Saturday, October 15, 2005

L.A. Times: Shiite religious leaders mobilized followers Friday for a massive show of support in favor of Iraq's draft constitution, hoping to secure approval of the charter despite continued opposition among angry but increasingly divided Sunnis. Militants attacked five offices of the Iraqi Islamic Party, the prominent Sunni group that agreed to back the charter in exchange for last-minute concessions. Among the offices targeted was the one in Baghdad and the main office in Fallujah, which was set on fire. No one was injured in those attacks. [...] The referendum Saturday follows months of grueling negotiations among Sunni Arabs, Shiites and Kurds. These often centered on the meaning of Iraq as a nation. Until this week, Sunni Arabs, who were underrepresented in the interim government because of their failure to participate in Jan. 30 parliamentary elections, were set to vote en masse against the proposed charter because they believe it mandates a weak central government and fails to uphold Iraq's Arab identity.

Mohammed Hamed al-Obadi doesn't like the proposed constitution that Iraqis will vote up or down on Saturday. When he walks through the dusty streets of his Sunni Muslim neighborhood, very few people have much good to say about it. But, unanimously, they agree they'll vote to make it law. "It's time for the Sunni people to get involved in the democratic process," said the 50-year-old son of a Sunni tribal sheik. "We boycotted the vote last January, and we lost because of it. This time, we must show our support for one Iraq by approving this constitution, then we must make it work for us, from the inside." (Knight-Ridder via SJ Mercury News)

Star Tribune editorial: Lots of ifs for Iraq. With Iraqis poised to vote on a draft constitution today, some Sunni leaders have changed their tune and appealed to their followers to support the document. In return, the Sunnis get an opportunity to amend it following parliamentary elections. We hope they haven't bought a pig in a poke. Sunnis make up 20 percent of Iraq's population, and the notion that they will somehow push significant changes through a parliament controlled by Kurds and Shiites is dubious. The arrangement may well get the constitution safely past the referendum, and it certainly begins to pry the Sunni population away from the insurgency. But the constitution remains a flawed document. It represses women; it prohibits many Sunni professionals from participating in public life because of ties to the Baath Party, and it allows the Kurds and Shiites to form regional governments with dangerous degrees of autonomy. [...]