I have to say that tonight's BBC 6 O'Clock News report on the result of the referendum seemed curiously optimistic. The acceptance of the constitution was presented as a significant positive step and there was almost no attempt to qualify that judgement. That's peculiar in itself but there was also not one word of coverage of the reaction of Sunni politicians to the "yes" vote.
Mind you, that's the Beeb being uncharacteristically positive over Iraq, so maybe they balance.
It is well known that the insurgency is predominantly being waged by Sunnis. If there is to be peace in Iraq, it is vital that the Sunnis accept the result.
Well, up to a point, Lord Copper. As you know, personally I think that there is quite a lot more behind the "insurgancy" than simple Sunni discontent, and there has been a reasonable amount of evidence to support my theses. If I am right, then the insurgancy is not dependent on the constitutional vote.
If, however, Curious is right, then Sunnis, being the minority, are not going to get everything that they want and are thus, on current form, never going to "accept the result". Similarly, it seems that the anti-war brigade are not prepared to accept the result either.
The UN has said that it is confident of the result so these claims might well be unfounded. Whether they are or not, they undoubtedly represent a serious problem for the coalition strategy.
Many anti-war acquaintances would have accpeted the war had only it had been backed by a UN mandate (I don't think that Curious is one of these, but I wasn't blogging at the time), and are having serious problems accepting this result despite the fact that the UN have endorsed it (the UN: not the US, Britain, etc.).
The official line is that the constitution was accepted by an overwhelming majority of Iraqis. This is basically true (78% voted yes and only 21% voted no) but like all the best spin, it is only part of the story. Now that we have the full results, it's clear that the referendum actually came pretty close to rejecting the constitution. This would have happened if three provinces had achieved a 67% "no" vote. In the end, two provinces voted no by large margins and a third, Nineveh, voted no by a small one.
Now, can we imagine the outrage in this country, if a referendum gained 78% support, and it was rejected because 21% didn't agree? Isn't the point that you can't please all of the people all of the time? The Sunnis are a minority in Iraq (and a minority in Nineveh which, to my simplistic mind, would make a "yes" vote in that province quite likely, rather than just a fiddle); if we were to go towards a more Sunni constitution, then a real majority of Iraqis are likely to vote no, aren't they?
So, although the constitution was supported by the overwhelming majority of Iraqis, the final result of the referendum is far from overwhelming.
Rather more overwhelming than our recent General Election though, eh? Only 22% of the electorate voted for this government*.
If the Sunnis do not accept the result and if their objections are swept aside, they could withdraw from the political process altogether. If that happened, it would almost certainly be disasterous for the stability of the country. Iraq is currently on a very precarious knife edge and the next few weeks are going to be absolutely vital. One slip and civil war will probably become inevitable.
If you were a minority group, hated by both of the majority groups (one of which is almost certainly backed by Iran) would you start a civil war? Would that be inviting them to wipe you out? Anyone reckon that the Coalition could stop that? Or that the UN—so fantastically successful in the Balkans, Rwanda and Darfur (to name but three instances of truly useful UN "peace-keeping")—would be able to stop it? No, didn't think so.
It might not come to that and I hope it doesn't. The Sunnis could accept the vote and put their efforts into campaigning for the elections in December. This might start to have some effect on the strength of the insurgency.
I wouldn't bet on it. It would be great if the Sunnis did engage with the political process; after all, one of the reasons that there were so few Sunnis negotiating the Constitution was because the Sunnis boycotted the elections in January, the silly sods. having realised that that may have been a stupid idea, they are now crying "foul". Well, tough shit. Start campaigning for December would be my advice.
The trouble is that Curious makes at least one pretty dodgy assumption. The first is that the "insurgancy" is all Sunnis. Wrong; all of the main insurgancy leaders are Muslim clerics. If, as we are constantly told, the Sunnis are secular, then why are they working with Shia clerics like Al-Zarqawi? Or Al-Sadr? Or, indeed, Al-Sistani? The answer is that they aren't. Secondly, if the Sunnis are secular, they don't believe that there are 72 virgins waiting for them in heaven, so why has the suicide bomber been such a feature of this insurgancy? Lastly, why have there been so many blasts and deaths in Sunni-dominated Baghdad? Does this sound like a Sunni "insurgancy"? No.
So, there are a few possibilities here.
- That there are, in fact, two "insurgancies": one is run by the Sunnis and one is run by the Shias. In which case, this is effectively a civil war anyway.
- There is no Sunni "insurgancy", or there is a Sunni "insurgancy", but they can't be bothered anymore (apart from shouting "boo" at a few Shias crossing a bridge).
- There is a Shia "insurgancy", made up of those who have "declared war on democracy and all those who practise it" (Al-Zarqawi, on the eve of the January elections. DK posts passim ad mauseam).
- The "insurgancy" is piss all to do with the Sunnis or the Shias; it's manufactured by an outside country, with an interest in keeping the Coalition troops bogged down in Iraq in order to maintain its own security, whilst it presses ahead with its nuclear programme in preparation for wiping Israel off the map.
Any ideas anyone?
The more that I write about this, the more right I realise I am, and the more the evidence backs me up.
*Anyone think that the Tories were desperately hoping not to get elected this time? Can you imagine coming into power and having to deal with the mess in Iraq? They must all have been wiping their brows...