by RAY FLEMING
ANOTHER week, another deadline. Will Iraq have a constitution by midnight tomorrow when the extension from last week's deadline will expire? There are rumours flying all over the place about what has already been agreed and rejected, and what is still to play for. But nobody really knows. Last Tuesday morning one of Britain's leading newspapers contained a detailed account by one of its most highly respected foreign experts of what the constitution would contain. But by the time it was on our breakfast tables we knew from our radio and TV that no constitution had been agreed and that another week of negotiation was in prospect. There is a major problem in understanding what is really hapenning in Iraq because there are today two vastly different places called Iraq. One is the heavily fortified and protected green zone where the United States and Britain maintain their diplomatic and senior military presence and where the elected assembly and constitutional commission hold their meetings. Many Iraqi ministers and senior officials also have homes or offices in this zone which I have seen described as providing “space-ship isolation”. The other Iraq is the city street where lives count for little, where electricity is available for four hours a day at best and clean water is precious. The distance between these two Iraqs is immense and it explains why should contradictory views can be held about what is really happening in that country. Yesterday Britain's Defence Secretary John Reid contributed a combative article to The Times in which he insisted that “The pessimists are wrong. Life in Iraq is getting better.” His optimistic facts will have been provided from the green zone. The reports from journalists and TV correspondents who work on the streets consistently tell a different story, that Iraq is in chaos and close to a civil war. Mr Reid does not like this; in a worrying passage he said: “Those brutalising Iraq through terror are not foolish where the media is concerned. Every day that they can generate articles telling Westerners that Iraq is in turmoil is a day they feel they've done a good job.” Doesn't that sound like a threat?

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