Middle East

Can Iraq Remain Intact?

Basim al-Sheikh, Al-Dustour (independent), Baghdad, Iraq, March 13, 2004

Iraqi students protest the interim constitution
Students in Baghdad protest the interim constitution, March 13, 2004. Students across the country staged similar protests (Photo: AFP/Getty Images).
The cat-and-mouse game the Governing Council played in signing the Iraqi administrative law was awkward and unnecessary. That the Governing Council members signed the law does not give it the legitimacy some might think it does. Nor can one claim that the Governing Council members wanted to minimize disagreement for the sake of national unity. By approving a document that allows a minority to veto a constitution drafted by an elected assembly, they might have approved the splitting of Iraq’s national unity.

No elected body, under any constitution, allows any party, no matter how big or small it is, to object to its decisions. It represents the utmost form of legitimacy granted by any democratic practice in any country from around the world. The approval of Article 61 (C) allows law and legitimacy to be swindled. [Article 61 of Iraq’s interim constitution lays out a framework for the approval of a final constitution for Iraq by popular referendum. Section C reads “The general referendum will be successful and the draft constitution ratified if a majority of the voters approve and if two-thirds of the voters in three or more governorates do not reject it.”—WPR] It is also grounds for a separation that will take place sooner or later.

If we closely consider what is going on today, we will see how many things are being done without regard for Iraq’s national interests. Iraqi public properties were stolen and taken to the north without oversight or investigation. This encouraged thieves to commit even more crimes, adding wounds to a country whose wounds have not yet healed. Besides, Arab Iraqis are not allowed to enter Kurdistan without special permissions while Iraqi Kurds go everywhere. Arab Iraqis are not allowed to invest in the north while Iraqi Kurds invest everywhere in Iraq. Moreover, there are no offices for political parties in the north [except Kurdish ones], whereas Kurdish parties maintain offices almost everywhere in Iraq. After all of this, how can anyone say the Kurds have no rights?

This could be the first step in the sundering of a part [of Iraq] from the rest of the body, a step much aided by the signing of the interim administrative law.

The pens used to sign the law document will be the knives that tear apart the country’s unity. Twelve members of the Governing Council expressed reservations about this provision of the document, reservations that will do us no good because the law had already been signed.

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