The most telling reaction to the draft of Iraqi constitution has come from Tehran. The head of Iran’s Guardian Council hailed the document. “After years of struggle,” Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati said, “an Islamic state has come to power.” That is a more accurate description of the potential of the document than President Bush provided in praising its “far-reaching protections for human freedoms.”

Basic rights are given lip service in the document. But it states that Islam will be “a basic source of legislation.” The draft says that Iraq’s highest court must have Islamic law experts. It is no surprise that an Iranian official should be pleased by the document as it would facilitate the formation of a powerful region in southern Iraq which would be mainly Shiite.

Sunnis are now being encouraged to vote against the document in the October 15 referendum. If a two-thirds majority rejects the draft, it will be defeated. If voters do block the draft constitution, it would force a restart of the whole process of drawing up a basic charter. The administration cannot be happy at that prospect, but it might be preferable to approve a constitution that is hailed by Iran and so hated by Sunnis that many would continue their violent assaults on US and Iraqi forces.