The Iraqi constitutional referendum is coming up and I have an opinion I'd like to share:
I think that the federal system the referendum espouses is fair and probably makes the most sense given the demography of the land. I can understand Sunni worries -despite constitutional guarantees of revenue sharing- that their central "statelet" gets shortchanged in a federal arrangement since the oil is in the Kurdish north and the Shiite south. On the one hand, the disenfranchised Sunnis are reaping the fruits of their unfortunate decision to boycott the previous general election and their subsequent underrepresentation in the current government. On the other hand, they do seem to have gotten on board the election bandwagon now and the Sunnis (clearly) can act as spoilers in every arena if their concerns aren't addressed.
My synopsis is as follows:
If the referendum fails, the Sunnis will at least feel that they have been empowered by the new Iraqi democratic model and their resistance to the whole national agenda should suffer a blow. In such a scenario, the constitutional committee goes back to the drawing board and the result probably resembles the initial attempt, with some more unified precepts to tie the Sunni provinces closer to the rest of the country. (The Kurdish region has been pretty much autonomous for the better part of a decade.) The defacto eventual look of the country (barring a return to a more totalitarian regime) will resemble the federal model anyways.
IN OTHER, VERY COOL NEWS: The DARPA Grand Challenge, a goverment sponsored race to develop a vehicle that can autonomously navigate a 131 mile course has been won. Pending an official announcement, the team from Stanford University crossed the finish line in around eight hours. The eventual goal of this program is to have robotic vehicles deliver supplies for American troops in risky environments without exposing personnel to the hazards (roadside bombs, ambush) of the job.