In a presentation by Prof. Robert Giambatista of Texas Tech on cultural differences in global negotiations, here's what we read about negotiating in the Middle East:  "Bargaining is a way of life -- 'You’re supposed to haggle!' (Monty Python).  --  Time -- not punctual or planning-oriented (too much attempt to control the future invites trouble).  Ramadan is especially slow for business.  --  Group-oriented, and very deferential to those of status.  --  Much time upfront spent in developing relationships.  --  Masculine Arabs read poetry, use intuition, and are emotional. Feminine Arab qualities are coolness and pragmatism.  --  Israelis are direct, Arabs indirect, vague, and expressive, often to point of exaggeration and filled with fantastic metaphors.  --  'No' is uncommon; look for a hesitant 'yes' instead -- white lies common form of courtesy.  --  Saying 'I don’t know' you are of little account.  --  Strong eye contact, close personal space, touchy.  --  High initial demands, slow concessions, issues sequential, extreme 'face' orientation, truth is revealed very slowly because it is considered dangerous."  --  Many of these traits seem to be in play in negotiations that may (or may not) still be going on over the Iraqi draft constitution, now overdue by about two weeks.  --  Bloomberg news reports a "tentative" agreement on the part of "Shiite and Kurdish leaders" to "accept Sunni Muslim proposals on a new constitution."[1]  --  But Qassim Abdul Zahra reported for the Associated Press that "Written versions of the Shiite-Kurdish concessions, which were presented to Sunni leaders Friday, were not released."[2] ...


By Caroline Alexander

Bloomberg News
August 27, 2005

Iraq's National Assembly president said Shiite and Kurdish leaders have "tentatively" agreed to accept Sunni Muslim proposals on a new constitution. The amended document will be submitted to law makers tomorrow.

Negotiators have dealt with issues that Sunnis opposed, including a denunciation of Saddam Hussein's Sunni-dominated Baath Party and a plan for a federal system that would give autonomy to the Shiites in the south and Kurds in the north, Hachim al-Hasani said today at a news conference in the capital, Baghdad, carried live by al-Jazeera television.

There were many attempts at reaching a draft acceptable to all parties, al-Hasani said, adding "Of course, no party can obtain all that it wants in the constitution."

Kurds and Shiites swept the Jan. 30 ballot for a National Assembly and together hold the majority required to push the document through without Sunni approval. That risks energizing a Sunni-led insurgency and may postpone the possibility of U.S. troop reduction, according to a report issued Aug. 23 by Oxford Analytica, an Oxford-based research company.

"I too have reservations on some issues," said al-Hasani, a Sunni. "But we have to agree on a general framework on which to run a referendum by the Iraqi people" on Oct. 15. The constitution will be defeated if it's rejected by two-thirds of the voters in three of 18 provinces, under interim law.


The proposed text now "gives the right to establish federalism but it leaves the mechanism to form federal regions for the next elected parliament to deal with," al-Hasani said, adding that no other provisions would be carried forward. Regarding purging former Baath party members from office, al-Hasani said only "not every person who joined" is a criminal.

While al-Hasani said that the time has passed for further views to be exchanged, Sunni negotiators submitted a new proposal that demanded the removal of all references to federalism in the draft, Agence France-Presse reported, citing Saleh al-Motlag. Motlaq also said that Islam should be "the" main source of religion, not "a" main source, according to AFP.

The parliament was due to vote on the charter by Aug. 15, a deadline that was extended first by a week and then by another three days, to allow leaders time to reach consensus. Sunnis have refused to endorse the charter, saying it will divide the country along religious and ethnic lines.

National general elections are set for December.

--Caroline Alexander in London at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Breaking News


By Qassim Abdul Zahra

Associated Press
August 27, 2005,1280,-5237750,00.html

BAGHDAD -- A Sunni Arab negotiator said Saturday that Sunnis submitted counterproposals on Iraq's constitution and would meet with the U.S. ambassador, who has urged the country's factions to produce a charter acceptable to all.

Earlier, parliament Speaker Hajim al-Hassani, himself a Sunni, said Shiites and Kurds had made amendments to address Sunni concerns about federalism and purging former ruling party members. But Sunni negotiator Fakhri al-Qaisi said his side saw no "essential changes" in that offer.

He said Sunnis would not accept the draft described by Shiites and Kurds on Friday as complete. Sunni leaders have urged voters to reject the charter in an Oct. 15 referendum if it does not meet their demands.

Al-Hassani had said the constitution would be submitted to parliament Sunday. The legislature, overwhelmingly Shiite and Kurdish, may vote on it or simply refer it to voters.

The speaker said Shiites and Kurds proposed to delay consideration of federalism's details until later and recognized that many members of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party were not criminals.

Al-Qaisi said Sunni delegates met with al-Hassani to present new charter wording.

"We are waiting for an answer," al-Qaisi said.

On federalism, he said the Sunnis wanted "decentralized" provinces with a "special case" for Kurdish areas. He said the Shiite position on barring former Baathists from public life "is totally rejected."

He said the Sunnis also would confer later with U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad. If the charter clears parliament without Sunni blessing, it would be a blow to the Bush administration, which has insisted that Sunni participation was critical to producing the constitution.

Sunni Arabs are at the forefront of the insurgency and the Americans hoped the constitution would lure them away from the rebellion.

With nearly 80 percent of the population, Shiite leaders and their Kurdish allies are gambling that the draft constitution will win approval in the referendum.

But if two-thirds of voters in any three of Iraq's 18 provinces reject the constitution, it will be defeated, and Sunnis form a majority in at least four provinces. Sunni clerics already have urged them to vote "no" if the draft does not serve Sunni interests.

In a bid to mollify Sunni Arabs, the U.S. military announced Saturday that nearly 1,000 security detainees had been let out of Abu Ghraib prison the past several days. The move, the largest release to date, came after Sunni negotiators appealed to the government to free thousands of prisoners -- most of them Sunnis -- who have been languishing in jail for months without being charged.

Written versions of the Shiite-Kurdish concessions, which were presented to Sunni leaders Friday, were not released.

Al-Hassani said the concessions involved delaying setting the details of how to implement federalism -- or the establishment of self-ruled regions -- until a new parliament is elected in December, presumably with more Sunni members than the current one. Many Sunni voters did not participate in the Jan. 30 elections, and the current parliament has few Sunni members.

He said the concessions also recognized that "not every person who joined the Baath Party is a criminal" and needed to be barred from public life.

Opponents of the constitution within both the Sunni and Shiite communities condemned the draft. An alliance of rejectionists, including the Sunnis' Association of Muslim Scholars and the movement of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, condemned a "political process which had been led by occupiers and their collaborators."

"We consider this draft as a next step of this process which does not represent the peoples' will," the group declared. "Those who want to say 'no' to the constitution in the referendum are free. We have major suspicions about the honesty of the next referendum, which will take place under occupation and with neither international nor Arabic and Islamic supervision."

Shiite negotiator Ali al-Adeeb insisted his group offered major concessions on federalism and the program to purge former Baath members from government and public life.

"Regarding the powers given to provinces, this is the right of the Iraqi people and we can give up this right," al-Adeeb said. "It could be regulated by the next National Assembly, this article is optional. . . . As for the Baath issue, there were crimes and there should be punishment for the criminals. This is a right of Iraqis that we cannot give up."

The split pointed to fundamental differences on visions for the new Iraq, including whether it continues as a centralized state or becomes a federation based on religion and ethnicity.

Sunnis fear that federalism, demanded by the Shiites and Kurds, not only would establish a giant Shiite state in the south but also encourage Kurds to try to expand their self-rule region into northern oil-producing areas. That would leave the Sunnis cut off from Iraq's oil wealth.

Sunnis had insisted the issues of federalism and the fate of Baath party members be deferred to the next parliament, in which they hope to have more members. Sunni Arabs form an estimated 20 percent of the 27 million Iraqis but won only 17 of the 275 parliament seats because so many Sunnis boycotted the Jan. 30 election.

Sunnis resent attempts to ban former Baath Party members from government posts or political life because they believe that would deprive them of livelihood and prevent the country from using the talents of thousands of professors, senior executives and others who joined the organization to advance their careers.

However, Shiites and Kurds suffered under Saddam, and hatred for the Baath Party runs deep. A move by former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, a secular Shiite, to quietly reinstate some former Baath members in the security services cost him considerable Shiite support, and his party fared poorly in the election.