Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Iraq optimism, take 2

Michael Rubin, who is in Washington, D.C., and shouldn’t have been hard for a WaPo reporter to find, offers his own much sunnier (that’s not Sunni-er) take on the referendum. A sample:

When people fear for their future, they invest in gold; jewelry and coins can be sewn into clothes and smuggled out of the country. When people feel confident about the future, they buy real estate. Property prices have skyrocketed across Iraq. Decrepit houses in Sadr City, a Shiite slum on the outskirts of Baghdad, can easily cost $45,000. Houses in upper-middle-class districts of Mansour and Karrada can cost more than 20 times that. Restaurant owners spend $50,000 on top-of-the-line generators to keep open despite the frequent blackouts. In September 2005, there were 40 buildings nine stories or higher under construction in the Kurdish city of Sulaymani. Five years ago, there were none. Iraqis would not spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on real estate if they weren’t confident that the law would protect their investment.

Read the whole thing.


Discussions - 7 Comments

A sunny future means defeating the Sunnis.

Well, with all due respect yes and no, David.

The Arab Sunni "Triangulars" have to be defeated in a way that makes them realize that "greasing up and sliding back into the union" is their best option.

If they decide to become the Mesopotamian equivalent of the Palestinians, it will make everyone’s lives very hard, first of all the Sunnis’ own.

They are, with some exceptions of course, the biggest problem for Iraq (for starters, the Sunnis are the host body for the non-Iraqi jihadists).

The Sunnis have to be whipped, for sure, but "whipped towards" the new system somehow, not "whipped away" from it.

Thanks to the proportional-representation rules that are in place, the Sunnis should get a healthy slice of the new parliament that is to be chosen on December 15, and thanks to the deal recently cut that parliament will be able to reopen certain constitutional questions for fresh negotiations. Both those things should augur fairly well for a basically "system-positive" response from Sunni interests, I would suppose.

I hope the Sunnis become a vocal part of the new government. Of all Muslims, Sunnis(except Wahhabis) seem to be the most tolerant. Maybe they can use their newfound influence to keep Sharia from being the basis of all law in Iraq.
It would be an utter shame if women in the new Iraq lost their freedoms. If they do retain their freedoms in Iraq, it will result in a very vibrant country, because the abilities of the entire population will be available for use.

Actualy, R.G., the Wahhabi movement (named for an Arabian Peninsula fanatic named Ibn Abd al-Wahhab who died in 1792) is an intensely puritanical tendency within Sunni Islam.

Some might argue that Shi’ism is probably more inclined to tolerance than Sunnism, but at any rate you make a good point about Shariah.

Sunnis and Shia interpret Sharia somewhat differently (and Sunnis themselves may follow any of four different legal ’school’ w/ regard to the interpretation of Islamic law). There are probably enough ’seculars’ in Iraq (many of whom can well be believing Muslims who just want to keep religion distinct from govt) to keep Sharia from being nationally enacted, esp given the disputes over Sharia among those who might in general support the idea of making it public law.

Afghanistan under its new constitution is officially called "The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan." Interestingly, Iraq’s new basic law simply calls the country "The Federal Republic of Iraq"--not the "Arab Republic" or the "Islamic Republic."

Sorry, R.G., I misread your post: I see now that you realize that Wahhabis are in fact Sunnis. Hence my "correction" was unnecessary and I apologize for posting it.

PJC, I didn’t mean killing them. I meant primarily the election the other day, in which the Sunnis were indeed defeated in their attempts to defeat the constitution. I have no confidence that they’ll agree to live under this one, but if they don’t, we can always defeat them again ... They have ruled Iraq pretty much forever, haven’t they? Maybe it’s someone else’s turn.

Actually, David, I think the violent irreconcilables among the Sunnis do need killing--it’s fair on the merits (if you pick up a gun or a bomb and attack Iraqi security forces, Coalition troops, or civilians, of course you deserve to die) and it may eventually have a salutary "pour encourager les autres" effect. The Sunni defeat in the referendum might be salutary too for much the same reason--they have been masters there since time out of mind, and have to get it through their heads that they ain’t the top-rail no more.

The whole Sunni and Shia worlds are watching all this, too. I think a lot of the foreign jihadis (violent Sunni extremists) are motivated as much by hatred and dread of an Iraq with a democratically empowered Shia majority as by hatred of us "infidels."

Some might argue that the "master-class" mentality is a problem not only w/ Iraqi Sunnis, but w/ Sunnis more broadly: Sunnism is pretty straightforwardly a "winners’" version of Islam, which teaches that God favors His faithful people here and now, with worldly success and dominance. The Shia, by contrast, have in their background an experience of defeat and suffering and therefore arguably tend to be a bit suppler in their approach toward the ups and downs of life, including political life. For them, an inability to assert easy dominance is not a potential crisis of faith, as it might well be for Sunnis..

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