Proposed New Constitution of Iraq and its Socio-Economic and Geo-Strategic Implications

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6 million copies of new purposed constitution of Iraq have been printed and distributed. The Kurds and Shias are trying their levels best to make it successful in the 15th October referendum. Before that Iraq’s constitutional drafting committee failed three times to meet its deadline to deliver a constitution to the National Assembly. At last on August 27, 2005 the final draft of the constitution was delivered to the National Assembly where 15 Sunni Arabs members of constitution committee rejected it. The nonparticipation of the Sunni committee members in the final stage of Iraqi constitution paved the way of civil war and weakened the prospects for bringing stability to Iraq in the near future. In the most deadly incident since America’s invasion of Iraq, 2003 an estimated 1,000 Shias have died in a stampede in Baghdad, which Sunni insurgents are suspected of causing. Like the row over the draft constitution, the tragedy will worsen sectarian tension. It is predicted that if the draft/charter approved on October 15, could lead to the further fracturing of Iraq along sectarian lines and could strengthen the insurgency due to widespread Sunni Arab rejection.

The US is feeling the heat and trying its levels best to win the assurances and sympathies of Sunni Arabs on the issue of constitution. According to an Arabic Newspaper, “Al-Watan” the President of the US offered $750 million to Sunni Arabs to win their crucial support on the issue of constitution. The domestic pressure for the Pullout from Iraq is on the rise in America and the President of America is seriously considering the as early as possible pullout from Iraq. The recent report of the “Institute for Policy Studies and Foreign Policy in Focus” entitled "The Iraq Quagmire” the US is bearing $5.6 billion per month and almost $186 million a day in Iraq. Broken down per person in the United States, the cost so far is $727, making the Iraq War the most expensive military effort in the past 60 years. By comparison, the average cost of US operations in Vietnam over the eight-year war was $5.1 billion per month, adjusting for inflation”. It is estimated that 23,000-27,000 Iraqi civilians and more than 2,000 US military personnel and civilian contractors have been died in the on going war of Iraq. The US used every possible tacit in the preparation stage of the Iraqi constitution. Khalizad, the US ambassador, the US sitting general in Iraq, Rice and the last not the least the President Bush himself very much remained involved in the whole process of the Iraqi constitution. But their all secretive efforts and diplomacies have already been dashed to the ground.

The recent sad incident of “Katrina” and “New Oreland” in the US has also increased the people’s desire and pressure on the President of the US to withdraw its troops from Iraq. So, approval and acceptance of the new constitution is must for the US to its honorable pullout from Iraq.

Comparative Analysis of Constitutions of Iraq

(See Table 1) [1]

Iraq’s Future

“Perfection is not possible in politics”. Politics is the game of compromises and the new Iraqi constitution is no exemption. There was a compromise between radical Shias and secular people of Iraq on the issue of Islam and basic law of source (Article 2). A bargain of sorts was also reached on the sharing of oil revenues (Article 110). Iraq’s existing oil fields sit in the northern region controlled by the Kurds and in the Shia-dominated south. The Sunni Arabs feared that the proposed constitution would allow the Kurds and Shia to control the revenues generated by the oil fields.

Federalism became the major sticking point between Shias, Kurds and the Sunni Arabs. Being the minority the Sunni Arabs 20% and 25 million of total population has been enjoying the power for the last 50 years. The Sunni Arabs are not agreed with the concept of federalism rather they believe in strong Centralization. The main reason for the rejection of federalism is “Oil” which is currently possessed by the Kurd & Shia axis. The Kurdish-dominated north and the Shia-heavy south sit on nearly all of Iraq’s known oil and gas. The Sunnis Arabs are feared that federalism would cut them out of a fair share of this. The Sunni Arabs requested the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana and Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa, for intervention in the making of new Iraqi constitution. By amounting pressure the President of Iraq has now hinted to Arab League the “Change” in the constitution to rectify the worries of the Sunni Arabs.

The Shias 60% and 27 million, the Kurds 20% of the total population are in favour of federalism. The Shi a proposed a federal system that would allow for a province to link up with other provinces to form a federal region with greater autonomy from the central government merely through a referendum by simple majority. It was expected that the Kurds would maintain the autonomy of the region they control in the north, but that provision is not acceptable to the Sunni Arabs. Nationalist Shia fear that religious Shia, who fought on the Iran side in the Iraq-Iran war, would dominate a “Southern Autonomous” region and find al-Sadr’s proposal of a strong centralized government attractive. Some liberal-minded Shia might also find themselves in an alliance-of-interests with al-Sadr as October 15 approaches. Sunni rejectionists are aligned with him on the issue and al-Sadr has signed most of the Sunni Association of Muslim Scholars declarations since January 2005.

It is predicted that the Sunni Arab communities may be able to deliver sufficient majorities in the “Anbar” and “Salahuddin” provinces to defeat the constitution, but they will need “al-Sadr’s” help to deliver Baghdad, a province in itself. Some of the Shia leaders are of the opinion that the provinces in the south, sitting on some of Iraq’s major oil fields, could link-up to form a "super" region. Ba’athification policy (Article 132) is also creating signs of distrust among the main stakeholders. U.S. President George W. Bush personally called Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, a cleric and the leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq [SCIRI], to lobby for a compromise. In the end, the constitution was delivered without Sunni Arab approval.

The future of Iraq now heavily depends on October 15 and action or reaction of the Sunni Arabs. The U.S. has scaled back its ambitions in Iraq and believes the constitution’s approval will greatly determine the timeline on which troops can be withdrawn. The run up to the referendum will see an increase in sectarian rhetoric and perhaps an increase in violence as insurgents attempt to derail the vote. It is taken for granted that the Kurdish north and Shi’a south will cast their votes for the constitution. What is less certain is how the center (Sunni Dominated areas) of the country will respond.

Different Possible Domestic Geo-Political and Geo-Strategic Scenarios

The prospects for Iraq’s future now largely rest on the Sunni Arab action and reaction to the constitution. Whether or not Sunnis participate in the October 15 referendum, and whether or not their participation has an effect on its passage, will be of extreme importance. There are several possible scenarios that Sunni Arab participation could take, some more probable than others. (See Table 2) [2]

Notes / Tables:

[1].

Subject

1990 Constitution

June 30, 2005 Draft

July 20, 2005 Draft

August 25, 2005 final draft

General principles

Article 12:

The State assumes the responsibility for planning, directing, and steering the national economy for the purpose of (a) establishing the socialist system on scientific and revolutionary foundations (b) realizing Arab economic unity"

Article 5:

1) "Social justice is the basis of building the society…"

Article 18:

1) "The basis of the economy is social justice. It is composed of cooperating between public and private activity. Its goal is economic growth in accordance with a decreed plan and the realization of prosperity for citizens…"

2) "The state shall bear the responsibility for growth, developing production and services, building a solid infrastructure for the economy of the country, and providing services."

No similar provisions.

No similar provision.

Ownership of Iraq’s resources

Article 13:

"Natural resources and the basic means of production are owned by the People. They are directly invested by the Central Authority in the Iraqi Republic, according to exigencies of the general planning of the national economy."

Article 17:

"All natural resources and the [resulting] revenues are owned by the people. The state shall preserve and invest them well."

No similar provision.

Article 109:
Oil and gas is the property of all the Iraqi people in all the regions and provinces."

Foreigners’ right to own Iraqi assets

Article 18:

"Immobile ownership is prohibited for non-Iraqi, except otherwise mentioned by law."

Article 8:

"Iraqis have the complete and unconditional right of ownership in all areas of Iraq without limitation."

Article 10:

"The Iraqi citizen has a complete and unconditional right to ownership in all parts of Iraq without limitation.

Article 23:

"An Iraqi has the right to ownership anywhere in Iraq and no one else has the right to own real estate except what is exempted by law."

Right to work

Article 32:

1) Work is a right, which is ensured to be available for every able citizen.

"The state undertakes to improve the conditions of work, and raise the standard of living, experience, and culture for all working citizens."

Article 12:

1) Work is a right for every citizen and duty for him. The state and the governments of the regions shall strive to provide work opportunities for every able-bodied citizen.

2) The state is responsible to support the provision of work opportunities for all qualified and pay monthly salaries for all unemployed for any reason until opportunities are provided in the case of disability, handicap, or illness until the malady ceases.

No similar provisions.

Article 22:

1) Work is a right for all Iraqis in a way that guarantees them a good life.

2) The law regulates the relation between employees and employers on an economic basis, while keeping in consideration rules of social justice.

Private property

Article 16:

"Ownership is a social function, to be exercised within the objectives of the Society and the plans of the State, according to stipulations of the Society."

No similar provision.

Article 10:

"Private ownership is protected. Nobody may be prevented from using his property except within the boundaries of law."

Article 23:

"Private property is protected and the owner has the right to use it, exploit it, and benefit from it within the boundaries of the law."

Taxes

No similar provision.

Article 17:

"The basis for taxes and public expenditures is social justice."

No similar provision

No similar provision.

Education

Article 27:

"The State undertakes the struggle against illiteracy and guarantees the right of education, free of charge, in its primary, secondary, and university stages for all citizens."

Article 6:

"The state and regional governments shall combat illiteracy and provide their citizens with the right of free education at the various stages."

Article 25:

"Iraqi citizens have the right to enjoy security, education in all its stages, health care, and social insurance. The Iraqi state…shall ensure these rights within the limits of their resources, taking into consideration that the state shall strive to provide prosperity and employment opportunities for all members of the Iraqi people."

Article 24:

1) "Free education is a right for all Iraqis in all its stages"

4) Private and national education is guaranteed and regulated by law.

Health

Article 33:

"The state assumes the responsibility to safeguard the public health by continually expanding free medical services, in protection, treatment, and medicine, within the scope of cities and rural areas."

Article 7:

"Iraqi citizens have the right to enjoy security and free health care. The Iraqi federal government and regional governments must provide it and expand the fields of prevention, treatment, and medication by the construction of various hospitals and health institutions."

Article 25:

"Iraqi citizens have the right to enjoy security, education in all its stages, health care, and social insurance. The Iraqi state…shall ensure these rights within the limits of their resources, taking into consideration that the state shall strive to provide prosperity and employment opportunities for all members of the Iraqi people."

Article 31:

1) "Every Iraqi has the right to health service, and the state is in charge of public health and guarantees the means of protection and treatment by building different kinds of hospitals and health institutions."

2) Individuals and associations have the right to build hospitals, dispensaries, or private clinics under the supervision of the state."

Agriculture

No similar provision.

Article 17:

"The state shall take the necessary measures to realize the exploitation of land suitable for agriculture, stop desertification, and work to raise the level of the peasant and help farmers and their land ownership in accordance with law."

No similar provision.

No similar provision.

Terrorism

No similar provision.

No similar provision.

No similar provision.

Article 8:

"The state will be committing to fighting terrorism in all its forms and will work to prevent its territory from being a base or corridor or an arena for its activities."

Free trade

No similar provision.

No similar provision.

No similar provision.

Article 24:

"The state shall guarantee the freedom of movement for workers, goods, and Iraqi capital between the regions and the provinces."

Economic reforms

No similar provision.

No similar provision.

No similar provision.

Article 25:

"The state shall guarantee the reforming of the Iraqi economy according to modern economic bases, in a way that ensures complete investment of its resources, diversifying its sources and encouraging and developing the private sector."

Investments

No similar provision.

No similar provision.

No similar provision.

Article 26:

"The country shall guarantee the encouragement of investments in the different sectors."

Oil

No similar provision.

No similar provision.

No similar provision.

Article 110:

"The federal government and the governments of the producing regions and provinces together will draw up the necessary strategic policies to develop oil and gas wealth to bring the greatest benefit for the Iraqi people, relying on the most modern techniques of market principles and encouraging investment."

—————————————-

[2].

The Unlikely Scenarios

The More Likely Case

Participate But Fail To Win Two-Third Majority

The Sunni Arabs turn out for the referendum in decent numbers and approve of the draft the insurgency will lose its most potent domestic base of support; the U.S. would be in a better position to contain the ratios of insurgencies. It could also undermine the Ba’athist insurgency. Radical insurgencies will be on the rise. Potentially, Sunni Arab rejection of the constitution could harden the fault lines between the Kurdish-Shi’a alliances. The future of Iraq will largely be determined by the Sunni Arab reaction to the referendum on October 15.

It is feared that the Sunni Arabs may stay away from the polls on 15th October and the constitution gains approval without their participation. The insurgency will increase by large numbers. The central government will find it difficult to project its power into regions that reject its authority. A weak central government dominated by regional governments (Shia & Kurd) could eventually lead to the dismantling of Iraq along sectarian lines. The Sunni Arab-dominated central region, which lacks the oil fields of the Kurdish north and Shia south, would violently reject.

The Sunni Arabs will turn out for the referendum on 15th October but fail to win the desired two-thirds majority in three provinces necessary to defeat the constitution’s approval. It is predicted that scenario does not work out; it is highly unlikely that the Sunni population would participate in the newly formed Iraqi state. The insurgency would be on the rise and find an expanded base of support in the Sunni rejection. There would be massive civil war in Iraq in the days to come .It is possible that Sunni Arab rejection will encourage Shi’a and Kurdish groups to use force to resolve the differences, leading to civil war.

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