Arab newspapers split over Iraq's future after constitutional vote

Iraq may be on the road to recovery after its landmark constitutional referendum, some Arab newspapers predicted Sunday, while others suggested bloodier days were still ahead regardless of the vote outcome.

Ahmed Al-Jarallah, editor-in-chief of Kuwait's English-language Arab Times, wrote that Iraqis scored a victory by voting on a new constitution despite three decades of Saddam Hussein's oppression, two years of rampant insurgent-led violence and post-U.S. invasion interference from Iran and Syria.

"Iraqis will vote 'yes' to the new constitution because they know if necessary they can amend some of its articles in the future," Al-Jarallah wrote in an editorial. "Terrorists will meet their final defeat in their final battle against the people of Iraq."

In the United Arab Emirates daily, the Khaleej Times, columnist Mohammed A. R. Galadari said Saturday's vote proved that skeptics _ particularly within the media _ were wrong and highlighted Iraqi unity and the growth of a democratic process.

"The media projected a view that a civil war was in the making there, (but) Iraqis haven't indulged in any civil war, and the referendum has taken place in a peaceful way," Galadari wrote. "The way things went yesterday, there is hope that Iraq will have good days ahead." But the daily English-language Egyptian Gazette was less upbeat, predicting Iraq's religious divisions would mean further chaos.

"What strikes one's attention was the ominous sectarianism which underlined the Shiite-Sunni dispute in the run-up to yesterday's vote," it added. "This manipulation of religious sentiment is inauspicious and may well plunge Iraq into a perpetual vortex of sedition."

Another Emirates newspaper, The Gulf Today, took to task the quick-fix approach of the U.S. and British-led coalition, which the daily claimed wants to force a resolution upon Iraq's disparate Shiite, Kurdish and Sunni groups as part of an "exit strategy."

The paper also cast doubt on whether the Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds could find "common ground" amid the unraveling of the "colonial ropes" that the toppled ruler Saddam had "kept intact through oppression and coercion."

"Seen against such assertions, the referendum and its results fade into irrelevance and the ongoing insurgency and the deepening inter-community divide come to the forefront," The Gulf Today wrote.

Kuwait University political science teacher Shamlan al-Issa was equally cautious, saying while he expected the constitution to be approved, he remained doubtful about any end to Iraq's violence soon, AP reports.


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