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Iraq: From Politics to War, Iraqis Stand On Shifting Sands

By Don Hill

Iraq's top leaders are set now to meet on 7 August to work out snags over a draft constitution. Major differences remain among the factions, including the extent to which Islamic law should be the basis of Iraq's legal code. The obstacles come as Baghdad continues to wrestle with insurgent violence. Yesterday, Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Ja'fari set out a 12-point security strategy that he said provides for better intelligence, improved border security, and an economic plan to defeat the insurgency.

Prague, 5 August 2005 (RFE/RL) -- Iraq is continuing to struggle to forge a new post-Saddam Hussein order out of the conflicting interests of its multiple religious and ethnic communities. It continues that work with the added handicap of having to face stepped-up fire from the armed insurgency.

The result is that leaders are caught in a constitutional crisis before they even have a constitution.

The country’s top leaders had planned to meet today to seek resolution of a number of issues that remain unresolved. That meeting now has been reset for 7 August to allow for fuller participation of Kurdish and other delegates.

One of the main issues is the extent to which Islamic law, or Shari'a, should be the basis of Iraq’s legal code.

Is Islam, for example, to be the only source of the law, as many Shi’a religious parties demand, or merely the main source of law, as a compromise proposal has it?

Other issues include whether -- or the extent to which -- Iraq should be a federal or centralized state, what the official languages will be, what rights women should enjoy, and even what the name of the country should be.

Prime Minister al-Ja'fari met today in Al-Najaf with Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq's preeminent Shi'ite Muslim cleric, reportedly to discuss constitutional matters. There were no immediate reports of new initiatives from that meeting.

Meanwhile, al-Ja'fari sought to reassure Iraqis that his government can effectively deal with stepped-up violence from insurgents.

Al-Ja'fari said yesterday that Iraq is embroiled in “the worst kind of war” and set out what he called a 12-point plan to strengthen security.

"The security of [each] citizen is a measure of success for every country and every government system of the world," al-Ja'fari said. "When security is shaken and cracks appear in the security infrastructure, any country of the world would consolidate its forces and, in many cases, also form new security-protection units. That is especially [necessary] when terrorists target Iraqi children."

He said the plan provides for better intelligence, improved border security, and an economic plan to defeat the insurgency.

The new security plan comes as insurgent violence increasingly rocks the country and U.S. officials increasingly blame Iraq’s neighbors for inflaming the situation.

In a speech yesterday to the Los Angeles World Affairs Council, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld issued a warning to Syria.

"The United States and the world, obviously, [have] to create a better clarity in the minds of the leaders of Syria that what they're doing [regarding Iraq] is harmful ultimately to themselves," Rumsfeld said. "They're going to have to live in that neighborhood. And Iraq doesn't like what Syria is doing. And Iraq is going to be in that neighborhood for a very long time. And it's a bigger country, a richer country, and it will be a more powerful country."

Also yesterday, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton, in his maiden address to the UN Security Council, supported a resolution to condemn recent terror attacks in Iraq and call on other countries to halt the flow of terrorists and weapons into Iraq.

Copyright (c) 2005. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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