So the Shiites and the Kurds have bypassed the Sunnis and at the very last moment delivered to the Iraq National Assembly an incomplete draft. The outstanding issues according to US ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, include federalism, the fate of former Baathists in government and whether members of the Assembly should be elected by a majority vote or a two-thirds vote.
One Sunni member says there are more than twenty issues still unresolved. The Assembly will have three days to hammer out these remaining sticking points and then, presumably, Iraq will have a constitution to vote on in October. The three-day deadline is very tenuous, however, something tells me it might take longer.
The Sunni members of the drafting committee have said they will urge their people to vote “no” in the referendum, if it ever gets to that point, unless their concerns are addressed. Tom Lasseter in the Philadelphia Inquirer quotes Sami al-Askeri, a Shiite member of the drafting committee saying, “There is no concern. Some of the Sunnis are, of course, unhappy with the draft.” Ahmad Chalabi is slightly less charitable in his estimation of the Sunni opposition. “How many votes have they got? The majority of Iraqis want federalism.” NYT
W., of course, is firmly in the loop. Condi is keeping him up to date between bike rides with Lance Armstrong. "This talk about Sunnis rising up, I mean the Sunnis have got to make a choice. Do they want to live in a society that's free, or do they want to live in violence?" [Reuters]
One might ask what difference it will make if they're left with a bunch of desert with no revenue from the oil wells.
So much for democracy! I thought, the idea was to get the Sunnis on board with the whole democracy thing, which would then theoretically neutralize the insurgency. The Shiites and the Kurds have basically jettisoned the Sunnis from the process with the backing of the US. It’s difficult to know what is really going on over there, but it would seem by leaving the Sunnis out in the cold, or out in the desert in this case, this entire constitution thing is pretty much a pointless exercise.
No worries there, W. says he's been told the constitution will protect, "minority rights, women rights, [and] freedom to worship." Yes, the new language says Islam is "a main source" of legislation, not "the" main source. That's reassuring. If I were an Iraqi woman I'd sleep better.
So what is the strategy here anyway?
Bush’s two main justifications for keeping the troops in Iraq, is the political process, the constitution, and the training of the security forces. (And of course, the lessons of 9/11.)
The first one is obviously seriously off track and the second one is equally problematic. A new essay by Maj. Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, commander of the First Cavalry Division called “Winning the Peace: The requirement for full spectrum operations,” says “A gun on every street corner, although visually appealing, provides only a short term solution” but, “does not equate to long term security grounded on a democratic process. If there is nothing else done other than kill bad guys and train others to kill bad guys, the only thing accomplished is moving more people from the fence to the insurgent category.” [NYT] (And leaving 20% of the polity out of the political process might tend to knock of few off the fence too.)
Obviously, as has been reported before, the mess we’re in today is a direct result of "planning gaps" for the post-war Iraq. It is highly unlikely we will be able to provide enough services and jobs in any thing resembling a near term scenario that would point to us withdrawing any time soon.
Meanwhile Bush’s vacation continues:
After ten days at the ranch W. decided he needed to go talk to the 27% of Americans that still think he’s got a clue about Iraq. Yesterday he spoke at a VFW hall in Salt Lake City, and today he spoke to an Idaho National Guard base in Boise. He says Cindy Sheehan doesn’t represent most military families, so he doesn’t need to talk to her. Then it’s on to the Tamarack Resort in Donnelly Idaho for some fishing and bike riding.