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clear CIAO Focus, September 2005: Constitutional Struggle in Iraq
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Faced with another deadlock in negotiations, Shi'ite and Kurdish leaders bypassed Sunni opposition on August 28 by sending off a draft constitution to the National Assembly, where the Shi'ite majority there is all but guaranteed to rubber-stamp it. Arab Sunnis claim the document is divisive and could plunge Iraq into civil war. The biggest bone of contention is a provision in the text that allows for largely autonomous federal regions, while the Sunnis want a more centralized government. Sunnis fear the current version would facilitate the eventual balkanization of Iraq, something that would cut them off from the oil fields (clustered in the Kurdish North and Shi'ite South), and leave them at the mercy of a powerful Shi'ite region allied with Iran. On October 15 the constitution is scheduled to go before voters in a national referendum, which the Sunnis have vowed to oppose. To defeat it, however, they will need a two-thirds majority in at least three provinces. Sunnis make up only about 20 percent of the population, but if they are joined by followers of Muqtada al-Sadr, the radical Shi'ite cleric who also opposes the constitution, they might succeed. This is also an important test for the Bush Administration. According to a recent Newsweek poll just 34 percent of respondents approve of the president's handling of the war. Many policy makers are concerned that unless the Sunnis can take an active role in Iraq's political process, the insurgency will continue to destabilize the country and American troops will not be able to come home anytime soon.

From CIAO's database:

Beginning to Argue Politics in Baghdad

Iraq's Constitutional Crisis

Power Sharing in Iraq

A Way Out of the Mesopotamian Morass?

Post-Election Iraq: Facing the Constitutional Challenge

Detailed Ethnic and Religious Map of Iraq

Outside Links*:

The Iraqi Transitional Government

Informed Comment: Thoughts on the Middle East, History and Religion

Understanding the US-Iraq Crisis: A Primer

The Iraq Foundation

US Department of State: Iraq Update

* Outside links are not maintained. For broken outside links, CIAO recommends the Way Back Machine [].