Thursday, August 25, 2005

Update on nation-building

Iraqi Parliament speaker Hajim al-Hassani announced early Friday that discussions about the draft constitution will continue for one more day. But if that doesn't resolve things, he said, the draft would bypass parliament and go directly to the October 15 vote.

That apparently is based on another bit of clever dealing: The argument is that parliament was never required to actually vote on the draft, that by merely accepting its delivery on Monday the body had fulfilled the legal requirements.
Shiite leaders signaled they had lost patience with protracted negotiating and wanted to refer the draft approved by them and the Kurds last Monday to the electorate. With repeated missed deadlines and no sign of compromise, a process designed to bring the country's disparate ethnic, cultural and religious groups closer together appeared instead to be pushing them further apart.
It could be that avoiding a vote by which parliament would likely be seen as endorsing the draft is intended to avoid worsening those divisions and thereby to have the constitution presented in a more neutral light. If that is indeed the intent, I think it very unlikely to succeed.

The whole procedure, the delays, the avoidance of a vote, all of it, smells of US pressure. The White House is desperate to maintain at least the image of political progress in Iraq. So far, that image of progress has been maintained by persistently putting off the hard questions, the very questions that have bedeviled the draft constitution, to a later time. But they're running out of later times and I can only think that this one more day of delay before giving up on achieving a consensus document came as the result of US demands to "try again," like a trial judge ordering a deadlocked jury to reach a verdict.

But further deliberations seem pointless:
The Friday session was an attempt to give the Shiites time to respond to proposals tabled at a late-night meeting for which they did not show up. [emphasis added]
Yeah, I'd call that a pretty clear signal that the Shiites have "lost patience with protracted negotiating." And if that's not enough, consider that Hassani also said that
discussions over the previous three days were "very good, in which points of views were exchanged."
I expect that the said "exchange of views" was a "frank" one.

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