Patrick Cockburn: Another six months, another breakthrough? Treat it sceptically

Share
Related Topics

This January it was the successful holding of the election that was portrayed as the first gleam of light at the end of the tunnel. A year ago, in June 2004, the supposed handover of power from a US-controlled administration to an interim Iraqi government was portrayed by the White House and Downing Street as a body blow to the resistance.

Once again, a single development - whose long-term significance is unclear - is being oversold as a breakthrough on the road to establishing a new Iraq.

The main reason for producing a draft constitution on time is that it is desperately needed in the US. President George W Bush wants to tell a sceptical US public that progress is being made in Baghdad, that the ever-lengthening butcher's bill is producing real benefits.

The reality on the ground in Iraq makes it difficult to see how the constitution can be implemented, supposing that it is passed both by parliament and in a referendum.

The most divisive issue is federalism. This revolves around the future of the Kurds and Kurdistan. It was essentially the Kurdish revolt which destabilised Iraq for half a century. Since 1991, the Kurds have effectively controlled the three most northern Iraqi provinces where they are a majority. Since the war of 2003 they have also held the oil city of Kirkuk and much of Mosul province. The only truly effective part of the Iraqi army is Kurdish.

The Kurds are not intending to give up these gains, whatever any new constitution may say. Their leaders do not want to do so and their followers would not let them do so even if they did.

The Sunni negotiators have also been holding out against federalism but it is not clear who they represent. They have not been elected by the five million Sunni who are the base of the insurgents. Whatever happens over the constitution, the fighting will go on. The Sunni Arab representatives are marked men. Some have already paid with their lives for taking part in the talks on the new constitution.

Whatever the new constitution says, Iraq will in future be more Islamic.

Already women in Baghdad increasingly wear the veil - not necessarily because they are more religious, but because they believe it makes it less likely that they will be kidnapped. "If you wear a veil it gives the impression that you belong to a tribe which will take vengeance if anything happens to you," argued one highly educated woman.

But the real danger of the new constitution is that it has been rushed through the drafting committee to meet American, not Iraqi, political needs. It is there to show that a political process is underway.

In order to be effective, however, a constitution supposes a state of some sort. The negotiations of the past few months should be producing a set of rules by which Iraqis will in future live in peace. But Iraq hardly constitutes a state.

Much of the country is in the hands of local Kurdish and Shiite militias who will impose their will whatever a constitution supposedly says. Nor can it really regulate life in Sunni Arab Iraq, much of which is controlled by the insurgents.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior QC Scientist

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This company is a leading expert in immunoassa...

Recruitment Genius: Development Scientist

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Development Scientist is required to join a ...

Recruitment Genius: Accountant

£25000 - £100000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join...

Argyll Scott International: Service Desk Analyst

£20000 - £22000 per annum: Argyll Scott International: Service Desk Analyst Re...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The Uber app allows passengers to hail a taxi with a smartphone  

Who wouldn’t like a sharing economy? Well, me, for one

Mary Dejevsky
David Cameron spoke about immigration at a press conference in Ipswich  

David Cameron’s big problem is that he has been listening to the wrong people

Alan Johnson
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

Staying connected: The King's School

The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition

Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund

The Ox celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition
Billy Joe Saunders vs Chris Eubank Jnr: When two worlds collide

When two worlds collide

Traveller Billy Joe Saunders did not have a pampered public-school upbringing - unlike Saturday’s opponent Chris Eubank Jnr
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?