IN A dramatic midnight turnaround, Iraq’s ruling Shia pulled back from threats to force the new constitution through parliament, putting off a vote to buy more time to win over Sunni Arabs who had threatened civil war if it was passed.
Shia and Kurdish leaders had agreed to a draft constitution laying out plans for a federal system that would transform the Iraqi state into a loose federation of regions with a weak central government.

Sunni leaders reacted with fury at the proposition, claiming that it would inflame the insurgency and trigger civil war and vowed to defeat the charter at a national referendum later this year unless demands for federalism were dropped.

But Shia leaders, determined not to miss the deadline, presented the draft to parliament minutes before midnight. To loud applause, the speaker announced that the deadline had been met. Then to stunned confusion, he dismissed parliament without a vote, calling for three more days of talks between political leaders. But as the events of the evening sank in, it remained unclear what could be done to win over the recalcitrant Sunnis.