Saddam defeats … well, no one, really.

Saddam won the ballot Tuesday with 100 percent of the vote, increasing his support in Iraq by 0.04 percent in seven years.

NEWS FLASH: Saddam Hussein won the ballot tuesday in Iraq with 100 percent of the vote, according to this article in the New York Times. As the headline yesterday on ABCNews.com said: “U.S. skeptical.”
I should say so! Regular readers — both of you — will recall I reported on this last week and talked about the reasons for holding the referendum now. But what’s most interesting to me, for some odd reason, is that Saddam got 99.96 percent of the vote in 1995, and 100 percent now. Perhaps the war threat from America has rallied Iraqis around their leader?
But a better question is this: What happened to the 0.04 percent — about 3,600 people, according to the Times — who voted “no” in 1995? Were they suicidal or just stupid? No doubt they have paid for their mistake.
Of course this was hardly a free and fair ballot, and I should think that every person on the planet, except maybe those living under the North Korean regime, can see through this sham. But it’s an interesting phenomenon that Saddam feels the need to legitimize his rule of fear.
“With a leader such as this,” asked a Bedouin tribal elder at the end of the Times piece, “how could Iraqis want to say anything but yes?”
Indeed.

Ecevit: Kurds dragging Turkey into war

So I posted the constitutions last night along with my thoughts that the Kurds are asking for trouble, and wouldn’t you know it? Today, the Guardian runs this. It’s more of that growling that I mentioned in my previous post, but what’s most alarming about this is Turkey’s charges that the United States is directing the Kurds: “It is beyond encouragement, (Washington) is directing them,” said Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit.

Wow. I posted the proposed Kurdish and Iraqi constitutions last night—and my thoughts that the Kurds are asking for trouble—and wouldn’t you know it? Today, the Guardian runs this. It’s more of that growling that I mentioned in my previous post, but what’s most alarming about this is Turkey’s charges that the United States is directing the Kurds: “It is beyond encouragement, (Washington) is directing them,” Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit told the Turkish paper Milliyet. “We will talk to the United States.”

If the United States is directing the PUK and the KDP, that would amount to a stunning reversal against Turkey, one of our most loyal allies in the region. I don’t think that we are, frankly, and these comments are likely playing to Ecevit’s nationalist base of support, which often views the U.S. with suspicion. (They still harbor resentments over Cyprus form 1964 and 1974.)

The United States needs Turkey more than it needs the Kurds, sadly, as the Kurds have only about 80,000 lightly armed peshmergas while the Turks have tanks and F-16s (bought from the United States, of course.) They’re also a NATO ally and Incirlik is a necessary base for running sorties in the northern no-fly zone.

But beyond that Turkey is valuable to the United States in that it provides a “good example” of democracy and Islam, serving as an effective ideological counterweight to Iran. It also has close ties to the Turkish-speaking peoples of central Asia and their energy reserves.

This is why the United States has been such a proponent of Turkey’s ascension to the European Union. America’s support is a complex web of self-interest (keeping a strong, democratic Muslim nation tied to the West) and pay-back (see military alliance above.) It’s also why the Kurds of southeast Turkey both admire and resent the United States. They admire it for its stance on the Turkey-EU issue, and they see membership as the key to economic recovery in that depressed region. They resent America because it was very very supportive of Turkey’s war against the PKK’s terror campaign (which Turkey remembered when Sept. 11, 2001 happened.)

So, again, I’m not sure what would happen if Iraq’s Kurds attain some form of independence. That would almost certainly drive the Turks to war in Iraqi Kurdistan, and what then would the Americans do? This may turn out to be a bigger question than who rules the day after Saddam…

Proposed Iraqi constitution(s) asking for trouble

Here’s something you won’t find anywhere else. (I googled.) These are the scanned copies of the proposed constitutions for Iraq, post-Saddam. Sami Abdul Rahman, the deputy prime minister (KDP) of the Kurdistan Regional Government, gave them to me after I interviewed him in his offices in the Parliament building in Arbil. He wrote them, and the KDP and PUK, in a rare show of public unity, have signed on. Even State, back in July, said the ideas were “interesting.”

Here’s something you won’t find anywhere else. (I googled.) These are the scanned copies of the proposed constitutions for Iraq, post-Saddam. Sami Abdul Rahman, the deputy prime minister (KDP) of the Kurdistan Regional Government, gave them to me after I interviewed him in his offices in the Parliament building in Arbil. He wrote them, and the KDP and PUK, in a rare show of public unity, have signed on. Even State, back in July, said the ideas were “interesting.”

There are two files, the proposed constitution for a Federal Republic of Iraq (3.0MB), heavily modeled on the United States Constitution, and the constitution for the Kurdish region (5.6MB). Sorry for the size of the files. I tried to make them as small as I could.

The first one maps out a plan that would divide the country into two regions: The Arabs would get the middle and southern regions along with the province of Nineveh (excepting regions that have Kurdish majorities) and the Kurds would get the provinces of Kirkuk, Suleimaniya, Arbil and Duhok, the districts of Aqra, Sheihkan and Sinjar and the sub-districts of Zimar (in Nineveh), Khaniqin and Mandali (Diyala) and Badra (in the province of Al-Wasit.) Unlike the U.S. Constitution, however, there is a state religion — Islam — and official languages (Kurdish in the Kurdish regions and Arabic in the other.)

There is a liberal collection of rights granted, but a worrisome dependence on “the law,” as in, “No one can be captured, detained, jailed, or searched except in circumstances defined in law.” This loophole is scattered throughout the document, subordinating the constitutions to whatever the regional or national legislatures want to write into the lawbooks. Instead of being the supreme law of the land, as in the United States, the constitutions instead provide justification for, say, the harsh rule of shar’ia, should Islamists gain control over the National Assembly.

And while “power is inherent in the people as they are the source of its legitmacy,” I worry that this draft is too weak to protect the people of Iraq (and particularly the Kurds) from democracy gone bad. Jeffersonian these documents ain’t.

There’s also a lot that will piss off the Turks, making the adoption of this charter less than likely. The Kurds blame much of Iraq’s (and by extension their own) misfortunes on the centralization of power in Iraq. This is exactly the problem in Turkey and while a few Turkish intellectuals have floated the idea of a federal structure in Turkey, that idea has about as much of a chance as Saddam does of winning another war and occupying Washington.

As the preamble says:

Centralization in government has lost its appeal even within simple and homogenous communities. It has especially lost its rationale for being resorted to in communities that are of a pluralist nature made up of various nationalities, religious groups and languages, such as the Iraqi [Ed: And Turkish] community. The high degree of centralization and the indifference of decision makers to the presence of the special characteristics of the Kurdish people are among the basic reasons for the Kurds being deprived of their legitimate rights under successive Iraqi governments, which came to power under both the monarchy and the republic. This style of restricting authority in t he centre and the unwillingness to share it with the Kurds on a practical basis, even after the March 11, 1970 autonomy agreement has been the hallmark of the role of the Iraqi state.

Well, yeah, and Saddam murdering innocent women and children with chemical weapons has also been a “hallmark of the role of the Iraqi state.” Harping on the evils centralization and the failure to recognize the special nature of Kurds — which is exactly what has been happening in Turkey since 1921 — is asking for trouble, if you ask me. Every criticism mentioned in the preamble against Iraq could equally be leveled at Turkey. (Except the Turks haven’t bombed villages with aflatoxin or other weapons of mass destruction.) And Turkey has been growling that any deal that leaves the Kurds with independence, either de facto or de jure, will be met with guns and tanks. And I have no idea what the United States, as the new regional powerbroker, would do if a NATO ally began operations in the area America claims as conquered territory.

Saddam to hold referendum on presidency

With an upcoming referendum on his presidency, could Saddam be sending a message to Egypt and Syria, two of the most important allies of the United States in the Gulf War in 1991?

No, not on Bush’s presidency, although I’m beginning to think that’s not such a bad idea. (Technically, we have to wait two more years for that chance.) Instead, 11.56 million Iraqis will vote next week (Oct. 15) on another 7-year term for Saddam Hussein as the president of Iraq. Gee, who do you think will win? Reuters reports that tha last time such a referendum was held, in 1995, Saddam received 99.96 percent of the vote of almost 8 million votes cast.

The question that occurs to me is, Why now? To confer legitmacy on his rule, of course. The first referendum was in 1995, and his “term” is up. An overwhelming vote of support (note this is not an election since that would imply there are other candidates) from the Iraq people can be trotted out and presented to the world as “proof” that Saddam should not be deposed. But no one really believes that the vote is full and fair, so who the hell is he trying to impress?

This story offers some clues, I feel. The toppling of a “legitimate” presidency for Saddam (and he is the recognized head of state, for better or for worse) would mean that no head of state is in the area is safe. As Iraqi Deputy Prime Minster said on Wednesday:

“No Arab country is free of the threat, even if it takes part alongside America in the aggression against Iraq,” Aziz told reporters in Damascus. “Don’t think that (they are safe) if they make nice statements and offer bases to the Americans. When the crime ends, they will be made to submit to America and Zionism.”

So, Iraq’s no doubt overwhelming support for Saddam, as evidenced by the vote count, will be used as propaganda to be fed to the masses in other Arab countries who are already deeply antagonistic to United States’ actions. It should be noted that presidents Hosni Mubarak of Egypt and Bashar Assad of Syria, both secular Arab leaders of countries with tense relations with the United States, regularly receive 90+ percent of the vote against non-entities. And like Iraq did in the 1980s, Egypt receives a great deal of aid from the United States. (Granted, Egypt gets it because of the Camp David accords and Iraq got it because it was fighting Iran, but still.)

Could Iraq be sending a message not just to the international community but specifically to Egypt and Syria, two of the most important allies of the United States in the Gulf War in 1991? This might be the case, especially since Assad is also a Baathist, like Saddam. Hm.