This is a partial transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume," August 23, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

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DONALD RUMSFELD, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: We know that for confidence in the part of the Kurds (search), the Sunnis (search), and the Shia (search), they’re going to have to see a piece of paper that they can look at and have reasonable confidence that it’ll protect them from the others. That is a big deal. That is tough stuff. That is hard work. That is a leap of faith.


BRIT HUME, HOST: So is the drafting of the Iraqi constitution now complete good news or bad news? Is this another milestone on the way to an emerging democratic government, or the emergence of a stumbling block that could further alienate the Sunnis and even lead to civil war?

For answers, we turn to a man who spent a lot of time in Iraq and keeps in close with the situation there, the former coalition spokesman and FOX News contributor Dan Senor.

Dan, welcome.


HUME: So, good news or bad?

SENOR: Oh, I think it’s basically, on balance, good news. The Iraqis have produced a document that’s the most liberal document in the Middle East.

HUME: Really? You’re not hearing that — I hear some people grumbling that this is too much Islamic law.

SENOR: Right, well there is — it says in there that Sharia (search) law.

HUME: That’s Islamic law.

SENOR: Islamic law, exactly, will be a source of legislation in Iraq, not the source. The Shiite Islamists, the more strident group, was pushing for it to be the source, the only source. It says now it will be a principal source, which means there can be other sources.

HUME: Doesn’t it also say that nothing should be contrary to that law?

SENOR: But it also says nothing should be contrary to democratic rights and the individual rights and freedoms of individual Iraqis.

HUME: So it means conflict with Islamic standards, but it can’t contradict democratic standards or essential human rights, right?

SENOR: It looks like we’re setting it up for failure. I mean, these are, some would argue, conflicting standards, conflicting principles in the constitution. And I think that’s exactly what people are looking for, some ambiguity, so this can be sorted out in the courts, it can be sorted out in the national assembly, in their equivalent of the parliament.

But that gray area you have there is far more liberal than any document, any constitution, in the region. All of the other constitutions, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iran, they are referring to Allah, to God, or to Islamic law as the only source of legislation. In fact, one thing the Iraqi constitution says is, "Legitimate authority only comes from the people," which is also quite unique.

HUME: So now the Sunnis look at this, and what worries them is what?

SENOR: Lack of centralized power and control. Under the last 30 years of Saddam Hussein (search), all power was in Baghdad. All power was in the national government.

If you look in the region, all of the Sunni-dominated countries in the region, all highly centralized.

HUME: All right.

SENOR: Now this constitution decentralizes power, gives a lot of power to the provinces, gives provinces the option to form their own autonomous regions. This makes the Sunnis very nervous.

HUME: Because?

SENOR: Because one is an issue of money. The oil resources of Iraq are basically concentrated in two areas, in Kirkuk, which is in northern Iraq, and in Basra, which is in southern Iraq.

HUME: Neither of which are heavy Sunni areas.

SENOR: Right. One is Shiite, one is Kurd. And the Sunnis tend to be concentrated in the central part of the country. The constitution says the existing oil resources will be used to fund the national government, but once those oil resources run out, any new resources will be used to finance the central — the regional government. That makes the Sunnis nervous. They’re in the center.

HUME: So is likely now, Dan, in your judgment, that the Sunnis will look at all this, if it is pushes through the assembly — first of all, are they likely, that those that are around, sign on? And if not, is it likely that they would then mount a successful campaign to have it defeated in enough provinces where they have votes to nullify the constitution?

SENOR: I think there will be a break among the Sunnis. I think some will ultimately support it. There are many different Sunnis. I think those who oppose it, we have to be responsive to. We have to reach out to them. The Iraqis have to reach out to them.

But there’s got to be a limit. We can’t let them paralyze the process. The Iraqis can’t let them completely freeze this thing. And if the Sunnis try to boycott this in the referendum — in the referendum that’s coming in, in October — that will be used to ratify the constitution, if the Sunnis can organize a two-thirds majority in three provinces against the constitution, against the referendum, it goes down.

HUME: And the word is that they’re signing up voters.

SENOR: They’re registering left and right. But I still don’t think they’ll get it together. Just based on my most recent trip there, based on the Sunnis I’ve spoken to, I think they have the numbers to do it, but they’re not sufficiently well organized to do it.

HUME: Nor are they, from what you say, united.

SENOR: And they’re not united. That’s right. It’s completely fragmented.

HUME: All right. So, let’s assume that we have this constitution. In effect, a conflict arises as to whether it’s Sharia law, human rights principles and so forth. This presumable is decided by judges.

SENOR: That’s right. So now there’s a big — there will be a big rush after this process for each of the respective parties.

HUME: And judges are chosen how?

SENOR: They’re chosen by the national government.

HUME: By the national government, which is to say the parliament.

SENOR: Yes, the government that’s formed by the parliament.

HUME: And are these lifetime appointments? How does that work?

SENOR: No. Depending on the court, it ranges from 15 years — and some of them are lifetime appointments. And there’s going to be a big race right now to define that.

What’s interesting is women under this constitution will continue to be able to play a major role in parliament. Under the interim constitution, which governs Iraq now, there’s a 25-percent goal. Twenty-five percent of the national parliament is female. That continues in the permanent constitution.

So women who are worried about what happens on the courts will be able to get involved, continue to be involved with this political process in choosing the government, and have influence to pressure the government not to put people on the courts who would paralyze, you know, this progress.

HUME: Is there any reason to believe that this ongoing process, assuming it goes forward as hoped, will have any effect on the insurgency?

SENOR: I do not think so, in the short term, Brit. What has been striking to me is how the insurgency is basically disconnected from the political process. The insurgency has managed to co-exist. In the long run, it will have a difference.

But in the next five, 10, 15 months, I think the political process will be vibrant and the insurgency will continue to be resilient.

HUME: And then it would be up to the U.S. and Iraqi forces to suppress it, which they have so far been unable to do.

SENOR: That’s right. I think that, at the end of the day, this is a battle, a military-on-military battle. And the Iraqi security forces and the American security forces working together have to focus on the insurgency and not hope that momentum from the constitution is going to deliver defeat to the insurgency.

I think momentum on the constitution will affect Iraqi’s attitudes about daily life and they’ll bring more Iraqis into the political process. And I think that’s very important for affecting the sort of psychology of it, but I don’t think it will affect the insurgency.

HUME: All right, Dan Senor, glad to have you. Thank you.

SENOR: Good to be with you.

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