Ian Lustick is professor of political science and associate director of the Solomon Asch Center for Study of Ethnopolitical Conflict at the University of Pennsylvania. A frequent media commentator, Dr. Lustick is an expert in Middle Eastern politics, U.S. policy in the Middle East and the war on terrorism. He offers this opinion on the signing of Iraq's landmark interim constitution:
"This constitutional document is a necessary first step but no more than that. It is in every sense more a public relations event than a political transformation. The wording of the document in regard to citizenship rights, due process, democracy, etc., is more or less exactly what one finds in other Middle Eastern semi-authoritarian state constitutions, such as Egypt or Tunisia. The proof is in the actual government set up, not in its official description. But even on the official description level there are serious warning signals here. The big breakthrough, if there is one, is that Kurdish autonomy really is recognized and the Kurds are given an effective veto on the actual constitution, which will have to be approved by referendum. But we may never get to the point where the Shi'a and the Sunni Arabs actually swallow that pill.
"Finally, it is difficult to gauge how Iraqis feel about this interim constitution, not only because it was drawn up by an American appointed council and because the most important cleric in the country has condemned it as illegitimate but useful to get rid of American rule, but mainly because it has not yet been published and widely disseminated in Iraq, so the people don't yet actually know what it says.
"Emphasizing legalities, instead of hard political realities is an error we can easily make, an error comparable to the error made by our government when it emphasized the military aspect of breaking the Saddam regime as the decisive accomplishment, while ignoring the strategic issue: the instability, violence and political vacuum that would result from a 'tactically brilliant' operation."