Monday, December 19, 2011

Flawed Referendum Would Morph Iraq Into Regional Black Hole


Flawed Referendum Would Morph Iraq Into Regional Black Hole     By K Gajendra Singh                                                          October 27 2005                                                   
"Democracy is not alone a form of state and of administration. It is a philosophy of life and an outlook on the world. The authority of the state and its law is derived from general agreement among citizens upon the main postulates of philosophy of life". President Masaryk.  
US franchised 'Landmark" towards democracy brings Iraq to precipice's brink  
Ten days after allegations of wide spread fraud , Iraq's Election Commission on 24 October declared that the referendum had ratified the Constitution as in the third province of Nineveh, out of 18 provinces , only 55 % voted against it .If it were 2 /3rd  the Constitution would have collapsed .In the two other Sunni majority provinces more than2 /3rd  voted against it . In the capitals of the occupying powers US and UK unlike other earlier" landmarks", there were little celebrations as Iraq moved relentlessly towards an open civil war and morphing into a black hole of political violence for the whole region.
In spite of US claims as a major step in Iraq's democratic reforms, with election for a full-term parliament now slated for December 15 , many even in the West rightly fear that a large turnout by Sunni Arabs to try to defeat it and fail would only enrage many and fuel their support for the country's raging Sunni-led resistance.
"Results of the referendum have indicated the degree of political polarization in Iraq,'' admitted the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq but it also praised Iraqis for turning out to vote. ``This poses an ongoing challenge for all Iraqis and underscores the importance of an inclusive national dialogue.''
In the crucial Nineveh province ( capital city Mosul ) out of 718 ,758  voters ,55 .08% voted against the constitution while 44 . 92% voted for it, out of total votes polled 9, 852, 291 in all 18 provinces of Iraq. That is , if another 0 . 08 % of the total Iraq voters had gone against the Constitution in Nineveh, it would have failed . Apart from these 3 Sunni dominated provinces, in the volatile Kirkuk ie Tamin province , 37 . 09%  out of 542 , 688 and in Diyala 48.73%  out of 476 , 980 and in Baghdad 22 . 30% out of 2 ,120, 615 also voted against it. In Kirkuk which the Kurds would make the capital of its region and later of an independent state, demographic changes were carried out by the Kurds , against which even Turkey has frequently protested .
It is noteworthy that in Baghdad over 450 , 000  voted against the Constitution. Many of these could be the followers of Moqtda as-Sadr , the Shia Cleric who remains staunchly opposed to the US enforced political process and wants the Occupying forces to quit .
It is not only Sunnis who view with extreme suspicion the results but also the Shias of the Sadr Movement. Sunni leader Salih Mutlak complained that the tallying in Nineveh was done by Peshmerga militiamen, who, he said had tampered with the ballots. He insisted that the vote in Nineveh was in fact 2 /3rd against, and that the constitution had really failed. Mutlak said that the Sunni Arabs would now boycott the December 15 parliamentary elections.
"A constitution should be a bargain and a compromise among the major factions in a nation. If a single bloc like the Sunni Arabs of Iraq rejects the constitution, then it isn't really a constitution."
Such razor thin approval for the foundation of the country's political structure, with such marked polarization, is anything but a general agreement among citizens on how to rule themselves . It is a sure recipe for continued violence, which became even more virulent following the vote, for which the US led occupation powers had sowed the seeds from the very beginning.
Dead US soldiers cross 2000 mark– larger than in Vietnam for similar period
The other land mark which is affecting USA internally is the number of dead US soldiers which crossed 2000, with tens of thousands seriously injured or maimed for life. Resentment and Anti war protests are growing rapidly.
President Bush's opinion poll approval ratings have sunk to around 37 percent, partly reflecting the ill-handled federal government response to Hurricane Katrina's devastation of the Gulf coast. But majority of Americans are telling pollsters the country "is on the wrong track" and saying the Iraq war was a mistake.
The number of dead Iraqis killed would probably be now closer  to 150 , 000 , which occupiers refuse to count .A Lancelet report nearly a year ago had estimated the number at 100 ,000. Since then the violence has become more virulent and widespread .It had all begun with the "Operation Iraqi Freedom", which was a cover for "Operation Iraqi Occupation" against the will of the majority of the UN members , which its Secretary General Kofi Annan described as illegal. The various causes bellis offered like WMDs , Iraqi links with Al Qaeda and its nuclear arms program have been proved to be false by US's  own investigating teams .
Col. Larry Wilkerson, the chief of staff to former Secretary of State Colin Powell in a widely reported speech to the New American Foundation in Washington denounced "the cabal around Vice President Dick Cheney's office" saying that the national security decision-making process was effectively "broken." In an interview with The New Yorker magazine Brent Scowcroft, who served as National Security Adviser under Bush's father, assailed neo-conservatives who persuaded the President to go to war in Iraq.
There is a growing likelihood that the federal special prosecutor could indict top administration officials, including Bush's most powerful political adviser, Karl Rove, and Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, this week for having played a key role in trying to discredit and punish whistle-blower Ambassador Joseph Wilson, who had publicly questioned the rationale for going to war on Iraq's concocted purchase of Uranium from Niger.

According to a poll commissioned by the Ministry of Defence and conducted in August by an Iraqi university research team, 65 %  of Iraqis believe attacks on U.S. and British troops are justified, 82 %  of those polled said they were "strongly opposed" to the presence of the foreign troops. Less than 1 percent believed that the forces were responsible for any improvement in security,
It is a blatant 21 st century attempt by Anglo-Saxons to colonise Iraq for its oil resources and control the petro-region. US claims and achievement to promote democracy , as in Afghanistan are farcical. Instead, in the wake of stunning attacks on 911 on USA and 77 London bombings , both these "pillars of democracy" are regressing into police states with curbs on freedoms.
Detailed results
Voters in Sunni-dominated al-Anbar, in the west, rejected the Constitution by almost 97 percent, as did about 82 percent of voters in the majority-Sunni central province of Salahdin. Nineveh had been a focus of fraud allegations since preliminary results showed a large majority of voters had approved the constitution, despite a large Sunni Arab population there.
About 99 percent of voters backed the constitution in the northern Kurdish province of Arbil. In the southern Shiite Muslim province of Basra, 96 percent of voters approved it.
Some 9.8 million Iraqis or 63 % of registered voters cast ballots. About 60 % had turned out for 30 January vote, which was boycotted by most Sunni Arabs. The referendum on the Constitution was 78.59% in favor and 21 .41% against, The Charter provided that if two-thirds of the voters in any three provinces rejected it, the constitution would be defeated.
While Farid Ayar, of  the Electoral Commission claimed that the audit turned up no significant fraud, Saleh al-Mutlaq, a Sunni Arab member of the drafting committee called the referendum "a farce" and accused government forces of stealing ballot boxes to reduce the percentage of "no" votes in several mostly Sunni-Arab provinces. "The people were shocked to find out that their vote is worthless because of the major fraud that takes place in Iraq," he said on Al-Arabiya TV.
Adnan al-Dulaimi, a spokesman for the General Conference for the People of Iraq, a largely Sunni coalition of politicians and tribal leaders, said the audit took so long that it left many Sunnis suspicious of possible fraud and manipulation. But he said his group "will work to educate Iraqis and get them to participate in the December election."
The international community remembers well that in 2000 George W. Bush was elected on black and Hispanic votes against him not counted in Florida, where his brother was the Governor .Then the final result was decided by a partisan Supreme court , bringing under cloud fair name of USA's judicial system .Even former President Jimmy Carter , who monitors elections all around the world , felt embarrassed by the 2000 irregularities .
During the ten day audit , Western propaganda media machine was suddenly silent on the much hyped referendum. So it turned its attention to the misery of earthquake victims in Pakistan and Kashmir , but forgot the post Katrina misery and problems among Blacks and Latinos .Then it did a trial by media of illegally toppled Saddam Hussein , but he gave a most robust performance in the US organized Kangaroo Court in , where else , the most well guarded place on earth , the Green Zone in Baghdad , where under cover of secrecy sovereignty was also transferred to US quislings .
A rolling constitution ends in a bikini
The US Pro-Consul is Afghan born , naturalized Zalmay Khalilzad, former US Ambassador to Kabul and current ambassador in Baghdad ,who organized the writing of the Constitution. During the negotiations , Reuters described Khalilzad  as a "ubiquitous presence". " Just in case, Khalilzad and his team of American Embassy officials even volunteered their own constitution text to the Iraqis. At a minimum, according to the Washington Post, they "helped type up the draft and translate changes from English to Arabic. Khalilzad constantly tampered with the redaction."
"Many people in Iraq have not even seen a copy of the draft constitution. And it went through so many published drafts no one really knows what still stands. The "official", UN-printed final draft - 5 million copies of which started to be distributed less than two weeks before the vote - is already history. Not to mention that a mid-September UN internal confidential report suggests the constitution is a recipe for the breakup of Iraq."
The agenda for the political process in Iraq has to fit with US objectives and problems, sometimes internal . Now to show at least the appearance of a swift consensus between Shias, Sunnis, and Kurds, much that was contentious in the Constitution was stripped away. Thus many of the provisions giving specific details of the state's key institutions or laying down the procedures for implementing the principles the constitution proclaims ,were either never formulated or, if formulated, are absent from the final version. "The Iraqi constitution is probably unique among such documents in that it became shorter and shorter in the process of being written." Becoming almost a  bikini . The constitution gives the Kurds and the Shia much of what they wanted and the Sunnis very little of what they deserved.
"The constitution Iraqis voted on this month resembles a colour-by-numbers book, with the shapes broadly outlined but the all-important colours left to be filled in later. Representatives will have to agree, for instance, on the nature and even the powers of the federal supreme court, the judicial council and the commission for human rights. They will have to decide what exactly is meant by Islam being "a basic source" for legislation, and they will have to rule on whether the Arab provinces of Iraq will have the option of combining into regions, an option which is already entrenched in the constitution for the Kurds. They will have to accommodate the right to amend the constitution, inserted to reassure the Sunnis and encourage them to vote in December. But it is hardly likely to do either if it is seen as a dead letter. All this under the pressure of the continuing insurgency and in the context of an increased emphasis on ethnic and sectarian differences that the constitutional process, as driven by the Americans , has done much to deepen."
History Prof Mark LeVine at the University of California who viewed it from the perspective of the Middle East's recent history, said that it" will likely neither end the insurgency nor bring the country closer to significant democratic development."

"The original draft of the Constitution did set important benchmarks for democracy and personal freedom for Iraqis. It even concludes with a statement on environmental protection that Americans should envy. But these advances are overshadowed by what the Constitution left out. Specifically, there are no references to three issues that of primary concern to most Arabs, and especially Sunni Iraqis: A prohibition on the long-term presence of foreign--read American--troops in the country, a firm statement emphasizing Iraqi control of production and distribution of the country's oil resources, and a commitment to rebuilding the social infrastructure that was devastated by the invasion and subsequent wholesale privatization of the country's economy under US auspices.

"For most every Arab Iraqi the withdrawal of all American and other foreign troops is the sine qua non for ending the insurgency. That the constitutional negotiators couldn't include any prohibition of foreign troops, or deal straightforwardly with the other two core issues, demonstrates the continuing and largely deleterious power of the US in the country's internal affairs.

"In this framework, three out of the four amendments passed last week to assuage Sunni voters will not achieve their aim. The first amendment, adding the phrase "The Constitution is the guarantee of the unity of the country," might have important symbolic value, but is meaningless if the violence and insurgency continue. The second, mandating Arabic as an official language in Kurdistan, will also make little difference for Arabs living in Kurdistan if, as is case with Arabic in Israel, official recognition is not translated into acceptance by the Kurdish majority of Arabic as a language of public discourse.

"The third amendment, slowing down the de-Baathification program and ending the purge of former party members who weren't directly involved in the former regime's crimes, is the one positive step of the four, as it will go a long way to ameliorating the concerns of Sunni politicians, and even ordinary workers, who were part of the Baath party during the previous regime.

"But the final and most important amendment, setting up a Parliamentary committee to suggest a one-time set of changes or amendments to the Constitution after the elections in December, will likely not bring any of the changes to the Constitution , Sunnis are demanding. Even if every eligible Sunni voter had voted on Saturday and in the parliamentary elections scheduled for December, they will remain too small a minority to change the Constitution in a manner that would shift significant resources, revenues or political power away from Kurds and Shiites and to their communities.

"Because of this, the statement by President Talibani that the Constitution has addressed all Sunni concerns is simply not true. More accurate is the statement made by Shiite legislator Saad Jawad that the last minute amendments were "an added bonus" to convince Sunnis to vote for the Constitution without making any substantive changes to the balance of power enshrined therein.

"Given this situation it is unlikely that most Sunni leaders will change their view of the insurgency as the only true bargaining chip they have to force Kurds and Shiites to sacrifice some of their power, or to achieve a full withdrawal of Coalition forces from Iraq."

Now USA would arm twist the international community to accept the new Constitution, which is made by the Americans, for the Americans and of the Americans.
Commented Andrew Arato, .
"There is great confusion in the English language, and I must assume in the Arabic press as well concerning the text added to already patched up document just three days before the referendum. In a version released by the UN Office for Constitutional Support, and the NY Times Bureau, both in Baghdad, there are only relatively minor changes, that regarding the fundamental issue of "federalism" establish only "a committee from its members… representative of the main components of Iraqi society…to make recommendations in a periods not to exceed four months for necessary amendments that can be made to the Constitution". Otherwise this addition leaves the existing complicated amendment rule in place, which in spite of numerous mis-readings in the press banned all amendments for two parliamentary cycles only for fundamental rights, and for state principles that do not involve "federalism".

"As to rights of regions, while these could not be amended at all without a regions consent, this provision applies only to regions already formed, presently Kurdistan. In this version it would seem that the Iraqi Islamic Party sold its support for a pot of porridge, i.e. a mere committee, since the regulations concerning regions all remain in place, and require, as before the so-called compromise, a 2 / 3 parliamentary vote to change them, which a nationalist side led by the Sunnis or anyone else is not going to have against Kurdish and Shi'ite opposition under any conceivable electoral and coalition building scenarios."

Another authenticated version that was read in the Parliament 'also involves the formation of the relevant committee, but suspends the operation of all sections of the normal amendment rule (previous art.122 , now art.125 ) for the relevant period of four months after the election of the National Assembly. That body under this rule would approve a full package of amendments, as a whole, by absolute majority (i.e. of all members).
" For whatever amendments would emerge from the four month process they have reinstated the ratification rule of the Transitional Administrative Law (TAL ) used in the present referendum: simple majority in the country plus the three province veto. Still only a pot of porridge, then ? Very possibly, because  the veto that may have been given up on the level of parliament is still retained by both the Shi'ites and the Kurds on the level of provinces. "

Another 6 months would have given a chance for a historic compromise among the three major groups as now defined, or among more and different ones if there is a political re-orientation and re-alignment but it did not fit with Bush agenda .If a process of constitution modification failed , likely ,then  Iraqis would be back with a new constitution that is strongly biased in favor of a regionalist break-up of the country with the possibility for example of mega regions, and the resolution of disputed constitutional questions concerning social status and formation of regions by simple majorities.

Thus, the Shias and Kurds did not act in good faith when making the concession to the Sunnis, in fact they were engaging in nothing but an effort to get a few more Sunni votes in the referendum, and to split the Sunni parties. There appears little real chance still for some kind of historic compromise. For the moment, the parties of the government got their very poor constitution passed despite all the gaps and illegalities.
The right to life of civilians in Iraq has fallen victim to a combination of terrorism, violent crime and military excesses, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said last month
More than 80 percent of the 1,100 bodies brought in to Baghdad's Forensic Institute during the month of July bore evidence of violent death, "far in excess of the averages in previous months," Annan told the Security Council in a progress report on the world body's operations in Iraq. "These figures are indicative of a steadily deteriorating trend and provide an important indicator of the absence of protection of the right to life which prevails at this time in Iraq," his report said.
In addition to insurgent attacks, there was continuing concern about military operations by the U.S.-led multinational force in Iraq that have resulted in "civilian deaths, injury and displacement caused by excessive or apparent indiscriminate use of force," he said. The Iraqi security forces, which often lack training on how to treat persons and property, also use force to excess and conduct mass arrests "often without attention to due process."
First- and second-hand reports from Baghdad, Basra, Mosul, Kirkuk and Kurdish areas in northern Iraq "consistently point to the systematic use of torture during interrogations at police stations and within other premises, in many instances belonging to the Ministry of Interior," the report said.
Annan said the United Nations remained concerned about the large number of detainees being held without due process. Citing Ministry of Human Rights figures, he said Iraq's Justice Ministry was holding 7 , 300 prisoners, the Interior Ministry 2 , 300 and the Defense Ministry 120 . U.S. forces held around 9, 600 detainees. The U.S. military now runs three prisons in Iraq including the notorious Abu Ghraib.
Robert Fisk, Middle East correspondent for 'The Independent' said that" most of Iraq is in a state of anarchy, with insurgents controlling parts of Baghdad just half a mile from the so-called Green Zone .He painted a picture of deepening chaos and misery in Iraq more than two years after Saddam Hussein was illegally toppled. Fisk doubted the sincerity of Western leaders' commitment to bringing democracy to Iraq and said a lasting settlement in the country was impossible while foreign troops remained. "In the Middle East, they would like some of our democracy, --But I think they would also like freedom from us." 
In a recent debate in London he said: "The Americans must leave Iraq and they will leave Iraq, but they can't leave Iraq and that is the equation that turns sand to blood. At some point, they will have to talk to the insurgents. "But I don't know how, because those people who might be negotiators,­ the United Nations, the Red Cross ­ their headquarters have been blown up. The reality now in Iraq is the project is unfinished. Most of Iraq, except Kurdistan, is in a state of anarchy." 

He said that the Western leaders claims to introduce democracy, was "unreal" to most of Iraq's  citizens. In Baghdad, children and women were kept at home to prevent them from being kidnapped for money or sold into slavery. They faced a desperate struggle to find the money to keep generators running to provide themselves with electricity. "They aren't sitting in their front rooms discussing the referendum on the constitution." 
Eighty years after the carving out of the state from the ruins of the Ottoman empire, Iraq and the region is on the brink of precipice again.
In this Constitution, Iraqi Kurds may not get the independent state that 98 % of them want, but they get vast legislative powers, control of their own militia and authority over discoveries of oil - which only strengthen the semi -independence they have enjoyed since US led protection at the end of the 1991 Gulf war , making it an American protectorate , which Kurds hope would lead to reaching their centuries old dream. But for Turkish grey wolf is watching up north . But more disturbing development for the Sunni Arabs in the region is that not only have the Shias established political ascendancy in a large Arab country for the first time in centuries but they are doing so, like the Kurds, in a constitutionally prescribed autonomy which, which will cover central and southern Iraq, with more than half the country's population and bulk of its natural assets.
The Constitution is seen by the Arab world as a stimulus to rising inter-communal tensions and violence and Iraq's break up . Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal, told Americans that it is "part of a dynamic pushing the Iraqi people away from each other. If you allow for this - for a civil war to happen between Shias and Sunnis - Iraq is finished forever. It will be dismembered." What is alarming for the West is that, unlike the Kurds, whose independence Turkey staunchly opposes as it would give ideas to its own Kurds , Iraqi Shias, enjoy the strong support of a Iran , which recently elected a child of Khomeini revolution the new President ." Iran is clearly accumulating all the Shia-based geopolitical assets it can, from Iraq to south Lebanon, in preparation for the grand showdown that threatens it from the US."
Would the "Lebanonisation" of Iraq, lead to further divisions in the region , aided by ill planned and ill thought US policies. With US led crusade supported by poodle UK and France with its old colonial interests in Lebanon, which Paris had detached from Syria , US policies on a vulnerable Syria would unleash terrible convulsions .While Iraq was ruled by 20 % Iraqi Arab Sunnis since centuries , in Syria a small minority, the Shia Alawites, (12 % -rest are mostly Sunnis ) has ruled the country for more than 40 years. What the US led action in UN would do is not clear but if Iraq breaks up then Sunni majority restoration will become unstoppable in Syria. Then what about Jordan , where majority population is of Sunni Palestinian origin and Saudi Arabia , where its Shia populated regions hold vast oil wealth under its sands .
More than the ossified tribal or colonial imposed and created states and Sheikhdoms , now the region itself is  also threatened by the growth of non-state activities, the cross-border traffic in extreme Islamist ideology - along with the jihadists and suicide bombers who act on it - or ethnic and sectarian solidarities of the kind that threaten to tear Iraq apart. And then the region itself !
Harold Pinter on Iraq
Harold Pinter, winner of this years Nobel Prize for Literature said in Independent ,"We have brought torture, cluster bombs, depleted uranium, innumerable acts of random murder, misery and degradation to the Iraqi people and call it " bringing freedom and democracy to the Middle East". But, as we all know, we have not been welcomed with the predicted flowers. What we have unleashed is a ferocious and unremitting resistance, mayhem and chaos.

"You may say at this point: what about the Iraqi elections? Well, President Bush himself answered this question when he said: "We cannot accept that there can be free democratic elections in a country under foreign military occupation". I had to read that statement twice before I realised that he was talking about Lebanon and Syria."
(K Gajendra Singh, served as Indian Ambassador to Turkey and Azerbaijan in 1992-96. Prior to that, he served as ambassador to Jordan (during the 1990- 91Gulf war), Romania and Senegal . He is currently chairman of the Foundation for Indo-Turkic Studies, in Bucharest . The views expressed here are his own.-