Iraqi interim constitution or Democracy works What's Next on Road to Iraq Self-Rule? Mar 1, 2:13 PM (ET) By ROBERT H. REID Q: Now that Iraq has an interim constitution, what's the next step before the Iraqis assume power? A: The Iraqis must decide next how to form a new transitional government to take power from the U.S.-led occupation authority on June 30. The U.S. roadmap accepted by the Iraqi Governing Council on Nov. 15 fell apart after the Shiite clergy objected to plans to select a legislature in regional caucuses rather than national elections. The United Nations agreed with Washington that elections by June 30 were impossible. U.N. help may be required to help the factious Governing Council come up with a new formula for a transitional government to run the country until national elections. Commentary: Not bad, not bad at all. On their own they have formed a gov't based on checks and balances with a clearly defined goal of forming a permenant represenative republic with a clearly defined transfer of power. And the pessismists said it couldn't be done, they weren't ready for democracy. Q. When will those elections be held? A. The interim constitution calls for elections for a National Assembly, or parliament, by Jan. 31, 2005. Members of the assembly will then choose a president, two deputy presidents and a prime minister. Once that process is completed, the transitional government will leave office. Commentary: Jan 31, 2005 is a far more realistic timeframe. For context, it took 7 years to get Japan to this point after WWII. So now where is the whining about how long it's taking? Q. Shouldn't the transitional government be enshrined in the interim constitution? A. Yes. However, since there are still differences over how to establish that government, Iraqi officials decided to finish the main body of the interim constitution first and spell out the details of the new government in an annex to be completed later. Commentary: In simple terms, they put the horse before the cart. You can't have a stable gov't without first having a set of rules for it to follow. Now that they have a set of rules, they can work on tweaking them before setting them in stone. Makes perfect sense to me. Q. How long will the interim constitution remain in effect? A. The interim charter, known officially as the Transitional Administrative Law, is supposed to expire once a permanent constitution has been drafted and approved by the end of 2005. However, Iraqi officials hope many of the principles laid down in the interim constitution, such as the role of Islam, the status of women and a federal system of government, will be carried over in the permanent document. Commentary: Supposed to, not guaranteed it will. They have given themselves the option of taking more time if necessary. There will be intense international scrutiny to make sure they meet their deadline. So it's likely a moot point. Q. Who will draft the permanent constitution? A. Under the Nov. 15 transfer plan, voters were to select delegates by March 15, 2005 to draft the permanent constitution, which would be ratified in a national referendum. That plan is now in doubt because of Shiite objections. Entifadh Qanbar, spokesman for Governing Council member Ahmad Chalabi, said the elected members of the future National Assembly will draft the permanent constitution. Commentary: I'm curious how they are going to have chekcs-and-balances in place to prevent any one group from holding too much power. This was the concern over the national referendum. Q. What will be the American role after Iraqis take power? A. Once Iraqis assume sovereignty June 30, the U.S.-run Coalition Provisional Authority will cease operations. An American Embassy, expected to be the largest U.S. diplomatic mission in the world, will be reconstituted to help Iraqis continue with reconstruction and with the building of a democratic system. Commentary: Not seizing the oil. Not imperialism. Not any of the other wild conspiracies. The goal is to make an oasis of democracy in the region. With the larger objective of democracy spreading and the elimination of terrorism. Q. Will American troops remain after June 30? A. Yes, but their numbers will be pared down from 130,000 to about 110,000. The elected National Assembly will negotiate a new status of forces agreement defining the American security role and the rules under which U.S. and other allied forces operate. Commentary: Our war on terror isn't over in the middle east. We will have a need for forward-deployed troops for a forseeable 20 more years to come. Having a nation friendly to the US that we can train with will serve several purposes. One to make us more capable and the second to have a strong friend to guard our backs. So what does all this mean? We have destroyed an evil madman. We are helping the Iraqi's help themselves by empowering them. And we are showing that democracy can and does work everywhere despite the pessimism and defeatism of the left. It goes to show that Pres. Bush is on the right side of history and will go down as one of the greatest bringers of peace the modern world has ever known. Unfortunately this peace will not become apparent for years to come. Not until terrorism has been defeated and they choose to find a better way.