Iraq´s ruling coalition submitted a new constitution to parliament on 22 August 2005, but postponed the vote for three days to try to negotiate the agreement of Sunni Arabs who claim the constitution will lead to civil war. Under the agreement, Iraq will become a federal republic combining the principles of Islam with human rights and democracy. Oil and other natural wealth would be shared "according to the needs" of the central government and the provinces.
Shia and Kurdish leaders are happy with the deal, but some Sunni´s fear that federalism will lead to the break up of Iraq. They claim that they were sidelined during the discussions, and informed (falsely) that there would be no deal without consensus. A Sunni spokesman, Salah al-Mutlik, stated "We reject the political process as it is now. It will put us far from reconciliation and without reconciliation in this country we cannot advance."
Bush put his usual spin on the announcement "Iraq´s leaders are once again defying the terrorists and the pessimists by completing work on a democratic constitution. The establishment of a democratic constitution will be a landmark event in the history of Iraq and the history of the Middle East."
Of course, without the full involvement of the Sunni´s, the insurgency will continue. If the constitution is accepted by the Shia and Kurd factions but not by the Sunni´s, predictions of a civil war along ethnic and sectarian lines seem all the more likely. However, this time many Sunni clerics are advising people to take part in the electoral process. Meanwhile insurgent groups have threatened to kill Sunnis who register to vote, saying the political process is a US-orchestrated sham. Three Sunnis have already been murdered for erecting posters in Mosul urging people to vote.
What the US and British governments are not admitting, is the scale of the problem. This is not a few isolated murders and bombings (which would be bad enough - consider the pain and distress caused by the bombing in London and imaging that as a daily experience). The Guardian has reported that the town of Haditha (only 140 miles from the capital) has become an insurgent stronghold! The insurgents control the security and administration of the 90,000 inhabitants. Alcohol and music have been banned, and women are required to cover their heads and be closely monitored. Public beheadings, whippings and stonings were witnessed by reporters, who confirmed that children witnessing the brutal punishments were laughing and joking about the "entertainment". This really bodes well for the future! On the other hand, the residents of Haditha have 24 hour electricity (a luxury unheard of in the rest of Iraq) and community leaders praised the Insurgents for maintaining law and order. It seems that the situation developed when Shia police adopted a heavy-handed approach to the Sunni residents. When they were driven off, the rebels moved into the power vacuum.
Other towns (among them Qaim, Rawa, Anna and Ramadi) are also under rebel control, although of their power in these towns is unclear. The US have refused to comment on the rebel controlled towns. Clearly, marching in and destroying everything (such as in Falluja) solves nothing. The insurgents simply leave while the mortars fall on civilian dwellings, and when the dust settles thousands more people have a personal reason to hate the occupying army and their "democracy". Ignoring the problem won´t work either. The insurgents are in it for the long haul, is the US?
At least Bush has finally abandoned his rather bizarre support for conservative clerics arguing that Islamic law should be the basis of the constitution. This was probably a cynical attempt to curry favour with traditional clerics and allow him to pretend that he did not reject the Muslim faith. But, had this been agreed, women´s rights would have eroded further and the US would have put Iraq on the path to becoming a fundamentalist state. The organiser of a women´s protest in central Baghdad noted "We are fighting to avoid becoming second class citizens".
Whatever, happens next, this is far from over. It seems that even more Iraqi blood must be spilled before any peace will be found.