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Iraqi Expat

Friday, June 17, 2005

Constitution Writing Committee

It seems that an agreement has been, or is about to be reached regarding the constitution writing committee. [Arabic]

It started over a month ago when the 55 member committee was formed with only two Sunnis in it. It was a mistake to assume that a committee with such an important undertaking can be formed on the basis of number of seats gained in the elections. The Sunnis have erred when they boycotted – and or asked people to boycott - the elections; however, that error did not mean that they should be sidelined in the most crucial task today which will shape the future of Iraq.

Having realised the mistake, and after calls from Condoleezza Rice, the Shias decided to include a larger number of Sunnis in the constitution drafting process. The Sunnis welcomed Rice’s move and started negotiations with the Shias, Kurds and the rest.

It has been reported couple of weeks ago that 15 Sunnis will be added to the 55 member committee; however, nothing has been confirmed until yesterday. But even yesterday’s confirmation is not certain; Dr Adnan al-Janabi, a member of the National Assembly and the deputy chairman of constitution committee, said that an agreement has not been reached yet, contrary to media reports. [Arabic]

According to the reports, the Sunnis have requested to have 25 members in the committee; but after negotiations, only 15 Sunnis will be added to the current committee to become a 70 member committee with the Sunnis having 2 members more than the Kurds. And the rest of the 25 Sunnis in the list submitted during the negotiations will have the role of advisors, but are not part of the committee.

If this agreement is final, then I believe it is great news. The Sunnis deserve couple more seats than the Kurds in the committee, so to me it looks fair and square. However, I am not quite sure about other factions!

But what worries me is that the Sunnis – or to be more specific, the Sunni representation – haven’t always acted in an appropriate manner. I believe the problem is that the representation is not the right representation, it is the wrong unelected representation which selected itself, and for some reason the many decent intellectual Sunnis are not part of that representation.

All politicians and representations are prone to making mistakes; but what I consider as inappropriate, unacceptable and way out of line is asking for elements from Saddam’s era to come back and participate or asking for the de-Baathification process to be scrapped completely! Yes, the de-Baathification process is very delicate and must be conducted carefully and fairly, but it is a must for Iraq to move forward. Iraq can not afford to have believers in the old regime or criminals of the old regime to be part of the new establishment.

The Sunni representation, during the negotiations for the constitution committee, has put forward Munther al-Shawi to be a member in that committee. This is the boldest movement by the Sunnis to bring back elements of the previous regime. Al-Shawi was the Higher Education Minister in the 70s, Justice Minister in the 80s, Saddam’s legal adviser in the 90s and finally Justice Minister before the war. I don’t think I need to say more about al-Shawi, do I?

After such boldness, the government issued an arrest warrant for al-Shawi on the basis of new evidence, 102 original execution orders signed by al-Shawi. [Arabic]

Such actions make my blood boils and make me wonder, why there isn’t a decent non-Baath sympathizers Sunni representation. I know that there are many decent, intellectual, democracy-loving Sunnis who are capable of participating and contributing positively; but why only few of them are in the political arena today? If there were enough of those, would the rest of politicians have to negotiate with Baath sympathizers? I don’t think so.

Our problem is, I think, the lack of self-criticism. We have to criticise ourselves and our representatives to be able to progress. In general, Kurds don’t criticise Kurds, Sunnis don’t criticise Sunnis and Shias don’t criticise Shias. This situation is quite dangerous and could make us apologists of our ethnic group or representation, even when we disagree with them.

At the moment, al-Sadr and al-Hakim are the bad elements in the Shia representation, and I know that many Shias will say that al-Hakim is good and his family records speak for itself; but al-Sadr’s family record speak for itself too, can you say he’s good? The problem of al-Hakim is that he is too keen to see Iraq become like Iran and to become Iran’s obedient partner. And unfortunately, al-Hakim is influential.

The Sunni representation on the other hand has bad elements too; like those who are taking advantage of the terror and ask for outrageous demands, such as bringing Baathis and elements of Saddam’s era back. Can they not bring better people to build the new Iraq? And, if they don’t think that Baathis are bad; well how about thinking that they had their chance and failed, and its time to have new faces?

Nonetheless, even though I had no doubt that they will reach an agreement, I am extremely glad that the constitution committee is formed (or not?), and that it has enough and fair representation of the three main factions, and I hope that minorities are represented too.

But I am worried that these stupid demands – and previous stupid demands by other factions - will leave ill feeling inside many Iraqis. It is our job to voice our rejections when such demands are made. If I criticise my representation before others criticise them, and if others do the same, we will leave no room for ill feelings, divisions and problems. In fact by doing so, we might force our representations to change their minds.


Blogger DaKruser said...

You are right Ahmad,
Surely the PEOPLE realize that the legitimacy of the Constitution is in peril of elements of the "Old Regime" are included? Unfortunately, the Sunni population are beginning to feel the brunt of not voting in the past election. Kudos to the Kurds and Shia blocks for their rather magnanamous move to allow so many more representatives from the Sunnis anyway.
Let us hope that a vision of a new Iraq over-weighs the factional bickering in the long run.
As my grandfather used to say, Keep your fingers crossed, but don't hold your breath.

June 17, 2005 5:25 pm  
Anonymous Annie said...

I'm not sure I understand how these particular Sunni's were chosen to be the extra representatives, Ahmad. Could you point me in the right direction?

June 18, 2005 6:54 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ahmad, Let's hope the committee follows the TAL pretty closely. If they mess up, the people can vote the new constitution down or vote these people out in January or whenever. I hope the press will keep on this. Al Hakim worries me a bit, too. He has been to Iran and met with the Mullahs. I wonder if he went as a representative of the government or on his own.

June 18, 2005 6:58 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another thought -- I wish your constitution would allow for representatives to government rather than a list. It seems that you have no control who is on a list. It's better to vote for individuals. They would have to be responsible to their constituents. Now you have Sadr, who probably couldn't get elected if he ran on his own.

June 18, 2005 7:22 am  
Blogger Ahmad said...


Some of the Sunni representation in the government (not committee) are those who were elected; however, because the government want to include more Sunnis in the political process and in the committee, negotiations took place with people some of whom are somehow connected to the violence, not publicly though.

For example, the other day a Sunni sheikh was on TV (Al Sharqiya) the other day who was in the negotiations (not sure if he's in the committee), and when asked if he support the "resistance", he said no with a smirk on his face that said YES. He also said, "they say Saddam is a dictator, but we don't know that"!

Read this in the StrategyPage on Iraq:

"June 15, 2005: The Iraqi Sunni Arabs are driving a hard bargain. In effect, they are still running an extortion racket on the Kurds and Shia Arabs who comprise 80 percent of the population. The terrorist violence in Iraq is almost entirely the creation of Sunni Arabs. Their proposals is that, in return for stopping the violence, they want a major say in the writing of the new constitution, and some major amnesty for past sins. The Sunni Arabs have a lot to account for in the pain and atrocity department, both currently and in the past. The amnesty would not include major baddies like Saddam, but would cover many of those who have been killing Americans and Iraqis for the last two years. It's going to be a hard sell."

Why do you think 1100 Iraqis died in the last month? Because they are negotiating and they want to showing off their muscles and press the government for a better deal!

June 18, 2005 11:56 am  
Blogger Ahmad said...

I really hope so too. I am not a big fan of lists (even though I understand why they used that system), because you end up having people like al-Sadr, al-Hakim, al-Chalabi, and their friends, when in reality they wouldn't have so much support on their own.

Having said that, al-Sadr and al-Hakim would probably end up being elected because of their religious and family history; but still they wouldn't be as powerful. Al-Chalabi and many others wouldn't have a seat if they ran on their own (just like Al Patchachi didn't get a seat)!

Alawai to be honest, was the real winner of the last election, because he is the only one who won a lot on his own.

June 18, 2005 12:04 pm  
Anonymous Annie said...

Thank you Ahmad. That was kind of what worried me, the negotiation part. I couldn't find all the names that are bandied about, on any lists. (Some of them, yes.) But I am having a hard time keeping up. I appreciate you taking the time to answer my questions!

June 18, 2005 12:27 pm  
Blogger Brian H said...

Look, Ahmad, you could have ONLY Sunnis and Kurds writing the constitution and it wouldn't matter: the result has to be approved by the people in a referendum and by all but 2 provinces, so whoever writes it will HAVE to create something that satisfies 2/3 of Iraq. No worries.

June 20, 2005 9:03 am  
Blogger TallDave said...

It's an exciting step toward a free and democratic Iraq. Best wishes for a great future.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

June 20, 2005 5:02 pm  
Blogger Qais said...

check this link and tell me where the democracy is?
human rights are absent. not value of the constitution if the people who wrote it are not abiding by it. I am sick of all religious groups and if you ask me today, Saddams secularism and dictatorship is mu ch better than what we have. I like our constitution (with some comments on that about the sectarian spirit in it) but I lost my hope and faith.

May 18, 2010 6:38 am  

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