Iraq's ruling coalition is set to implode.
BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Iraq's top Sunni official has set a deadline of next week for pulling his entire bloc out of the government -- a potentially devastating blow to reconciliation efforts within Iraq. He also said he turned down an offer by President Bush to visit Washington until he can count more fully on U.S. help.
Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi made his comments in an interview with CNN. He said if key amendments to the Iraq Constitution are not made by May 15, he will step down and pull his 44 Sunni politicians out of the 275-member Iraqi parliament.
"If the constitution is not subject to major changes, definitely, I will tell my constituency frankly that I have made the mistake of my life when I put my endorsement to that national accord," he said.
Many Iraq observers (not including myself) have seemingly forgotten that the Sunnis were solemnly promised by the US that the Iraqi Consitution would be amended in exchange for their agreement to participate in last years' election. Hashimi, as leader of the Iraqi Islamic Party, played a large role in convincing Iraq's Sunnis to participate in the electoral process. Since those promises were made however, there has been zero progress at fixing Iraq's fatally flawed Constitution that was overwhelmingly rejected (about 95%) by Iraq's Sunni population.
The reason is that the majority Shiites have no interest at all in making any changes that will weaken their position relative to the Sunnis as Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, head of one of Iraq's largest Shiite political parties, made clear last year.
Al-Hakim said any amendments to Iraq's new constitution would have to leave provincial governments strong, adding that Shiites would reject efforts to weaken the federalism embodied by the charter, approved in an October referendum. Al-Hakim said: "We do not accept any change in the essence of the constitution. There are forces working to change the constitution, we will stand in the face of those who want to change the essence of the constitution. The first principle is not to change the essence of the constitution. This constitution was endorsed by the Iraqi people."
So now we are seeing the administration's mismanagement of the nation building effort in Iraq come full circle. The Iraqi Constitution was deeply flawed and virtually guaranteed to lay the seeds of conflict in the future from the very beginning. But the administration, desperate to show "progress" in advance of the 2006 elections here, forced the parties in Iraq together by promising that the Constitution could be amended later on to resolve Sunni objections.
This is a typical pattern we have seen with regards to Iraq. The administration chooses to paper over the underlying problems with our nation building effort in Iraq and push these problems into the future. The problem with this approach is that these internal Iraqi conflicts only continue to fester; they never really go away. The Sunnis feel (rightly or wrongly) that they have been screwed by Iraq's new Constitution. They don't see it as the important "turning point" that has been lauded by the administration. They view it as a tool of Shiite revenge against their people imposed upon them by the United States. It's hard to argue with them on this point.
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