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Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Return of the Phantom

Despite yesterday's events in Iraq the major media outlets have spectacularly failed to cover it. Odd, since it seems to be the biggest thing to hit the country since the constitution was drafted - and that got loads of press.

Anyway, on the constitution itself I found my way to these posts by Riverbend who highlights the fact that an awful lot of the constitution is made up of grey areas.

It seems inevitable that the constitution will immediately be followed by a merger of the three Kurdish provinces (this has effectively happened already) who will then be able to produce their own constitution and raise their own army (these things have pretty much happened too). During the first round of elections in Iraq the Kurds organised a parallel referendum on independence which passed resoundingly. I wonder if they'll decide to stay inside Iraq in the near term, or immediately seek to break free and whether they'll claim Kirkuk if they do.

In exchange for not having to fight *another* war it's possible the resulting government in Baghdad might let them go, but whatever happens it's unlikely to be pretty.

The odd thing is that as far as I know a Kurdish state would be a pretty secular place - the kind of Islamic democracy that was originally envisaged for Iraq as a whole. On the other hand, it will be potentially ethnically riven depending on how the Arabs and Turkmen living in the three provinces feel about it - probably not good.

The flip side of this is the possibility of large, heavily islamic provinces emerging in the South of Iraq. These areas would come to resemble Iran, with the big losers being women, secular moderates, non-Islamic groups and perhaps most worryingly the Sunni minorities in these areas.

That leaves the rest of Iraq as Baghdad plus the Sunni provinces. A weak centre surrounded by antagonistic regions, the North having declared virtual independence and the south exercising a theocratic hold over what was once a secular city. The economy will suffer until the oil revenues start flowing creating the kind of narrow industrial base that makes elites rich and keeps the rest poor.

Not too clever really. Especially if any of these traumatic uphevals make the violence worse.

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