UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!

Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

14 August 2005

U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Optimistic About Draft Constitution

Khalilzad says role of Islam, federalism most important remaining issues

By Bernie Chabel
Washington File Special Correspondent

Washington -- Stating that "failure is not an option for the Iraqis or for us," U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad says Iraqi leaders are optimistic about meeting the August 15 deadline for completing a draft constitution for their country.

In interviews on four news programs August 14, Khalilzad said the drafting committee for Iraq's Constitution has resolved most of the key issues.  However, he said, there are two major unresolved issues:  federalism, or the role of the central government versus that of regional or state government entities, and the role of Islam.

"I think the differences on federalism have narrowed considerably," the ambassador said on ABC's This Week.

The role Islam will play beyond its recognition as the official state religion is the most important of the outstanding issues, according to Khalilzad.  A key unresolved point in this debate, he said, is whether Islam will be recognized as "the" source or "a" source of the underpinnings of the Iraqi Constitution.  Speaking on CNN’s Late Edition, Khalilzad said the Iraqi Constitution should recognize the principles of democracy and the principles of human rights as sources, as well as Islam.

The United States "does not want to see a hierarchy of sources," he said.

Speaking on NBC’s Meet the Press, Khalilzad said he expects the Iraqi Constitution to grant equal rights to men and women.

"Any country that wants to be successful and discriminates against more than half of its population will not succeed," he said.  Khalilzad added that "to tie the hands of half its population behind their backs or to move forward without the full energies of all Iraqis, that would be a terrible mistake."

Khalilzad also said the process of drafting the constitution provides an opportunity to decide on a national compact "in which all communities, including Sunnis, will participate, and thus isolate the insurgency, which is strong in the Sunni Arab area. The insurgents are trying to derail this process, but they will fail."

Based on discussions with Sunni leaders, the ambassador said, most Sunnis are likely to support the draft constitution now under consideration. "They are prepared, for the most part, to participate in the political process. They think it was a mistake for them to have boycotted the elections that took place last year," he said.

Khalilzad warned that neighboring states in the region -- particularly Iran and Syria -- should not view Iraq’s difficulties as an opportunity to advance their own agendas, but should cooperate with the new government.

"The states of the area have to understand that Iraq will succeed," he said on Fox News Sunday.  "They can delay that success, make it harder, but we are committed, the Iraqis are committed to success. It behooves them to be helpful to this new Iraq because when Iraq succeeds, it will remember who helped and who opposed their success."

Khalilzad said his role in the drafting of Iraq's Constitution has been one of providing options, when asked, for bridging differences among the parties.

"Clearly, the choices are theirs, the decisions are theirs, but my role is to help," he said.  "I’m happy if they don’t need me, but failure is not an option, and if they need my help, I’ve told them I’m available at any time, and I have provided them some help when they needed it."

If a draft constitution emerges by the August 15 deadline, it will be submitted to the Iraqi electorate for ratification on October 15.  If ratified, elections for a permanent government would be scheduled for December 15. If the draft constitution is not ratified, December 15 would be the date for elections for a new National Assembly.

If the August 15 deadline for the draft is not met there are two options. The assembly, by three-fourths vote, could extend the deadline, or, if this does not happen, the current government would be dissolved and new elections for the National Assembly would be held.

Transcripts of Khalilzad’s August 14 remarks are available on the Web site of the U.S. Embassy in Iraq:

• CNN’s Late Edition,

Fox News Sunday,

• ABC’s This Week, and

• NBC’s Meet the Press.

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list