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March 10, 2004
IRAQ'S INTERIM CONSTITUTION: AN 'IMPORTANT FIRST STEP'

March 10, 2004

IRAQ'S INTERIM CONSTITUTION: AN 'IMPORTANT FIRST STEP'

KEY FINDINGS

** The interim constitution is a "step forward" for Iraq but just "a beginning."

** "Persistent" Shia dissension is only one of many challenges that remain to be overcome.

** Critics call the constitutional exercise "flawed" and a recipe for more "chaos."

MAJOR THEMES

Transitional constitution 'an important achievement'-- Terming it the "the first real political success of the U.S.-led occupation authority," global dailies hailed the signing of Iraq's interim constitution (temporary administrative law) as "an important step" on the road to Iraqi sovereignty. Writers praised the "rare spirit of compromise in a region where politics are usually conducted as a zero-sum" game and said the new constitution marked the end of an era of "contempt, fear, wars and the terror of the state." Israel's conservative Jerusalem Post declared that "Iraqis showed that Arab democracy need not be a contradiction in terms." German writers pointed to the constitution's "symbolic" importance in countering terrorism in Iraq and contended that if the constitution's federalist model and provisions ensuring civil rights proved themselves, "Iraq could serve as a model for the entire region."

Prospect of unity 'tantalizingly fragile'-- Noting that the drafters had put off until later "many contentious problems," analysts cautioned that "euphoria would be...misplaced" and that the constitution was not "a guarantee of peace and coexistence," particularly in the current, volatile environment. The reformist Russian daily Kommersant pointed out that the Soviet constitution "guaranteed to all citizens" every desirable freedom but these were never respected. Also, reservations expressed by Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani and other Shiite leaders have "cast a shadow" on the constitution's viability and could "rekindle deep-rooted animosity" among Iraq's ethnic groups. While labeling the charter "one of the most progressive...anywhere in the Middle East," an independent Hong Kong outlet observed that "the governing council chose to first agree on what could be agreed," punting some of the most "sensitive questions" down the road.

An 'empty gesture' or dawn of a new day?-- A critical Pakistani editorialist saw "a danger that needless delay in an early American withdrawal...could threaten" the success of the constitutional exercise, but other writers claimed the document had been "drafted in a hurry" because of Washington's "desperate desire" to get out of the Iraqi "quagmire." Washington promoted this law "above all, to adjust the calendar of the Iraqi 'transition' to the Bush electoral calendar," declared Spain's left-of-center El Pais. In addition, skeptics said, "different priorities" among Iraq's Shiites, Sunnis, Kurds and other groups "will make any attempt at political or social agreement impossible." A Jordanian commentator blasted the agreement as having "been distinctively written with a Kurdish pen" and called it a "recipe for civil war." Turkish papers interpreted the temporary law as "basically a division of Iraq between Kurds and Shiites" and complained that the document gave "no place" to Iraq's Turkmen population.

EDITOR: Steven Wangsness

EDITOR'S NOTE: This analysis is based on 70 reports from 31 countries, March 1-10, 2004. Editorial excerpts from each country are listed from the most recent date.

EUROPE

BRITAIN: "An Interim Triumph For The Iraqis"

The independent Financial Times remarked (3/10): "This week's agreement on Iraq's transitional constitution is an important achievement. It is the first real political success of the U.S.-led occupation authority, almost a year after the Anglo-American invasion that brought down Saddam Hussein. But, above all, it is a triumph for the Iraqis. It embodies a rare spirit of compromise in a region where politics are usually conducted as a zero-sum, all-or-nothing and frequently very bloody game.... Clever drafting, in an interim, draft constitution, has its uses. Security is what is needed to prevent the bombers getting their way."

"A New Constitution That Leaves Much To Be Decided"

The center-left Independent commented (3/9): "With the signing into law of its interim Constitution, Iraq has reached the first identifiable stage in its transition from occupation to new statehood.... What has been agreed are safeguards for basic freedoms--expression, assembly, religious belief and political activity--and a provisional timetable that ends with the formation of a government by December next year. Almost everything else has been fudged.... No process has been agreed for the formation of the interim government that will take back Iraq's sovereignty on 1 July, when the 'occupiers' transform themselves into invited security forces in good time for the U.S. presidential election. The credibility of this government will determine whether Iraqis accept it as theirs, or reject it as continued occupation by another name. The omens are not at all good."

"Meanwhile In Iraq"

The conservative Times took this view (3/2): "While many in Westminster appear to be obsessed still by who said, did or thought what concerning Iraq a year or so ago, those in Baghdad are more animated by the condition of their country now. The interim constitution settled yesterday and due to be signed tomorrow is a real achievement. It is also one that the skeptics believed would not occur anywhere near the tough February 28 deadline.... There is much work to be done before Iraq can be assured of a prosperous and democratic future. It is a task to which the White House and Downing Street, despite the many distractions, must remain committed."

"Fragile Hopes In Iraq"

The conservative Daily Telegraph editorialized (3/2): "The free expression of differing views made possible by the overthrow of Saddam Hussein has been apparent in the discussions of the Iraqi Governing Council on an interim constitution. Yet its 25 members managed to reach agreement early yesterday, only a few hours after its February 28 deadline.... With the interim constitution agreed, the occupying powers must now decide how the Iraqi body to which they will transfer power at the end of June will be chosen.... Iraqi unity, and the long-term success of the allied project, remain tantalizingly fragile."

FRANCE: "A War Against The Shiites"

Alexandre Adler contended in right-of-center Le Figaro (3/10): "The signature behind the recent attacks against the Shiite communities in Iraq and Pakistan is that of the bin Laden network. The message once translated reads simply this: since the Iraqi Shiites have signed a protocol with the Americans leading to the signing of a semi-secular constitution for Iraq (what the U.S. wanted) and planned elections (what the Shiites wanted), war is now declared in Iraq.... And that war is now going to be waged against all the Shiites wherever they may be, from Iraq to Pakistan.... This is a sacred war, as opposed to a division between Muslims.... It will be a Jihad...because the Shiites are 'false' Muslims."

"Glitches In The Constitution"

Hassane Zerouky wrote in communist L'Humanite (3/10): "The dissension that persisted after the Constitution was signed is not really good news for President Bush. The U.S. will not easily be able to claim a political success in Iraq... But radical Islam, which was hoping for an open war between the different ethnic and religious groups, has also not reached its goal.... The eruption of violence it was hoping for did not materialize.... The compromise reached in Iraq has at least achieved one thing: for the time being, the worst has been avoided."

"Sistani Criticizes The New Iraqi Constitution"

Arnaud de la Grange concluded in right-of-center Le Figaro (3/9): "Every small political step towards a new Iraq is dependent on Sistani's verdict. The ink was barely dry on the new Constitution when Al-Sistani began to criticize the text.... Al-Sistani is one of Iraq's most listened-to religious leaders. His position has cast a shadow on a document which was being presented as 'historic'.... More than ever Iraq's political scene is dominated by three major players fighting each other: the Shiite community which is waiting to take over in Iraq; the Sunnis, who are doing everything in their power to stay in the game; and the Kurds who are determined this time not to be robbed of their victory.... Ankara, which has clearly understood what is at stake, did not wait long before signifying its dissatisfaction with the Constitution. Turkey will do anything to keep the Kurds from reinforcing their autonomy."

GERMANY: "Chance In Baghdad"

Wolfgang Guenter Lerch editorialized in center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine (3/9): "Paul Bremer's words give us reason to hope: the signed interim constitution is an 'unprecedented document' in the country's history. This is correct; given the turbulent decades the Arab state has seen in the past. Iraq has been given the great chance to establish an enduring structure, differing positively from the former tyranny, and to turn the multiethnic country into a pluralistic society.... The coming months must prove that this transitory structure can be brought to life and works. This is the path to reduce and finally stop the violence committed by militant opponents of the new Iraq, who are turning more and more against the people. The situation in Iraq is everything other than but great, indicating that Americans didn't quite know what they had to expect in Iraq after the fall of Saddam. However, their controversial war made a pluralistic experiment possible."

"Good Law In Bad Times"

Heiko Flottau opined in center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich (3/9): "Like the British once, Americans will claim supervision over Iraq's foreign and security policy and attempt to influence Iraq's domestic policy. Unlike 80 years ago, today's occupiers must deal with a self-confident Shiite majority. The Americans won't be able to do much against its will. After all, Iraq will get a constitution that guarantees every citizen freedom of speech and protection against state tyranny for the first time in decades, but it does not secure a peaceful future. It will be the long-term goal of any Iraqi government to get rid of the occupiers. Americans might barricade themselves on military bases, but they will only be left in peace after they left the country."

"Good News"

Markus Ziener commented in business daily Handelsblatt of Duesseldorf (3/9): "First of all it is good news that Iraq has gotten its own constitution almost a year after the start of the war. That is good because it is a visible step toward sovereignty and democracy, and because one can build on it and, if need be, refer back to it. Any little piece contributing to the rebuilding of Iraq makes it more difficult for terrorists to reverse the march of time. The power struggle shows how fragile the political structure still is.... It is not zero hour in Iraq, but old scores are being settled right now. Who has done what during the dictatorship? This backbiting goes with the spate of attacks by terrorists, who place their bombs along the rifts. Iraq must start to come to terms with its past if it does not want to fall into pieces. The freedom on paper must be turned into a living democracy."

"Stubborn Wards"

Baghdad correspondent Martina Doering filed an editorial to left-of-center Berliner Zeitung (3/9): "The joy of the Americans cannot be very great, because the quarrel over the constitution has shown how controversial the claims of their Iraqi wards are and how persistent and stubborn they can be. Some sections--which meant to deprive women of their rights or those about the role of Islam--could only be stopped by an American veto. One can assume that some of those things will not be in the final version and it is also unclear whether a newly elected Iraqi government will endorse U.S. military bases."

"A Weak Vision"

Private, independent NTV commented on "Nachrichten" (3/9): "The Iraqi governing council has, with some delay, signed the longed-for transitional constitution. Whether it is worth more than the paper it is written on remains to be seen. First, it is a historic day, a victory for diplomatic efforts, a first shaky step towards the transfer of power and democratic conditions. However, all of this is a very weak vision, given that this Monday, rebels launched renewed attacks in Baghdad.... (Baghdad correspondent): Twice postponed before...the passing of the new constitution should see an end to the mistrust and rivalry between the various population groups .... The cornerstone for the inside has been laid...however the external reality still looks different. In spite of historic ceremonies there were again several attacks in Baghdad and Falujah.... In most population groups, contentment has not made much progress. They had also expected more from a new constitution."

"Big U.S. Goal Fulfilled"

Private, independent ARD TV remarked on "Tagesthemen" (3/8): "One of the biggest goals of the USA in the Iraq was to create a modern democracy, and a democracy needs a constitution. Today, after much to-ing and fro-ing, a transitional constitution was signed. Amongst other things, it states that Islam is a deciding measure for the law, but not the only one. Twenty-five percent of the parliament should consist of women, making it unique in the Arab world. Iraqi women have long fought for this.... The ever-growing influence of the Shiite spiritual leaders threatens the implementation of the democratic constitution, because the Shiites, like in Iran and the other Arab countries, such as Saudi Arabia, want a religion-based community as well as an Islamic legal system...and the influence of the religious leaders has in the meantime progressed so far, that the Americans can do nothing if they appoint a woman."

"Birth Of A New Iraq"

National public television ZDF noted on "Heute Journal" (3/8): "Big words were expressed in Baghdad today, a historic moment, the birth of a new Iraq. At the difficult birth of the new transitional constitution were all 25 members of the governing council, who have now signed it.. Right to the end, the Shiites tried to push through amendments. Civil rights, freedom of belief, the right to form political parties...all of this is rare in the Gulf region. Whether Iraq will become a torch-bearer for democracy, as President Bush hopes, will probably only be seen after the elections. If the majority Shiites can live in harmony in Iraq with the minority Sunnis and Kurds.... (Baghdad correspondent): A historic day for Iraq...an important step to the transfer of power by the Americans to a future Iraqi government.... Iraq will become a federal state; the wide-ranging autonomy of the Kurds remains intact; at the top will be a president and two deputy presidents. The constitution guarantees the protection of religious and ethnic minorities. There is the freedom of opinion and assembly, as well as free parties and unions. And women will make up one quarter of the future national assembly. These are ambitious goals. Can they be implemented given the difficult situation of post-war Iraq where the remainder of Saddam's regime has not yet been fully destroyed?"

"Success But Not A Permanent Solution"

Private, independent ARD TV commented on most widely watched newscast "Tagesschau" (3/8): "After tough negotiations, the Iraqi Governing Council has signed the interim constitution.... (Baghdad correspondent Thomas Aders): If the interim constitution had not been signed today again, it would have meant a huge loss of face for the Americans. In that regard, the harmonious ceremony was a major success for them. Nonetheless, almost no one believes in a permanent solution to the violent religious, ethnic and political conflicts in this country, because it is in this phase that the issue of power will be decided in the Iraq of the future."

ITALY: "Bush Prepares Disengagement"

Vittorio Zucconi opined in left-leaning, influential La Repubblica (3/9): "Like all pieces of paper in diplomacy and politics, the value of the 'interim Constitution' lies more in the intentions of those who drafted and approved it, than in the words that were used to write it. The artificiality of the agenda, the 'double-track' of American intentions which include Iraq's interests and their [U.S.] domestic political interests and the obvious inability of this Governing Council to refuse to sign, since the only legitimacy it has is the one given to it by the occupying forces, should lead us to take the beautiful words on democracy and secularism that are contained in the charter with great caution. We will understand the extent of the success of the 'pilot democracy' once the last U.S. soldier has left Iraq and once the Iraqis have chosen their future. Until then, this Constitution, like many others, will be more a charter of dreams rather than an accomplished reality."

"An Islamic Stake To Convince the Shiites"

Mimmo Candito commented in centrist, influential daily La Stampa (3/9): "If the birth of a new Constitution implies the celebration of a State, then there are good reasons to say that the document that was signed yesterday in Baghdad under the scrutiny of Paul Bremer, is not worth more than half a celebration. Let's say even less than half a celebration because the ambiguities contained in those nine chapters and 64 articles suggest that a formal act has taken place but that the issues that divide Iraq have not been overcome.... Ayatollah al-Sistani has reiterated that this is only a 'provisional Constitution.'... These words dramatically undercut the hopes of the Baghdad Charter, but they don't completely take away its legitimacy: the ayatollah is a moderate figure, and he knows how to assess the difficulties related to the current phase of political and social stabilization; but he must also take into account the radical wing of the Shiite population and he is forced to make big concessions (even if only verbally) in order to maintain control. Washington has said that this Constitution 'is the most progressive one in the Middle East.' Perhaps this is true...but what can be read in between the lines of Bush's remarks is his desperate desire to pull out of a quagmire that is destroying the possibility of his re-election."

"The Imam's Choice"

Igor Man wrote in centrist, influential daily La Stampa (3/9): "The problem in Iraq is that linked to the political problem there is a terrible sword of Damocles: the small guerrilla war which is killing off GIs is slowly becoming a popular war. Saddam's capture has proven that the Baathists are not behind the attacks against the American forces.... Furthermore, only a small group of intellectuals in Iraq know what democracy is and dream of it; the great majority of Iraqis associates democracy with post-colonialism, with the world of the infidels who seek Allah's blessing: oil."

"Pluralism, Rights And Islam"

Michele Farina noted in centrist, top-circulation Corriere della Sera (3/9): "It's provisional, but it exists. The sixty-two articles and twenty-four pages want to reconcile Arab tradition with Western democracy, pluralism and Islam as the State religion, Ambassador Paul Bremer and Ayatollah Ali Sistani.... No one knows if the upcoming phases will be respected. The first one was reached and this was the one that the U.S. absolutely needed.... The starting point has been respected.... We still don't know who will exercise authority after June 30, 2004, when the provisional Constitution goes into effect. Sovereignty will go from the occupying forces to an interim Iraqi government that will have complete power, although it will not be the result of an electoral process that even the UN agrees is impossible in the short-term. The 25 Governing Council members that approved the Charter would like an extension of their mandate. For the time being, this possibility seems to have been excluded. And we still don't know when the Iraqis will vote."

"Oil And Constitution In Baghdad"

Elite, classical liberal daily Il Foglio concluded (3/2): "The adoption on the part of the Iraqi Governing Council of a constitution which gives way to a democratic transition represents an answer to the terrorists' attempt to fan the flames of ethnic and religious conflicts and to provoke a civil war.... We are obviously not talking about irreversible results. Tensions between the different communities persist and the risk of a theocratic drift, as in Iran, is still highly possible. But having solemnly sanctioned inalienable rights to citizenship, for the first time in the country's history, is an act that furnishes a juridical and political basis to the construction of a democracy and of a constitutional state for men and women."

RUSSIA: "Shia Reject Interim Constitution"

Aleksandr Reutov stated in business-oriented Kommersant (3/10): "Iraq's Shiites, who account for 60 percent of the population, virtually disagree with what U.S. President George Bush has called a 'historic milestone.' It is another case of a stated U.S. victory in Iraq not coming off.... The interim constitution was drafted in a hurry. In the run-up to the presidential elections in the United States, the White House has other things to take care of. George Bush has to report to the electorate on the results of the antiterrorist campaign in Iraq. So far the balance has been clearly negative, with hundreds of billions of the taxpayer's money spent on the war and more than half a thousand GIs killed. Ordinary Americans have received nothing in the of way of cheap Iraqi oil, not to mention a curiosity like Saddam Hussein's banned weapons that reportedly posed a threat to the United States. The only thing Mr. Bush can use to try to justify the operation in Iraq is turning that country into a democracy, something every American believes he/she knows much about. Otherwise, Mr. Bush's war on international terrorism may cost him the presidency."

"Iraqis Want No Constitution From Americans"

Valeriy Panyushkin commented in business-oriented Kommersant (3/10): "The Iraqi religious leaders don't want a law that is not based on Sharia. The people who set off bombs in Baghdad the day when the provisional constitution was adopted may not like it for the same reason or they may loathe getting a constitution from the Americans. Just imagine somebody--he may be smarter and more successful than yourself--breaking into your house, smashing your furniture, turning everything upside down, and then offering you money and a constitution so that, based on this constitution and using this money, you can repair the house he has ruined. Chances are that you won't accept that constitution even if it is the best one in the world. You won't even if it is based on Sharia."

"Law Returns To Baghdad"

Maxim Makarychev wrote in the official Rossiiskaya Gazeta (3/2): "On the whole, one can say that in adopting a new, so far provisional, constitution, Iraq is embarking upon the road that will enable it to finally get rid of Saddam's past."

"The Law For Kurds, Women And Shiites"

Alexander Reutov commented in reformist business Kommersant (3/2): "On the whole, the liberal draft caused warm approval among the occupation authorities.... In the meantime, there is nothing unexpected in the document submitted.... The new Iraqi constitution is by far not the first document of this kind in the Arab East. However, the 'USSR principle' makes itself felt. The Constitution of the Soviet Union guaranteed to citizens all the freedoms that could be described by political scientists. In effect, however, such guarantees were not observed."

AUSTRIA: "It's Alive, But It's Weak"

Foreign affairs editor Gudrun Harrer wrote in liberal daily Der Standard (3/10): "We have all learned to be modest in our expectations for Iraq, but it can safely be said that the ratification of the interim constitution by the members of the Iraqi Governing Council is encouraging. However, euphoria would be somewhat misplaced--the 'child' has been delivered safely, after a long labor, but it is still weak. Basically, in an environment such as that of Iraq, it is not easy to develop confidence in the normative power of such a document. Let's take a look at the constitutions of other Arab states, and at that of Iraq from 1970: presumption of innocence until found guilty, prohibition of torture, sovereignty of the people, in the case of Iraq even Kurdish autonomy--including Kurdish as an official language. The democratic principles are all there.... A constitution is a piece of paper that acquires meaning with its interpretation--or doesn't, as the case may be.... In this light, the clause that the present constitution cannot be amended, except by a two-thirds majority of a parliament that doesn't exist yet, is surprising and reminiscent of the double game between Islam and democracy, which characterizes the entire document: a brave attempt at squaring the circle, but not all the equations were calculated on paper first."

"First Step Towards A New Iraq"

Foreign correspondent Birgit Cerha wrote in the independent daily Salzburger Nachrichten (3/9): "Even though a lot of details remained unresolved after months of wrangling between the different political, ethnic and religious groups in Iraq, and important points of discussion have simply been shelved for the time being, the ratification of the transitional constitution is an important step on the way towards Iraqi sovereignty. It is the first prerequisite for the U.S. occupation troops in Iraq to really hand over power in the country to its people by June 30 this year. True, the ratification had to be postponed twice because no agreement could be reached, but for a country that is just coming back to life after three decades of a brutal dictatorship, this intense political debate was an important learning and recuperation process."

CZECH REPUBLIC: "Merely A Piece Of Paper? Hopefully Not Any Longer"

Martin Novak editorialized in the business daily Hospodarske Noviny (3/9): "Legal acts are not more than pieces of paper where you can write anything. Saddam Hussein made this very statement in the middle of the 1980s. The document signed in Iraq yesterday gives hope for change. Theoretically, it grants the people freedoms and rights to a degree unprecedented in the Arab world. Three major ethnic groups in Iraq--the Kurds, the Sunnis and the Shi'a--signed the document only after a long and heated debate. That may suggest how difficult it will be to establish a working pattern of cohabitation in the country. The interim constitution is the first and important step, but we will know more only after the first election. The future of Iraq will depend on how good the three major groups will be in finding compromises."

POLAND: "The Beginning And The End"

Pawel Smolenski judged in liberal Gazeta Wyborcza (3/9): "It could be said this way: the signing of the interim constitution is only an empty gesture, because it was effected by an appointed group. Iraq is an occupied and ruined country, one stricken by terror. But it could be said differently: this is the end and the beginning. It is the end...of Saddam's era: a time of contempt, fear, wars, and terror of the state. And it is the beginning...of democracy, freedom, just courts.... There is no doubt that a new charter has at last opened for Iraq. What it will be inscribed with will depend above all on the Iraqi people: the Shiites, the Sunnis, and the Kurds. Each of these communities has a big game to play, with much to win and much to lose, too--including democracy and freedom, which are knocking on the door."

SERBIA & MONTENEGRO: "The Remaining Obstacles"

Pro-government, influential daily Politika commented (3/10): "Iraq got a transitional constitution which should facilitate the transitional period. The constitution of the 'republican, democratic and pluralistic' Iraq is establishing a balance between respect for Islam...and equality of rights for Iraqi citizens, including women, in accordance with the principles of a liberal democracy. Whether this amalgam of Eastern and Western values will be successful is yet to be seen. Americans are not hiding their satisfaction. George Bush speaks of 'a turning point in history.' Nothing unusual. The occupiers are encouraging themselves because so far they have failed on all plans: the plan to pacify Iraq, the plan to return to normal life.... The preceding debate showed that painful wounds and divisions between religious and ethnic communities have not healed."

SPAIN: "Constitution With Distrust"

Left-of-center El País commented (3/10): "[The new Iraqi provisional Constitution]...is an essential step in the stabilization of Iraq, but it is neither a law as advanced as it appears nor a guarantee of peace and coexistence. The atmosphere of distrust in which the members of the Iraqi Governing Council, none of them elected, have signed on to constitution doesn't augur well for the future.... If Washington has promoted this law...it's above all, to adjust the calendar of the Iraqi 'transition' to the Bush electoral calendar.... This law authorizes the provisional Government to 'negotiate a security agreement with the coalition forces.' These and other forces will officially stop being occupiers. But they will continue being very occupied, because the end of the battle is nowhere in sight."

"New Iraqi Constitution, First Step Towards Consensus"

Independent El Mundo concluded (Internet version, 3/9): "The 25 members of Iraq's Governing Council have taken steps towards the normalization of the country.... Reaching agreement on each of its 60 articles has been no bed of roses and unexpected complications have arisen the during the final stretch of its drafting.... Al-Sistani insisted yesterday that there were still key points of discrepancy and that no law prepared for the transition period will be legitimate until it is approved by an elected national assembly.... One of the most serious discrepancies Al-Sistani refers to lies in the fact that the Kurds are awarded the capacity of veto in the event of the new constitution not providing for their right to self-determination. The Shiites...believe that this puts too powerful a key in the hands of the Kurdish minority. Yesterday's signing puts off serious problems such as this one which could one day become a mine planted below the new government's feet. With or without discrepancies, the certain fact is that a new republican, democratic and plural system of government has been introduced.... The constitution also includes such significant advances as the fact that the new assembly will have to contain at least 25 per cent women. Still pending are key issues regarding the division of power such as the number of vice-presidents.... Yesterday's signing, despite the grave points pending, is at least a timid step towards consensus on a long road which will still be littered with serious setbacks."

TURKEY: "The Constitution For Chaos"

Sami Kohen commented in the mass-appeal Milliyet (3/10): "The initial positive signs that Iraq was on its way toward representational democracy did not last very long. Right after the signing ceremony of the temporary administrative law (TAL), Shiite groups began asking for changes to certain provisions in the law. In addition, there was an attack by Kurds against Turkmen in the Kirkuk region. These developments bring to mind the basic question: is the TAL going to resolve the current chaos in Iraq or just accelerate it? The Americans might see the TAL as a success and a model for Middle East countries. But the Iraqi people are occupied with other issues of daily life such as violence, insecurity and the lack of goods and services.... Moreover, each Iraqi group has a different priority and different set of goals. It seems very difficult to melt all of these differences down to a unified state structure, particularly at a time of chaos and terror.... Ankara has concerns about the TAL and has expressed them to Washington. Washington's message is 'not to worry' because this is a transitional process and changes will be made in the final constitution. We don't know if the U.S. has shaped a workable plan on this matter. It remains to be seen how the Iraqi groups, which barely reached a consensus on the temporary law, will be able to agree on the final constitution."

"Constitution In Iraq"

Yilmaz Oztuna noted in the conservative Turkiye (3/10): "The U.S. has worked to establish order in both Afghanistan and Iraq, yet it has failed in the end. The current situation indicates that the U.S. has proven its military strength and experience, but does not have much skill as an imperial power. A transitional constitution was drafted for both Iraq and Afghanistan, and the U.S. had the constitution accepted by the countries' ethnic leaders, who were actually appointed by the U.S. The TAL is basically a division of Iraq between Kurds and Shiites and, interestingly enough, even they are not happy with the outcome. It is an open secret that this kind of Pax Americana will be extended to the Greater Middle East. Syria and Iran might be next on the U.S. list. Yet the real question is how the U.S. will perform in managing the political problems similar to those it has encountered in Iraq and Afghanistan."

"Iraq's Transitional Administrative Law"

Muharrem Sarikaya commented in the mass appeal Sabah (3/9): "Turkey has repeatedly voiced its concerns about the future of Iraq, particularly about the fact that the Turkmen population has been neglected. Washington has always given assurances that the Turkmen will not be ignored, and that they will play an important role in Iraq's future.... However, in the end the temporary administrative law (TAL) does not meet these expectations. The Turkmen population was treated the same way as other minority groups. Worse than that is a provision in the TAL that provides for the rejection of the draft constitution in the event that 2/3 of voters in at least 3 provinces reject the draft at referendum. This provision gives enormous bargaining power to the Kurds, and Washington did not even bother to mention this to Ankara.... When Secretary Powell called Turkish FM Gul, he tried to ease his concerns by saying that the current situation is a transitional period and the U.S. will take into account the views of Iraq's neighbors in the final constitutional process. Despite Powell's assurances, Ankara has not been convinced, largely due to other (unmet) promises from Washington. There is also something worrying for Ankara about Paul Bremer's treatment of Turkish firms in Iraq. Ankara continues to be worried about the TAL due to a perceived favoritism for the Shiites and the Kurds."

"Stability In Iraq Slips Away"

Zafer Atay wrote in the economic-political Dunya (3/8): "The draft includes an agreement on a federal system for Iraq. As the majority group in Iraq, the Shiites will be the most important component of the federation. It seems, though, that the federation is not going to provide full satisfaction to Barzani and Talabani even though Kurdish domination will continue in northern Iraq.... The Turkmen population has been given no place in this document which is intended to bring freedom to the country."

"Iraq"

Yilmaz Oztuna warned in the conservative Turkiye (3/5): "It seems that the newly designed constitution for Iraq is a disappointment for Turkey.... Turkey's uneasiness stems from the treatment of the Turkmen, because they were not recognized as equals with the Kurds even though their demographic numbers are the same. The constitution could have at least recognized Turkish as an official language along with Arabic and Kurdish, yet that also did not happen.... Turkey cannot remain indifferent to the Turkmen population in Iraq. Turkey should not sit and watch the developments in northern Iraq. It is against our national interests."

MIDDLE EAST

ISRAEL: "The Birth Of Iraqi Democracy"

Conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized (3/9): "Freedom and independence rarely come without a struggle, as Americans and Israelis know. The road ahead for Iraqi democracy is a long one and the outcome is not guaranteed. Monday's signing, however, was undoubtedly an historic moment in the history of Iraq, the Middle East, and the world.... This is a proud moment for Iraqis and for the United States, which made it possible. We should not lose sight of where it is taking place.... Bernard Lewis, the eminent scholar of the Islamic world, once noted the strange fact that the Europeans who oppose American pressure on Arabs to democratize are considered the 'friends' of the Arab world. They are not. They are friends of Arab despots, not the silenced millions they rule. Monday, Iraqis showed that Arab democracy need not be a contradiction in terms. The region's future depends on the success of Iraq's bold experiment."

SAUDI ARABIA: "Birth Of The New Iraq"

Riyadh's conservative Al-Riyadh editorialized (3/10): "It is very possible that Iraq's constitution will be a success, because the people who established it are well aware of the country's challenges.... By establishing democracy and the rule of law, the new Iraq will be a model for the entire region. Arab countries should congratulate the Iraqis and do everything they can to support them."

"Iraqi Constitution"

Riyadh's moderate, Al-Jazirah editorialized (3/10): "Differences over the new Iraqi charter could raise concerns in the unstable Iraqi arena, and it could delay the transfer of governing authority. Unresolved issues between all parties should be discussed in a quiet manner, because the situation is deteriorating and could erupt at any moment. In order to form a national government the timetable of withdrawal of the occupation forces should be closely watched, and any attempt to extend the occupation should be avoided."

"Interim Iraq"

Jeddah's conservative Al-Madina editorialized (3/9): "Stability in Iraq is the key to stability in the entire region. Iraq will not be stable if its people do not have freedom. Freedom will never flourish under occupation. That is why it is essential to end the occupation and plant the seeds of democracy. Iraq does not need a democracy imposed by American spears. Their independence will not materialize if they do not have their freedom."

IRAQ: "Public Conciliation Needed"

The clandestine Arabic-language "Voice of the Mujahidin" radio commented (3/8): "Shiite objection focused on two articles in the constitution, the first of which grants three Kurdish governorates the right to reject the permanent constitution with a two-third majority, while the other objection dealt with the form of the presidency in the coming government.... While the Shiites, under the leadership of their religious authority, stressed the need to take into consideration the principle of democracy, other sides call for granting the right to veto any permanent constitution. These sides are using the pretext that they fear the dictatorship of a majority, although adhering to the principle of democracy, which everyone agrees on, means rejecting all forms of dictatorship in a way that attains the rights of all factions and minorities and guarantees the participation of everyone in the authority in accordance with the allocated shares. This is what is taking place in many world states that are ruled by democratic governments. In any case, such issues should be discussed in an elected forum for formulating the permanent constitution. What we insist on is focusing on nondiscrimination and returning the rights of the Iraqi people, particularly the factions that were oppressed by the deposed regime. This requires public conciliation during this serious stage which the country is going through, and during which the enemies are harboring ill will for the Iraqis."

JORDAN: "No Constitutions For Military Bases!"

Daily columnist Khaled Mahadin wrote in semi-official, influential Arabic daily Al-Rai (3/9): "Since March 20, 2003, Iraq became the target of the American war machine, and since April 9, 2003, it has become an American base, and American bases are ruled by neither temporary nor permanent constitutions, but by the American Pentagon. The important thing is for the Iraqis to remain steadfast and loyal to uncompromising pan-Arabism and non-surrendering Iraqi nationalism. They must not allow any opportunity for those lurking from within and from without to harm Iraq and they must persevere until that time when occupation is defeated and the invaders are kicked out of the homeland."

"After Endorsing The Temporary Constitution"

Daily columnist Jamil Nimri judged on the back page of independent, mass-appeal Arabic daily Al-Arab Al-Yawm (3/9): "Whatever the opinion about the temporary Iraqi constitution is, we breathed out with reassurance once the members of the governing council signed the constitution, because otherwise the gates of hell will open wide and engulf the Iraqis.... There are forces inside Iraq, not to mention outside forces, that have no interest in seeing this agreement work out. The outside forces can be dealt with if Iraqi factions that are carrying arms now are convinced to switch to peaceful political struggle. But this means that the governing council, particularly the Shiites and the Kurds, must backtrack from labeling others with the mortal sin of collaborating with the former regime. The former regime was there for 30 years and it is logical that thousands of people would be working in that regime's military and security apparatuses. The decision to remove these people from their positions or pursue them would be equal to making them fuel for the military resistance.... The next correct step after the endorsement of the temporary constitution is to backtrack from any discriminatory measures and give the necessary reassurances to all citizens, including those who served the former regime."

"The Temporary Iraqi Constitution Is A Step On The Way"

Center-left, influential Arabic daily Al-Dustour editorialized (3/9): "Under the difficult circumstances that Iraq is going through, the governing council's signing of the temporary constitution is a particularly important event. Given domestic factors, the differences over some of constitution's items, and the nature of representation in the governing council, yesterday's signing signals an important step forward, even if some consider it incomplete or inadequate.... The task at hand will not be easy. Iraq is a country confronted with an absence of security and stability, and on its ground there are forces at work that refuse to accept the new reality. This is in addition to the challenge that everyone will have to live up to in terms of enforcing what was achieved in the constitution and strengthening national agreement.... Iraq is entitled to get support from its Arab brethren at this stage in order to back up its march and help it build its official and popular institutions."

"The Constitution To Destroy Iraq"

Columnist Jamil Nimri observed in independent, mass-appeal Al-Arab Al-Yawm (3/1): "This draft [of the Iraqi constitution] is a recipe for civil war and not a document for transitioning into a stable and safe Iraq.... The draft seems to have been distinctively written with a Kurdish pen. The draft constitution...drives a very serious wedge for a conflict between the Arabs and the Kurds.... If we take the Kurdish armed control of these areas into consideration, then [the constitution's provisions constitute] a clear invitation for ethnic cleansing against the Arabs in those areas before a general census is to take place.... This is a recipe for civil war, not for the security, stability and unity of Iraq.... We have always been sympathetic with the rights of Kurds who have suffered oppression, not to mention the Halabja massacre that shocked everyone. But...the Kurds' historical rights in Iraq, Turkey and Iran lies in the establishment of a state of their own. With international circumstances the way they are, dividing them between their countries, and with the reality of their current citizenship to these three countries not likely to change, then it is not right for Iraq to be made to suffer the consequences of the Kurdish problem and be divided and destroyed as a result."

LEBANON: "What Follows The Signing And What Comes Before Democratization"

Rafiq Khoury argued in centrist Al-Anwar (3/9): "The Iraqi Governing Council signed the interim constitution following a crisis that was leading to a political confrontation. However, the Council's surpassing of the confrontation is a step towards a path that is full of challenges for those who have agreed to build a state in the midst of all that violence. Obviously, regaining sovereignty will not take place through a mere document...and building a state does not happen through elections only.... Democratization is a slow process that took centuries in the west...and no one expects...Iraq to be democratized quickly...but we have to start from somewhere.... In any case, in a complex situation like the Iraqi one we have to remember that the logic of democracy is not only about the rule of the majority, but also about ensuring the rights of the minority. Any shakeup in this formula will change the rule of the majority into dictatorship, which in turn might push the minority into becoming a destructive force, rather than a force that seeks moderation.... Now the arena is open for the Iraqis to play their fateful role, which will decide their future. The way they decide to play their role will either help them gain or lead them towards losing this historic opportunity."

"The Interim Iraqi Constitution: Political Observations"

Joseph Samaha remarked in Arab nationalist As-Safir (3/9): "The Law for managing Iraq is born. The celebration was pale...and the children that were brought reminded us that Paul Bremer is practicing some type of American fatherhood over Iraq.... Many experts will go ahead and study the new law...and review the balances it set up between the different authorities...but we note the following: 1) It is true that the signing took place yesterday...but implementation will wait until July. This means that the top American Administrator in Iraq will have ample time to legislate any laws he wants.... 2) The law depicts an extremely fragile state regarding its centralization. In practice, Iraq has become a state with a dual nationality.... 3) This temporal constitution has some laws that need to be crystallized...and others that are considered permanent and should be included within the final version of the constitution...which proves to be really confusing.... 4) There is a separation between security decisions and political decisions...which means that sovereignty in Iraq will be void of any meaning.... The bottom line is that this new constitution indicates that we are facing an 'enlightened' occupier."

"The Last Stop"

Sateh Noureddine wrote in Arab nationalist As-Safir (3/6): "The text of the new constitution includes words that are usually taboos in Arab constitutions like federalism, human rights, role of women, and others.... What is interesting is the fact that the new temporary Iraqi constitution can be applied to all Arab countries which also have problems related to multiplicity of sects and ethnicities.... The new constitution has been read with great interest by the Lebanese and all the Arabs...perhaps their interest exceeded that of the Iraqis themselves.... The importance of this constitution is the fact that it opens the gates of hell for all Arab countries which never imagined that the fall of Baghdad will compel them...to open discussions over a collection of taboos like Islam and its role in formulating states; Arabism and its fate in formulating or dismantling a society; the rule of the majority and the dream of the minority."

UAE: "Negotiation Is The Key"

The English-language, expatriate-oriented Khaleej Times editorialized (Internet version, 3/9): "Although Iraq needs an early settlement of the interim constitution question, and despite the overarching importance of the issue, there are other matters too that require diplomatic and political attention till the approval of the constitution in its final form--which should happen about a year from now. These concern the Kurds and the federalism that will be granted to them with the share in the oil wealth of the northern cities, which the Kurds claim as theirs. The demands of the Kurds clash with those of the Tukomen, who claim these cities belong to them and point to historical landmarks in support of their claim. Beyond these, there are also Turkish reservations about the proposed constitution. Ankara has expressed its fears to Washington over the objections raised by the Kurds to the constitution and the ending of the Kurdish militias' participation in protection of the Iraq's border with Turkey. Fears and aspirations were not confined to political parties and other bodies, which are unrepresented in the Iraqi Governing Council. The parties, who number 20 in all, represent political, doctrinal, intellectual and religious trends with ambitions to participate in politics in the new Iraq. Iraq, after liberation from Saddam Hussein's regime, had come to resemble a marketplace of ideas where every individual was trying to express his plans and aspirations, because everybody was breathing freely after three decades of suffocating autocratic rule. Summing up, the interim constitution alone will not lead to stability at the political level; behind-the-scenes bargaining, compromises and concessions are necessary before the situation is considered ripe for Iraq's democratization in the real sense of the word."

"A Significant Moment In Time"

The English-language, expatriate-oriented Gulf News commented (Internet version, 3/9): "Yesterday was a significant day in the history of Iraq. Yesterday marked the signing of the Transitional Administration Law--or what has colloquially become known as the interim constitution. Despite all the suicide bombs, mortar shells, death and destruction that still continues in and around the city of Baghdad, the interim constitution was signed.... Despite last-minute issues that caused a postponement of the Friday signing, the initial objections by the Shias were set aside, to allow the signing to take place.... Although the interim constitution has many areas which are still open to debate, it does at least lay out the framework on how Iraq will be governed after the scheduled departure of the U.S. on June 30 and before the new government takes over, presumably some time in early 2005. What is especially encouraging is that despite enormous difficulties and differences of opinion from the various interested parties, a spirit of compromise eventually surfaced, for the good of the country. This augurs very well for the future and shows an unexpected maturity in resolving problems. A representative of the Shia Supreme Council was quoted as saying that while they still had reservations on the interim constitution, these could be amended 'later on' thus showing that due process will be the main contributor to debate.... There will be more hard times ahead in Iraq, not least because the reform-minded have shown the way, in spite of the extreme violence that has escalated in recent days, obviously designed to get the Governing Council to change its direction. Yet that violence, if anything, merely made the Iraqi reformists more determined. Good for them. Good for Iraq. Good for the Middle East."

EAST ASIA AND PACIFIC

CHINA: "The Interim Constitution Emerges"

Nie Xiaoyang and Li Jizhi commented in the official Xinhua Daily Telegraph (Xinhua Meiri Dianxun) (3/9): "People have noticed that the constitution has been born under U.S. occupation, so there are quite a number of problems. For example, the power of the president, how long a term will be, whether or not to rotate, and how to allocate power between the central government and local governments; the answers to all these questions are left vague in the interim constitution, left for the future. Meanwhile, the interim constitution also requires a secure and stable domestic environment and the common efforts of all parties and the international community."

CHINA (HONG KONG SAR): "A Prescription, But No Guarantee Of Harmony"

The independent English-language South China Morning Post editorialized (3/10): "Iraqis have a last-minute compromise to thank for this week's signing of a temporary constitution. In setting aside sectarian differences and some of the most sensitive questions, the governing council chose to first agree on what could be agreed. Even if this strategy puts off many contentious problems to a later date, it is an important accomplishment. It has given the Iraqis one of the most progressive charters anywhere in the Middle East, and provided a sound basis on which to negotiate a permanent constitution.... Despite all this, harmony is not guaranteed and institutions supporting Iraqi self-rule will in many cases have to be re-imagined and rebuilt. If proof were needed of the challenges ahead, the charter's approval comes one week after sectarian violence claimed almost 200 lives during holy processions in Baghdad and Karbala.... Iraqis have to build a democracy which, while giving power to the majority, does not trample on the rights of minority Kurds and Sunni Arabs. Federalism, under the temporary charter, deals with this problem, but it is up to the Iraqis to make it work. The charter grants them far more than they ever had under Saddam Hussein, but it is only a beginning."

JAPAN: "Signing Of Interim Constitution Major Step To Iraq's Normalization"

The conservative Sankei observed (3/9): "The interim constitution, signed by the Iraqi Governing Council on Monday, is the most democratic, liberal and humanitarian constitutional law among Islamic countries in the Middle East. The world is hopeful that the interim law will help open the way for the restoration and normalization of postwar Iraq by the Iraqi people. The interim law will take effect from the end of June, when the U.S.-led CPA hands over power to Iraqis. The law, which will be enforced until a formal Iraqi government is formed at the end of 2005, will undoubtedly give many Iraqis a sense of self-confidence and hope for their country's future. But there are already concerns that the temporary political impasse sparked by objections from a Shiite cleric to the signing of the document will rekindle deep-rooted animosity between rival religious and ethnic groups, causing a negative effect on Iraq's reconstruction. Intensified activities by terrorists in major Iraqi cities to sabotage the signing of the interim constitution illustrate their fear of the postwar law."

INDONESIA: "Sectarian Politics In Drafting Iraq Temporary Constitution"

Leading independent daily Kompas commented (3/8): "The sectarian political game has made the drafting of Iraq's temporary Constitution difficult. The most sensitive issue is related to the position of the president and the political position of the Kurd minority.... The signing of the constitution is very important and urgent as the legal basis for Iraqi government activities after U.S. troops leave.... The Lebanese experience demonstrated sectarian politics can led to a sad civil war."

NEW ZEALAND: "Iraqis Tested"

The moderate Press of Christchurch had this to say (Internet version, 3/5): "The rebuilding and democratization of Iraq are hard enough without sectarian violence complicating matters.... Iraq is so delicately balanced between chaos and reconstruction that terrorism has the potential to play a decisive role and achieve its goals. How the nation withstands coming outrages will decide its future..... Misguided people are hastening that dangerous development by finding satisfaction in the problems the Coalition is facing. It is one thing to judge the war a mistake; it is a more foolish thing to hope the peace will be troubled and apply pressure for a military withdrawal. If only for humanitarian reasons, the entrenchment of security and prosperity should top everyone's agenda. The outline of a tranquil state is emerging. The oil industry is reviving, producing nearly as much as it did before the war. An interim constitution has been agreed [to]...a particularly encouraging development given the bitter ethnic and religious differences. Power is scheduled to be handed over to an Iraqi administration on June 30. Outside military and civilian support will still be needed after that date, but that burden will probably not fall so heavily on the Americans, because the United Nations is moving to play a much bigger role. That will ease the present dangerous exposure of the United States. With UN troops taking the brunt of the peacekeeping, Iraqis will have a less obvious target to blame for all their ills and will thereby be more motivated to take on the responsibilities of rebuilding their nation. As well, a less exposed America will be better able to meet its responsibilities on the world stage and less likely to become bogged down in a Vietnam-type conflict. It is easy to feel that such an impasse has already developed or is about to. The tendons of security indeed are weak and will come under further attack but most Iraqis are showing restraint in the face of appalling provocations. That is a reason for optimism."

SOUTH KOREA: "Establishment Of Provisional Constitution In Iraq"

Kim Young-hie contended in independent Joong-Ang Ilbo (3/5): "Despite the recent, epoch-making establishment of a provisional constitution in Iraq, there is no guarantee that the process to democratize Iraq will proceed smoothly. No one knows for sure to what extent the Constitutional Authority will adopt the provisional constitution's liberal basic rights when it formulates a permanent constitution. In addition, there is the possibility of a civil war between Iraqi tribal factions over granting autonomy to the Kurds who cooperated in the U.S. war on Iraq.... Furthermore, the Bush administration's neo-cons are eager to ensure Israel's permanent security by democratically reforming major Middle East countries in addition to Iraq.... The U.S. should note that it could lose the 'spoils' of the provisional constitution unless it confines its post-Iraq war dealings to Iraq's stability and democratization."

THAILAND: "Iraqis Agree To Stick Together"

 

The lead editorial in top-circulation, moderately conservative, English-language Bangkok Post read (3/5): "The country has just completed a pre-constitutional conference that included all segments of the population, and they wrote a basic law on which the future of the country will be based. Huge dangers remain among the nation's main factions. All signs, however, point to a desire to unite all citizens in one Iraq."

SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA

INDIA: "A Flawed Exercise"

The centrist Hindu judged (3/10): "The Governing Council of Iraq once again revealed its non-independent, submissive character by adopting an interim constitution along the lines and almost within the time-frame dictated by the occupying powers. The Iraqis have not been able to agree on the procedures by which they will set up the Interim Government; and the Coalition Provisional Authority, has requested a reluctant United Nations to assist. The UN hopes that it will be able to cobble together an interim government through consultations with various sections of the Iraqi people. However, questions about the legitimacy of such a government and the validity of an election conducted by it form but a part of the problems likely to be encountered. The interim constitution stipulates that Islam will be only one of the sources of the law. Such a provision might not be acceptable in the long run to the religious hierarchy that wants a greater role in the functioning of the judiciary. An even more intractable problem has been thrown up by the Kurds who refuse to surrender the autonomy they currently enjoy. While differences on these various counts can thwart the efforts to preserve the country's unity, another ground reality falsifies the claim that Iraq will be independent once the Interim Government is in place. Not only will the occupation forces remain within the country after power is notionally transferred, but the transitional governments will sign agreements allowing foreign troops to stay. While the basic law does have progressive features, it suffers from the fundamental flaw that it was drafted to suit the interests and conveniences of the occupiers rather than the occupied. The Iraqis could have benefited only if they had been given more time to resolve differences on the role of religion and minority rights. Instead, they were forced to meet the deadline by an Authority that is desperate to showcase a success in Iraq before the campaign for the American presidential election gets under way."

PAKISTAN: "Iraqi Constitution"

An editorial in the centrist national English-language The News maintained (3/10): "The signing of the new interim constitution of Iraq takes the country a step forward in regaining its lost sovereignty and sending a message to the Americans to draw up a timetable to pull out.... But, there is also a danger that needless delay in an early American withdrawal and continued failure to provide the benefits that were promised, could threaten the exercise."

"Approval Of Interim Constitution By Iraqi Council"

Leading mass-circulation Urdu-language Jang held (3/10): "The manner in which American ambitions are coming to the fore after the occupation of Iraq, is giving credence to the impression that it wants to have a hold over other countries of the region by destabilizing them. The hint of doing away with the 'inherited governments' in the region and declaring certain friendly countries, as axis of evil is enough to prove this U.S. ambition."

WESTERN HEMISPHERE

CANADA: "Progress In Iraq"

The conservative National Post concluded (3/9): "Barely a year after the start of the war in Iraq, a remarkable amount of progress is being made in the newly liberated country. The latest evidence came yesterday when Iraq's political leaders signed an interim constitution.... The new constitution is not the only good news coming out of Iraq. Attacks on coalition forces are down two-thirds compared to their level before Saddam was captured. Oil production now exceeds pre-war levels. The power is coming back on, schools are open, Iraqis are largely policing themselves and the economy is looking up. All in all, Iraq is moving forward. The progress is slow and halting--and all-too-frequently punctuated by violence. But it is progress nonetheless."

"How To Help Nation-Building Overcome Terrorism"

The right-of-center Vancouver Sun editorialized (Internet version, 3/8): "Iraq teeters on a precipice following the multiple suicide bombings and mortal attacks on Shiite mosques last week. In killing nearly 150 people in the bloodiest attacks since the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime, terrorists eclipsed the bright promise of a newly drafted constitution. That, of course, was their intention.... Writing the basic laws by which Iraq is to be governed pending elections and a permanent constitution took months of hard negotiations. That the country's various factions...were able to overcome their many differences and find sufficient common cause is an immense achievement given the decades of oppression under Saddam Hussein.... If these basic laws survive the terror campaign, they will be a beacon for other countries in the Arab world. The operative word, of course, is 'if.' Terrorism casts a dark shadow over Iraq's political future. At the same time, the draft constitution demonstrates that most Iraqis don't want their differences to lead to chaos. Iraq's future is balanced on the pivot of history. The United States clearly has the major role to play in this history-making, but the rest of the world has its duty, too. The civilized world must put aside differences over the war to support the Iraqi people as they build their democracy. Europe, Canada and the United Nations should be doing all they can--with money and with security forces--to make sure that acts of nation-building in Iraq, rather than acts of terrorism, have the greater historical significance. Doing anything less merely gives aid and comfort to terrorists."

"Progress Amid Carnage In Iraq"

The conservative Halifax Herald opined (3/5): "The constitution...which will become law for a year or more, until an elected national assembly crafts a replacement--paints a picture of a far more progressive, liberal Iraq than ever existed under the tyranny of Saddam Hussein. The interim constitution's crafters have envisioned Iraq as a federalist state with two official languages, power divided between a prime minister and president, who can declare war only with the approval of Parliament, a bill of rights, including protection for freedom of speech, religion and assembly as well as due process, and a goal to have women make up 25 per cent of the new legislature. This achievement speaks to hopes of real progress, amid the terrible carnage, for the future of this pivotal Middle East country. For the many diverse Iraqi factions to have been able to forge an agreement, and accept compromise, however painful, has paved the way towards true independence. That's a goal Iraq's real enemies are desperate to defeat."

ARGENTINA: "Iraq: New Charter Signed Amid Missile Attacks"

Gustavo Sierra wrote in leading Clarin (3/9): "Iraq has a new Constitution, the most liberal and democratic one in its history. But this charter seems destined to a short life. All sectors expressed their doubts regarding some of the clauses that were obtained by consensus among the representatives of all ethnic groups and political parties occupying the 25 seats of the interim government. And the maximum Shiite leader immediately announced it will seek to change it, even before the handover of power by the U.S. occupation force to a new Iraqi government takes place in June 30. And all this took place while new missile attacks of the resistance wounded at least four Iraqi policemen. In any case, the fact that a Constitution was achieved for the building of a democratic country, for the first time in Iraq's history, is a historic issue for the entire Arab world (particularly the Kurds).... It's also a victory for governor Paul Bremer, who manages to get rid of a 'hot potato' and opens the door for Iraqis to begin administering themselves while the Marines (sic) take care of security."

"A Relieved Minority"

Paula Lugones, international columnist for leading Clarin, opined (3/9): "Perhaps, the Kurds were the ones that mostly benefited from the interim Constitution signed yesterday--a constitution which expressed the rights and veto power of that minority of 3.5 million people that suffered atrocities during Saddam's regime.... Today, they enjoy autonomy, multiple political parties, 120 civil societies, 30 radio and TV stations. And they had free municipal elections in 2000 and 2001. The Kurd militia, the peshmergas, fought side by side with U.S. troops in the past war. It's not strange then that Washington has given them the relevant position they enjoy today. To a certain extent, they view them as the model of Iraqi democracy they desire."

BRAZIL: "Important Step"

Center-left Jornal do Brasil noted (3/9): "The accord signed yesterday for Iraq's provisional constitution is very important. It represents a fundamental step to return sovereignty to the Iraqi people.... One hundred years of political chaos has attracted the terrorist cause to Iraq and has already cost a an enormous amount of lives.... The new constitution begins the endgame and creates a timetable to finish U.S. direct intervention in Iraq. It also grants the U.S. time to give back an Iraq infinitely more organized infrastructure that had been completely torn up by the former regime. On the other hand, problems have forced the Americans to recognize that they need to be more humble and multilateral in their international actions. The new constitution is the passport for the UN to help in the country's political transition. The institution's experience in political reconstruction in many parts of the world is essential, and it will be even more important in the case of Iraq. That's a difficult task. The country is divided by religious schisms, tribal and ethnic rivalries. But Iraq may still become the hope in the Middle East, with an emerging democracy in the Western mold, which may allow bringing models of modern, stable societies to the region."

"Law In Iraq"

Liberal Folha de S. Paulo editorialized (3/8): "The signing of the provisional constitution by the Iraqi Governing Council represents an important step forward. Iraq can never achieve institutional normality without this document, although it is not in itself a guarantee that the situation will stabilize.... Last-minute demands made by the Shiites indicate the complications that lie ahead.... The Shiites are aware of their demographic importance and will not relinquish a leading role in the process.... The comparison some make between Al Sistani and Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini is too quick. In addition to the fact that the geopolitical situation is substantially different from the one that led to the Iranian revolution, Al Sistani has already shown that he is pragmatic and does not seem to be a conservative religious figure."

"American Dream In Iraq"

Center-right O Estado de S. Paulo commented (3/7): "Last week's bloodshed in Baghdad, Karbala and Quetta showed that U.S. intervention in the Islamic world opened a Pandora's box of age-old religious conflicts.... Even so, some may say that democratization in Iraq is advancing. That allegation seems to be as false as that of Saddam's WMD.... It is very unlikely that the Shiites will not obtain a majority in the planned national assembly.... If by then the Americans have already departed, a civil war will take place and Iraq will be fragmented. If the Americans are still there, they will have to use force to impose order, as Saddam did."

MEXICO: "Double Occupation"

The business-oriented El Financiero editorialized (3/9): "At last, George W. Bush imposed an interim constitution using the government he installed after removing Saddam Hussein from power. This constitution should be able contribute to the democratization of that Arab nation, which will regain its sovereignty, at least technically. However, the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani--who is leader of the Shiite community that represents most of the population--rapidly rejected the text of the new constitution, calling it an 'obstacle' to a permanent constitution that guarantees the rights and coexistence of all the Iraqi people. This showed that Iraq is under a double occupation: one that is military, another that is ideological, which will make any attempt at political or social agreement impossible. In the end, this double occupation will only result in a long and passive war of civilizations."

CHILE: "The First Step for Democracy in Iraq"

Leading-circulation, popular Santiago daily La Tercera maintained (3/8): "The consensus reached by the Iraqi Government Council to have a provisional Constitution is a great step not just for Iraq but also for the Middle East, where fundamental rights are still not fully established.... For Washington this agreement is also a great step because, although it gives Islam the status of an official state religion, it does not establish Islam as the only source of law. But in spite of this success, the environment in Iraq has not improved.... Violence continues and one cannot rule out a civil war.... Experts say the fear of civil war in Iraq benefits the United States, because it would make the Iraqis passive to all measures the Bush administration takes to return the situation to normal. If this is true, the U.S. president must ensure the fear does not become reality, because it would be very hard to regain control if a confrontation of this magnitude were to occur.... There are fewer than eight months left until the U.S. presidential election. That is the amount of time Bush has to establish democracy in Iraq. This is what the Arab world and Americans expect of him. The Constitution is an important step, but it is just the beginning."

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