Thursday, August 25, 2005

Telegraph | News | Sunnis set out to sabotage draft plan for Iraq

Telegraph | News | Sunnis set out to sabotage draft plan for Iraq

Sunnis set out to sabotage draft plan for Iraq
By Oliver Poole in Baghdad

Iraq's Sunnis displayed a new found enthusiasm for politics yesterday as thousands who boycotted January's election queued to register to vote.

Rather than democracy in action, this was a backlash against it, for the Sunnis were attempting to sabotage the draft constitution submitted to parliament on Monday night. Their religious, political and tribal leaders have already railed against the document, warning of the risk that it will "break up" the country.

Like their bombing of Shiite mosques and killing innocent women and children isn't the biggest threat to "break up" the country? Or their historic persecution of their peaceful neighbors?

With Shia and Kurdish delegates threatening to force the draft through parliament over Sunni protests, taking part in this October's constitutional referendum is now the Sunnis' best hope of killing the document.

Under voting rules, if two thirds of ballots cast in any three provinces oppose the constitution, it will fail. Sunnis have such a potential majority in four of Iraq's 18 provinces.

In Samarra, an insurgent centre 60 miles north of Baghdad, lines stretched down the road as local Sunnis appeared to accept that their refusal to vote in January had led to them being marginalised in parliament. "We came here to register our names as we should not commit a mistake as we did before," Hameed Hassan said as he waited to add his name to the list.

Many were following the instruction of the clerics at their mosque who had instructed them to cast a vote against the constitution and "tell 10 other people to do so".

At least they're telling people to vote, and trying to change society with ballots rather than bombs

The proposed constitution would transform Iraq from the highly centralised state ruled by Saddam Hussein into a loose federation of Kurds, Shiites and Sunni Arabs.

The Sunnis, who under Saddam dominated the country, fear the new Iraq will deprive them of a fair share of wealth from its oil, little of which is located where they are, and leave them powerless.

And a civil war would also leave them powerless, and oil-less, and bloody as the other 80% of the country, which has all the oil, and now is building bridges to the outside world, turns their economic and military firepower on them in retaliation for the years of terrorism and the years of Saddam's rule the Sunnis imposed on their neighbors. I think they're better off with a federation.

Theoretically, there is still time for their concerns to be heeded in continuing negotiations on the constitution's wording.

Despite receiving a draft on Monday, the national assembly's speaker delayed a vote to approve it for three days to see if Sunni fears could be addressed.

But a brief sitting yesterday illustrated the unlikelihood of a consensus. One Sunni negotiator, Saleh al-Mutlak, said irreconcilable divisions remained, and predicted "an uprising on the streets".

He said: "We will campaign to reject the constitution which has elements in it that will lead to civil war."

Uh, haven't they been TRYING to start a civil war for years now?

Shia and Kurd leaders appear increasingly fatalistic and indicated that tomorrow the constitution will be pushed through parliament and its future left for voters to decide. It was largely drawn up by their delegates and reflects their priorities, primarily the desire for semi-autonomy in the Kurdish north and Shia south as well as Shia demands for Iraq to become largely an Islamic state.

Laith Kubba, the government's official spokesman, said: "After a long discussion, this is the best we could get. The Iraqi people can accept or reject this new constitution."

One potent threat now facing the growing Sunni campaign to defeat the document at the ballot box comes from Abu Musab Zarqawi, the fundamentalist Sunni terrorist responsible for many of the worst outrages committed in Iraq in the past two years.

He and other leading groups have repeatedly threatened to kill any Sunnis participating in the political process and promised to bomb polling booths.

Last week three Sunnis putting up posters in Mosul calling on people to register were kidnapped, their bullet-riddled bodies later found dumped outside a mosque.

Ha ha! So by keeping Sunnis from the polls, Zarqawi may help the constituion to pass! Loser!

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