Winds of Change.NET: Liberty. Discovery. Humanity. Victory.

Formal Affiliations
  • Anti-Idiotarian Manifesto
  • Euston Democratic Progressive Manifesto
  • Real Democracy for Iran!
  • Support Denamrk
  • Million Voices for Darfur
  • milblogs
 Subscribe in a reader

Thoughts on the constitution referendum


The referendum on the Iraqi constitution is over and, by all accounts, went rather swimmingly under circumstances. My colleague Bill Roggio takes a pretty good look at the situation and concludes that the end-result is net victory over al-Qaeda in Iraq. I concur with this assessment, but it is worth noting this passage from Anthony Cordesman's definitive Iraq's Evolving Insurgency in which he states several times:

There also will almost certainly be at least another year of intensive fighting against Islamist and extremist elements that will reject inclusion in the political process almost regardless of what political system emerges during the coming elections. There are only three ways to deal with Iraq’s most hard-line elements: Kill them, imprison them, or drive them out of the country. There is a very real war to fight, and it is still unclear when or if Iraqi forces will really be ready to fight it with anything like the total numbers required.

This is a key realization that needs to be understood alongside any celebration of the very real success achieved yesterday with respect to the constitutional referendum. However, the realization that Zarqawi does not have a significant popular support base inside Iraq was one of the major events that came out of the January 30 elections, as was the fact that he is extremely limited with regard to carrying out attacks outside his geographic base in the Sunni Triangle. Both of these realizations were extremely important developments, as they were both extremely unclear prior January 30, but it is nice to see that both have withheld the test of time with respect to the current referendum.

That said, Zarqawi does not require the support of all or even most Iraqi Sunnis to continue his terror campaign. Without getting very far into the numbers game, if only has a core of 5,000 fighters about 50,000 supporters, that should be more than enough to sustain al-Qaeda in Iraq and its allies like Ansar al-Sunnah for the time being. Note that this doesn't even begin to address those insurgent groups that are participating in political discussions through their various proxies like the Association of Muslim Scholars or similar organizations.

Now please don't get me wrong, it's certainly wonderful to note that so many Iraqis aren't buying what Zarqawi is selling or that his operational reach is limited. These are all extremely good things and should be recognized as such by everyone, as I'm sure my colleague Eric will agree. There are now a serious questions, however, as far as what happens next.

As it now stands, the constitution looks almost assured of passage despite the strong Sunni efforts to defeat it. The big issue now, though, is what comes next for the Sunnis. Do they return to the insurgency in earnest, do they wholeheartedly embrace the political game, or some combination of the two? Or will their efforts as a community splinter, with various groups going one way and others going another?

Eric expressed much the same concerns in this comment:

Will this vote convince the insurgencies to stop? Will it drain support from the Sunni regions? Will it help to bridge the divides between Sunnis, Kurds and Shiites? Will even the Shiites and Kurds continue to work together now that the document they wanted is enshrined? What exactly about this vote will translate into any of those positive outcomes? What is the mechanism?

I honestly don't know the answers to those questions one way or another, but my guess is that we'll all find out pretty soon. One thing to keep in mind though is that earlier quote from Cordesman that even if everything goes absolutely wonderful as far as the political process is concerned, the Iraqis are still going to have a major fight on their hands against Zarqawi and his allies. Depending on how the Sunnis choose to approach the political process from this point forward could either accelerate or draw out that fight, but either way it's one that's going to happen sooner or later.

One final point that I once made to my good friend Aziz some time ago on the issue of what it means to have a real democracy in Iraq is for both sides to accept the results of the popular will without resorting to violence. In this way, I actually thought that it was something of a positive development for Allawi to lose the January 30 elections and then give up power voluntarily without going underground or declaring some kind of a permanent state of emergency to keep the United Iraqi Alliance from taking charge of the parliament. In a similar way, if Iraq is going to be a successful democracy, particularly once US troops are withdrawn, the Sunnis are going to have to accept the results of the constitutional referendum without going underground and launching a campaign to bring down the government. Same thing goes for both sides with respect to the December elections and so on and I think that ultimately that's going to be the biggest challenge for all quarters to accept given that much of Iraqi politics prior to this point have more or less been a zero-sum game.


You do as if Zarqawi is the only armed resistance group. And it would be nice if that was true but it doesn't look like it. I think it is even quiet obvious that his group is only a minority of the resistance fighters

Dan, I think we are definitely on the same page (in large part to your persuasiveness :) I blogged a related point at Dean's World. The fact that elections have taken place and were successful is important; equally if not more so in importance is the perception that those elections were fair, and not pointless from a Sunni perspective. I will have to wait to see if Abu Aardvark comments on the allegations of fraud in Ninevah province before taking them seriously, but the average Sunni on the street is less likely to be as cautious. I am optimistic about Iraq in the long run but am worried that present leadership is ill-equipped to recognize these hearts and minds issues and formulate a counter-response in teh realm of Arab media.

On a positive note, Karen Hughes recent tour in the middle east was good news (faux pas about God and the Constitution aside).

Leave a comment

Here are some quick tips for adding simple Textile formatting to your comments, though you can also use proper HTML tags:

*This* puts text in bold.

_This_ puts text in italics.

bq. This "bq." at the beginning of a paragraph, flush with the left hand side and with a space after it, is the code to indent one paragraph of text as a block quote.

To add a live URL, "Text to display": (no spaces between) will show up as Text to display. Always use this for links - otherwise you will screw up the columns on our main blog page.

Recent Comments
  • TM Lutas: Jobs' formula was simple enough. Passionately care about your users, read more
  • Just seeing the green community in action makes me confident read more
  • Glen Wishard: Jobs was on the losing end of competition many times, read more
  • Chris M: Thanks for the great post, Joe ... linked it on read more
  • Joe Katzman: Collect them all! Though the French would be upset about read more
  • Glen Wishard: Now all the Saudis need is a division's worth of read more
  • mark buehner: Its one thing to accept the Iranians as an ally read more
  • J Aguilar: Saudis were around here (Spain) a year ago trying the read more
  • Fred: Good point, brutality didn't work terribly well for the Russians read more
  • mark buehner: Certainly plausible but there are plenty of examples of that read more
  • Fred: They have no need to project power but have the read more
  • mark buehner: Good stuff here. The only caveat is that a nuclear read more
  • Ian C.: OK... Here's the problem. Perceived relevance. When it was 'Weapons read more
  • Marcus Vitruvius: Chris, If there were some way to do all these read more
  • Chris M: Marcus Vitruvius, I'm surprised by your comments. You're quite right, read more
The Winds Crew
Town Founder: Left-Hand Man: Other Winds Marshals
  • 'AMac', aka. Marshal Festus (AMac@...)
  • Robin "Straight Shooter" Burk
  • 'Cicero', aka. The Quiet Man (cicero@...)
  • David Blue (
  • 'Lewy14', aka. Marshal Leroy (lewy14@...)
  • 'Nortius Maximus', aka. Big Tuna (nortius.maximus@...)
Other Regulars Semi-Active: Posting Affiliates Emeritus:
Winds Blogroll
Author Archives
Powered by Movable Type 4.23-en