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05BAGHDAD3714 2005-09-10 11:39:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Baghdad
Cable title:  

IRAQ CONSTITUTION: NO FINAL DEAL YET

Tags:   PGOV PHUM IZ 
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1. (C) Summary: Top Shia Coalition official and Deputy
Speaker of the Transitional National Assembly Hussein
Shahristani told Charge September 10 morning that there is
not yet a final deal between the Kurds and the Shia Coalition
about the draft constitution text. The key sticking point
remains Kurdish approval of compromise language about
regional entities' control of water resources worked out
between the Shia Coalition and aides to Barzani with help
from UN experts. Shahristani said Ayatollah Sistani on
September 9 insisted on the compromise language. The Najaf
clerical establishment views shared control of water
resources as one of "justice" between different parts of the
country. The Shia clerical estabishment would probably not
endorse the draft text without the compromise water language
proposed to Kurdish leader Masood Barzani, Shahristani
predicted. The Shia Coalition therefore would withdraw its
agreement to the Kurdish proposed amendment to the draft
constitution text to allow for two deputy prime ministers in
the elected permanent government. The Shia Coalition would
also withdraw its agreement with the Kurds' proposed method
of determining the number of seats each governorate would
have in the future assembly in the new election law.
Shahristani urged the Charge to secure Barzani's agreement to
the draft water language so that the whole package deal could
move forward when the National Assembly resumes work on
September 11. Charge underlined American interest in getting
the draft constitution and election law finalized and moving
on to the referendum and December elections. He pledged we
would be in contact with Barzani on September 10.
Shahristani, and our other contacts in Baghdad, seem less
interested in the discussions between Sunni Arabs and Kurds
about amending the text slightly to gain some measure of
Sunni Arab support. End Summary.



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SHIA-KURD DEAL STUCK OVER WATER


--------------------------





2. (C) Parliament Deputy Speaker Shahristani told Charge
September 10 morning that the Shia Coalition was adamant that
the Kurds agree to compromise language on control of Iraqi
water resources or there would be no deal on the entire draft
text. The issue remains the language concerning Kurdish
authority to control water resources in Kurdish regions that
later flow into the rest of Iraq. (The compromise language,
worked out with UN experts, would rewrite Articles 108 and
111 such that the central government would have the authority
to set broad water resource policy, while giving the regions
- such as the Kurdish region - the authority to manage water
resources until they flow out of the region in question.)



--------------------------

-
SISTANI ADAMANT ON LIMITING KURD WATER CONTROL


--------------------------

-



3. (C) Shahristani said he had met in Najaf September 9
with Ayatollah Sistani who was personally insistent that the
Kurds could not be allowed to control water resources in
Kurdistan that eventually flow into the rest of Iraq without
reference to the central government. Shahristani
acknowledged that studies from the Arizona Arid Lands
Research Center and from a Dutch institute show that only
33-39 percent of the Tigris water passes through or rises
from Kurdish regions. However, he said, Sistani views the
water control issue as one of justice. Shahristani said
Sistani viewed this as a religious obligation based on
injunctions from the Quran and the Hadith that make water
resources communal, not personal, property. It is very
possible, Shahristani warned, that the Najaf clerical
establishment will not endorse the draft constitution if the
water issue is not resolved. Their declining to endorse the
draft will boost the odds that the draft will not secure
majority approval in the referendum, he cautioned.



--------------------------


WATER IMPASSE COULD UNRAVEL OTHER DEALS


--------------------------





4. (C) Shahristani said that he understood Kurdish Regional
Government President Masood Barzani had not yet agreed to the
compromise language. In return, he cautioned, the Shia
Coalition likely would reject two other tentative compromises
reached with the Kurds:

-- Article 135 of the constitution draft would establish two
deputy prime minister positions for the first electoral
cycle, a demand the Kurds had put forward;
-- the basis of calculating the populations of governorates
to determine the number of seats each governorate would have
in the future national assembly might be changed in the draft
election law. At present the Shia Coalition has agreed with
the Kurdish proposal to use voter lists that give the Kurds a
few extra seats, instead of using food ration card data. The
Shia Coalition could go back to using the food ration card
data.



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IF WATER DEAL FINALIZED, THE WAY AHEAD


--------------------------





5. (C) Shahristani said that if a deal on water language
can be reached September 10, the Transitional National
Assembly (TNA) Constitution Committee on Sunday, September 11
will vote to approve the changes to Articles 108, 111 and


135. This amended text will go to the UN team for printing
and distribution nationwide. If there is no deal on
September 10, however, the TNA likely will take no action on
either the draft constitution or the election law. He warned
that the Shia Coalition majority in the TNA have grown
distrustful of the Kurdish negotiating tactics, and many also
perceive the Americans are helping the Kurds raise the water
issue. There will be no further compromise from the Shia
Coalition on the water issue, he concluded. He urged the
Charge to convince Barzani to accept the compromise water
language. Charge underlined American determination to
finalize the draft text and pledged we would be in close
contact with Barzani on September 10.



--------------------------


WHAT ABOUT THE SUNNI ARABS ?


--------------------------





6. (C) Shahristani also said that as a separate issue the
Shia Coalition would accept language proposed by the Sunni
Arab negotiators to change Article 3 so that it would state
that Iraq is "part of the Arab and Islamic worlds" or "part
of the Arab nation." He said this was one of two fundamental
demands of the Iraqi Islamic Party. He was dubious that the
Kurds would accept the Sunni Arab demand in any case.
Moreover, the IIP also seeks language in Article 114 or
Article 115 to limit the number of governorates that can join
to form a region. The Shia Coalition will never accept this,
he stated flatly.



7. (C) Shahristani said that further small amendments to
the draft constitution text (such as on Article 3) should be
possible even if the TNA Constitution Committee finalizes the
draft September 11. These changes could be labeled as
adjustments "in response to public demand" following
circulation of the text. He indicated these changes could be
made to the draft for several weeks yet.



--------------------------


COMMENT


--------------------------





8. (C) We have confirmation from Barzani confidante Rowsch
Shaways and from Shia Coalition official Adel Abdel Mehdi
that the final decision on the water language rests with
Masood Barzani. Shahristani and Abdel Mehdi both seemed not
overly concerned about getting more Sunni Arab agreement.
(See septel on the Sunni Arab discussions in Erbil.) By
contrast, both men made clear that the water language is
critical.
Satterfield