Iraq's Governing Council has signed an interim constitution at a landmark ceremony in Baghdad.
The document aims to move the country towards a democratic future and became law after last-minute objections by Shia leaders were put aside.
The leaders had expressed concern about the power of minorities to veto a future permanent constitution and the composition of the rotating presidency.
The constitution sets out a framework for how Iraq will be governed following the end of occupation by the US-led coalition in June and before a new government is chosen by national elections.
What does the new constitution mean for the future of Iraq?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far:
The new constitution hopefully will mean a much improved life for the people of Iraq. Giving them inalienable rights can only be good, as these rights a year ago they could only secretly dream about. Even though the rest of the world hates the US and desperately wants to see us fail in Iraq, this historic day can only infuriate them. The Iraqis will remember who came to their rescue, and they will also remember who fought that rescue. This day is a good day for them.
John S, USA
The constitution is nothing but a piece of paper. The common Iraqi people have not voted for it. Its as though the occupying powers have forced it upon the Iraqis. The Governing Council is a bunch of rich exiled Iraqis, who were able to escape Saddam. Do they represent the common Iraqi person? What makes them think that this constitution will mean anything?
Shameemah, Cerritos, USA
The current Japanese constitution was "thrust" on them by an occupying force, yet Japan developed into a stable, prosperous democracy. Why not Iraq?
Scott Lewis, Chicago, USA
What many seem to forget is that this is an interim constitution. When elections happen in 6 months a truly Iraqi document will emerge. We will find out whether or not the Shias create a tyranny of the majority in this process. To those against this development: How can you truly argue the protections offered to the Iraqi people by this document are wrong? Does your hatred of US policy blind you from rational thought?
Marcus, Austin, USA
Wow! What a bunch of pessimists. How can the signing of a constitution for a country that has known nothing but tyranny be anything but good. It may not be perfect but it is a step in the right direction. Good luck Iraq!
Joe Lane, USA
I fail to see why embracing democracy is so hard. I have to question the morality of the region when I see such terrible acts of violence going on when so many are so close to freedom. What it is about having the right to chose how to live your life that scares people so much? Air your grievances in a civil way.
Matt, New York City, USA
The U.S. is forcing this interim constitution onto the ruling council, in order to hurry the pace of the forming of the new government. It will only hasten the collapse of the future Iraqi regime. The U.S is only trying to distance itself from the poor Iraqi situation as we close in on the election.
Steve Manome, Portland, Oregon U.S.A.
One must have doubts about the prospects for liberty in a country where even supposed leaders can't think for themselves. People who have to consult their religious leader before they can make a decision are not quite ready for real constitutionalism. Iraq's future depends on the hope that the people will have more moral courage than these leaders.
Kurt, Baton Rouge, USA
As a Kurd from Iraq, I am delighted this constitution has been signed as it safeguards all of our rights as a nation and lets us keep our autonomy which we could not have lived without... Our rights as a nation have been enshrined into the constitution and we have a veto power which makes sure we will never be cut out again in Iraq's decision making process and allows us to check if new laws respect Kurd's wishes and rights. And who knows? This constitution might one day lead to the independence of a free Kurdistan.
Ranj Talabany, London, UK
This is a great sign for the Middle-East. Hopefully Iraq will show the rest how democracy can work in the middle-east. This is a slap in the face to those terrorists who oppose democracy.
Hashim, London, UK
The interim constitution will be viewed as a failure. It is a very good constitution, which means there are lots of checks and balances to ensure that no single person or party gains full power. This means gridlock, inefficiencies, and nothing gets done quickly. Because nothing gets resolved quickly, every Iraqi (those who really count) will view it as a failure. They will blame the opposition and civil war will ensue. Have you seen how opposing political parties in the UK and US treat each other? They have years of tradition on debate and discourse within the law. Put this in Iraq, where if you insult someone, it is taken personally to the extreme, you get civil war.
Ian , Austin, TX USA
The signing of the interim constitution is not worth the paper it's written on except for the fact that now the Coalition forces have the perfect excuse to leave in time for the USA, British and Australian elections to be held this year. Once the different Iraqi factions are left to their own devices a grab for power through armed civil warfare will begin : another Lebanon, another Somalia, another Yugoslavia. More killing, more famine, more regrets from the West, more intervention, more refugees and more misery for the innocent.
J. Agorriz, Alicante, Spain
An Arab democracy would be fantastic, and I'm okay with paying some of my tax dollars to see it happen. Sure, it will have been enforced, but one must start somewhere. Perhaps democracy in Iraq needed a shove. Regardless, I have a hunch that this whole project is going to die on the vine sooner or later. In the battle between Sharia and democracy there, Sharia is going to win.
Mel, NY, US
That this constitution is not a permanent one and that direct elections are not yet planned is a worrying portent of some half-baked pseudo-democracy. But let's hope it works, God knows Iraq needs it.
Different countries have differing cultures for a reason. These differing cultures also include distinctive governing bodies. Who is to say what works in one country, works best in another or vice versa? America should not force its own ideals onto other differing cultures, nor should it strive to make other countries "cookie cutter" moulds of itself.
Laura, Chicago, USA
Here is what will happen. When the Iraqi people have been handed full power, as per their constitution, and the coalition has spent billions rebuilding the country, there will be a return to infighting between religious groups. America will continue to be held as the aggressor, as will Britain. Fundamentalists are getting stronger not weaker and this will now be the worlds greatest problem. It will not stop.
Excellent news. The first step to true recovery - and done despite the bombers. That shows real commitment by them. Truly a great achievement.
The (current) reason being given for going into Iraq was to establish a democracy. Rumsfeld stated that we would never allow a theocracy to develop. This is highly doubtful now that a Shiite cleric is calling the shots. If I recall correctly, we also brought democracy to Saigon and would never allow a communist government to take over - all in the name of protecting our national security.
Don Lehmann, Dayton, Texas
We'll see. Let's hope this constitution will bring some stability and unity amidst the people of Iraq. I want to believe in it, but I know that real democracy in the region will take years and years. Iraq needs a lot of help from the UN to succeed and the US influence must be diminished. If the world looks away from Iraq we could have a really dangerous situation there. I hope that my family in Iraq can look forward and live like normal human beings because the suffering has been too much the last 24 years.
Jenan Matti, Amsterdam, Holland
It means nothing but more troubles, conflict and chaos for the Iraqi people. The coming days will prove my view. Occupation must be ended first.
Nabil Abdel Ahad Abdel Baky, Cairo, Egypt
The timing of the signing is more significant than the contents of the document and has everything to do with Bush trying to move on from Iraq before his elections and nothing to do with answering Iraq's constitutional dilemma. Anyone who knows anything about the make up of Iraq will tell you that it has merely postponed the inevitable clash that will occur when someone is actually in charge. If it's not a Shia dominated government it won't be democracy, but it will be carnage because the Sunni resistance fighters will switch their attention from the occupiers to the Shias (just like at the recent festival). And if the Kurds don't get independence they will cause problems in the north, which Turkey and Iran are dreading. Iraq has years of trouble in front of it. Anyone celebrating the signing of the interim constitution hasn't heard the saying "still before the storm".
John Farmer, Henley-on-Thames, UK
I am deeply disappointed that although Islam is only one of the sources of law, it is the official religion of the new Iraq. A multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and multi-religious country like Iraq should be a secular country. All religions should be treated equally. It is only a matter of time before the bigots impose 7th century Islamic laws on unwilling people. This will have very detrimental consequences.
M.M, Dubai, U.A.E/India
What does this mean? It means that Iraq as the first Arab country ever and the second Muslim country in the world will have a constitution with freedom of speech, freedom to and from religion, women's rights and so on. In short it means Sharia is out, democracy is in. Had the US not stayed, Iraq would have turned from a secular dictatorship to a Theological Islamic dictatorship, just like Iran. Once again the US have been in the forefront of the fight for freedom while the Europeans have done nothing.
It will not be easy for Iraq to enter the 21st century, after having been held back, for such a very long time, by its neighbours and by its own government dictatorship, in what amounts to a condition of enforced oppressed ignorance. The emergence of modern political rights and freedoms, including equality for all persons, regardless of religious beliefs, will not come easily, and continued assistance with mass education to assure the success of a secularly governed democracy, is inevitably necessary.
John Holmes, Canada
Too many of you confuse democracy with equity. A constitution that deals with and protects basic human rights is needed before people vote on leaders who have ideals contrary to that.
Iraq is fortunate to have the US support in designing its constitution. After all, both Germany and Japan had their post-war constitutions designed by Americans and look how well those two countries turned out.
I have read the entire new Iraqi interim constitution and think it is a very good start for Iraq. I would challenge all who would criticize this document to read it first - then form an opinion.
Kent, Colorado, USA
Another one of history's worthless pieces of paper.
Clive, Dartford, UK
Signing of the constitution is a step forward; but routing out tyrants who are killing Iraqi citizens should be the first priority for the occupiers. Otherwise how is the constitution going to be implemented when those who are charged with the role of implementing and administration of Iraq live in fear of being killed.
Emmanuel Gonda, Canada/Sudan
The solutions to their problems lie within themselves. It cannot be done for them by the international community. We can assist and create the right opportunities, but ultimately, if they cannot choose the path of co-operation and progress, it is their future to lose...
What I want to know is, after the signing of interim constitution, the selection of an interim government, and then the elections, who gets to control the oil?
Gerry Noble, Salisbury, UK
The constitution only postpones a national crisis which may end up in the dismembering of Iraq. Lawrence of Arabia must be laughing in his grave.
Pal, New York, USA
It is an enforced constitution. Enforced by people selected by the occupying power. What legitimacy and what durability can such a constitution have?
Miklos Nomad, Gyor, Hungary
I hope this constitution ensures freedom for Iraq. I hope this constitution ensures tolerance for the different beliefs in that region. I hope this constitution ensures democracy for Iraq and spreads like wild fire throughout the mid-east region. I hope these people who have been oppressed under a dictator for decades will use this opportunity to inspire real change, because the rest of the world is watching.
David, Philadelphia, USA
The world should keep its nose out and let Iraq sort out and govern itself.
David Arnold, Bristol. England
Now we can start paying reparations to Iraq for the years of sanctions we imposed on them, since there is now "democracy".
Rob, Paris, France
This is a great step and a great day for us all. There are many issues still, but the power of freedom is unstoppable. I salute the coalition and Iraqis. To those who have seen all of this as an American power grab, I defy you not to see the hope in the future.
Luke, New York
How can you impose on Iraq a constitution before you have any free elections? The people deciding Iraq's future do not in any way represent the people! As far as I can see we have another Vietnam type situation however this time around there is no Soviet threat to curb the excess of US foreign policy.
Roger, Stowmarket, Suffolk, UK
It means little to nothing, except as a PR tool for the television audiences in the US & UK. Already one can see Iraqi objection to the constitution, and I am sure many people feel it was forced upon them by the occupying powers. Besides, they now have the example of George Bush to show them that constitutions can be amended to suit political ends!
Matthew, San Francisco, USA
This document is a statement of the obvious; all people have the right to be free and safe from political persecution. George W. Bush does not own these principals and therefore has not "given" these rights to Iraqi's. I pray this constitution is the first step in Iraq's long road back to greatness. Perhaps other countries will follow.
Chris Irvine, USA
The Interim Iraqi Constitution is similar to the Roadmap for Peace in Israel and Palestine, in that our government has shared neither of these with the public.
Martin Kane, Boston, Massachusetts USA
Governing Council in Iraq is just a stooge of the USA. They singed the constitution at the behest of their masters. The constitution is crafty and tricky in everyway. It is to protect the interests of the USA
Mian Manzoor Ahmed, Rawalpora, India
The document will not move the country towards a democracy rather it will split up Iraq.
Zahir Shamsery, Dhaka, Bangladesh
Any such constitution will have to have the blessing of United States. What will happen if an Iraqi decides to run on the promise of higher oil exporting prices? Will the USA deem him an "ineligible candidate"?
Mezba Mahtab, Toronto, Canada
The test of this new constitution will be if an elected Iraqi government is allowed to stand unintefered with by the USA, if it follows policies deemed to be against the US economic interest.
Dom, London UK
Let's hope the future leaders of Iraq possess the wisdom and decency to put the good of the people and the future of the country first in their future negotiations with each other. The Iraqi people have suffered enough already. I pray Iraq becomes a shining light of democracy in the gloom and despair of the Middle East.
John A, Prague, Czech Republic
This is a start on Iraq's road to normalcy and prosperity, but the media is either ignoring it or trying to talk it down and convince people it's doomed already. What we saw was proof that the Council is not a US/UK puppet, but is having to thrash out the issues. Please remember they are doing it on paper and across meeting tables, not with AK47s. Despite the efforts of the terrorists, Iraq is moving forward.
The signing of the new Iraqis' democratic, multi-ethnic constitution signals a new era in a region that scarcely respects civil liberties, bill of rights and tolerance of opposition. The Iraqi's constitutional and libertarian experiment (even though laced with obtuse dosage of sectarianism) reflects the will and determination of majority Iraqis resolved not to let minority terrorist acts of sabotage triumph over majoritarian preference of western liberation and humanitarian assistance, even in the presence of counter-insurgency military operations.
Igonikon Jack, USA
I think this is a big first step by the people of Iraq. No doubt there are still bumps in the road they will have to overcome but this is a historical first step and I think if they can see this all the way through that great things are ahead of them
John Crane, Houston, Texas USA
Watching "60 Minutes" last night on CBS and the interview Leslie Stahl had with Chalabi, one is left wondering how anyone can really, in all honesty, expect this turkey to fly. Here we have an illegal invasion of a sovereign state, with the total destruction of its infrastructure, judiciary, military, civil service, etc. The occupation of that sovereign state and the placing of a puppet Iraqi Governing Council by the occupiers. The drawing up of a so called "Constitution" determined by the occupiers. It is claimed that the "constitution sets out a framework of how Iraq will be governed following the end of occupation by the US-led coalition in June and before a new government is chosen by national elections" but we are hearing of occupation troop rotations for the foreseeable future, as we are witnessing now in Afghanistan and on the border of Pakistan; does anyone really think this will work out?
Dora Brown, New York, USA
Iraqi people should now understand that they have been used by Russia and the USA. Now they should form a secular society where all people will observe their religions as per their beliefs. Use your efforts to develop the country and keep relations with every country.
Kazi Firoz, Bratislava, Slovakia.
I have just returned from Iraq on Saturday, after witnessing the horrific explosions in Karbala. I was filming a video at the time. The situation was very volatile. I experienced lack of security when I entered Iraq via Jordan. The occupation forces have clearly failed in protecting the innocent civilians in the country. Direct elections must be held a.s.a.p. Most Iraqis I spoke to had little or no confidence in the Iraqi Governing Council.
Waqar Haider, Harrow, Middlesex
There's no doubt that this is just a first step on what will be a long process. Rather than pick holes in it as some people will, we should praise all involved for the progress they are making in bringing peace to Iraq.
Chris Cooper, Manchester, UK
Iraq is now a US State. Its supreme leader is an American. Its present government has been selected by Americans. Its new constitution is pro-American. The vast majority of reconstruction contracts are going to American companies. Finally, the oil in Iraq is controlled by the Americans. Game, set and match to the Americans.
This is a step in the right direction, but something as important as a constitution should develop organically, not be thrust upon a society by a foreign power.
Shawn, Washington, DC, USA
A wonderful first start for rebuilding Iraq. Congratulations to President Bush and Tony Blair for giving Iraqis hope and making the world a better place.
Matthew E. McCormack, Philadelphia, USA