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Iraqi constitution dangerously short of US goals: experts - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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WASHINGTON (AFP) -Iraq”s new draft constitution falls dangerously short of initial US goals and will likely fuel an increase in violence in the war-battered country, American analysts said.

&#34It”s not a good path we are on right now,&#34 said Flynt Leverett, of the Brookings Institution think tank here. &#34You have a situation now in which one or two things will happen, and both of them are bad.&#34

He said either the minority Sunni Arabs will succeed in mustering a two-thirds majority in three of the country”s 18 provinces to sink the charter or will fail and end up feeling disenfranchised and disgruntled.

Either scenario will produce a political crisis, Leverett said. &#34What we have now is a situation which is the beginning of a countdown to something that will look like civil war in Iraq.&#34

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani on Sunday declared the draft constitution ready for submission to a national referendum October 15 ahead of elections for a permanent government two months later.

If the majority Shiites and the Kurds celebrated, the Sunnis who ruled Iraq until Saddam Hussein”s ouster by US-led troops in April 2003 were left excluded and complaining.

Eager to preserve a strong central government, they rejected charter provisions they said would produce a loose federation with richer Shiite and Kurdish regions but pledged continued efforts to seek a politcal settlement.

For Nathan Brown, of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Iraq”s civil war has already begun. &#34The question is only who is participating and to what extent,&#34 he told AFP.

&#34Those who participated in drafting the constitution want the Sunnis right now to register and to vote against it,&#34 Brown said. &#34If they lose and the constitution is adopted, they will probably be discreditated.

He said Sunni leaders with likely ties to the insurgency &#34will probably feel vindicated, so in that sense, an approval of the constitution could aggravate the situation.&#34

Leverett agreed that moves by Shiites and Kurds to ram through the draft constitution could stiffen the Sunnis and make the situation even more volatile.

&#34At that point, if anything, it gives a kind of political context for the insurgency, even more than the insurgency has now because then the insurgents become a kind of Sunni resistance.&#34

Analysts agree the US administration is relatively powerless in this situation and has little room for maneouvre.

&#34They don”t have a lot of options,&#34 Brown said. &#34It is possible to reopen constitutional negotiations … (but) if they were reopened I am not sure that they would end with a different outcome.

&#34The other possibility would be simply to put a good face on it, to go forward with the constitution as is and try to beat the insurgency militarily,&#34 he said.

&#34But that in the past has not succeeded yet and I am not sure it will be more successful in the future.&#34

President George W. Bush, who personally spoke by telephone with a top Shiite leader last week to urge more concessions to the Sunnis, appeared intent Monday in putting a brave face on the outcome.

Bush said he was &#34very optimistic&#34 about Iraq”s future, even if not everybody agreed with the text of the draft charter.

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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