitution-making process could founder: the future of the city of Kirkuk, the name of Iraq, and the role of Islam. He said the Kurds insist that Islam be one of the sources of legislation, not its fundamental source.
In part, not everyone in Baghdad who should have has received an invitation. The entire episode does not, to say the least, inspire confidence.
About a thousand US and Iraqi troops have launched a new operation against guerrillas in western Iraq. The territory is so vast, and the enemy so numerous, and the support in the populace so broad, that one despairs such a force can make much permanent difference. It is even likely that some of the Iraqi troops are double agents and actually working for the other side.
Gen. J. B. Dutton, commander of the British forces in southern Iraq, said Friday that it was hard to estimate the extent of Iranian influence in Iraq, and that many of the allegations made in this regard are based on speculation. This is what an honest public servant sounds like, without any spin. The facts are laid out and the ambiguities in interpreting them are admitted. The main Bush administration officials perhaps never knew how to be this honest and frank, or at least not since they were taking the other kids’ lunch money off them in return for not beating them up, in the third grade.
Dutton: “The question of Iranian involvement is always a difficult one because there’s a lot of speculation about it and not many facts. . . “
If we didn’t live in such a propagandized information environment, Dutton’s sensible comments would not even be news.
The Iraqi government is getting back control over the .iq domain at long last. Well, that settles it. It is a country again, however much of a mess it may be. It has a domain.