Author: David L. Phillips, Executive Director, The Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity
Council on Foreign Relations Press
Council Special Report No. 6
Iraq's election on January 30 was an important step in the country's political transition.
Still it is essential to keep a sense of perspective. In a democracy, power is distributed among an executive, a legislature, and an independent judiciary at the federal level; between the center and the local or provincial level; and between the state and the individual citizen, who must enjoy basic rights. All this comes from laws and institutions, not elections. Drafting and gaining the necessary support for a new Iraqi constitution from Iraq's minorities and not just its Shi'a majority will prove far more difficult and, if achieved, far more significant than anything accomplished to date.
This report by David Phillips examines the core concerns of Iraq's constituencies. It also provides recommendations on power-sharing arrangements, governance structures, individual and group rights, and a role for the United States and the United Nations in the constitution-making process. Iraqis face difficult decisions. I hope this report contributes to a process of achieving compromise and consent.
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David L. Phillips is a senior fellow and deputy director of the Center for Preventive Action at the Council on Foreign Relations. In addition to his current position at the Council, Phillips is a visiting scholar at Harvard University 's Center for Middle East Studies, and a scholar in residence and director of the Program on Conflict Prevention and Peacebuilding at American University 's Center for Global Peace. He has worked extensively on Iraq issues since 1988, when he served as president of the Congressional Human Rights Foundation. From 1999–2003, Phillips was a senior adviser to the U.S. Department of State Bureau for European and Canadian Affairs and a foreign affairs expert at the Bureau for Near Eastern Affairs. He was the architect and facilitator of the Democratic Principles Working Group, which was part of the interagency Future of Iraq Project. During the Iraq War, Phillips was an analyst for NBC News. He has published extensively on Iraq and its environs in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times, the International Herald Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, and Foreign Affairs.He is the author of Losing Iraq: Inside the Postwar Reconstruction Fiasco (Westview Press/Perseus Books Group, 2005).