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Fireworks erupted Friday in Baghdad, but not in celebration of the interim constitution just unveiled. Mortar shells and roadside bombs accounted for the blasts heard around the city.

Will the oil thug-cracies of the Middle East celebrate with the Iraqi people, or will they use petro-dollars to fuel and feed terror in order to humiliate President Bush? Will the mullahs use this as the rallying cry for Holy War by declaring that only Islamic law can be the main source of legislation? Will they proclaim that the Great Satan, Christian America, is guilty of exporting its laws to secularize the Arab world: “They are trying to destroy us like they did the USSR”?

Security was tight as the Iraqi Governing Council gathered for this momentous occasion, which will ultimately lead to the United States handing over the reins of power to the Council by June 30.

In the draft, Islam is recognized as a source of legislation. This is a compromise with religious conservatives who demanded that it be the main source. Written into the interim constitution is the tenet that no law “will be passed that violates the tenets of the Muslim religion.”

When I completed my book, “Beyond Iraq: The Next Move,” on April 18, 2003, while the war in Iraq was still going on, I said: “Operation Iraqi Freedom will not end with victory in Baghdad.”

First of all, as the Iraqi war ends and things begin to settle down, Muslim terrorists will lay the same explosive groundwork for civil war in Iraq that they laid in Lebanon in the 1970s. Underground cell groups will be formed and munitions stockpiled. Suicide bombers will strike at foreign soldiers who are there to keep the peace, but especially at Americans.

A free, democratic Iraq is a critical threat to the “family-run corporation” structure of most of the Middle East’s Islamic governments. Power to the people is the enemy of any dictatorship and unless the people are suppressed, they will not be able to be controlled. Just as the people of Basra cheered British troops as their tanks rolled into the city marking the elimination of Saddam’s influence there, Islamic dictatorships know that their rule can only be maintained by the bullet, not the ballot.

Islamic governments fear America’s most dangerous weapon, the economic stealth bomber that inspires democracy. That weapon collapsed the former USSR and Eastern Europe. They know that drastic times require drastic measures to save their dictatorships. They will give the subtle head-nod to their Islamic fundamentalist clerics.

With a U.S. military command-and-control center firmly established in Iraq, terrorist states will have panic attacks by the minute. This is why, I believe, every conceivable pressure possible will be attempted to embarrass and humiliate America, especially in 2004, a presidential election year. In a meeting in 1979 with Isser Harel, the founder of Israeli intelligence more than six months before Ronald Reagan was elected president, I asked, “Who do you think will be president … Jimmy Carter or Ronald Reagan?” He smiled and said, “That decision will probably be determined by powers in the Middle East, and not in America.”

I looked at him questioningly, not understanding his comment. Harel said, “Mike, if the Muslim fundamentalists who are controlling your embassy in Iran release the hostages, Carter’s presidency will most likely be saved, and Reagan will lose. But I have a strong feeling they will not do that … They think Reagan is an actor, and no threat to them. The word on the street is when Ronald Reagan lifts his hand to be sworn in, they will release the hostages.”

But, consider this: A democratic, empowered Germany elected the most insane madman the world had ever seen, Adolf Hitler. If democracy came to moderate Saudi Arabia, and everyone had a vote, the Wahhabi clerics and masses would prevail. Osama bin Laden would become president by a landslide. What will a democracy in Iraq look like? Obviously, if a true democracy becomes a reality, 65 percent of the people who vote are Shiites. A democracy will give Iraq the ability for Islamic Shiites to control the country.

Since the Islamic revolution in Iran in 1979, hard-line religious leadership has defined Shiite Islam for its 120 million followers worldwide. Iran will do the same in Iraq. For more than 1,300 years, Najaf was the center of the Shiite world. The son-in-law of the prophet Muhammad, Ali – who was the founder of the faith – is buried there. A visit to his famous mosque is an all-important pilgrimage for his followers.

Five other imams, all successors of Ali, and including his son, Hussein, are buried in other cities in Iraq. Hussein’s death in battle has evoked the cult of martyrdom among the Shiites. Shiite clerics believe they are just as much God’s representatives on earth as the pope, and will use all of their power to prove it.

We need to make sure we haven’t just replaced Saddam’s regime with something worse, or simply laid the groundwork for civil war. A war cannot be partially won – the victor is determined by who wins the last battle. We must see this war through until the end, or the next time we have to fight terrorism it may be hundreds of times worse.

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