Friday, January 13, 2006

De Jure May Be Out, But De Facto Is In

As Juan Cole observes, some Sunni political leaders have begun to respond to the inflammatory proclamation by Abdul Azziz al-Hakim, the head of SCIRI (the UIA's largest faction), that the constitution would not be amended in any significant way. Hakim's statement came despite earlier assurances that a post-election panel would be convened for the express purpose of proposing such amendments. From Cole we see that, unsurprisingly, the Sunnis' primary concerns have to do with the potential for the creation of near autonomous regions that will, in effect, control much of the oil revenue going forward.

...Adnan Dulaim, the Sunni Arab leader of the fundamentalist coalition, the National Accord Front, said in response to al-Hakim:

"There is an article in the constitution concerning the amendment and we are determined to change all articles that risk leading to a division of Iraq...We support giving more power to the provinces to reinforce decentralisation, but the creation of regions that are autonomous of Baghdad in the centre and in the south threatens the unity of the country," he said, in comments broadcast on As-Sharqiya, a private television station. "We reject this and we continue to defend the unity of Iraq."
As I discussed in a prior post, politically speaking, the Sunnis won't be able to achieve any of their goals vis a vis the amending process absent the support of Shiite/Kurdish politicians and voters. So if Hakim wants to play hardball, and the UIA stays united behind his lead (see, for example, the prospect of Moqtada al-Sadr being granted his own Baghdad-based fiefdom to secure his allegiance), there will be no amendments.

Meanwhile, as the Shiites and Sunnis continue to exchange barbs over whether or not the constitution will be amended and, if so, to what extent, the Kurds are busy creating facts on the ground in an effort to secure a de facto reality that may or may not be consistent with the ultimate de jure denouement. In addition to striking separate oil deals with foreign powers, independent of - and without any official sanction from - Iraq's central government (which I blogged about here), the Kurds are taking other steps indicative of an independent and sovereign nation. Cole notes:

Al-Sharq al-Awsat reports [Ar.] that Kurdistan will establish a provincial ministry of foreign affairs, which is being claimed as a "constitutional right." Usually in federal systems, the states or provinces cede the field of foreign affairs to the central government.
Yeah, usually - at least in those federal systems where the participants care about the viability of the central government. The Kurds don't really harbor such concerns - quite the opposite in fact as overwhelmingly depicted in opinion poll after opinion poll. If you listen close enough, that creaking sound you hear is the nation of Iraq being torn asunder. It's definitely not too late to find some way to hold the pieces together, but the clock is running and in the meantime the Kurds - and to a lesser degree the Hakim faction of the Shiites - are making themselves busy with their own separatist agendas. As Bush might say, let's all appreciate this spectacle of "freedom in action." And let's hope the "price of progress" doesn't include a hefty bill from the cleaners for the ethnic cleansing that could occur if Iraq does indeed splinter.

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