Iraqi Constitution Approved

Discussion in 'Politics, Religion, Social Issues' started by Lord Blackadder, Oct 25, 2005.

  1. Lord Blackadder macrumors G5

    Lord Blackadder

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    #1
    No matter which side of the Iraq issue you are on, you must admit that this is a critical and positive step.

    Link

    There is still a great deal of polarization between the Sunnis and Shia/Kurd coalition but now at least there is a (indigenously created) legal framework within which politicians can work.
     
  2. eva01 macrumors 601

    eva01

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  3. IJ Reilly macrumors P6

    IJ Reilly

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    #3
    Two provinces voted heavily against. A third voted against, only a bit short of the margin required to restart the process entirely from scratch. So this has to be understood as only the slimmest of electoral victories, and as such probably changes nothing of substance on the ground in Iraq. In fact, this may turn out to be the worst possible outcome. I hope not, but we shall see.
     
  4. leekohler macrumors G5

    leekohler

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    #4
    I think this is probably the beginnning of civil war in Iraq. I don't see the Sunnis handling this well at all.
     
  5. Lord Blackadder thread starter macrumors G5

    Lord Blackadder

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    #5
    It couldn't possibly be worse than having the constitution voted down.

    Besides, the "slimmest of electoral victories" can have a huge substantive effect on the country in the short and long term. Just look at the 2000/2004 US Presidential elections - not excatly a landslide. There big differences of course, but my point is that if the Kurds and Shias press ahead but continue to appeal to the Sunnis to participate in government, and do it in good faith, the pressure may move increasing numbers of the more moderate Sunnis to join the government or at least tacitly support it - even if they largely disagree with policy.

    Greater Sunni participation is necessary to put pressure on local and foreign insurgents to stop killing people. The Kurds and Shias need to keep the door wide open for the Sunni and the Sunnis need to decide to take their concerns to the Iraqi legislature rather than on the end of an RPG-7.

    The Sunnis need to view the constitution as a framework for change, not a threat to their rights.
     
  6. zimv20 macrumors 601

    zimv20

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    #6
    in theory, had it been voted down, it would have to be redrafted in a manner that brought the sunnis to the table. that would have been beneficial, don't you agree?
     
  7. leekohler macrumors G5

    leekohler

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    #7
    Thank you- and I really don't think it's in the US' best interest to have the Shiites running things either. If that happens, it'll end up being another radical theocracy. And they will not be friendly to us, trust me.
     
  8. miloblithe macrumors 68020

    miloblithe

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    #8
    When I was working at the National Endowment for Democracy, one of the Czech Fellows (not suprisingly considering recent Czech history), said exasperatedly, "when are we going to start discussing a three-state solution for Iraq?"

    This constitution sounds to me like it's virtually created that. Autonomous Shiite and Kurdist regions, and de facto other Sunni region. In the long run the constitution sounds like it will institutionalize the separation of the country into three parts.
     
  9. IJ Reilly macrumors P6

    IJ Reilly

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    #9
    Yes, that was my point essentially. The democratization of Iraq -- assuming such an outcome is even possible -- won't be promoted by this squeaker of an election. The comparison to close elections in the U.S. or elsewhere doesn't work. Nations with histories of stabile democracies don't tend to resolve their political differences with bombs and guns. Iraq needed a decisive outcome, either for or against the constitution (preferably for), if a national consensus was to emerge from the process. They didn't get that, and judging these results in western terms just doesn't fit.
     
  10. mactastic macrumors 68040

    mactastic

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    #10
    This probably means there is a brief window in which we can try to bridge the gulf between the Sunnis and the Shiite/Kurdish loose alliance. Unfortunately I'm not confident Bush will do anything helpful to take advantage of it. Giving a speech at the Officers Club isn't gonna cut it.

    The real trouble will come in about 5-6 months when the opportunity to alter the constitution comes up. That was the deal-sealer, remember, that brought enough of the Sunni clerics around to support the vote. In exchange they were guaranteed the right to try to amend the constitution to fix what they view as a threat to them of being relegated to a weak and poor state with strong and wealthy Shia and Kurdish provinces surrounding them. If they don't get some concessions at that point I think we can assume that they will revert to insurgency rather than politics to achieve their goals.

    But hey, six months from now is a long time. Of course it's also 6 months closer to election day as well, and if things aren't going well in Iraq by then the GOP is going to pay a heavy price at the ballot box.

    In addition, if there is a 3-state solution, Turkey is going to be exceedingly unhappy.
     
  11. miloblithe macrumors 68020

    miloblithe

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    #11
    And not just Turkey. I think Iran might be pissed (they too have a Kurdish region and they might find that they have less in common with an independent Arab Shiite state than they did when that Arab Shiite state was a wedge within a traditional enemy state). Leaders of other states that are similarly constituted and similarly subject to arguments for break up would be pissed. The US has traditionally opposed breaking up states as it's diplomatically easier to deal with one entity that has internal problems than it is to deal with multiple entities with international problems. And so on.
     
  12. Lord Blackadder thread starter macrumors G5

    Lord Blackadder

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    #12
    You are assuming that it could be redrafted...I think we are running out of time to start over.

    I agree there are serious obstacles to overcome, but I don't think that that present situation is unworkable - If Sunni politicians and religious leaders decide to participate in goverment they can affect change.

    There is a danger of Balkanization here which needs to be avoided at all costs - a three state scenario would be Isreal/Palestine all over again.

    IJ Reilly, you speak of a national consensus - but there is none and will not be. I simply have no confidence that the people can work this out in a grassroots fashion and I would argue that any further plebiscite will get no better than this. What needs to happen is that the politicians from all three groups must encourage their constituents to have confidence in the new government even as they wrangle behind closed doors over the stickier issues. This needs to be top-down: Tell the people that the government is a good idea overall and take the fight off the streets and into the legislature. The Sunnis will listen to their politcal and religious leaders, so these leaders must be convinced that they will have political relevence in the new government

    Iraq has the natural resources to support the government financially - an equitable solution for the control of oil export will go a long way toward political and social stability. This seems to be one of the big sticking points but I don't know the details.

    I still think that this is a step in the right direction, and the risk of alienating many of the Sunnis must be weighed against the risks associated with a lack of government altogether.

    The biggest problem will be to get the three groups to begin thinking of themselves (at least at the level of national and regional government) as Iraqis, not Shias, Sunnis or Kurds.
     
  13. zimv20 macrumors 601

    zimv20

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    #13
    of course it could be, they did so just a couple weeks ago.

    the "trust us" approach? they've no political capital to spend. the sunnis got screwed on the oil deal and they know it. are they really to trust the kurds and shiites to do the "right thing?" If they couldn't do the right thing during the drafting, what would give the sunnis the idea that the right thing would be done later?

    regardless, the constitution has passed. so now it's time for actions speaking louder than words.
     
  14. leekohler macrumors G5

    leekohler

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    #14
    These three points are exactly what will fail in Iraq. You're talking a Western mindset here, something Iraqis do not have and will not get in a year or even five.
     
  15. mactastic macrumors 68040

    mactastic

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    #15
    My understanding is that revenue from existing oil wells will be divided up equally, but the spoils of all new wells will be negotiated by the 'state' that contains them. In effect that leaves the Sunni with a dwindling supply of money (the old wells are apparently nearing exhaustion, while there are plenty of new ones waiting to be tapped) and puts the Shia and Kurds in control of a vast supply of future resources -- further promoting the divide between the factions.
    I'm not saying it's impossible, Virginians certainly didn't think of themselves as Americans prior to the 1770's, but Iraq is not an old country with a national identity. However, when you add in the historic animosity between groups, and the anger by the Shia at their treatment under the Sunni leadership of Saddam, I think a shared national identity will be almost impossible to come by.
     
  16. IJ Reilly macrumors P6

    IJ Reilly

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    #16
    Then there will be no nation, and never will be.
     
  17. takao macrumors 68040

    takao

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    #17
    well that's the whole problem from the beginning ;) ... it will take at least a century ... rather more.. they are devided since centuries including wars etc.

    sure they might get along like the swiss but they might end up like yugoslavia as well ... divided again by a brutal civil war

    the thing is that nobody knows if it's a good or bad decision.. personally i'm not so sure if a united iraq is a smart idea...same about a divided one


    only time will tell..my guess is that us troops will be there for at least 10-15 years minimum
     
  18. Lord Blackadder thread starter macrumors G5

    Lord Blackadder

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    #18
    Each time they start over the concept of a united federal republic loses a a bit more badly needed credibility. They could start over but there is absolutely no reason to belive it would be any better the next time around and it in fact could be much worse.

    I won't deny that trust is in short supply but if there is no hope for it then the entire Iraqi political and peace process is stilborn and Iraq will cease to exist as anything more than a geological expression.

    The concept of a democratic federal government is in origin a western one, but Iraq has never been "western" or a democracy. Like the Russians they are used to having a strong guiding hand at the helm of state - the Kingdom of Persia, the various Sultinates, and the tribal regional governments. Their history is that of autocracy and charismatic personal leadership coupled with theocratic elements in government. And also like the Russians the people are at best apathetic and at worst hostile towards the concepts of a federal republic.

    But it is not an impossible task. The Iraqis are a religious, morally conservative group of people and their state should reflect that. We need to let them adapt western political thought to their needs. Modernization is not analogous to Westernization. China slipped easily into Maoism because Maoism was in many ways more similar to the Celestial Empire (at least before the Cultural Revolution) than the KMT government which was heavily modelled on (and in fact slavishly copied) western government. They are now flirting with capitalism and democracy but it has taken a long time - not to adopt modern technology and politics, but to adopt them in a way that meshes well with traditional Chinese culture.

    The Iraqis have the same problem. They wish to modernize but they need not (and should not) necessarily westernize. We should never expect them to "become like us"; rather, we should encourage them to use whatever tools and concepts we can provide for them to modernize the nation and improve the lives of it's inhabitants without removing the traditions that are so important to maintaining social stability. Their solution will be uniquely tailored to their situation.

    That's roughly what I heard. A lot of the oil wells burned by Saddam during Gulf War I are in Sunni controlled areas as well. I'm sure that the Kurds in particular are unwilling to be over-generous to the Sunnis but the fact of the matter is that the politicians should look to dividing the oil up as pertains to the needs of the people and the infrastructure - not to use as bargaining chips to settle scores. This may be the critical debate.

    I hope you and the others are wrong on this. I think Iraq has a better chance of solving its problems than the Isreal/Palestine problem becuase the concept of a national identity, while slight and ephemeral, does exist among some Iraqis and can be nurtured with care, perserverence and a little luck.

    The Middle East as a region has a long way to go to political and social stability, but I think it can and will be put right, even though the process will take generations.
     
  19. Lord Blackadder thread starter macrumors G5

    Lord Blackadder

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    #19
    That's entirely possible.
     
  20. skunk macrumors G4

    skunk

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    #20
    I hope the implication of further external stimulus is illusory.
     
  21. zimv20 macrumors 601

    zimv20

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    #21
    i get the feeling that they're a lot more modernized than you think.
     
  22. Lord Blackadder thread starter macrumors G5

    Lord Blackadder

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    #22
    Most illusory. External stimuli can harm the process unless asked for by Iraqis. I still have hope that the problems can be sorted out - and make no mistake, the international community will play a role - but generally a supporting one, if the process is to succeed.


    Their infrastructure is essentially modern, but their social culture has not had enough time to catch up with developments since 1945. Before and during WWII the USA was a prime supplier of oil to the allies and domestic wells supplied domestic needs. After that war the emphasis shifted to the Middle East as a primary supply and it was only after the oil extraction business moved there (and the cold war developed) that the region was economically developed due to its strategic value. So they really haven't had time to adapt their culture to all the changes brought about by the accelerated development. It is a slow, ongoing process.

    Many Iraqis are as "modern" as you and I but others are still deeply religious and extremely morally conservative. And even the "modern" Iraqi has his or her own world view. Most are devout Muslims - more religious than your average American, for example. They are closer to their extended families and tend to take hospitality and politeness more seriously than in many western societies. They are not happy with the US presence but resent even more the presence of foreign insurgents in Iraq. They are sometimes suspicious of other Arab tribes or nationalities. Iraq has a more tradition-based, family oriented culture.

    Think of the Puritans in 17th century England and America, or Catholics and Protestants during the age of religious warfare in Europe (c. 1550-1700). It took Europe a very long time to work through its phase of religious warfare (In places it survives still, i.e. Northern Ireland), so don't expect the Middle East to be any different.

    Is Iraqi culture "modern"? In many ways, yes. they have adopted modern infrastructure and technology. But they are largely unused to western politics. Their culture isn't "western", and it is very conservative. They often take a dim view of our relative cosmopolitanism. Christian Fundamentalists are "modern" Americans, yet many of us consider them to have rather backwards or even barbarous views on things like science and sexuality. Many Iraqis are similarly committed to decidedly more fundamentalist religious beliefs.

    Iraqis have been taken from a life of subsistence farming or nomadic animal husbandry which was governed tribally or by a sultan, with Islam heavily influencing government and law, to a rearrangement of the geopolitical boundaries, creation of modern infrastructure and cold war politics, none of which they understood well, and finally a dictator. This all happened in less than one lifetime.
     

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