Iraqi constitution

Bob Sheridan bobsheridan at
Wed Aug 24 19:50:42 PDT 2005

Well, we postponed our civil war by kicking the can down the road; I 
don't see why anyone else can't.  These folks are being forced by 
circumstances to cooperate when they are otherwise at each other's 
throats.  The other nations, surrounding and otherwise, that don't want 
to see worse things happen, have an incentive to help the unhappy 
threesome remain in a marriage that not all of them appear in a big way 
to want.  Is the U.N. contributing to the constitutional process in 
Iraq?  Or Turkey, Saudi, Iran?  In any positive way, that is?


Kim Scheppele wrote:

> The main reason why Iraq can't break into three pieces (at least not 
> on the US's watch) involves foreign relations.  
> Turkey has a restive Kurdish population that would take heart from a 
> separate Iraqi Kurdistan.  The adjacent region of Turkish Kurds might 
> attempt to secede from Turkey if they had something to join.  In fact, 
> at one point, Turkey said it would invade if Iraqi Kurdistan went its 
> separate way in anticipation of its own domestic crisis.  But that was 
> before Turkey was drawn into the EU accession process and has been a 
> model European aspirant since then.   
> Saudi Arabia pronounced its nervousness (and potentially aggressive 
> intent) at a Shi'a state on its borders, particularly one friendly 
> with Iran, if Southern Iraq were to become a separate state.    Saudi 
> Arabia has been silent, at least to international ears, during this 
> constitutional process, so perhaps it would not be so hostile to an 
> Iraqi breakup now.  
> A tripartite split would leave the Sunni section an economic basket 
> case without oil resources -- another problem for the international 
> community (and the US in particular).
> So, there has been incredible international pressure to hold Iraq 
> together.  But in recent months, those who objected loudly to an Iraqi 
> breakup a few years ago have held their tongues.   Whether Iraqis 
> themselves can find common ground to stay together, especially under 
> the time pressure of the present constitutional process, is another 
> story.  But the foreign relations of an Iraqi smash-up are likely to 
> be very, very complicated. 
> Elizabeth Dale points to something really important in this process -- 
> that the expectations for the Iraqi constitution may have exceeded 
> what any constitution can live up to.   At this point, I'd settle for 
> a constitution that does not make things worse -- which I am not at 
> all sure the present draft constitution is. 
> What disturbs me most about the present draft constitution is that it 
> appears to have reached compromises by throwing into the draft 
> contradictory sentences to placate each camp. (New laws cannot violate 
> Islam, but they also cannot violate constitutional rights or 
> democratic principles; everyone is equal before the law, but someone 
> has to have two Iraqi parents to hold high office -- etc. etc.)   That 
> means that the real political bargains have not been struck and the 
> commission is just kicking the can down the road a while longer. The 
> present draft may not be really a constitution -- but a recipe for 
> future political conflict.  I hope I'm wrong. 
> best
> kim
> Kim Lane Scheppele
> Director, Law and Public Affairs Program
> Laurance S. Rockefeller Professor of Public Affairs in the Woodrow 
> Wilson School and University Center for Human Values
> Faculty Associate in Politics and in Sociology
> Woodrow Wilson School
> 415 Robertson Hall
> Princeton University
> Princeton, NJ 08544
> Phone:  (609) 258-6949
> Email:  kimlane at <mailto:kimlane at> 
>     ----- Original Message -----
>     *From:* Elizabeth Dale <mailto:edale1 at>
>     *To:* 'Sanford Levinson' <mailto:SLevinson at>
>     *Cc:* conlawprof at <mailto:conlawprof at>
>     *Sent:* Wednesday, August 24, 2005 7:04 PM
>     *Subject:* RE: Iraqi constitution
>     I certainly agree that the whole issue of historical analogies is
>     fraught, history is a bit too much of a moving target to make most
>     analogies hold up, so in the end the really interesting question
>     is what analogy is drawn by which person.
>     But that having been said, Shays Rebellion did last from
>     1786-1787, and it did have some role in influencing the
>     constitutional debates. And then there were those spots of trouble
>     in Pennsylvania not too long after the US Constitution was ratified.
>     I don't do it very often, so let me say it here: Bush is right to
>     the extent he is saying constitutions don't always settled
>     everything or work very well from the moment they are ratified. At
>     some level they are acts of faith, and subject to the same
>     passions and controversy.
>     Which is not to say I have much positive to say about what's
>     happening in Iraq. I'm just not sure it's reasonable to hope that
>     a constitution there will solve those problems or make that
>     country work as a country. One could make the argument that people
>     in China tried to use several draft constitutions/short lived
>     constitutions to make a nation-state, and failed, for nearly 50
>     years. One could make the argument (perhaps an even better one)
>     that the US tried, and failed, to use a single constitution for
>     the same purpose until 1861.
>     One of the underlying assumptions in this entire discussion is
>     that if this were done right somehow things would work out okay. I
>     honestly can't say I agree with that assumption. What would a
>     constitution that made Iraq an okay place, with some sort of
>     chance to thrive, look like? I can't imagine one. That's not to
>     say I think the current draft is good, or even a nice try, but
>     merely to say I can't imagine what something workable would look
>     like. Sometimes things are so broken they can't be fixed, which is
>     the problem with the "pottery barn" theory -- sometimes, if it's
>     broken, a spot of glue means you can still use it when you don't
>     have guests over; other times, when it's broken, it's shattered
>     and the only thing you can do is toss it out.
>     Why is it the best thing for Iraq to continue to be Iraq? Why
>     wouldn't it be best to encourage three separate countries, with
>     three different constitutions?  Doubtless there's a reason this is
>     unacceptable, but it dawns on me I've never seen it articulated.
>     If someone could refer me to a good analysis of the issue, I'd
>     appreciate it a lot.
>     Elizabeth Dale
>     Associate Professor, US Legal History, Department of History,
>     Affiliate Professor of Legal History, Levin College of Law
>     University of Florida
>     PO Box 17320
>     Gainesville, Florida 32611
>     edale at
>     352-393-0271 ex 262
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