A couple of weeks ago, George W. Bush said that the United States had "made it clear" to Iraqi leaders that their new constitution "should be agreed upon by Aug. 15." It wasn't, of course, but when Aug. 15 came and went without a constitution, Bush had nothing but praise for the Iraqis who had just blown him off. He paid tribute to their "heroic efforts," and he said their work was a "tribute to democracy."
Now a second deadline has come and gone, and the Iraqi National Assembly still hasn't approved a draft constitution. The president, once again, has high praise for the Iraqis. "The progress made over the past week has been impressive," he said in a statement in which he claimed that "consensus" has been reached "on most provisions through debate, dialogue and compromise."
Tell it to the Sunnis.
After the teams of Iraqis negotiating a draft constitution failed to reach an agreement by the original Aug. 15 deadline, they tried again largely by excluding Sunnis from their talks, according to a report in today's New York Times. When the Sunnis were invited back to the table Monday afternoon, they promptly rejected much of what the Shiites and Kurds had created in their absence. And it's not just the Sunnis who are unhappy. As the Times notes, some secular Iraqis, including Ayad Allawi -- who was handpicked by the White House to serve as Iraq's interim prime minister -- are upset with the draft and pessimistic that it will lead to an agreement. The main issue for them: a provision in the draft that would pave the way for the Shiites to control a large part of southern Iraq, where much of the nation's oil is to be found.
Although their authority expired by law at midnight Monday, the leaders of the National Assembly have given themselves three more days to build agreement around the draft. Sunni leaders said it was unlikely that an agreement could be reached in that time. While the Shiites and Kurds have the votes to get the constitution through the National Assembly without Sunni support, some Sunni leaders predicted that the streets would "rise up" if the current draft becomes law.
The streets aren't exactly quiet as it is. As the Washington Post reports, Monday's talks took place amid power outages that cut off water service to Baghdad and slowed the export of oil. Three more U.S. soldiers were killed in Iraq Monday, becoming the 1,867th, 1,868th and 1,869th Americans to die so that Iraq can become -- if everything goes just right -- an Islamic republic.