Shiites, Kurds and Sunnis Cannot Agree – Even on the Name of New Iraq

So profound are the differences dividing Shiite Muslim, Kurds and Sunni Muslim delegates on the committee charged with drafting Iraq’s new constitution, that there is no way it can meet its August 15 deadline. If that date is missed, the entire timeline falls down for holding a referendum on the charter and a general election in December.

But, according to the DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s Iraq sources, that is not the worst; the bitterness is so polarizing that it could undermine the central government headed by the Shiite prime minister Ibrahim Jaafari.

There is one last chance to save the situation: the common acceptance of a compromise put forward by Iraqi figures and the Americans, to accept the existing text as a provisional document and agree to put it up for amendment in four years.

The draft as it stands now is rejected by the Kurds, the Sunnis, the Turkomen and liberal Shiites.

There is consensus on only two provisions:

1. Iraq will not be defined an Arab state.

2. Its parliament will be bicameral with an upper and a lower house.


In dispute are the following issues:


The Name of New Iraq:


Shiites – The Islamic Republic of Iraq

Kurds – The Federal Republic of Iraq

Sunnis – The Iraqi Republic




The Shiites on the committee demand that the Sharia, the Islamic codex, be declared the source of Iraqi legislation. The Kurds, Sunnis and secular Shiites hold that the Sharia should be defined as one of the main sources of Iraqi legislation.


State Structure


The Kurds want a federal state which the Shiites fiercely oppose.


National Language


The Shiites: Arabic, while in Kurdistan, Arabic and Kurdish will be the official languages. The Kurds want both languages, Arabic and Kurdish, recognized as official in all parts of the federal republic.


Status of the Iraqi Baath Party


The Shiites want the pro-Saddam Hussein Baath party outlawed in Iraq and its members, past and present, barred from holding office in any government, public or security capacity.

The Kurds and Sunnis veto this clause.


Additional Kurdish demands


The Kurds insist on their right to self-government being enshrined in the new constitution. But they object to granting autonomous status to the Shiite and the Sunni regions. They also demand a separate clause assigning the shares of national wealth, i.e. oil, according to the following key: 60% for the Kurds and a 40% share for both Shiites and Sunnis. They further want the constitution to state that all the Kurds driven out of Kirkuk by Saddam Hussein have the right to be repatriated in their former homes and their property restored by the new Iraqi state.

There are nine days left for bridging these differences, a mission impossible by any calculation.

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