WASHINGTON (AFP) â€” Iraq’s new draft constitution falls dangerously short of initial US goals and will likely fuel an increase in violence in the war-battered country, American analysts said.
â€œIt’s not a good path we are on right now,â€ said Flynt Leverett, of the Brookings Institution think tank here. â€œYou have a situation now in which one or two things will happen, and both of them are bad.â€
He said either the minority Sunni Arabs will succeed in mustering a two-thirds majority in three of the country’s 18 provinces to sink the charter or will fail and end up feeling disenfranchised and disgruntled.
Either scenario will produce a political crisis, Leverett said. â€œWhat we have now is a situation which is the beginning of a countdown to something that will look like civil war in Iraq.â€
Iraqi President Jalal Talabani on Sunday declared the draft constitution ready for submission to a national referendum October 15 ahead of elections for a permanent government two months later.
If the majority Shiites and the Kurds celebrated, the Sunnis who ruled Iraq until Saddam Hussein’s ouster by US-led troops in April 2003 were left excluded and complaining.
Eager to preserve a strong central government, they rejected charter provisions they said would produce a loose federation with richer Shiite and Kurdish regions but pledged continued efforts to seek a politcal settlement.
For Nathan Brown, of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Iraq’s civil war has already begun. â€œThe question is only who is participating and to what extent,â€ he told AFP.
â€œThose who participated in drafting the constitution want the Sunnis right now to register and to vote against it,â€ Brown said. â€œIf they lose and the constitution is adopted, they will probably be discreditated.
He said Sunni leaders with likely ties to the insurgency â€œwill probably feel vindicated, so in that sense, an approval of the constitution could aggravate the situation.â€
Leverett agreed that moves by Shiites and Kurds to ram through the draft constitution could stiffen the Sunnis and make the situation even more volatile.
â€œAt that point, if anything, it gives a kind of political context for the insurgency, even more than the insurgency has now because then the insurgents become a kind of Sunni resistance.â€
Analysts agree the US administration is relatively powerless in this situation and has little room for maneouvre.
â€œThey don’t have a lot of options,â€ Brown said. â€œIt is possible to reopen constitutional negotiations… [but] if they were reopened I am not sure that they would end with a different outcome.
â€œThe other possibility would be simply to put a good face on it, to go forward with the constitution as is and try to beat the insurgency militarily,â€ he said.
â€œBut that in the past has not succeeded yet and I am not sure it will be more successful in the future.â€
President George W. Bush, who personally spoke by telephone with a top Shiite leader last week to urge more concessions to the Sunnis, appeared intent Monday in putting a brave face on the outcome.