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IRAQ - Federalism.

Whereas Hakim wants federalism, called for in Iraq's new constitution which was approved on Oct. 15, 2005, by referendum, Sadr is against it and has backed those Sunni Arabs who have vowed to amend the charter in 2006. But Sadr has not taken credible steps to oppose federalism, and the Sunnis want him to act effectively on their side against Hakim's call - though Sadr cannot risk having another Badr-Jaysh al-Mahdi war.

The Kurds on Aug. 27 highlighted their new constitution for Kurdistan which, among things other than its being based on federalism, declares that the oil-rich region of Kirkuk as its capital and regards its territory as extending west to the Syrian border. (On the Syrian side, the neighbouring country's Kurds are already preparing to have their own autonomous region called "Western Kurdistan" extending its territory as far west as Aleppo. Kurdish militants in Qamishli have toppled Hafez al-Assad's statue in the city's centre; the Ba'thist dictatorship in Damascus, unable to confront these militants, has chosen to turn a blind eye on what happened there).

On Aug. 27, the provinces law as part of the new constitution was tabled for study at the House of Representatives (Iraq's central parliament). Hakim on this occasion renewed his call for federalism to be applied to the predominantly-Shi'ite governorates of Iraq's centre and south, and the Sadrist movement has since been silent. Sadr has a controversial background and does not seem to be keen on provoking Hakim.

Muqtada has been accused in the murder of Abdul-Majid al-Khou'i, son of the late grand ayatullah, who was stabbed to death in the Imam Ali Shrine in Najaf in April 2003. At the time Khou'i, who was in his 40s, had been brought back to Iraq after having lived in London since 1991. He was under US protection; but his American guards could not enter the shrine to save Khou'i, whose body was later dragged along the road to a point just outside Muqtada's Najaf home. A rumour that Grand Ayatullah Muhammad Baqer al-Hakim, founder of the SCIRI and elder brother of Abdul-Aziz, was assassinated by a Sadrist at the entrance to the same shrine in Najaf in August 2003 has been denied; it was said that murder was part of a massive suicide bombing by a Neo-Salafi (Sunni) group.
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Publication:APS Diplomat Redrawing the Islamic Map
Date:Sep 4, 2006
Words:383
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