February 02, 2005

Post-Election Iraq

The logical thing for me to do, really, would be to quit blogging and simply link to various papers from the Carnegie Endowment for Peace. They really say it all! This latest, from Nathan Brown, outlines what we can expect in the coming months from the new Iraqi National Assembly. Interestingly, Brown makes two points I've always wondered about but never really had the chutzpah to assert outright, because what do I know. First, that the religious Shi'ites are disavowing Iranian-style "rule of the cleric" ideology only because they've made so much political headway simply by mobilizing their supporters. Ayatollah Sistani doesn't need to advocate Khomeini-style rule precisely because he can send out hundreds of thousands to the street with a snap of the finger. That brings up an interesting doomsday scenario—if Sistani were to die in the next few months (well he is old and frail of health...), his various successors might feel less secure about their "soft power" and try to enshrine a more robust role for Shi'ite clerics.

The second point of interest concerns the role of shari'a and Islamic personal status law. No one really doubts that Islamic law will be the law of the land. Ideally, the Sunni regions will be governed by their own laws and the Shi'ite regions their own, as was the case back in the pre-Ba'th era. But how these laws are actually implemented is the rather vexing issue. Do you have the courts and their secularly trained judges weigh in on Islamic law? Do these courts defer to religious authorities on legal matters? Do government officials draw up guiding principles in their legislation? Who do they consult on the matter? Suddenly the separation of church and state becomes rather fuzzy.

Anyway, I'll try to write up more on Brown's paper tomorrow at MoJo. For now, read it through so as to inform your comment! (Er…)

Oh, P.S. Brown is very much wrong about one thing: The entire TAL is very much amendable with a three-fourths majority. He seems to think there are a few procedural provisions that can't be changed short of outright repudiation, but oh no, there's a major loophole in the thing and it can all be changed, trust me. Now in practice, I can't see any governing coalition stringing together a three-fourths majority, unless vetos and filibusters and whatnot hold up the constitutional drafting process so much that a large number of Iraqis get sick of the delay. Maybe.

UPDATE: The "P.S." above was both cryptic and flippant -- never a good combo. All I meant was the odd fact that Rule 3A of the TAL, which restricts certain amendments, is itself amendable with a 3/4 majority. Weird loophole, as I say. But yes, this is very, very unlikely to happen.
-- Brad Plumer 1:54 AM || ||