New Iraqi constitution could cause war

This week, Iraqi leaders presented a constitutional draft to the Iraqi Parliament. Granted, the quicker Iraq passes a constitution and forms a stable government, the faster U.S. troops can withdraw. But the draft ignored several concerns of Sunni leaders and could provoke civil war in Iraq when the constitution goes for a vote on Oct. 15.

Sunni leaders are concerned over the constitution’s stance on federalism. As of now, the Kurdish states in northern Iraq have been granted relative autonomy, giving the Kurds control over their own region and the oil deposits they possess there.

Now, Shiite leaders are trying to do the same thing with the southern Shiite states in Iraq. However, a majority of Iraq’s oil deposits lie in the south, giving the Shiites economic control over most of the country.

While Kurdish autonomy was agreed upon by all Iraqi parties, granting autonomy to the southern Shiite states could drive the country’s ethno-religious sects even further.

Iraqi leaders are also having difficulty coming to a consensus on the country’s legal system. Leaders agree that Islam should be the basis of the country’s legislation, but they have trouble agreeing over what interpretation of Islam to follow.

Some Sunni leaders are also concerned over the Shiites’ strict interpretation of Islamic law regarding women’s rights. According to an article in the New York Times, the new draft “has troubled many of Iraq’s women and secular leaders, even with the constitution’s many guarantees for religious freedom and individual rights.” On top of that, the southern Shiite states border Iran, and some fear that Iran’s hard-line theocracy could easily influence the Iraqi government. Passing an Iraqi constitution under the current circumstances could give birth to a nother fundamentalist regime to worry about in the Middle East.

Sunnis in Iraq, although a minority, need to have their concerns addressed. Several Sunni leaders now are advocating to vote against the Iraqi constitution when it goes for a vote in October. According to Iraqi provisional laws, all it will take is three of the 18 Iraqi provinces to reject the constitution. Should the constitution get rejected, the law calls for another set of elections, and after that a new constitution must be written. In other words, the “historic” Iraqi elections back in January would mean nothing.

Hearing Sunni concerns will not only ease tensions among the factions in Iraq but may also weaken the Iraqi insurgency. Since January, one of the principal aims of U.S. foreign policy has been to include the Sunnis — who largely boycotted the January elections — into the Iraqi political process. The White House hopes that the Sunnis, who dominate the insurgency, would turn away from violence once they saw the benefits of political participation.

According to the Christian Science Monitor, more and more Sunni leaders are urging their constituents to take part in the political process, with an example of a Sunni cleric in Fallujah even issuing a fatwa, or religious ruling, that makes it obligatory for Muslim adults to vote. Slowly and surely, the minority yet vital Sunni people of Iraq are helping out in Iraqi reconstruction. Not addressing their concerns will only make matters worse.

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board.