Iraqi constitutionalism (one day to go)
SLevinson at law.utexas.edu
Sat Aug 20 21:01:52 PDT 2005
This is the actual story in tomorrow's Times. One can hardly help noting the vigorous participation of the American Ambassador in setting up a basically Islamic state. More than ever, one wonders if that has anything to do with a genuine concern for the Iraqi people (or, more to the point, the women of Iraq and/or the Sunnis, not to mention secular Kurds) or is a sign of the increasing desperation of the Bush Administration to get out of this war as soon as possible. And why would a constitution so clearly drafted under American pressure (and, one might hypothesize, with off-budget American funds going to bribe relevant officials) have any legitimacy at all with any Iraqi not inclined to be a puppet of the US?
August 21, 2005
Iraqi Talks Move Ahead on Some Issues
By DEXTER FILKINS <http://query.nytimes.com/search/query?ppds=bylL&v1=DEXTER FILKINS&fdq=19960101&td=sysdate&sort=newest&ac=DEXTER FILKINS&inline=nyt-per>
BAGHDAD, Iraq, Aug. 20 - Iraqi leaders trying to complete a new constitution moved Saturday toward deals on such contentious issues as Shiite autonomy, sharing oil revenues and Kurdish self-rule. But as they progressed on those fronts, a tentative agreement that would have given Islam an expanded role in the state and in family disputes appeared to unravel.
"Islam is back on the table," said a person close to the negotiations, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, citing the sensitivity of the talks.
legislationUnder a deal brokered Friday by the American ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad, Islam was to be named "a primary source of" in the new Iraqi constitution, with the proviso that no legislation be permitted that conflicted with the "universal principles" of the religion. The latter phrase raised concerns that Iraqi judges would have wide latitude to strike down laws now on the books, as well as future legislation.
At the same time, according to a Kurdish leader involved in the talks, Mr. Khalilzad had backed language that would have given clerics sole authority in settling marriage and family disputes. That gave rise to concerns that women's rights, as they are enunciated in Iraq's existing laws, could be curtailed.
Finally, according to the person close to the negotiations, Mr. Khalilzad had been backing an arrangement that could have allowed clerics to have a hand in interpreting the constitution.
That arrangement, coupled with the expansive language for Islam, prompted accusations from the Kurd that the Americans were helping in the formation of an Islamic state.
The American Embassy has declined to comment on the negotiations.
Much of the Shiite leadership favors the establishment of an Islamic state, but several Iraqi leaders, including most of the Kurds and many Shiites, oppose it.
Mr. Khalilzad has taken an active role in trying to secure a constitution that could be agreed to by Iraq's three main groups, the Shiites, the Sunnis and the Kurds.
In Washington, a senior State Department official acknowledged that Iraqi leaders were considering a concession to Shiite leaders on religious authority over personal law, but he cautioned that "nothing is done until everything is done," and that the final charter needed to be judged by all its pieces, not just one.
"This piece might be there," the official said, referring to language that would give authority over family and other matters to religious leaders.
Iraqi leaders spent much of Saturday discussing a formula for sharing Iraq's vast oil wealth. As on Friday, Mr. Khalilzad was the primary catalyst in the negotiations, shuttling between the Shiite and Kurdish camps. The discussions over oil stretched past midnight.
Though no deal on oil was struck, the bargain under consideration would involve some mix of federal and local control over oil, said the person close to the negotiations.
Iraqi leaders said they had reached a tentative deal on the contentious issue of a Shiite autonomous region in southern Iraq. Under the arrangement, the voters of each province would be allowed to decide by referendum whether they want to have more autonomy or to join with other provinces to form an autonomous region.
Such a deal would appear to clear the way for the establishment of the federal region envisioned by Abdul Aziz Hakim, the powerful Shiite leader, who publicly endorsed the formation of a nine-province Shiite autonomous area.
"It's done," said Bahaa Al Araji , a Shiite member of the constitutional committee. "Iraq will be a federal state."
A federal Iraq would sharply conflict with the desires of the country's Sunni leaders, who oppose allowing the Shiites to form their own autonomous area.
The Sunni leaders argue that Shiite autonomy, coupled with that already enjoyed by the Kurds, could lead to the dissolution of Iraq.
Sunni leaders complained Saturday that they were being left out of the negotiations. Indeed, it appeared that an American-Iraqi strategy was to strike a deal between the Shiites and the Kurds first, and then present it to the Sunnis as a take-it-or-leave-it proposition.
The Sunnis have few members in the national assembly, which is supposed to approve the constitution, because of a widespread Sunni boycott of the January elections.
It has been a principle of American policy to make sure the Sunnis are included in any deal on the constitution, since Sunnis form the backbone of the insurgency. "We were waiting, but there was no meeting," said Saleh Mutlak, one of the Sunni leaders. "No one invited us."
Several Shiite leaders said they understood that the Kurds had dropped their insistence on language that would allow them to secede from Iraq under certain circumstances. But there was no official confirmation from the Kurdish camp.
Steven R. Weisman contributed from Washington for this article.
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