Shiites and Kurds Move Ahead Without Sunnis
The Shiite and Kurd leadership have given up hope of reaching a compromise with the former Baathists who comprise the Sunni representation and are now moving on without them.
Shiite and Kurdish leaders drafting a new Iraqi constitution abandoned negotiations with a group of Sunni representatives on Friday, deciding to take the disputed charter directly to the Iraqi people.
With the American ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad, standing by, Shiite and Kurdish representatives said they had run out of patience with the Sunni negotiators, a group that includes several former members of Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party. The Shiites and Kurds said the Sunnis had refused to budge on a pair of crucial issues that were holding up completion of the constitution. The Shiites and Kurds reached their decision in meetings that ran late into Friday night, disregarding the Sunnis’ pleas for more time.
The Shiite and Kurdish representatives sought to play down the importance of leaving the Sunnis out, saying that with their Baathist links, they had never truly spoken for the broader Sunni population. The Iraqi leaders who drafted the constitution defended it as a document that would ensure the unity of the country and safeguard individual rights. “The negotiation is finished, and we have a deal,” said Ahmad Chalabi, the deputy prime minister and a member of the Shiite leadership. “No one has any more time. It cannot drag on any longer. Most of the Sunnis are satisfied. Everybody made sacrifices. It is an excellent document.”
The decision to move forward was a heavy blow for the Bush administration, which had expended enormous energy and political capital to forge a constitution that included the Sunnis. On Thursday, in a last-ditch effort to get a deal, President Bush telephoned Abdul Aziz Hakim, a cleric and the leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, to press him to offer a more palatable compromise to the Sunnis.
I’m obviously not privy to the details of the negotiations and have no real feel for how much headway was made. At some point, though, the majority has to prevail. The Shiites and Kurds were adamant about federalism and the Sunnis were adamant against it. It’s unclear what compromise solution could be reached on such a basic principle.