Can the Iraqi Constitution be saved?

Military analysis.
Aug. 26 2005 12:05 PM

Concessions Standoff

Can the Iraqi Constitution be saved?

Safeguarding the process 
Click image to expand.
Safeguarding the process

What are the prospects for the Iraqi Constitution? And what does that question have to do with the prospects for Iraq?


Both matters are hazy, given the stretched-out proceedings and multiple delays of the National Assembly over the last two weeks: the sporadic refrains of imminent breakthrough, then breakdown. After Thursday night's persistent deadlock, it now seems that the Shiite and Kurdish delegates will simply bypass their Sunni colleagues and pass the draft constitution on to the Iraqi people in an Oct. 15 referendum.

This leaves three possibilities:

1) The Iraqi people approve the constitution—and the Sunnis step up their insurgency.

2) The Iraqi people reject the constitution (which happens if a majority of voters, or two-thirds of voters in three of Iraq's 18 provinces, cast ballots against it), forcing the government to dissolve—and the Sunnis step up their insurgency.


3) Somehow, in the next few hours or days, the Shiite and Kurdish delegates offer the Sunnis enough concessions to sign on—and the resulting consensus forms the basis, maybe, for a legitimate political settlement.

Is there any way to get to 3)?

As of Friday morning, the Sunni delegates continue to say they oppose any constitution that defines Iraq as a federation—that is, as a country with powers divided between a central government and regional administrations. If they really mean this, there will be no accommodation; there might as well never have been any talks. The northern Kurds insist on retaining some autonomy; the southern Shiites are getting to like the idea of running their own territory, too.

On the other hand, if the Sunni stance is merely a negotiating position, if there's some way to buy off the Sunnis, what might the Shiites and the Kurds offer as compensation?

The essence of the problem is this: The northern Kurdish provinces and the southern Shiite provinces have lots of oil; the central Sunni provinces don't. The draft constitution allows two or more provinces to form a region—and two or more regions to form a larger region. The Sunnis rightly fear that the Kurds and Shiites will create their own super-regions, which will dominate Iraqi politics and economics.



Talking White

Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.

Hong Kong’s Protesters Are Ridiculously Polite. That’s What Scares Beijing So Much.

The One Fact About Ebola That Should Calm You: It Spreads Slowly

Natasha Lyonne Is Coming to the Live Culture Gabfest. Are You?

A Jaw-Dropping Political Ad Aimed at Young Women, Apparently

The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 4:05 PM Today in GOP Outreach to Women: You Broads Like Wedding Dresses, Right?

Operation Backbone

How White Boy Rick, a legendary Detroit cocaine dealer, helped the FBI uncover brazen police corruption.


How Even an Old Hipster Can Age Gracefully

On their new albums, Leonard Cohen, Robert Plant, and Loudon Wainwright III show three ways.

Tattoo Parlors Have Become a Great Investment

This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century

Oct. 1 2014 8:34 AM This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century To undertake a massively ambitious energy project, you don’t need the government anymore.
  News & Politics
Oct. 2 2014 11:01 AM It Wasn’t a Secret A 2013 inspector general report detailed all of the Secret Service’s problems. Nobody cared.
Business Insider
Oct. 2 2014 11:16 AM Some McDonald's Monopoly Properties Matter More
The Vault
Oct. 2 2014 11:07 AM Mapping 1890 Manhattan's Crazy-Quilt of Immigrant Neighborhoods
  Double X
Oct. 2 2014 11:34 AM Alabama’s Insane New Abortion Law Putting teenage girls on trial may finally be too much for the Supreme Court.
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 1 2014 3:24 PM Revelry (and Business) at Mohonk Photos and highlights from Slate’s annual retreat.
Brow Beat
Oct. 2 2014 10:36 AM How Bad Will Adam Sandler’s Netflix Movies Be?
Future Tense
Oct. 2 2014 11:01 AM Surge Pricing Is Not Price Gouging
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Oct. 2 2014 9:49 AM In Medicine We Trust Should we worry that so many of the doctors treating Ebola in Africa are missionaries?
Sports Nut
Oct. 1 2014 5:19 PM Bunt-a-Palooza! How bad was the Kansas City Royals’ bunt-all-the-time strategy in the American League wild-card game?