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Analysis: Iraq´s next challenge (JERUSALEM POST) By ORLY HALPERN 01/31/05)Source: http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=JPost/JPArticle/ShowFull&cid=1107055730100 JERUSALEM POST JERUSALEM POST Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
It will take maybe 10 days to count the millions of ballots Iraqis cast, but already one thing is clear: The fight to form the new Iraq has just begun.

No matter who gets a majority of seats, the big problem will be to draw up a constitution upon which a majority of the National Assembly can agree.

Shi´ites, Sunnis, Kurds, Arabs, Christians, Turkmen and Assyrians all want to create a country that will suit them. The major questions to be answered remain: Will Iraq be a secular country or an Islamic one, and will it be divided into states or into regions, which would give the Kurds the autonomy they want?

Iraqi politicians celebrated Sunday evening an important step on the way to achieving a free and democratic country.

"This is a day of joy for the Iraqi people," Adnan Pachachi, the head of the Independent Democratic Movement list and a former foreign minister, told The Jerusalem Post.

But Pachachi is worried about the fight that lies ahead. As the main figure behind the US-backed temporary administrative law – a prototype constitution – he said he hoped there would be few changes made to it and that it would be signed by the August 15 deadline.

The place of religion in the state, he said, was the main dilemma for the future.

"Basically, the split is between those who want to establish a secular democracy and those who want to establish a theocracy," he said. "This is the real split, not Sunni-Shi´ite."

Adnan Ali, a member of the Shi´ite Dawa Party and chief of staff of the Vice President Ibrahim Jaafari, disagreed. He told The Jerusalem Post his party saw no problem in making Islam the official religion of the state.

"There is no harm to write in the constitution that the religion of Iraqis is Islam because it is for the majority of Iraqis," said Ali, whose list is probably going to win the majority of seats. But he said the religious Shi´ites promised not to make Islamic law the state law.

Charles Tripp, a political scientist at the University of London and author of History of Iraq, saw the religious issue as a major stumbling block to the signing of the constitution by the deadline.

"The secularists and Kurdish parties are not interested in a heavy emphasis of Islam in the constitution and it´s very unlikely that they will sign on one by August," he said.

The Kurdish issue will also be a thorn in everyone´s side. Kurds are pressing for a rigorously federal Iraq that would preserve the autonomy they have had since 1991. But that would divide Iraq along ethnic lines and not based on its 18 provinces.

"The question is if the Kurds are not going to get enough out of the process, they can effectively veto the constitution," Tripp said.

All this parliamentary bickering may cost the members of the National Assembly their seats.

"One of the great problems is that if the main work of the parliamentarians is hammering out the constitution, and it ignores the things that matter to Iraqis – security and unemployment – the parliament will lose authority, which could give more support for the insurgency or more support for the people who say we don´t need parliament at this stage," he said.

David Kay, who spent 14 years researching Iraq and led the US´s Iraqi Survey Group, agreed. "If the government doesn´t deal with the people´s problems, however well-trained the military is, it won´t fight for the government," he said.

Kay was also a consultant on US foreign policy toward Vietnam during the war there.

"We trained the military of South Vietnam to a very high level, but they ultimately refused to fight because they saw the government in Saigon as illegitimate and only concerned with the enrichment of the politicians," he said. (© 1995-2005, The Jerusalem Post 01/31/05)

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