A FEDERAL IRAQ?….You may recall that last October’s election to ratify an Iraqi constitution almost didn’t come off. Why? Because the constitution included a provision to make Iraq into a loose federation with a weak central government, a proposition that was violently opposed by the Sunni minority.

At the last minute, though, Sunni leaders agreed to a compromise: a committee would be created within four months of a new government taking power after the January parliamentary elections, and the committee would have the power to consider amendments to the constitution.

Now, this was always something of a fig leaf. Shiite leaders repudiated it almost immediately, and the proposed amendments would have required an impossible two-thirds approval anyway. But for the time being, it got the Sunnis on board.

In May a government was formed and the four-month clock started ticking. And the result? Nothing. Finally, in September, Sunnis agreed to allow a vote on federalism in return for yet another promise to form a constitutional committee, and today the bill came up for a vote. Apparently the Sunni bloc has reconsidered the deal over the past few weeks:

The Sunni coalition in parliament and two Shiite parties tried to prevent a vote on a bill by boycotting Wednesday’s session to keep the 275-seat body from reaching the necessary 50 percent quorum.

But the quorum was reached with 140 lawmakers, who voted on each of the bill’s some 200 articles individually, passing them all unanimously.

….”This is the beginning of the plan to divide Iraq,” said Adnan al-Dulaimi, leader of the Sunni National Accordance Front, which boycotted the vote along with al-Sadr’s party and the Shiite Fadila party.

“We had hoped that the problems of sectarian violence be resolved. We hope there won’t be an increase in violence,” al-Dulaimi said.

It looks like the Shiites and Kurds are going to get their federal state whether the Sunnis like it or not. And they don’t like it, since all sides know perfectly well that the Sunni region has no oil wealth and will be weak and impoverished. This is a big part of the reason that there’s no reason to think the fighting is going to stop anytime soon.

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