Terrorists Kidnap Senior Iraqi Official
Terrorists kidnapped Brig. Gen. Khudayer Abbas, a senior Iraqi Interior Ministry official, earlier today, further complicating the drive to achieve a stable, permanent government.
Gunmen kidnapped a senior Iraqi Interior Ministry official Wednesday and the U.S. military reported the deaths of five more U.S. service members Ã¢€” the latest violence as Iraqi politicians struggled to meet a deadline for drafting a constitution. A day after a group meeting of Iraqi political factions reached no consensus, representatives met privately on Wednesday to discuss the deadlock over the charter, less than a week before a deadline for parliament to approve it. The kidnapping occurred in Baghdad’s Andalus Square. Gunmen stopped Brig. Gen. Khudayer Abbas, who heads the administrative affairs office at the Interior Ministry, as he was driving, forced him into another vehicle and sped away, said police Maj. Abbas Mohammed Salman said.
As fighting in Iraq rages on, the United States hopes progress on the political front, including adoption of a democratic constitution, will help deflate the Sunni Arab-led rebellion and enable the Americans and their partners to begin withdrawing troops next year. “It’s important that they stay with their timetable” on the constitution, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Tuesday. “This will be a critical step in persuading the majority of the Iraqis that the new Iraq is worth fighting for, that they have a stake in it.” Rumsfeld told Pentagon reporters that the constitution “could well turn out to be one of the most powerful weapons to be deployed against the terrorists” and the insurgents are “determined to stop the constitutional process through terror and intimidation.”
But Iraqi political leaders drafting the charter have shown little sign of compromise over questions like the role of Islam and federalism in the nation’s future. Faction leaders conferred for about four hours Tuesday night hoping to overcome their differences and produce a charter by Monday. Individual factions met privately Wednesday, but President Jalal Talabani said there would be no formal collective meeting. The constitution also needs approval from voters in an Oct. 15 referendum. Passage would lead to elections in mid-December.
At the beginning of Tuesday’s meeting, presidential spokesman Kamran Qaradaghi told reporters the latest talks would focus on federalism, distribution of wealth and the elections law. Kurds demand that Iraq be transformed into a federal state so they can continue to run their autonomous mini-state in the north. Sunni Arabs oppose federalism because they fear the Kurds want to secede and dismember Iraq. Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani joined the talks Tuesday. Barzani, who had been stranded in northern Iraq by the sandstorms, has vowed not to compromise on federalism.
A prominent Sunni Arab on the constitutional committee, Saleh al-Mutlaq, suggested that federalism be decided by the parliament to be elected in December. “We will not accept federalism in these circumstances,” al-Mutlaq told The Associated Press. He warned that if Kurdish demands are accepted, “they will have grave consequences” for the future of Iraq. He did not elaborate.
Meanwhile, a group of women activists issued a statement Tuesday insisting that the new constitution guarantee women’s rights “as an essential part of guaranteeing human rights of all members of Iraqi society” regardless of gender, race, religion or sect.
Obviously, some huge obstacles still exist to Western-style democracy. Federalism with strong autonomy for the Shiite, Sunni, and Kurd regions would seem to be a prerequisite for success as would some semblance of human rights protections for women and dissidents.