What Lies Ahead for Iraq?

NPR's senior news analyst Daniel Schorr wonders if the new Iraqi constitution will create an ayatollah-ruled Islamic state.

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DANIEL SCHORR:

In Islamic Iran, the veil for women is prescribed. In secular Turkey, it is proscribed. And the framers of the Iraqi Constitution have been trying to navigate between the two.

LIANE HANSEN, host:

NPR senior news analyst Daniel Schorr.

SCHORR: Humam Hammoudi, chairman of the Constitutional Convention, himself a Shiite Arab, says, `There is no article to impose the veil, and also there is none to prevent it.' This is a kind of constitutional double-talk that only disguises the deeper conflict over whether majority rule will, under whatever disguise, end up as religious rule in Iraq.

Iraq's interim charter contains compromise language describing Islam as `one main source of Iraqi law.' In the current draft for the new constitution, Islam is described as `the only source of law.' There are provisions allowing individuals to decide matters like divorce and inheritance by religious law, if they so choose. One can imagine the pressures on those who choose civil law. For the devout, the application of religious law is not an option; it is part of their religion. And trying to establish civil law could well lead to civil war.

A theoretical solution would be a federal system, allowing different rules in the Kurdish north and the Shiite south. But that would reinforce the tendency among the Shiites to be drawn to the magnet of Iran, which has already tried to exert influence in the area. The Sunni Muslims appear to be ready to resist what would, in effect, be a partition of Iraq. And so Iraq is threatened with a constitutional crisis even before it has a constitution. And if the outcome is some form of religious rule, then one would have to ask whether America invested so much of its blood and treasure only to replace a radical, secular Saddam Hussein with another ayatollah-ruled Islamic state. This is Daniel Schorr.

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