The Iraqi Sunni Arabs are driving a hard bargain. In effect, they are still running an extortion racket on the Kurds and Shia Arabs who comprise 80 percent of the population. The terrorist violence in Iraq is almost entirely the creation of Sunni Arabs. Their proposals is that, in return for stopping the violence, they want a major say in the writing of the new constitution, and some major amnesty for past sins. The Sunni Arabs have a lot to account for in the pain and atrocity department, both currently and in the past. The amnesty would not include major baddies like Saddam, but would cover many of those who have been killing Americans and Iraqis for the last two years. It's going to be a hard sell.
In the past, the Sunni Arab extortion racket was simpler. As the Sunni Arabs controlled the police, army and everything else, it was easy to tell the Kurds and Shia Arabs to do something, or else. There was a lot of "or else," and Saddam Hussein's coming trial will contain abundant gory details. Since the Sunni Arabs were tossed out of power in April of 2003, they have been scheming to get it back. They have a plan, they believe it will work, and they may be right.
The Iraqi Sunni Arabs are not alone, and their list of allies is large. Locally, all Middle Eastern nations run by Sunni Arabs, and that's nearly all of them, back the idea of Sunni Arabs running Iraq. It's easy for outsiders to underestimate how much of a threat Sunni Arabs feel that Shia Iran is. For the last quarter century, Iran has been run by radical Shia clerics. But the Iranian tradition that terrifies Sunni Arabs the most is the fact that for over three thousand years, Iran has dominated the region. Currently, Iran is developing nuclear weapons, the better to continue that tradition of domination. Shia Arabs are 60 percent of the Iraqi population. In a democracy, those Shia Arabs should be running the country. The Sunni Arab nightmare is that a Shia run Iraq would ally with Shia Iran to take over the Middle East. It's an Arabian nightmare that is based on thousands of years of reality. Sunni Arabs in the Middle East may not support Sunni Arab terrorism in Iraq, but they do support Sunni Arab control of Iraq.
Iraqi Sunni Arabs also have the support of the majority of the world's media. The American overthrow of Sunni Arab control of Iraq was condemned by most of the world's media. This was largely the result of European "pragmatism", and willingness to tolerate Sunni Arab atrocities in return for lucrative business deals. Saddam's Republic of Fear was largely equipped with weapons and gear supplied by European nations (mainly Russia, France and Germany.) It had also become fashionable in Europe to condemn Israel for oppressing the Sunni Arab Palestinians. This made Europeans more popular in the Sunni Arab world. So it was something of a knee-jerk reaction for the European press to join with the Sunni Arab press to condemn the United States for removing Sunni Arabs from control of Iraq. This media coalition continues to portray Sunni Arab terrorism in Iraq as "insurgents" and "freedom fighters."
Sunni Arab leaders are demanding a new constitution that will make it easier for Sunni Arabs to regain control of the government, and amnesty for Sunni Arabs involved in the last two years of terrorism, and the previous decades of government sponsored atrocities. The Sunni Arabs are willing to blame it all on al Qaeda, which is mainly radical Sunni Arabs that are considered expendable. The Kurds and Shia Arabs are gagging on this. But they have a stark choice. If they don't give in, they may only be able to stop the Sunni Arab terrorism by, in effect, making war on the Sunni Arab population. This would get pretty ugly. Look at Lebanon, the poster child for Arab civil wars. That one lasted for fifteen years (1975-90) and killed over five percent of the population. Of course, that's what Saddam did to Iraq in three decades of misrule. But a major effort to suppress current Sunni Arab violence in Iraq could leave over 100,000 Sunni Arabs dead, and several million in exile. This is a nightmare for the United States, whose troops would be a witness to this, and accused of not doing anything to stop it.
It's a game of chicken, but the Sunni Arabs are confident that the other guys will blink first. They may be right.