AP reported in the early morning hours of Friday, Aug. 25, Baghdad time, that "The speaker of Iraq's parliament announced a one-day extension early Friday in talks on the new constitution -- a fourth attempt to win Sunni Arab approval. But he said that if no agreement is reached, the document would bypass parliament and be decided in an Oct. 15 referendum." -- The drama around the Iraqi constitution is a fine epitome of the state of disorder that U.S. neoconservatives have bestowed on the unfortunate people of the Land of Two Rivers. -- What is now being done in the name of "the law" is, in fact, doubly illegal. -- First, as the text of Article 61 of the "Law of Administration for the State of Iraq for the Transitional Period" reproduced below shows, the Iraqi National Assembly is already in flagrant violation of "the law." -- The legal provision for extension beyond Aug. 15 is contained in Clause (F), which requires that an extension be requested "no later than 1 August 2005" by the president of the National Assembly certifying to the Presidential Council "that there is a need for additional time." -- At that time, the Council could have extended the deadline "for only six months," which, arguably, means no other period of extension is allowed. -- No such extension took place. -- Instead, an extension of seven days was granted at about 11:55 p.m. on Aug. 15, and then a further three-day extension was granted around 11:50 p.m. on Aug. 22. -- The latest talk of "one more day" is also extra-legal. -- In any case, the "Law of Administration for the State of Iraq for the Transtional Period" is a neo-Orwellian instrument of imperialism imposed upon the people of Iraq by force through an invasion the flouted international law and the will of the United Nations -- and global public opinion as well (the coordinated antiwar demonstrations of Feb. 15, 2002, were of historic dimensions). -- The neo-Orwellian character of the "Law of Administration" is seen most clearly in its preamble, where we read: "The people of Iraq, striving to reclaim their freedom, which was usurped by the previous tyrannical regime, rejecting violence and coercion in all their forms, and particularly when used as instruments of governance, have determined that they shall hereafter remain a free people governed under the rule of law. -- These people, affirming today their respect for international law, especially having been amongst the founders of the United Nations, working to reclaim their legitimate place among nations, have endeavored at the same time to preserve the unity of their homeland in a spirit of fraternity and solidarity in order to draw the features of the future new Iraq, and to establish the mechanisms aiming, amongst other aims, to erase the effects of racist and sectarian policies and practices. -- This Law is now established to govern the affairs of Iraq during the transitional period until a duly elected government, operating under a permanent and legitimate constitution achieving full democracy, shall come into being." -- Every sentence of this preamble was false when it was written, and is false today....
IRAQIS MISS THIRD CONSTITUTION DEADLINE
By Bassem Mroue
August 25, 2005
BAGHDAD -- The speaker of Iraq's parliament announced a one-day extension early Friday in talks on the new constitution -- a fourth attempt to win Sunni Arab approval. But he said that if no agreement is reached, the document would bypass parliament and be decided in an Oct. 15 referendum.
Shiite leaders signaled they had lost patience with protracted negotiating and wanted to refer the draft approved by them and the Kurds last Monday to the electorate. With repeated missed deadlines and no sign of compromise, a process designed to bring the country's disparate ethnic, cultural, and religious groups closer together appeared instead to be pushing them further apart.
A Shiite power play would undercut one of Washington's goals for the constitution: to invigorate a political process that will lure disaffected Sunni Arabs away from the Sunni-dominated insurgency so that U.S. and other foreign troops can begin to go home next year.
The Bush administration, however, expressed optimism that an agreement would be reached.
"I think if Iraqi leaders say that they need a few days more to complete a historic document that will lay a foundation for a new and free Iraq, I think that that is certainly understandable," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said after the delay was announced.
Parliament speaker Hajim al-Hassani, a Sunni who was elected on the mostly Sunni ticket headed by former President Ghazi al-Yawer, also said he remained hopeful of a deal.
"We found that time was late and we saw that the matters will need another day in order to reach results that please everyone," al-Hassani said on national television shortly after the midnight deadline. The Friday session was an attempt to give the Shiites time to respond to proposals tabled at a late-night meeting for which they did not show up.
Al-Hassani agreed that no parliamentary vote was required since the assembly fulfilled its legal obligations by accepting the Shiite and Kurdish-approved draft on Monday.
"If we will not be able to reach agreements in the end, this constitution is going to be presented to the Iraqis in an Oct. 15 referendum," al-Hassani said. "Legally we do not need the parliament to vote on the draft, but we need only a consensus so that all the Iraqis will say yes to the constitution."
Monday was the second deadline which the legislature granted after the drafting committee failed to meet the Aug. 15 date set in the interim constitution.
The parliament speaker said that discussions over the previous three days were "very good, in which points of views were exchanged." He said they discussed federalism, references to Saddam Hussein's Baath party and the constitution's introduction.
The Shiite alliance and the Kurds together control 221 of the 275 parliament seats and could win easily in a parliamentary vote on the charter, which requires only a majority. And with 60 percent of the population, the Shiites and their Kurdish allies are gambling that the draft would win approval in the referendum.
However, the perception that the Shiites and Kurds pushed through a document unacceptable to the Sunnis could sharpen religious and ethnic tensions.
As a sign of deep religious and ethnic tensions already tearing at Iraq, police found the bodies of 36 men Thursday in a dry river bed near the Iranian border, their hands bound and with bullet wounds in the head.
The bodies contained no identification and police said most were wearing baggy trousers favored by Kurds. But when photographers arrived, they saw the bodies wearing normal clothing.
Also Thursday, gunmen opened fire on cars owned by President Jalal Talabani, killing eight of his bodyguards and wounding 15, a security official said. Talabani, a Kurd, was not in any of the cars when the attack occurred in a mixed Shiite-Sunni area north of Baghdad.
Although the constitution requires only a simple majority in the referendum, if two-thirds of the voters in any three of Iraq's 18 provinces vote against it, the charter will be defeated.
Sunni Arabs are about 20 percent of the national population but form the majority in at least four provinces. Sunni clerics have begun urging their followers to vote down the charter in the referendum if Sunni interests are not served.
But some Shiites have expressed doubt that the Sunnis could muster a two-thirds majority in enough provinces. Each of the Sunni-dominated provinces contains Shiite and Kurdish communities, and there is no requirement in the law for a minimum turnout.
If voters reject the constitution, parliament will be dissolved and elections held by Dec. 15 to form a new one. The new parliament then starts drafting a new constitution.
Federalism has become the most contentious issue, underscoring the vastly different experience of the three major communities during the Saddam era.
Sunnis, who profited as a community under Saddam's centralized regime, fear federalism will lead to the dismemberment of the country and make Iraq vulnerable to threats by stronger neighbors like Shiite-dominated Iran, with whom the Shiite parties maintain close links but which fought a 1980-1988 war with Iraq.
Shiites and Kurds bitterly recall decades of oppression at the hands of Saddam and believe federalism is the best way to prevent a new dictator.
However, the Shiite community is also divided, and radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr shares Sunni objections to federalism and other parts of the draft. He may well join forces with the Sunnis in the referendum. Al-Sadr's followers have joined Sunni hard-liners in recent protests against the constitution.
Al-Sadr's potential role was thrown into sharp focus Wednesday when clashes broke out between his followers and those of the biggest Shiite party after a brawl in front of his office in Najaf left four dead and the building in flames.
Al-Sadr's followers blamed the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, or SCIRI, which holds key posts in the government and on the constitutional committee. Fighting occurred in major Shiite cities including Basra, Karbala, Amarah, Kut, Samawah, and Nasiriyah.
On Thursday, however, al-Sadr called on his followers to end the clashes in the interest of Shiite unity -- a call generally heeded although three rockets were fired shortly before midnight at the SCIRI office in Karbala.
In calling for calm, al-Sadr, who led two uprisings against U.S. forces last year, urged "all believers to spare the blood of the Muslims and to return to their homes."
"I will not forget this attack on the office . . . but Iraq is passing through a critical and difficult period that requires unity," he told reporters in his home in Najaf.
He demanded that Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, leader of SCIRI, condemn "what his followers have done."
"I urge the believers not to attack innocent civilians and not to fall for American plots that aim to divide us," al-Sadr said. "We are passing through a critical period and a political process."
SCIRI denied any role in the attack on al-Sadr's office and issued a statement urging an end to the bloodshed -- also calling it "a plot that targets our unity."
LAW OF ADMINISTRATION FOR THE STATE OF IRAQ FOR THE TRANSITIONAL PERIOD
March 8, 2004
(A) The National Assembly shall write the draft of the permanent constitution by no later than 15 August 2005.
(B) The draft permanent constitution shall be presented to the Iraqi people for approval in a general referendum to be held no later than 15 October 2005. In the period leading up to the referendum, the draft constitution shall be published and widely distributed to encourage a public debate about it among the people.
(C) The general referendum will be successful and the draft constitution ratified if a majority of the voters in Iraq approve and if two-thirds of the voters in three or more governorates do not reject it.
(D) If the permanent constitution is approved in the referendum, elections for a permanent government shall be held no later than 15 December 2005 and the new government shall assume office no later than 31 December 2005.
(E) If the referendum rejects the draft permanent constitution, the National Assembly shall be dissolved. Elections for a new National Assembly shall be held no later than 15 December 2005. The new National Assembly and new Iraqi Transitional Government shall then assume office no later than 31 December 2005, and shall continue to operate under this Law, except that the final deadlines for preparing a new draft may be changed to make it possible to draft a permanent constitution within a period not to exceed one year. The new National Assembly shall be entrusted with writing another draft permanent constitution.
(F) If necessary, the president of the National Assembly, with the agreement of a majority of the members votes, may certify to the Presidency Council no later than 1 August 2005 that there is a need for additional time to complete the writing of the draft constitution. The Presidency Council shall then extend the deadline for writing the draft constitution for only six months. This deadline may not be extended again.
(G) If the National Assembly does not complete writing the draft permanent constitution by 15 August 2005 and does not request extension of the deadline in Article 61(F) above, the provisions of Article 61(E), above, shall be applied.