Wednesday, January 26, 2005

The Kissinger-Schultz Article 2

The consequences of having to include the base of the Sunni insurgency in the political process yet get on with the process of building a unitary Iraq were highlighted in this PBS Online Newshour transcript (hat tip: Glenn Reynolds). On opposite sides of the discussion were Larry Diamond of the Hoover Institute and Brett McGurk, late of the CPA and one of the men who helped draft the legal framework under which the elections are taking place.

LARRY DIAMOND: Well, Ray, I think Jeffrey Gettleman had it very well analyzed when he said that we'll probably see a very high turnout in most of the Kurdish constituencies and the Shiite constituencies in the South and probably a very low turnout in most of the Sunni constituencies and in al-Anbar Province and Salahadeen Province and elsewhere. And this is going to create an enormous imbalance in representation among groups in Iraq. And then the question will be: How do you correct, after the election, for a system in which the Sunnis may represent 15 to 20 percent of the population but may have only been able to elect perhaps 3 to 5 percent of the seats in parliament.

BRETT McGURK: I think it's fair to assume that there will be a lower turnout in some of those Sunni-dominated provinces because of the violence and intimidation tactics. But I do think it's important to stress and the report earlier said that the administration is starting to stress the process - but it's not just the administration. ... And what I tried to explain in an op-ed in the Washington Post about a week ago is that there are ample institutional mechanisms in place for inclusion of Sunni groups post election the way the three-member presidency council will be formed, each member must receive super majority votes from within the national assembly.

LARRY DIAMOND: I think the fixes that Brett is talking about will be important but inadequate. ... One of the concerns I think of many Sunni political forces -- some of them which are clearly democratic and civic-minded forces -- is that the Sunnis who are now being disenfranchised potentially in this election be able to choose their own representatives.

McGurk went on to explain that the current electoral process was agreed to by the UN. But Diamond was not persuaded that the elections would constitute an adequate framework within which to select representatives who would build the national framework for Iraq. He plumped for an extra-electoral process, or at least a supplementary one:

I think there will need to be a national conference or dialogue, Ray, in which they bring in the wide range of Sunni groups that met in Tikrit late in December and have formed a coalition and elected a leadership and think about amending the constitution to provide for supplementary election of some number of seats either indirectly or directly from the provinces if their proportion of the turnout is much, much less than in other sections of the country.

But if the fear of a 'Shiite-dominated bloc extending to the Mediterranean' and the policy need to maintain a unitary Iraq by accommodating the minority Sunnis is allowed to repeatedly veto the efforts of those who, after all, have agreed to participate in the American-sponsored process, then the precise thing that Kissinger and Schultz fear may emerge from the frustrations of the opposite quarter. The only thing worse than Sunni disaffection is a Shi'ite and Kurdish belief that they have been betrayed. The storm petrels are already flying. Reuters reports:

An Iraqi Arab party based in Kirkuk said on Monday it was boycotting Jan. 30 polls because thousands of Kurdish refugees would be allowed to vote, reigniting a row over the election in the northern city. The United Arab Front said it would not participate in the national polls and Kirkuk provincial elections scheduled on the same day because around 70,000 Iraqi Kurds who have returned to the area in recent months were being allowed to vote in Kirkuk. ...

The question of who should be allowed to vote in Kirkuk, a strategic oil city with an uneasy ethnic mix of Arabs, Kurds and Turkmen, has caused bitter arguments ahead of the polls. Many Kurds regard the city as part of their territory in northern Iraq. But during his rule Saddam Hussein pursued an "Arabisation" policy in the city, displacing Kurds and moving thousands of Arabs there from other parts of Iraq. Kurdish parties had initially threatened to boycott the polls unless returning Kurdish refugees were allowed to vote in Kirkuk. They later said they would take part in the elections after receiving assurances that Kurds could vote there, but that has angered the city's large Arab and Turkmen communities.