Past Event

Countdown to Constitution

Iraqis Debate their Country's Constitution

12:00 AM - 11:59 PM EST

Countdown to a Constitution
Iraqis Debate their Country’s Future

March 22 , 2005
Six weeks after the Iraqi election, the hard work of creating a new democracy has begun. The Center for American Progress has invited Iraqi experts knowledgeable in how the Shia, Sunni and Kurdish populations are approaching the drafting of a new Iraqi constitution. Iraqis will soon need to confront and resolve their competing visions in order to meet the August 15, 2005, constitution deadline. The panelists will address the potential points of contention in the drafting of the Iraqi constitution, the extent to which Sharia law will form the basis of Iraqi law, the amount of autonomy ethnic groups may be granted under the Iraqi constitution, and more.

Video & Transcript
• The Iraqi Constitution: The Most Critical Issues: Video
• Ethnic & Regional Tensions: Video
• Relationship Between Mosque and State: Video
• Q&A Session: Video
• Transcript: Full text (PDF)

Note: All video provided in QuickTime (MPEG-4)  format.

Laith Kubba is the Senior Program Officer for the Middle East and North Africa for the National Endowment for Democracy. As an Iraqi-American, Mr. Kubba is well placed to offer fresh insights into the challenges of forming a democracy in Iraq. From 1993 until 1998, he was the Director of International Relations at the Al Khoei Foundation in London. Among his published work is Common Ground on Iraq-Kuwait Reconciliation. He has an undergraduate degree from the University of Baghdad and a Ph.D. from the University of Wales in the United Kingdom.
Rend Al-Rahim was Iraq’s former representative to the United States and Iraqi Chief of Mission from November 2003 to December 2004. She is a native of Iraq and an expert on its internal politics. Rend Al-Rahim is a co-founder of the Iraq Foundation and was its Executive Director from 1991. She is the co-author of The Arab Shi’a: Forgotten Muslims, published in 2000 by St. Martin’s Press.
Nijyar Shemdin is one of the best-placed people to speak on behalf of Iraq’s Kurdish population, which makes up 20 percent of the Iraqi population, Mr. Shemdin is the U.S. representative to the Kurdistan Regional Government. Born in Iraqi Kurdistan, Mr. Shemdin has worked in both business and politics for the past 40 years in Iraq, Lebanon, Canada and the United States. Mr. Shemdin has been active in the Oil for Food program and participated in the Department of State’s Future of Iraq workshops. He graduated from Al-Hickma University in Baghdad and received his MBA from the American University of Beirut.
Gayle Smith is a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress. She has spent most of her career in the field, based in Africa for almost 20 years as a journalist and advisor to non-governmental organizations. Her areas of expertise include economic development, crisis prevention, and post-conflict reconstruction. From 1998-2000, she served as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for African Affairs at the National Security Council. Prior to that, she served for five years as Senior Adviser to the Administrator and Chief of Staff of the U.S. Agency for International Development. Ms. Smith negotiated a ceasefire between Uganda and Rwanda in 1999 and won the National Security Council’s Samuel Nelson Drew Award for Distinguished Contribution in Pursuit of Global Peace for her role in the successful negotiation of a peace agreement between Eritrea and Ethiopia.