Iraq's Constitution: All Outcomes are Bad
American experts believe that the draft Iraqi Constitution completed Sunday is so far removed from the initial objectives of the Bush Administration that it can only worsen the violence in Iraq. We are heading down a dangerous path, says Brookings Institution scholar Flynt L. Leverett. Two things can happen and both are bad: Either the Sunnis sufficiently mobilize in advance of the October referendum to defeat the Constitution at the polls, pushing Iraq into crisis, or they don’t muster two-thirds of the vote in three provinces to kill the Constitution, plunging Iraq into crisis. We now find ourselves at the start of a countdown towards what looks like civil war.
On Sunday President Jalal Talibani announced that the Constitution, which had been signed in the morning and read before parliament, would be ready for 15 October referendum. The Sunnis, hostile towards federalism out of fear of being cut off from Iraq’s oilfields, rejected any provision threatening the unity of the country but announced their intention to continue to participate in the political process.
For Nathan Brown of The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the civil war has already begun. The only remaining question is to find out who is going to be involved and how. Those who participated in the drafting of the Constitution hope that the Sunnis will register to vote and defeat it. But if they fail and the Constitution is adopted, then they will end up discredited. The Sunni leaders behind the scenes—those who support the insurgents—will conclude that they were right. In this sense, approval of the Constitution can worsen the situation. Flynt Leverett shares this opinion: The insurgents could be transformed into the Sunni Resistance.
Both experts agree that the Bush Administration is powerless in this situation. They don’t have many options, says Nathan Brown. They could convince all parties to restart negotiations before the October 15th referendum but I am not certain that it would lead to a different outcome. They could smile in the face of adversity, support the Constitution as it is now drafted, and attempt to defeat the rebels militarily. But so far this approach hasn’t worked and it is unlikely that it will be successful in the future.