Iraq Interim Constitution Hits Roadblock

This is a partial transcript of "Special Report with Brit Hume", March 5, that has been edited for clarity.

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BRIAN WILSON, GUEST HOST: As William la Jeunesse reported a few moments ago, the Iraqi Governing Council (search) failed to come together and sign the new constitution today. Once again differences between Sunni and Shiia Muslims temporarily blocked the path to democracy. So what's going to happen?

For answers we turn to former ambassador of Morocco, Marc Ginsburg, a smart man about things in that part of the world.

Well, you've had a chance to read the wires; you've had a chance to perhaps look between the lines. Based on what you know about that region and based on what we are able to kind of glean from the wire reports, what do you think is going on there?

MARC GINSBERG, FOX NEWS FOREIGN AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, we had the groom but the bride decided not to show up, Brian. And this was an embarrassment. It was clearly an embarrassment for Ambassador Bremer and for the United States, because there had been an accord that had been reached. But apparently, Grand Ayatollah al Sistani ordered the five members of the Constitutional Writing Council to step back at the last possible second over two specific issues.

The first is over whether or not a provision in the constitution that would permit the Kurds to veto a constitution, in the event they didn't agree to it because it limited their autonomy was inserted into the constitution, and Grand Ayatollah Sistani didn't like it. And No. 2, whether or not there would be three members from the Shiite community who would be part of a five-member rotating presidency.

WILSON: You say this is an embarrassment. But I mean, as our reporter very correctly pointed out, democracy is not an easy process to people who have not been involved in that kind of process for some time. I mean they've been under the thumb of a dictator for years and years and years. And getting a, you know, consensus in a democracy is not easy.

GINSBERG: No doubt. And I agree with that. And the fact that they even had reached the agreement to even be ready to go to that table is a major achievement. But it shows us, once again, how much Grand Ayatollah al Sistani controls the events and not the United States, in so far as what will happen in Iraq. And that is a great concern to us.

The continued violence raises serious questions, ultimately over how we are going to ultimately transition, not from just before Ambassador Bremer's departure, but through this transitional process to elections where the constitution is indeed implemented by the Iraqi people.

WILSON: Well, based on your knowledge of the situation, is it fixable?

GINSBERG: Yes, I think it's fixable. Look, I think the Kurds were grabbing at something that -- in my own considered opinion as a constitutional lawyer, I think that Grand Ayatollah Sistani had a legitimate point. What's the point of going through a process of having this constitution approved, if the Kurds ultimately have the right, as a minority, to veto what the majority had just voted? Legitimate issue.

Now, whether or not the presidency rotates among three members or five members, of which the Shiite are a majority is another interesting question. But I think those issues are fixable, frankly. I think they can be compromised because they had compromised on a bill of rights, on other issues of governing, the creation of this government. It is an achievement in and of itself they were ready to go to the table today.

WILSON: All right. Now, the time line is, of course, important not only in that country but in this country for political reasons. Can this happen quickly?

GINSBERG: Well, Brian that, raises a very important question. Why is it so important that June 30 be the sacrosanct day by which Ambassador Bremer departs? If the whole process by which a transitional government, which, by the way, most Iraqis do not consider to be a legitimate organization and will respect; why must that date be dictated in Washington if we are not quite there and violence still is continuing to rack the country?

Let's be a little bit more willing to adjust that date, in order to ensure that the process by which we are prepared to turn over government, to indeed, a Governing Council with a constitution that most Iraqis can accept, indeed is a date that we can live by. We may be penny wise and pound-foolish if we are not careful.

WILSON: Let's turn the corner into another part of the world that you have a great deal of expertise. And that is the Middle East, which is seeing some problems. Sharon, I mean his approval ratings are in the toilet, absolutely in the toilet.

GINSBERG: Oh, yes.

WILSON: And there is now a delay about pulling out of the West Bank. What do you read into that?

GINSBERG: Well, I read into that he had sent his national security adviser...

WILSON: Excuse me one second. Gaza, not the West Bank.

GINSBERG: Yes. He had a plan to withdraw from the settlements in Gaza, but then to move most of those Gaza settlers to the West Bank. That was raising major red flags in the White House, which still wants to see the implementation of the so-called Roadmap.

They were afraid if this continued to happen, and Israel engaged in what was essentially unilateral actions, and increased the number of settlers, even if it was just 7,000 on the West Bank, that would cause further problems to the Palestinians.

And so the White House said, time-out, Mr. Sharon. We may like the idea that you're withdrawing from Gaza. We do not like the idea before a presidential election to just create further havoc in the territory that may cause us problem going into the election year.

WILSON: There was some question whether or not or administration had any role in this.

GINSBERG: Well, look. I wasn't there and I'm not privy to this. But all of the reports suggest also that Mr. Sharon, as you rightfully said, is having significant political problems. And the right wing in Israel, which is part of his coalition, is dead set against this Gaza withdrawal.

WILSON: You know, in so much -- I think about a year ago when we thought the war was ending; we thought there might be real promise there. And it just doesn't seem to have materialized.

GINSBERG: Well, part of the problem here is we ultimately thought by getting rid of Saddam, there would be a ripple...

WILSON: A domino effect.

GINSBERG: A domino effect and the situation would ultimately resolve itself more satisfactorily in the Middle East. Look, until we deal with the Palestinian problem in and of itself and deal with it in and of itself, we won't not be able to stabilize Iraq and the rest of the Middle East.

We are going to have to invest the time and effort necessary to accomplish that objective. Prime Minister Sharon should withdraw from Gaza, but it should not be at the expense of creating further promise for us, and creating further violence among the Palestinians.

WILSON: All right. Ambassador Marc Ginsburg, thank you so much for joining us. We appreciate it. Good to have you here.

GINSBERG: Good to be here.

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