It's apparent today that disaster is looming ever closer in Iraq, especially given that midnight tonight is the second deadline for an Iraqi draft constitution. According to CNN earlier today, the Shia and Kurdish majorities have signed an agreement on a draft constitution in order to meet the deadline. In order to do so, it is speculated that they may have side-stepped Sunni objections on certain issues.
One of them is the role of federalism in the new Iraqi republic.
According to Mowaffaq al-Rubaie, Iraq's National Security Advisor:
"Without federalism it means that no community interest has been addressed or fulfilled and therefore different communities will try to find and defend and fight for their rights."
"I am worried about that. Yes. Absolutely. With a civil war you can't say 'today we don't have a civil war, tomorrow a civil war erupted'. Civil war creeps into the country very gradually."
It seems that Mr. al-Rubaie may be whistling past the graveyard at this point. For all intents and purposes, the Iraqi civil war began after the last national election. A nearly complete boycott of the elections by the Sunni minority, who had been in control of Iraq under Saddam Hussein, set the stage for the showdown likely to occur in the weeks to come over the draft constitution. The Sunnis are concerned, likely with good reason, that without a strong federal framework, their role in Iraqi politics could be severely curtailed in the future, to the point of leaving them under the control of the Kurdish and Shia majorities.
This problem, another out-growth of the sectarian divisions that have plagued the "liberated" Iraq, is one of the strongest examples of the Bush Administration's seeming lack of understanding of the intricacies of the ethnic divisions within Iraq. The motivations behind a national identity for the three major groups (Kurd, Sunni and Shia) indicates an atmosphere of distrust and conflict that should have been readily apparent to those in the White House banging the drums for war in Iraq.
The Kurds have had, for all practical purposes, their own nation in the Northern part of Iraq, protected by the No Fly Zones put into effect after the Gulf War. The Shi'ite majority spent many years living under an apartheid-like oppression perpetrated by Saddam Hussein and his Ba'athist regime. The Sunnis are now fighting for recognition and equality in a system that they dominated politically but in which they, in fact, were a minority by population. Not surprisingly, the Kurds wish to keep their autonomy, the Shia wish to enjoy the freedom of statehood and the Sunnis are fighting both against the U.S. occupation and against an Iraqi Republic that cuts the Sunnis out of the picture nationally. Moreover, the provinces of Iraq which are mostly Sunni controlled happen to be the resource-poor center of the country, exacerbating Sunni concerns that, without a federal government, they will be substantially left out of any national prosperity in the new Iraq.
What all this means is two-fold; first, the Iraqi civil war has already begun. The insurgency shows no signs of stopping, despite claims to the contrary by Dick "Last Throes" Cheney. Second, and more importantly, Iraq has become a glaring example of why Bush's "good guys vs. bad guys" foreign policy is a disaster. All the empty-headed rhetoric in the world cannot change the fact that the U.S. invasion of Iraq has caused as much death and destruction by way of instability as Saddam Hussein's regime caused by oppression. Not only are the people of Iraq suffering and dying, but the United States has sacrificed our soldiers, treasure and good standing in the world and have nothing good to show for it for either nation.
The reality is that all the high-minded ideology espoused by Bush and his supporters cannot bring stability, prosperity and peace to Iraq. There has to be multi-lateral commitment on the ground by all three major factions, and if today's "deal" is any indication, I just don't see that happening any time soon.