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Kanan Makiya


He had a powerful piece urging major changes in the Iraqi constitution in the New York Times yesterday. He urges accommodation of Sunni concerns about the constitution, and a 10-year moratorium on the creation of any new regions. Here is part of it:

There is nothing wrong with having strong regions within a federal union. Unfortunately the new Iraqi Constitution fails to inject the glue that would hold such a union together: the federal government. It sets up a regional system with big short-term winners (Shiite Arabs and Kurds) and big short-term losers (Sunni Arabs). It even allocates extra oil and gas revenues to the regions that generate them, on the implicit assumption that because of the political inequities of the past, the state owes the Sunnis of the resource-poor western provinces less than it does the Shiites and Kurds. But these provinces are not significantly better off than other parts of Iraq.

Iraq’s Sunni Arabs voted solidly against the Constitution not because they are Saddam Hussein loyalists, nor because they hate the Kurds and Shiites (as some of the insurgents do); they voted against it because by doing away with the central state, which they had championed during the previous 80 years, and penalizing them for living in regions without oil, the Constitution became a punitive document – one that began to seem as if it was written to punish them for the sins of the Baath.

What is wrong with pursuing the Constitution to its logical conclusion: the breakup of Iraq? Nothing, if that breakup is consensual and does not entail an escalation in the violence tearing the country apart. But such is not the case. The debate in Parliament over the Constitution was extremely polarized and artificially cut short by the majority. Moreover, if a mere 83,283 people in the province of Nineveh had voted no instead of yes, the draft constitution would have been defeated.

Sunni opposition to the new order will continue. Crushing it by force, as some Shiite hotheads in the Parliament’s majority bloc are calling for, will be an extremely bloody business. Even if the long-term outcome of an all-out Iraqi civil war is not in doubt, the body count and destruction would make Lebanon’s war look like a picnic. No moral person can condone the parliamentary majority that makes this happen.

Worth reading in full.


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