June 16, 2005

Quote of the Day II

The problem is solved and ended. The Sunnis will participate in the process of writing the constitution," said Tariq Hashimi, the secretary general of the Iraqi Islamic Party, a leading Sunni Arab organization.

From a WaPo dispatch here.

Some good Iraq news today with a deal struck so that the Sunni are on board (at least for now) on the Iraqi constitution-drafting exercise. This will be a hugely complex endeavour, and we're just at the very beginning of it, but let's at least be thankful that total stalemate (again, at least for now) has been averted.

More from Sabrina Tavernese:

Iraqi political leaders broke weeks of deadlock today, as Sunni Arabs accepted a compromise made by senior members of a Shiite-led parliamentary committee to include Sunnis in the drafting of Iraq's new constitution.

The agreement marked a turnaround in Iraqi politics and opened a way for the Iraqi National Assembly to meet its Aug. 15 deadline for drafting the document. Legislators had been haggling with Sunni Arabs for weeks over the number of seats the Sunnis would be given on the 55-member Constitutional Committee.

The compromise offer to Sunnis - 15 additional seats and 10 adviser positions - was made last week, but at the time it was rejected by many Sunnis, who said they wanted more seats with full voting powers. Since then, Shiite committee members offered a sweetener, saying the committee would approve the new constitution by consensus and not by vote, making the precise number of seats less important.

The offer was final, said a senior member of the Shiite-led committee, Bahaa al-Aaraji.

"We told them, if you are late it's not good for you, because we start to work and we won't wait for you," he said in a telephone interview this evening.

So on Tuesday night, a team of Sunni Arab negotiators met in one negotiator's house to discuss the offer. They decided, some with reservation, that it was one they must accept. Turning it down, they said, would mean permanent isolation from the political process. Today, they made their agreement public.

"We've been squeezed, we had to agree," said Saleh Mutlak, a member of the National Dialogue Council, a Sunni Arab group that has pressed for a greater Sunni role in politics. "There was no other alternative. Either we'd be in the political process or we'd be out of it."

Yes they were squeezed some. But the Sunnis (and those trying to influence them to join the process) made the right call here. If nothing else, it's called pragmatic survivalism. More on this soon.


Posted by Gregory at June 16, 2005 08:41 PM | TrackBack (9)
Comments

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Runs out.
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"Deal"

Posted by: liberalhawk at June 17, 2005 03:23 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

That consensus requirement could be trouble down the road. It removes the option for participating Sunni Arabs to oppose the constitution and still urge Sunni participation in the vote to ratify it later this year. This way, either they bring the process of writing it to a grinding halt by blocking consensus, or they commit to support it even if certain provisions turn out to be offensive to their constituents -- making themselves the likely target of violence.

I'm not suggesting there was a better way to deal with the Sunni Arab problem, only that this way has a major weakness we should be aware of.

Posted by: JEB at June 18, 2005 05:48 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
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