Iraq Anarchy Grows Constitution Deal

Iraq Anarchy Grows
Constitution Deal May attract IIP

Veteran British reporter Robert Fisk, according to the Independent, finds much of Iraq to have significantly deteriorated since his last visit and to be in a “state of anarchy” and found it bizarre for the Western press to focus on procedural matters like the referendum on the constitution.

‘ He said that the portrayal of Iraq by Western leaders ­ of efforts to introduce democracy, including Saturday’s national vote on the country’s proposed constitution ­ was “unreal” to most of its citizens. In Baghdad, children and women were kept at home to prevent them from being kidnapped for money or sold into slavery. They faced a desperate struggle to find the money to keep generators running to provide themselves with electricity. “They aren’t sitting in their front rooms discussing the referendum on the constitution.”

An aide claimed Thursday that Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani has urged Iraqis to vote “yes” in Saturday’s referendum. Earlier reports had suggested that Sistani would not intervene. As it is, he doesn’t appear to have issued a formal statement.

It appears to me that a lot of informed Iraqis are afraid that the constitution could be defeated. The parliament tried to pull some funny business by saying that the 3-province veto would require a 2/3s majority of registered voters to vote “no,” not just of actual voters (making a veto almost impossible). Then the UN made them repeal that measure. Then US ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad went on trying to find a way to please at least some Sunni Arabs, finally making some sort of breakthrough on Tuesday that may have gotten at least some leaders of the Iraqi Islamic Party aboard. (One Arabic news report denied that the IIP had decided to support the constitution.) Now Sistani has reversed himself and asked Shiites to come out to vote for the constitution. I figure that the Sunni Arabs have at least some chance of carrying Anbar, Salah al-Din and Ninevah for a “no” vote, and some keen Iraqi observers appear to be afraid of this, as well.

The drumbeat of violence continued in Iraq on Wednesday.

Parliament met to hear the constitutional “amendments” read on Wednesday in Baghdad, but did not actually vote on them. The speaker of the house, Hajim al-Hasani, said that a vote was “not necessary.” Only 157 parliamentarians were present, and parliament had earlier announced a recess of several weeks. Was it that they could not muster a convincing number of votes for the constitution under these circumstances. I just scratch my head at “amendments” to the “constitution” that are “adopted” but never voted on by parliament. Things are being done by powerful party leaders dickering with one another in closed rooms thick with cigarette smoke, and then just announced. No vote is necessary. It has all been taken care of already. Iraq has gone from being a dictatorship to being an oligarchy.

Jonathan Finer of the Washington Post reports on the celebratory mood in the Shiite holy city of Najaf as people prepare to vote for the constitution, which was significantly shaped by the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, which governs Najaf province, and by Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, who has his seat in Najaf.

Jackie Spinner of the same newspaper finds the Kurds of Irbil generally uninterested in the constitutional referendum. Some fear that it implies an attempt to integrate the Kurds into Iraq again, when what they want is independence.

Meanwhile, Sunni Arabs in Ramadi, according to Sabrine Tavernise of the NYT are enthusiastic about voting “no” in the referendum.

Tom Lasseter of Knight Ridder reports on the new Iraqi Army, which he says is mostly Shiite Muslim and heavily imbued with an negative attitude toward the Sunni Arabs. The danger of the new Iraqi military getting caught up in sectarian vendettas seems real.

The CIA accurately predicted the postwar problems in Iraq, but its predictions were ignored by the Bush administration. The CIA made serious errors in its estimation of Iraq’s weapons programs (in part by depending too heavily on satellite photos), but that part of the report was eagerly pounced on by the Bush administration.

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