Iraq Constitution Chair Pessimistic on Reaching Deal

Humam Hammoudi, head of the committee charged with drafting Iraq’s new constitution, is skeptical that a deal can be reached in three days that will placate all parties.

Iraqi Pessimistic of Constitution Deal (AP)

The head of the committee drafting Iraq’s constitution said Tuesday that three days are not enough to win over the Sunni Arabs, and the document they rejected may ultimately have to be approved by parliament as is and taken to the people in a referendum. Iraqi leaders completed a draft Monday night and submitted it to parliament, but — just minutes from a midnight deadline — lawmakers delayed a vote to give negotiators time to persuade Sunni Arabs to accept it.


At a news conference Tuesday, drafting committee chairman Humam Hammoudi acknowledged that more time was probably needed to extract a compromise from Sunnis, who objected to wording on federalism, Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party, the description of Iraq as an Islamic — but not Arab — country, and other parts of the document.

Asked how to break the impasse, Hammoudi said “the Iraqi people will rule” and suggested that the elected parliament could debate the issues and make a decision. Shiites and Kurds, who accepted the agreement, dominate the assembly. Approving the draft and submitting it to voters in an Oct. 15 referendum risks a backlash among Sunni Arabs, who are at the forefront of the insurgency. Luring them away from violence and into the political process was a major U.S. goal for the constitution.

But Hammoudi noted that unlike Shiite and Kurd negotiators, Sunni Arabs were not elected parliament members but appointed to the committee. Sunni Arabs won only 17 of 275 parliament seats because so many Sunnis boycotted the Jan. 30 election. “Those who are representing the brother Sunni Arabs are not elected,” Hammoudi said. “Therefore, who can say that they really represent the people on the street … therefore the Sunnis have to express their opinion.”

Problematic to be sure.

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James Joyner
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James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.