Iraq Leaders Agree on Draft Constitution
The Iraqi constitutional committee has submitted a document to the parliament in time to meet the deadline, although only by putting off a decision on some of the most controversial issues.
Iraqi politicians agreed Monday on a draft constitution but decided to put off two key issues Ã¢€” women’s rights and whether Kurds might someday secede Ã¢€” so the document could be submitted to parliament by a midnight deadline, two Shiite officials said.
Nasar al-Rubaie, a member of the committee drafting the constitution, said the document would be handed over to the 275-member National Assembly late Monday for a decision on the two unresolved issues. He said those issues were women’s rights and self-determination, a Kurdish demand for more autonomy and the right to secede someday. Jalaldin al-Saghir, a Shiite member of parliament, confirmed agreement had been reached but refused to identify the two remaining issues. “An agreement has been reached on the constitution and it was signed and it will be handed to parliament,” he said. “There are two points that the National Assembly will have to solve.”
Parliament, meanwhile, delayed a session Monday on whether to approve a new constitution by a midnight deadline. It was not clear when the legislators would begin meeting. The developments came after some Iraqi faction leaders had suggested that parliament should extend the deadline for approving the charter as last-minute talks failed to produce agreement on a federated state and other divisive issues. The National Assembly initially had been scheduled to convene at 6 p.m. (10 a.m. EDT) to consider the draft, but the convention hall remained absent of legislators well after 10 p.m.
Tariq al-Hashimi, the general secretary of Iraq’s biggest Sunni political group, the Iraqi Islamic party, told Al-Jazeera television earlier that the minority’s objections to federalism were not the only obstacles blocking progress. Instead, he said Shiites and Kurds also had “points of disagreement” and it might be better to delay a decision. He didn’t elaborate.
But a Kurdish member of the drafting committee, Munthir al-Fadl, said that a constitution that doesn’t fulfill Kurdish demands of “self-determination” and the authority of provincial governors, “will not succeed and will not even reach the gates of the National Assembly.” Al-Hashimi said his party did not believe in the “sanctity” of the interim constitution.
Our own Framers kicked some key issues–notably slavery and the inclusion of a Bill of Rights–down the road in 1787, so this isn’t a complete shock.
Update: Iraqi Parliament OKs Constitution Delay (AP)
Iraq’s parliament agreed to a seven-day extension for leaders to complete a draft constitution, after politicians failed to meet a midnight Monday deadline for agreement on the charter. Parliament adjourned after voting to extend the deadline until Aug. 22, acting on a request from Kurdish leaders for more time.
Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish framers of the charter had reached a tentative deal late Monday, resolving issues ranging from oil revenues to the country’s name but putting off decision on the most contentious questions Ã¢€” including federalism, women’s rights, the role of Islam and possible Kurdish autonomy.
Efforts to meet the Aug. 15 deadline showed how determined Iraqis are to maintain political momentum under intense U.S. pressure, but their failure to compromise was a clear sign that their sharp political divisions are far from over. “We should not be hasty regarding the issues and the constitution should not be born crippled,” President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, said after the vote. “We are keen to have an early constitution, but the constitution should be completed in all of its items in a proper manner that appeals to all components of the Iraqi people so that the whole people interact with the whole constitution.”
It was unclear if negotiators would reopen issues already resolved or focus only on those yet undecided.
We shall see. One hopes that this will allow for the realization that they are outnumbered to settle in with the Sunnis, who might therefore be encouraged to offer some sort of compromise solution.