March 10, 2004
IRAQ'S INTERIM CONSTITUTION: AN 'IMPORTANT FIRST STEP'
** The interim constitution
is a "step forward" for Iraq but just "a beginning."
Shia dissension is only one of many challenges that remain to be overcome.
** Critics call the
constitutional exercise "flawed" and a recipe for more
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
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
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.
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
FRANCE: "A War Against
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
"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
GERMANY: "Chance In
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."
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
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
"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
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
"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
"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
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
"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.”
"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
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
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."
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.”
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.”
ISRAEL: "The Birth Of
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."
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."
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
"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."
"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
"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’
"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 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
"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."
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
NEW ZEALAND: "Iraqis
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."
"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.”
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
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."
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
"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."
CANADA: "Progress In
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
"How To Help Nation-Building Overcome
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."
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
"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."
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.”