The Chicago Tribune is running a profile on the Iraqi-American lawyer
who has emerged as a key figure in brokering compromises over the proposed Iraqi Constitution - including the clause that denotes the Islamic character of Iraq but stops short of making the Sharia the Constitutional basis for positive legislation.
The Bush administration squandered any opportunity for a " MacArthur Moment " by failing to push through democratic reforms in the immediate aftermath of defeat when the shock and potential goodwill of Iraqis were at their peak. The disorganization, confusion and isolation of the CPA frittered away valuable time and political legitimacy to the point where the entire process now hangs by a thread of Sistani's apparent willingness to make reasonable concessions to the fears of Kurds,Sunnis and smaller minorities. Moreover, Sistani's authority is informal and he could easily die or be eclipsed by more radical voices ( though the interests of the Shiite community, which form Sistani's calculus would not change).
Iraq is a majority Islamic society and a democratic system will reflect that so conceding that point costs nothing. Bremer however must stand firm on saying " no" the Sharia and " yes " for the political equality of women - to cave here is to give away the game to the Islamists and hand them an advantage they probably could not win at the ballot box.