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Iraq's Constitutional Process

Circus in Baghdad

by LAITH AL-SAUD

The so-called constitutional crisis in Iraq is nothing short of a scandal. The analysts who have been assigned by the forces-that-be to cover the negotiations in Iraq have adamantly blamed the obstinate "Sunnis" for the failure of negotiations. And once again, rather than dealing with the facts, the media coverage has been complicit in perpetuating illegality. Instead of silencing international law, as they did during the elections, the media has now conveniently chosen to ignore the basic legality of the drafting process. The political events currently taking place in Iraq are in violation of the Transitional Administrative Law, the very law the US so carefully put together during their "official" occupation of the country. The United States, in the person of Zalmay Khalilzad, is once again wheeling forward another authoritarian regime in the middle east at the expense of law, process and human rights.

According to the TAL, the committee assigned to draft the country’s constitution had until August 1 to request a deadline extension from the National Assembly. The reason for this mechanism was to allow for more time in the event of political deadlock, a situation we are currently seeing in the country. The international community has largely forgot the August 1st deadline; it was assumed that a reasonable committee would acknowledge the need for more time a full two weeks before the actual deadline. With all of the explicit pressure being placed upon the committee by the United States, however, the August 1st date was blown by with little regard for its significance. Needless to say, the committee failed to request an extension by the deadline and, therefore, had no legal basis for receiving one on the 15th. More pathetically minutes before midnight on the 15th. According to the TAL the committee’s failure to produce a draft for approval by the 15th means nothing less than the National Assembly’s dissolution, a political fact that has major implications for the US occupation.

There is an evident stupidity in placing a deadline on writing something as serious as a constitution; it is just another indication of this administration’s childish obsession with dates-similar to a toddler’s passion for his birthday or December 25th-thinking about free toys instead of adult costs. Notwithstanding the immaturity of the deadline itself the failure to meet the deadline is indicative of just how serious we should take the Iraqi government and its political inclinations. When observing the law meant conceding political power, both the National Assembly and its American caddy Khalilzad did not hesitate in completely ignoring it, a common dance between American and "friendly" Arab administrations.

Before proceeding to the strategic implications of a dissolved National Assembly, we are obliged to acknowledge not just one, but three flouts of the TAL. The unwarranted extension offered on the 15th provided the committee seven days to present a draft for approval. In the late evening of the 22nd, hoping to avoid embarrassment and placate an American administration reeling from events in Crawford, the committee chose to present an incomplete draft which was not to be approved. Instead the committee asserted a de facto extension, which it had no legal basis for doing; once again flouting the very law that largely formed the basis of its being. Thus the committee had failed to meet its legally compelling deadline. To indulge in the third time the committee did this, on the 25th, is redundant; the current National Assembly in Iraq simply has no basis for continuing to exist. The severe legitimacy problem that this Assembly has always suffered has thus been compounded by the clearing of the proverbial smoke and mirrors-the facts have been revealed and it seems that Khalilzad was unable to slide a constitution out of his sleeve in time.

To quote an Arab proverb: "If something happens once it does not necessarily happen again, if something happens twice, it will likely happen all of the time." There can be little doubt that regardless of the official outcome of this convoluted constitutional process, the general political process will continually be marred by a philosophy of convenience. Under the auspices of the Bush administration the future of Iraq is inevitably doomed to such a fate. It is now widely being reported that large parts of the constitution are being translated from English into Arabic, revealing the genealogy of the draft itself. As Robert Fisk and others have reported two of the "advisors" to the drafting process remain "anonymous;" significantly the Americans have assured a prominent role for such "advisors." But American tampering has not been limited to the constitution. Seymour Hersh has recently exposed American meddling in the Iraqi elections of this past January. While no doubt many will not be surprised by Hersh’s investigation, the exposure also reveals the administration’s serious investment in the current Iraqi government.

The ideology of occupation that the Bush administration now employs is largely based on the political "progress" of Iraq, a failure of the magnitude of which we now speak would certainly severely damage this ideology. The growing public pressure being placed on the administration from Crawford augments the ideological problem we have just referred to. Considering Bush’s shameless direct response, or lack thereof, to the protesters in Texas it seems American opinion is not high on the Bush agenda. The neo-cons and oilmen who pervade this administration, however, do have a great deal invested in maintaining an Iraq that suits their ambitions. To dissolve the National Assembly means to hold new elections in the fall and there is not only no guarantee that another complacent puppet government will emerge, it is highly unlikely. Khalilzad, an oilman himself, is therefore doing everything in his power to salvage the current regime. Thus while the National Assembly contravenes the law to maintain power, they do so under the auspices of the United States, just another example of the US shoring up an authoritarian regime. As the Arabs say, if something happens more than once it is likely to happen all of the time.

LAITH AL-SAUD is an academic researcher and lecturer in the United States. He can be reached at: laithalsaud@aol.com

CLARIFICATION

ALEXANDER COCKBURN, JEFFREY ST CLAIR, BECKY GRANT AND THE INSTITUTE FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF JOURNALISTIC CLARITY, COUNTERPUNCH

We published an article entitled "A Saudiless Arabia" by Wayne Madsen dated October 22, 2002 (the "Article"), on the website of the Institute for the Advancement of Journalistic Clarity, CounterPunch, www.counterpunch.org (the "Website").

Although it was not our intention, counsel for Mohammed Hussein Al Amoudi has advised us the Article suggests, or could be read as suggesting, that Mr Al Amoudi has funded, supported, or is in some way associated with, the terrorist activities of Osama bin Laden and the Al Qaeda terrorist network.

We do not have any evidence connecting Mr Al Amoudi with terrorism.

As a result of an exchange of communications with Mr Al Amoudi’s lawyers, we have removed the Article from the Website.

We are pleased to clarify the position.

August 17, 2005