As Iraqis reflect on crossed milestones, more landmark event

As Iraqis reflect on crossed milestones, more landmark event
October 23rd, 2005  
Team Infidel

Topic: As Iraqis reflect on crossed milestones, more landmark event

As Iraqis reflect on crossed milestones, more landmark event
As Iraqis reflect on crossed milestones, more landmark events, challenges await them

By MARIAM FAM - Associated Press Writer
BAGHDAD, Iraq - (AP) It was one landmark event after another for
Iraqis the past week, crossing two major milestones with major political
significance and deep emotional power: a vote on a divisive draft
constitution, then the opening of the mass murder trial of ousted president
Saddam Hussein.
Some hope that together the events can be a watershed, moving the
country away from its stormy, bloody past and toward a future shaped by
ballots _ not bullets.
But in an Iraq that has been polarized along ethnic and sectarian
lines, the various groups view the events differently. And when they agree,
it's mostly about the harsh realities of their daily life: lack of security,
faltering electricity and long lines for gas.
Ahmed Mohammed, a Sunni, did not participate in the Oct. 15
referendum on the constitution because he did not believe his vote would
make a difference. For him to get involved in the political process, raids
and arrests against Sunni Arabs must end, services be restored and security
be realized.
Haidar Kadhim, a Shiite, did vote for the constitution, but he is
still awaiting much of the same things that Mohammed wants.
"Electricity is the simplest thing. There is no power and no gas.
These are the most important things," Kadhim said. "Maybe the constitution
will improve the situation and will end terrorism."
While trying to dispel the widely held belief that they were favored
by Saddam, many Sunni Arabs acknowledge they were overwhelmed by feelings of
sympathy and, sometimes, even nostalgia, when they saw him sitting in a pen
on Wednesday, tried by a Kurdish judge and accused by a Shiite prosecutor.
By contrast, the very same scene left many Shiites and Kurds _ both
oppressed by Saddam _ joyous and relieved, even as it revived their deep
hatred of Saddam's regime.
Redha Taqi, a senior Shiite politician, said seeing the
larger-than-life Saddam reduced to a defendant very likely facing a death
sentence should be a slap of reality for Iraq's Sunni Arab minority, pushing
more of them to the political proccess. That, he argued, would ease the
desire among some of Saddam's victims for revenge.
"There is a problem with the mentality of Sunni Arabs," he said.
"Some of them are still thinking about the fact that they were the rulers of
this country, which makes them feel that whatever they gain now is not good
Kurdish Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said the trial will "will
help the reconciliation efforts and the healing process."
But many Sunni Arabs complain that the Shiites and Kurds are using
their newly found power to marginalize them, reduce their participation or
settle scores.
The referendum provided signs of hope that Sunnis will try to use
the democratic process to regain a balance in the country. Some Sunnis
argued that their marginalization was their own fault after they boycotted
January elections, allowing Shiites and Kurds to dominate the current
parliament and government.
So they turned out in droves in the Oct. 15 referendum. True, many
of them showed up to defeat a constitution they say will divide Iraq and
argue favors their rivals. Their sheer participation could accord the
process legitimacy. The government hopes it will also take the steam out of
part of the insurgency, though greater Sunni participation in politics
likely wouldn't dissuade the most hardcore insurgents, Iraqi Islamic
militants or foreign fighters.
And Sunni Arabs may vote in even bigger numbers in general elections
on Dec. 15 to appoint a new parliament.
In what may be seen as a setback to the referendum, announcing its
results have been delayed in part because of an audit launched after an
unusually high number of "yes" votes raised questions.
Elections officials have insisted the measure was merely taken to
meet international standards, but the delay is already providing ammunition
for those who challenge the process's credibility.
"They want to fabricate the results," said Emad al-Marsoumy, a Sunni
Arab, who voted "no" to the constitution. "This will negatively affect the
upcoming elections because whether I show up or not, I know that the result
will be the same."
Ayad al-Samarraie _ a senior official in the Iraqi Islamic Party, a
Sunni party that urged a "yes" vote to the constitution _ said he believed
Sunnis would stay the course even if constitution passes despite their
But for Sunnis to make a strong show in the upcoming elections,
al-Samarraie and others need to win over those who remain skeptical, like
"Why should I express my opinion? Who will listen? The current
government has already cooked the constitution with the Americans. They
agreed to divide Iraq," Mohammed said.
Also, unlike Shiites and Kurds, Sunnis Arabs lack the unified
religious or political leadership that can mobilize them in one direction.
So, in the coming days and weeks, the degree of commitment that
Sunni Arabs show to the political process, the result of the referendum and
the political horsetrading _ new coalitions may be struck and others may
unravel _ will prove crucial to molding the face of a new Iraq.
In the next parliament, Sunnis want to make amendments to the
constitution. And since it's all but certain that they won't win a majority
in the legislature, forging alliances will be crucial.
Ayad Allawi, a secular-minded Shiite and a former prime minister is
already reaching out to moderate and secular Sunnis among others who might
come together in a possible coalition facing to the clerical-backed Shiite
alliance that dominates the government since January's vote.
Mahmoud Othman, a legislator and a member of the Kurdish coalition
that struck an alliance with the winning Shiites, said many Kurds are
already not too happy with their religious-minded Shiite partners, whom they
accuse of monopolizing power.
This opens the door for possible new alliances that may gave the
Sunnis and others a more prominent role in the future.
But U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad cautioned that Sunnis
should not have the wrong reasons in mind as they contest the political
"Of course, nostalgia for the past should not be a motive driving
the political process here," he told local leaders in largely Sunni Fallujah
on the referendum day. "Iraq can do a lot better."