The Iraqi Constitution...
At least the Sunnis seems to be participating in the referendum.
By any existing Middle East standard, the new constitution is a great achievement. It promises to protect human rights, including free speech and the right to worship. It applies the very American principle of federalism, or decentralized power, to reassure multiethnic regions and various Muslim denominations and thus keep the country together.
The majority Shiites, far from seeking to dominate other ethnic groups from Baghdad, are asking largely for the power to govern themselves. The entire country will now spend six weeks debating all of this leading up to an October referendum that will be freer and more open than the presidential election that Egypt will hold this coming weekend.
This result would certainly be better if Sunni leaders, including some on the drafting committee, were not urging other Sunnis to defeat it. But consider this: For the Sunnis to defeat the constitution they will have to participate in the vote. That's more than they did in January's elections, and by itself represents a commitment to a democratic process that many Americans insist isn't possible in an Arab culture.
It is also by no means clear that the constitution will be rejected by Iraq's voters. The pact must be repudiated by a two-thirds vote in at least three of Iraq's 18 provinces. A large Sunni turnout could mean "no" votes in two of Iraq's three predominantly Sunni provinces--Anbar and Sulemaniyah--but is less likely in Nineveh, which has a large Kurdish population. Ratification in the other 15 predominantly Kurdish or Shiite provinces is all but assured.
In the secrecy of the voting booth, many Sunnis may even favor the charter that their ostensible leaders denounce. The constitution's protections are one shield against Shiite religious domination. Super-majority clauses also guarantee Sunni influence in parliament. And Sunni negotiators wrangled key concessions on the de-Baathification Commission, which now can be disbanded by a simple majority vote of the new parliament, rather than the two-thirds stipulated in an earlier draft. (Sunnis dominated Saddam Hussein's ruling Baath Party.)
Most important, the constitution allocates oil revenues on a per-capita basis, meaning the oil-poor Sunni regions will be net beneficiaries of the oil-rich Kurdish north and Shiite south. All this amounts to the best deal Sunnis can reasonably expect in a new Iraq, and we suspect more than a few of them know it. Many Sunni leaders will acknowledge this privately, but they don't want to say it publicly lest they become targets of assassination from the terrorists who want chaos over any kind of government.