Monday, August 29, 2005

Lowering Expectations Even Further

The drafting and implementation of a new constitution in Iraq has frequently been touted as a major milestonse by this administration. The goal was to have the document drafted and submitted to the National Assembly for its approval by August 1. That deadline had to be extended several times because the Sunni Arabs and the Shiite Arabs disagreed on the shape of the future government. The Shiites wanted a loose federation (to which the Kurds readily agreed once the US made it clear that there would be no total independence for them), but the Sunnis (a minority in Iraq) feared even further loss of power and wanted a strong central government.

After several delays and a last minute personal intervention by President Bush, the parties to the talks gave up. The Shiite majority refused any further concessions and the draft will be submitted to the National Assembly today. There is little doubt that the Sunnis will campaign vigorously against the current document when it is submitted to the Iraqi electorate for approval, and they may very well succeed in blocking its approval by having three of the districts vote against it. In other words, this major milestone may not be reached.

Our administration's response to the impasse was, sadly, predictable. Once again, they've lowered the bar, adding typical Rovian spin to what is a significant set-back.

WASHINGTON, Aug. 28 - As Iraq's draft constitution was presented to its National Assembly and honored at a brief ceremony largely boycotted by Sunnis, President Bush joined with others in his administration on Sunday in praising the charter as a milestone in the transition to democracy and the battle against insurgents.

But in the disarray in Baghdad that was becoming evident, with Sunnis and some Shiites vowing to defeat the constitution and others angrily predicting a surge in anti-government violence, statements by the president and others in his administration had the air of making a case that the situation was not as bad as it looked.

Lowering their sights, administration officials said Sunday that their task now was to keep the political process alive, even if the constitution was rejected in October, and thereby keep the disaffected Sunnis from helping to stoke more violence.

What the administration emphasized this weekend was that, for all the focus on disagreements over semi-autonomous states for Kurds and Shiites, the draft contains protections for human rights and legal processes that received broad support among Iraqis. These provisions are likely to survive whatever happens, American officials argued. ...

But it was notable that on a day when many Iraqis expressed concern that the document could limit women's rights by empowering Shiite clerics, the administration made little or no reference to that issue.

With public support for the administration's handling of the Iraqi Invasion dropping like a stone, this is hardly good news for the President. When Congress returns to work in a week, the President will have a hard time making the case that things are going well in Iraq, that we are about to turn yet another corner, that democracy will soon be in place and therefore our military can soon come home. I hope that Congress will press hard on something akin to a time table, if not an outright time table.

I'm not optimistic, but I am hopeful.


Blogger Eli said...

The Sunnis are out... tomorrow!
Bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow
There'll be a pro-Iranian Shi'ite theocracy...

4:13 PM  

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