Just Above Sunset
August 28, 2005 - As Expected, Nothing Happened - or Things Got Worse

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No news is just, well, no news - not good news, and then again, not bad news. One can discuss the efforts to write a satisfactory constitution in Iraq at great length - the deadline loomed and there was a bit of drama in it all. But on Monday nothing happened:

Iraqi Parliament Delays Constitution Vote
Qassim Abdul-Zahra with correspondents Bassem Mroue, Sameer N. Yacoub and Omar Sinan, Associated Press, Monday August 22, 2005 11:01 PM London (UK)


In another dramatic last-minute standoff, Iraqi leaders put off a vote on a draft constitution late Monday, adjourning Parliament at a midnight deadline in a bid for more time to win over the Sunni Arab minority whose support is key to stopping the insurgency.

The Shiite-Kurdish faction that submitted the draft constitution expressed optimism that a deal was still possible within a few days. But top Sunni Arab leaders said flatly that compromise was far off.

More than 20 issues still divide the sides, said Saleh al-Mutlaq, one of four top Sunni Arab negotiators. Those issues include federalism, power sharing and even how the constitution should speak about Islam.

"This constitution is full of land mines that would explode on Iraqis. This constitution will divide the country,'' al-Mutlaq said.


AP reports that all the remaining issues "cast doubt whether the Iraqis would be able to finish the document within a few days since the various groups have widely differing positions" - and that the repeated delays are "a deep embarrassment for the Bush administration at a time of growing doubts within the United States over the mission in Iraq."

No kidding.

They also report we lost two more of our guys Monday to a roadside bomb north of Baghdad, and two more in a military operation near Tal Afar. The AP count is now at least 1,870 lost since the war started in 2003 - and that Bush defended the war Monday, saying "a policy of retreat and isolation will not bring us safety'' - from terrorism.

Who was suggesting that? I though the ideas presented had to do fighting smarter, and maybe elsewhere, and by different means, and had to do with involving a lot of other nations instead of telling them they're all fools. The man has a Jones for Iraq - and Iraq may not be the problem at all. And the "new Iraq" we're about to get is, anyway, not what we wanted in the first place. All that was said by all those people was in the vein of "work smarter - not harder" and that sort of thing.

As for the draft (or daft) constitution that emerged late Monday, it was a Shiite-Kurdish thing, and, as noted by AP and most everyone else, this thing "would fundamentally transform Iraq from the highly centralized state of Saddam Hussein into a loose federation of Kurds, Shiites and Sunni Arabs." The Sunnis lose. They ran the place under Saddam. Is it any wonder they oppose decentralization? That cuts them out of all the oil revenues and leaves them just about powerless. They're not signing on to that. The Shiite-Kurdish draft actually was finished up on Monday, and was formally submitted it to parliament just before a midnight deadline. "But the negotiators quickly withdrew the draft because of the fierce Sunni Arab resistance."

This is not looking good.

Other matters?

It seems the Sunnis also objected to the draft because it called Iraq "an Islamic country" and not "an Islamic and Arab" country. Well, yes, the Kurds are mostly Sunni Muslims and they are not Arab. Are they being too picky? Down the road that could make a difference - "Hey, you don't belong here - you may be Muslim, but you're not any kind of Arab - so get your sorry ass out of here or die." Well, it's possible.

It seems too that there were fifteen Sunni Arab members of the drafting committee - and they said the other two groups just didn't play by the rules. They issued a statement early Tuesday about that - the government and the committee did not abide by the previous agreement for consensus. Sunni delegate Nasser al-Janabi - "We reject the draft constitution that was submitted because we did not have an accord on it."

But is this a big deal? The Democrats got over the Florida 2000 thing and that Harris woman and all the rest - or most did - so does this matter? Sometimes you get steamrolled. It happens.

The AP makes a lot of this Tuesday statement, however:


Although the statement was issued after parliament had deferred a decision, it was significant because it indicates the Sunnis may try to block any accord, if they do not agree with it entirely.

That could severely complicate negotiations in coming days.


Yep, blocking any accord messes things up, big time, as Dick Cheney would say.

Parliament speaker Hajim al-Hassani, who is a Sunni Arab, said there was strong interest in reaching unanimity on the draft "so that the constitution pleases everyone.''

Everyone?  The AP tells us this fellow later ticked off the remaining issues: federalism, the formation of federal units, problems related to mentioning the Baath Party in the constitution, and the division of powers between the president, the parliament and the Cabinet.  Geez.

But the bottom line is the Shiites and Kurds have enough seats in parliament to win approval for any sort of draft constitution they'd like - without the Sunni guys. On the other hand this Sunni minority could blow that constitution away when voters decide whether to ratify it - that would be October 15 referendum. If it is opposed by two-thirds of the voters in any three of the eighteen Iraq provinces it's toast, and the Sunni Arabs hold the majority in at least four provinces. And if the Shiites and Kurds do win ratification of this hypothetical constitution, there are always car bombs and assassinations, and our guys don't come home any time soon.

Worst part?  They can't even take this to the US Supreme Count and let Scalia and Thomas and the rest decide matters.  They were supposed to appoint one – that's what the TAL (Transitional Administrative Law) says – but they never got around to it.

It's a mess.  Do we just walk away - do we just get out now?  We took care of the bad guy, Saddam, so let them solve they own problems?  Bring the troops home and let them squabble.

No. See Juan Cole here


Personally, I think "US out now" as a simple mantra neglects to consider the full range of possible disasters that could ensue. For one thing, there would be an Iraq civil war. Iraq wasn't having a civil war in 2002. And although you could argue that what is going on now is a subterranean, unconventional civil war, it is not characterized by set piece battles and hundreds of people killed in a single battle, as was true in Lebanon in 1975-76 ?.

People often allege that the US military isn't doing any good in Iraq and there is already a civil war. These people have never actually seen a civil war and do not appreciate the lid the US military is keeping on what could be a volcano.

All it would take would be for Sunni Arab guerrillas to assassinate Grand Ayatollah Sistani. And, boom. If there is a civil war now that kills a million people, with ethnic cleansing and millions of displaced persons, it will be our fault, or at least the fault of the 75% of Americans who supported the war. (Such a scenario is entirely plausible. Look at Afghanistan. It was a similar-sized country with similar ethnic and ideological divisions. One million died 1979-1992, and five million were displaced. Moreover, all this helped get New York and the Pentagon blown up.)

I mean, we are always complaining, and rightly so, about the genocide in Darfur and the inattention to genocides in Rwanda and the Congo earlier. Can we really live with ourselves if we cast Iraqis into such a maelstrom deliberately?

And as I have argued before, an Iraq civil war will likely become a regional war, drawing in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria and Turkey. If a regional guerrilla war breaks out among Kurds, Turks, Shiites and Sunni Arabs, the guerrillas could well apply the technique of oil pipeline sabotage to Iran and Saudi Arabia, just as they do now to the Kirkuk pipeline in Iraq. If 20% of the world's petroleum production were taken off-line by such sabotage, the poor of the world would be badly hurt, and the whole world would risk another Great Depression.

People on the left often don't like it when I bring this scenario up, because they dislike oil; they read it as a variant of the "war for oil" thesis and reject it. But working people, whom we on the left are supposed to be supporting, get to work on buses, and buses burn gasoline. If the bus ticket doubles or triples, people who make $10,000 a year feel it. Moreover, if there is a depression, the janitors and other workers will be the first to be fired. As for the poor of the global South, this scenario would mean they are stuck in dire poverty for an extra generation. Do you know how expensive everything would be for Jamaicans, who import much of what they use and therefore are sensitive to the price of shipping fuel? It would be highly irresponsible to walk away from Iraq and let it fall into a genocidal civil war that left the Oil Gulf in flames.

On the other hand, the gradual radicalization of the entire Sunni Arab heartland of Iraq stands as testimony to the miserable failure of US military counter-insurgency tactics. It seems to me indisputable that US tactics have progressively made things worse in that part of Iraq, contributing to the destabilization of the country.

So those who want the troops out also do have a point.


You could click on the link and read his suggestions.  None of them suggest jumping ship, even if our global strategies and policies have jumped the shark.

So they cannot agree on the New Iraq (does that get a or a ™ or a ?) - not even close - and we shouldn't stay and we really can't leave.

Now what?


Copyright 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
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