Iraqi Kurdistan: Iraqi Parliament Passes Federalism Bill
The measure, introduced by a powerful Shiite group last month, creates a mechanism that many believe will lead to a predominantly Shiite zone in southern
Under a compromise worked out two weeks ago, the bill includes a provision that prevents the formation of federal regions for 18 months. In exchange for that delay and the creation of a panel to review the constitution, the Sunnis agreed to call off a boycott that had prevented the federalism bill from being introduced.
Although the principle of federalism is enshrined in the constitution, the law passed by parliament is the first to set up a system that will allow provinces in 2008 to merge into autonomous regions.
"This is a first step on a long road toward a new system of governance in
But opponents of the bill -- including not only Sunni Arabs but secular parties and the bloc of anti-American Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr -- expressed fears that the federalism plan could increase sectarian tensions and push the country further toward civil war.
"This is the beginning of the plan to divide
Nasaar al-Rubaie, a lawmaker from the Sadr bloc, said: "The present conditions are not conducive to establishing regions, because we lack a strong central government that can overrule the regions." In fact, he added, "the central authority is actually weakening instead of being solidified and strengthened."
Also on Wednesday, former electricity minister Aiham al-Sammarae was convicted of corruption and sentenced to two years in prison. Afterward,
Dabbagh said that the Iraqi government had demanded his return and that the Americans agreed. "The government of
Lou Fintor, a spokesman for the U.S. Embassy, said he could not comment because "federal privacy law prohibits us from releasing information concerning