It's hard to get a clear read on just how much work is left to be done on the Iraqi constitution. "There are no issues without solutions," Iraqi President Jalal Talabani said at a news conference Tuesday. But when Talabani started listing some of the "issues" that don't have solutions yet -- the "role of Islam," "human rights, "the rights of women" -- a constitution suddenly seemed a very long way away.
As Dexter Filkins writes in the New York Times today, there are more than a few things to work through before the new, extended deadline for the constitution expires on Monday: In addition to the "very few" issues Talabani identified, Filkins says there are questions to resolve about the control of Iraqi oil, about Shiite self-rule in southern Iraq, about the possible secession of the Kurds. Time says the specific problems are subsets of deeper divisions on two fronts: How large a role should Islam play in the Iraqi government? And how much power should rest in Baghdad rather than in the country's provincial capitals?
While most Bush administration officials are putting a brave face on the delay in agreeing on a constitution -- Condoleezza Rice called it proof that progress is being made -- Donald Rumsfeld strayed from the talking points a bit yesterday as he declared the delay "not helpful." Still, while some Iraqi leaders have begun to contemplate the idea of ending the National Assembly and starting over with new elections, Rumsfeld expressed optimism that agreement could be reached before Monday's deadline runs. And if that happens, he said, the delay might ultimately prove inconsequential. "How a few days' delay in this process would affect the insurgency, I think, would be that it wouldn't," Rumsfeld said. Then he caught himself. "But who knows?" he said. "Time will tell."
Time told a little bit in Baghdad today: Insurgents bombed a bus station and then the hospital where many victims were taken. At least 43 people were killed. Another American solider was killed in Baghdad today, too, bringing the U.S. death toll to approximately 1,860.