Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Possible Political Breakthrough in Iraq

Prime Minister Ibrahim al Jafar's government has up to this point bungled the job of political reconciliation between the three main factions in Iraq - Kurds, Shi'ites, and Sunnis - and that fact has only prolonged the mostly Sunni insurgency. Today's events may be the first sign of a substantive political breakthrough in Iraq since its government was elected into office in January.

In a crucial compromise, Iraq's leaders agreed to insert a provision into the Constitution which would allow Iraq's parlaiment, to be elected in December, to make substantive changes/amendments to the Constitution.

This is important because the Sunnis were only scarcely represented in Iraq's government when the Constitution was written, due to the fact that they boycotted the January elections. However, the majority of Iraq's Sunni leaders have come to regret the boycot and are supremely interested in increasing their representation in the government during December's elections, and it is very likely that they will.

The current Constitution, to be voted on by all Iraqis on October 15th, stipulates that no changes can be made to the majority of the document for at least 8 years. The Sunnis - who make up the vast majority of the insurgency, were staunchly opposed to it and intended to vote NO. However, the new provision would allow the National Assembly to make changes as soon as next year. This has major significance for two reasons.

First, this gives the Sunnis a much greater stake in the December elections; they will want to come out in full force. This in turn serves to further exacerbate the rift between Sunni insurgent and Zarqawi's terrorist types who are threatening to kill anyone who votes and have proclaimed to democracy to be anathema to Islam.

Second, the new compromise reached today would allow key issues of the Constitution to be decided by an Iraqi government that is much more representative of its population.

Some Sunni leaders have indicated that they may be more inclined to encourage their people to vote in favor of the Constitution given today's compromise.

U.S. officials have pushed the three days of negotiations between Shiite and Kurdish leaders in the government and Sunni Arab officials, that concluded with marathon talks at the house of President Jalal Talabani late Tuesday.

The sides agreed to a measure stating that if the draft constitution is passed, the next parliament will be able to consider amendments to it that would then be put to a new referendum next year, Shiite and Sunni officials said.

A top Sunni negotiator, Ayad al-Samarraie of the Iraqi Islamic Party, said that if the current parliament approves the measure, "we will stop the campaign rejecting the constitution and we will call on Sunni Arabs to vote yes."

Some other major Sunni parties were not present at the negotiations and it was not clear if they too would be willing to reverse their "no" campaigns.

But the announcement was the first break in the ranks of Sunni Arab leaders, who have been campaigning hard to defeat the constitution at the polls. (Yahoo News)


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