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October 12, 2005

News Out of Baghdad
Posted by Heather Hurlburt

Mild euphoria in the news coverage of the US-brokered deal in Baghdad to remove some of the most anti-Sunni features of the constitution. 

But the reality looks a little more complicated.  A commission will propose amendments which would require 2/3 ratification in the new National Assembly and another referendum.  The Times describes this as a "major victory for American officials," which may be true, but it's a little harder to be confident that this pledge of a future process really changes the destructive way in which constitutional business has been done up to now.

Juan Cole says "this weird procedure... cannot lead anywhere good."


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In effect, this move reopens the negotiating period on the constitution for another 6 months. In exchange for this concession, Shiite and Kurd leaders get a sort of "vote of confidence" on the constitution-writing process itself, signalled by passage of the current constitution, including a nod from the Iraqi Islamic Party. The current constitution is guaranteed to pass, but the vote on the real, ultimate constitution is now pushed ahead to next April.

But it is hard to see how anything significant will change in the end. Amendments to the current constitution will require a 2/3 vote to make it into the document submitted during the next referendum. All of the features of the current constitution that enjoy significant Shiite and Kurdish support will stay in place. So perhaps this is little more than a face-saving tactic to bring in the Iraqi Islamic Party.

Am I right in assuming that, despite the new negotiation and amendment period, the current constitution will still become the law of the land upon passage? If the concern is that the current constitution allows the Kurds and the major Shiite groups to carve up the country (and its oil) and devolve it into separate, autonomus entities, won't they still be able to do that? Once they set to work creating those facts on the ground, the negotiations over amendments will become a moot point, and a sideshow.

Dan, that's how I read it as well.

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