They Must Have Fixed The Water...
August 5, 2005 - 9:20am ET
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I don't want to get anyone too excited, but it looks like the Iraqi negotiators in Baghdad hashing out a constitution just took a very large step away from the neocon nightmare and towards the reality-based community. There's not all that much I can add, sitting thousands of miles away from the dealmaking, but the analysis of one expert, the New School's Andrew Arato, makes me think that the constitional committee just turned a very major corner.
First off, it looks like the Kurds have finally given up their dream of federalism, trading it for a parliamentary system that takes electoral weight from both the Kurds and the Shi'a in order to give the Sunni a stake in future Iraq. It's a major, major breakthrough. Here's a clip:
The new rules being voted on have a very different spirit. As to the electoral rule it seems that the National Assembly, over the opposition of Allawi’s party, has already approved a PR system based on provincial districts. Such a less proportional system, bad for small parties and parties scattered all over the country would no longer be turnout dependent. Even if the insurrection and intimidation continues, the Sunni provinces would get their share of seats that would be determined in advance. Most likely they would gain most at the expense of very small parties, but the big ones, the Shi’a list and the Kurdish list would take mild losses too. Note however that in the case of the Kurds even mild losses would put them under any reasonable figure that could be used to veto a constitutional amendment. Today they have 30% of the seats and that [new] figure is ¼ or 25%.
Second, the references to the role of Islam in government have shifted in two subtle but important ways. This from the New York Times yesterday morning:
The committee is still grappling with the extent of Islam's role in the state, though the members have concurred that the religion should be "a main source of legislation," said Ahmed Asafi, a delegate and Shiite cleric from the southern city of Basra.
That language was a revision of the wording in an earlier draft, in which Islam was described as "the major source" of legislation. The new wording appeared to be a compromise between some Shiite leaders, who want to designate Islamic law as the model for governing, and some Kurds and other secular Iraqi leaders who are concerned that Islam not be used to strip women and others of basic constitutional rights.
The committee has also agreed that while Islam should be the official religion and the government should protect Iraq's holy shrines and religious heritage, the constitution should not grant political authority to the country's religious leaders, the delegates said.
What does this mean? Well, it means that the Bush administration has finally let go of a significant part of its neoconservative fantasies in regards to re-making Iraq and, significantly, let go of the preferential treatment of Allawi and Chalabi's exile parties, who will lose significant influence in this deal.
Interestingly, the new constitutional structures and the moderated role of Islam seem to be a victory for Ayatollah Sistani, who, Larry Diamond notes constantly in his book, Squandered Victory:
However, Sistani strongly opposed Khomeini's philosophy of vilayat al-faqih (rule by religious jurist) and was considered, instead, a "quietist," who believed that the most that Islamic religious authorities could do politically was to offer general advice and guidance. That was a lot more than many Americans would feel comfortable with, but it was a lot less than establishing himself as a Khomeini-style supreme leader.
Let's hope this progress holds and is strengthened over the next 10 days until the committee concludes its work.
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