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[casi] New Iraq ' well on way to becoming Islamic state'

New Iraq ' well on way to becoming Islamic state'

By David Rennie in Washington

29 October 2003: (The Daily Telegraph) THE United States is failing in its
mission to create a secular, overtly pro-Western Iraq, a leading adviser to
the American administrator Paul Bremer said yesterday.

Instead, the new, democratic Iraq appears bound to be an Islamic state -
with an official role for Islam, and Islamic law enshrined in its

That prospect is triggering alarm and opposition from the White House and
the Pentagon, Noah Feldman, a leading American expert in Islamic law, told
The Daily Telegraph.

Dr Feldman served as senior constitutional adviser to the Coalition
Provisional Authority, working closely with Mr Bremer. Returning from
Baghdad this summer, the New York University law professor now works as an
unpaid adviser to the CPA, to the White House, and to different factions in
the Iraqi Governing Council.

"The end constitutional product is very likely to make many people in the US
government unhappy. It's not going to look the way people imagined it
looking," said Dr Feldman.

"Any democratically elected Iraqi government is unlikely to be secular, and
unlikely to be pro-Israel. And frankly, moderately unlikely to be

While these predictions are spreading alarm inside the administration, Dr
Feldman advocates dealing with Islamic democrats.

He argues that Islamic parties will rise anyway, and are most dangerous when
forced underground by secular autocrats. Such views led Pentagon officials
to accuse Dr Feldman of being "soft on Islam".

"When I tell them these things [Islam and Islamic law] are going to be in
the constitution, people are very concerned about it. They want to know what
can be done to avoid these things. There's still a hope that the country
will be as secular as possible.

"But frankly nothing in Iraq is going to look the way people imagined. Maybe
if people had taken that on board, they might have felt differently about
the plan for an invasion."

The hawkish idealists who pushed hardest for regime change in Iraq saw the
fall of Baghdad as the first step towards remaking the Middle East.

In their vision, Iraq would rise up as a democratic, secular, free market
capitalist beacon to its neighbours - guided, at least initially, by such
exiled leaders as Ahmad Chalabi, a secularist and Pentagon favourite.

In their plan, the country was to be turned into a federation of 18 or so
provinces, preventing such powerful ethnic factions as the Kurds from
setting up autonomous fiefdoms that might split the country apart and
threaten the stability of an already volatile neighbourhood.

Yet the Kurds have made it plain that they expect to emerge with an
autonomous Kurdish region, and will not support any constitution that would
split their territory into mini-provinces, Dr Feldman reported. Though US
allies, the Kurds retain 40,000 men under arms, and have declined US
invitations to disband such militias.

Pentagon officials sent Dr Feldman to Baghdad for his knowledge of Islamic
law. In many ways he was an unlikely candidate: he is a Democrat, Jewish and
still only 32.

One senior administration official declared before the war that the first
foreign policy of a democratic Iraq would be to recognise Israel.

"I don't know what he was smoking when he said that," said Dr Feldman. He
argued that Iraqi-Israeli relations were off the radar, as Washington
struggled simply to keep Iraq from slipping into disaster.

Copyright: Daily Telegraph. UK

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