Sunday, August 28, 2005

Iraqi constitution talks end in disarray

From The Independent, here's what probably lies ahead for the Iraqi constitution:

Weeks of bitter wrangling over Iraq's constitution ended in disarray yesterday, threatening the country with further violence and undermining efforts towards a timetable for American disengagement.

Hajim al-Hassani, the parliamentary speaker, announced yesterday that a draft constitution would be put before the legislature today, whether Sunni Muslim negotiators accepted it or not. But Sunni leaders said amendments agreed by Shia and Kurdish representatives did not go far enough, and urged voters to reject the draft in an October referendum.

Barring a sudden change of mind by the Sunnis, the stage is set for a bitter political battle ahead of the referendum when the bloodshed in Iraq is increasingly acquiring a sectarian character. Even the optimists who still describe the violence as an insurgency might be forced to acknowledge that Iraq is in the grip of civil war.

The apparent derailing of the Iraqi constitution is a severe blow to George Bush, who urged a senior Shia leader last week not to push the Sunnis to the brink. With nearly 80 per cent of the population, the Shias and their Kurdish allies are gambling that the draft would win approval in the referendum. But if two-thirds of voters in any three of the 18 provinces reject the constitution, it will be defeated.
Here's a similar report from the Observer. As a reminder, the referendum is scheduled for October 15.

One other thing: this pussyfooting around whether Iraq is currently in civil war mode is getting ridiculous. We're not "getting there"; we're there.

Things could get worse, yes, but let's not misrepresent the divisions and factionalisations that currently dominate how the country functions.