RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq (RFI) conducted an exclusive interview with Sunni Arab drafting-committee member Salih al-Mutlaq in Baghdad on 4 September. Al-Mutlaq discussed the draft constitution, and contended that if certain articles were changed, he and other Sunni Arabs would support the draft when it goes to referendum on 15 October.
Al-Mutlaq, on the Sunni Arab stance on the constitution: We will tell our people what the good elements are in this constitution, and it will be up to the people to decide whether they accept or refuse this constitution. As far as we -- the 25-member committee [the 15 Sunni delegates and 10 advisers to the constitution-drafting committee] -- are concerned, and regarding the articles of this constitution that we have read, we find this constitution inconvenient for Iraq. That is why we have rejected it. We will continue instructing [people] on this issue unless these paragraphs [that we have refused] are changed. There are now some steps for reopening the discussion again. If the dialogue is reopened and our opinions are taken into account, we will be positive in our views on this constitution. We will instruct the Iraqi people to accept it if the paragraphs that we objected to are changed.
Al-Mutlaq, on the paragraphs objected to by Sunni Arabs: The basic issues that we have objected to are those related to the unity of Iraq, the destiny of Iraq, and the independence of Iraq. If [our demands on] these issues are met, concessions can be offered on all other issues. The issue of [a law on] de-Ba'athification has been here for two years and it does not deserve uproar if it remains. What deserves uproar is if this constitution is passed in its current form, which will divide Iraq. We want to focus on the paragraph that should state Iraq as being one, single, undivided unit. The [respective] paragraph must be rewritten. Iraq must be [declared] a part of the Arab and Muslim world. The federal system in Iraq must be changed into a decentralized system.
RFI: The Muslim Scholars Association has accused the 15 Sunni Arab [constitution-drafting committee] members of accepting a marginal role. How do you respond?
Al-Mutlaq: This is political ignorance. Had we withdrawn, we would have given opportunities to those wanting to pass a constitution that they want, without being approved by consensus. We also do not want to fight amongst ourselves. In the current situation, everybody must work on a united stance for this constitution. There is no space for quarrels here and there.
RFI: The accusation also targets Sunni Arab ministers in the cabinet, according to the newspaper "Al-Basa'ir," issued by the Muslim Scholars Association.
Al-Mutlaq: If we talk about the ministers participating in the cabinet, I completely agree with [the newspaper report] that those ministers have been marginalized and have played no role. The [ministers] have become a part of the process of doing harm to the Iraqi people. They should have resigned [by now]. It is two different things if cabinet ministers resign and if 15 members of the [constitution-drafting] committee resign. If they [in the newspaper write] about a resignation and mean a resignation of ministers, I agree with them. Basically, I would mean the Defense Ministry because it has not done anything, so the minister of defense must resign.
(Translation by Petr Kubalek)