No Constitution Yet Waters Of Battle

No Constitution Yet
Waters of Battle recede in Tal Afar

The final text of the Iraqi constitution has still not been worked out, and so the United Nations cannot begin to print it in several million copies so that Iraqi voters can read it before the October 15 referendum. It is going to be very difficult to get the printing and distribution done with only a month to go.

The ongoing negotiations seem to open a new can of worms every day. The Kurds want a lock on the veto that the presidential council can cast with regard to legislation, by insisting on having two of the vice president posts.An ethnic litmus test for political office ought not be in the constitution, in my view, whatever the actual practice. The Shiites want control of water to be in the hands of the central government in Baghdad, which they control via their majority. The water comes to the southern Shiites via territory held by Sunni Arabs and Kurds.

It is a mess that the constitution is still being negotiated so many weeks after the August 22 deadline. You wonder if they will ever be able even to submit a final text for printing. Apparently the United Nations had to refuse to print the constitution last week because the Shiites and the Kurds gave them different versions! Even the US ambassador in Baghdad has a version that he has been reported to be pushing. United Nations officials have criticized the legitimacy of an outside power having that much impact on constitution-making in a sovereign country. Khalilzad, the ambassador, was the one who suggested that Iraqi politicians could go on tinkering with the text after it was submitted and finalized, which was probably a bad idea.

The latest US/Iraqi offensive in Tal Afar petered out on Sunday, as the invaders discovered that the guerrillas in the city had used tunnels to escape. The Iraqis and the US had been saying that they wanted to prevent the guerrillas from getting away, but now they just have to declare victory and go home. Most of the city has been emptied out. Most of the residents had not been guilty of any thing, but now they are refugees.

These sweep operations such as have been conducted several times at Tal Afar and also at Qaim and even the Sunni parts of Baghdad have never really succeeded. It is like attacking water; it just flows around you and the situation ends up the same as before. Operation Lighting in early June in Baghdad was supposed to put an end to Sunni Arab guerrilla operations in Baghdad. It did seem to impede them for a brief period, but then they roared back. It seems possible, perhaps likely, that Tal Afar will revert again, too, when people come back to the city.

The US/Iraqi government policy now appears to be to de-urbanize the Sunni Arab heartland by destroying Sunni cities one after another. The problem with such a tactic is that it will not actually reduce attacks on the US military or the Iraqi police. It will just seed ethnic hatred for decades to come.

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