The Defense Department announced in late April that it would prevent the set-up of an Iraqi government modeled after Iran's Islamic theocracy.
"We will not allow the Iraqi people's democratic transition to be hijacked by those who might wish to install another form of dictatorship," Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said at a Pentagon briefing.
Rumsfeld is not the only administration official who has taken a sudden interest in maintaining church-state separation. In an April 25 interview on NBC, President George W. Bush said "What I would like to see is a government where church and state are separated."
Since Saddam Hussein's disappearance, Muslim clerics have been increasingly vocal about the need to establish Islamic law in Iraq. The Associated Press has reported that a leading Iraqi cleric, based in Iran, issued orders for Shiite Muslims, who were oppressed by the regime of Saddam Hussein, to start establishing local governments in Iraq's cities.
An estimated 96 percent of Iraqis are Muslims.