The Kurdish delegates on the panel drafting the new Iraqi constitution in Baghdad staged a walkout this week, according to DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s Iraq sources. They are not expected to return any time soon. In any case, there is scarcely any chance of the new constitution being drafted by its mid-August deadline. Neither the Kurds nor Sunni Muslims will endorse it.
Symptomatic of the crisis is the growing number of worried Sunni Muslim, Kurdish and secular anti-Iran Shiites raising their voices to protest the proceedings in the constitutional committee. In recent weeks, Iraqi individuals and deputations have been knocking on the doors of vice president Dick Cheney, influential US senators and congressmen and influential persons in London, to warn as many people as possible that the charter coming out of the Iraqi panel will turn Iraq into an Islamic republic ruled by clerics – even though this will not be spelled out.
Whereas in Egypt, for instance, the Sharia, the Islamic law codex, is defined as a source of legislation, Shiite members of the Iraqi panel are pushing for it to be the sole basis of legislation. This clause, say the protesters, will give religious Shiites unbridled license to govern the country and withhold civil liberties and equal rights from women and minorities in the new Iraq.
They accuse prime minister Ibrahim Jaafari of manipulating the text in order to replicate the Islamic Republic of Iran in Iraq.
A group of influential Iraqis recently visited 10 Downing Street for an unpublicized interview with Tony Blair to warn him that Jaafari and his religious Shiite friends on the constitutional committee were proposing to present Iran with the gift of Iraq.
Iran‘s creeping invasion
Already, Iranian agents are moving in on the country. They are sidestepping a showdown with the senior Iraqi Shiite Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani by quietly taking control of the many the Shiite medressas, called husniyehs, scattered across southern Iraq. From there, they can insert their appointees into local government and religious posts in the Shiite villages and towns.
This creeping Iranian invasion, if not forestalled quickly, could end up, the Iraqi deputation maintained, in radical Iranian and Iraqi Shiite clerics seizing government in Baghdad the moment Sistani is out of the way. Some of the Iraqi petitioners thought Sistani knew what was going on but had no way of stopping the downhill slide. A dangerous vacuum had therefore developed in the leadership of the Shiite community.
One suggestion from members of the Iraqi deputation was for Washington and London to endorse the radical Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr as a counterweight to Jaafari. That secular Shiites were willing to contemplate this option is a measure of their desperation. The name of Sadr, a vociferous opponent of the American and British military presence in Iraq, and proponent of the anti-US guerrilla war, could only have been put forward as a last resort for defeating what they regard as a conspiracy hatched against the Iraqi republic in the constitutional committee.
Setting Kurd against Kurd
The sense of crisis in Baghdad is exacerbated by a series of hostile steps pursued by the Shiite prime minister against the Kurds.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s Baghdad sources accuse Jaafari of inciting strife in the Kurdish community between the six million Kurdish Sunni Muslims and the roughly three million Shiite Kurds known as Failis. Jaafari has sent agents from his Dawa party to Scandinavia, Germany and Britain, to egg the half-million mostly wealthy Faili Kurds living in those countries to donate money for political lobbies to campaign for a self-governing separatist Kurdish region in Iraq. He urges them to break away from the Kurdish entity ruled over by President Jalal Talabani and Masoud Barzani. Jaafari promises to arrange for a clause upholding separatist Faili Kurdish rights in the new constitution.
Inside Iraq, the Shiite prime minister is also prodding the 15 Faili parties and movements to fight for separate self-rule.
Jaafari is urging on them the importance of embracing close alignment between Baghdad and Tehran and endorsing a national constitution along the lines of the Iranian Islamic Republic’s charter.
Jaafari’s campaign of divide and rule is having its effect.
Thursday, August 4, the political office of the Iraqi Faili Kurd party published a declaration demanding “increased representation… in the new Iraqi constitution.” They want the new constitution “to acknowledge that their community is a unique and separate ethnic group within the Iraqi population” and state that “their under-representation is a deliberate and calculated act… a betrayal of the democratic process.” The statement insists that the Faillis are an integral part of the Iraqi people.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s Iraq sources report that Jaafari’s divisive campaign has led to a final breach between him and President Talabani and the Kurdish majority. This breach threatens the constitutional committee with collapse and raises the potential of a military clash flaring between Iraq’s pro-Iranian Shiites and the Kurds.