This House believes that Iraq's neighbours have no wish to see a democratic Iraq

Monday January 17 2005
MOTION REJECTED by 37% to 63%

Transcript

Order of speeches

This House believes that Iraq's neighbours have no wish to see a democratic Iraq

 

Introduction

TIM SEBASTIAN
Ladies and gentlemen, a very good evening to you and a warm welcome to this, the third in our series of Doha Debates. Now those of you who've attended before know that we don't shy away from controversy here. On the contrary, we're looking for it. And tonight is no exception. The motion before us is that this House believes Iraq's neighbours do not wish to see a democratic Iraq. It's a proposition that takes us right into the heart of the deep divisions, the hatreds and conflicts being played out in the region and, of course, it's in advance of Iraq's scheduled elections on January the 30th. Now there have been plenty of fine statements about non-interference in Iraq's internal affairs, and plenty of accusations about some pretty nasty and direct interference. So what is the truth and what is at stake? Well our speakers tonight are no strangers to international intrigue, and some of them have encountered it at the highest levels. Speaking for the motion, Saddam Hussein's last Ambassador to the United Nations, Mohammed Al Douri - and we hope he's chosen tonight...
MOHAMMED AL DOURI
Iraq's Ambassador. Iraq's Ambassador.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Absolutely. Iraq's Ambassador. We hope you've chosen tonight to impart a few old secrets to us. Patrick Theros, former Ambassador, US Ambassador to Qatar and President of the US Qatar Business Council. A Republican by affiliation, but no supporter of the invasion of Iraq.
Against the motion, Clare Short - one of the best known and most outspoken British politicians who served until recently as Tony Blair's Secretary for International Development, and resigned over the war in Iraq. And with her, Abdel Bari Atwan, editor of the London-based Al Qud's newspaper. A man who keeps his ear very much to the ground - so much so that he once got an interview with Osama Bin Laden. That was in 1996 when Mr Atwan was more famous than Bin Laden himself.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Ladies Let me now call on Mohammed Al Douri to speak first in support of the motion.

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Mohammed Al Douri

Speaking for the motion
Mohammed Al Douri

MOHAMMED AL DOURI
Thanks a lot Tim. I shall start with certain premises for the benefit of the discussion. First, the subject motion to be discussed today is a hypothetical one. The lack of belief that Iraq in the coming years cannot have any form of democracy is due to the fact that the country is under American and British occupation. Democracy and occupation cannot go together. Occupation means disappearance of independence, disappearance of sovereignty, and disappearance of freedom, which is the case actually in Iraq. It's clear that the USA did not invade Iraq to establish a real democracy, neither in Iraq nor in the region, but so it might establish a kind of false democracy under strict control. It is widely known that the American's scheme for Iraq and for the region was aimed at the strict control on the field of oil and realisation of their strategic ambitions in that area. These goals, or aims, are in a clear contradiction with the real meaning of democracy. What's been happening in Iraq before, during and after the invasion is very indicative. How can anybody talk about the realisation of the democracy in Iraq with all the mass killing, destruction of services and properties using a prohibited weapon, imposing a blockade on the towns and villages of Iraq? Violation of basic human rights, violation of rules of humanitarian international law, practising torture and hunger against the population. Secret detention and imprisonment for long periods which constitute, clearly, war crimes. Of course, you cannot talk about democracy when you are committing such war crimes. What is going on in Iraq indicates clearly that the occupying power is there to bring only terror and horror, and not democracy and freedom. Although the majority of Iraqis are looking for a real democracy - including me - the new political groups designated and supported by the occupying power are not entitled legally and practically to promote and implement democracy in Iraq. In the eyes of a lot of Iraqis, they are not representing the people of Iraq. Democracy is not commodity for exportation or importation. It is a complex of political conjectures, legal decision and actions which need social cultural environment and well prepared ground for its realisation. All these elements have to reflect the genuine will of the majority of the population of my country. In that sense, democracy cannot be dictated or imposed from outside, specially in a country deeply rooted in the history like Iraq's land and people. We cannot jump over the question of the election which will or might take place at the end of this month. Most of the expectations, positions and comments inside and outside Iraq are pessimistic, and what is important is the opinion of the Iraqi people, or at least an important fraction of it which consider the election as inappropriate for the time being at least. The decision to go to the polls is not properly an Iraqi one. It has been imposed by the occupying power for very well know political reasons related to their own interests and to give to the worried international community a kind of assurance and legal justification for their military occupation and their future presence in Iraq.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Mr. Al Douri, one minute.
MOHAMMED AL DOURI
For all these reasons - now I come to the conclusion! For all these
TIM SEBASTIAN
I thought I was back in the United Nations!
MOHAMMED AL DOURI
For all these reasons, neighbouring countries are not worried about the so-called democracy in Iraq, simply because it will not occur in the foreseen future. Nevertheless, each one of these countries has its own specific reason to look very closely to the social political commercial development at the same time as they do have a common characters and interests. One, the majority of these countries are not democratic. I am talking, of course, about governments with some slight difference between them so any real process of democratisation in Iraq, if there is any, would constitute a source of worriness, not only for their political future but also for the ideologies and political regimes of some of these states. Second, any real process of democratisation in Iraq will need a strong state, not only in terms of economy but also other fields including the military one. Democracy means strength. At least a few of these countries would like to have Iraq as a weak country. Three, a democratic Iraq means resolving in a better way the question of minorities. This solution, if it happens, might impose in some of these countries a radical change in their strategy on that very important and dangerous issue. I am referring of course to the question of Kurds. Four, democratic Iraq means the liberation from all kinds of fear and alienations. This would lead to real change not only in mentality but also in the behaviour of the society. This could lead to a real control of the people over their natural resources, such as the petrol. This might affect the relationship of certain of these countries with their traditional friends from their financial powers which is certainly unacceptable. This also might change the whole balance of power in the region in terms of influence, political and economic.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Right, please come to the end
MOHAMMED AL DOURI
The conclusion. Two words.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Just two.
MOHAMMED AL DOURI
In conclusion, I would say there is no fear that Iraq will be in the near future a democratic country. It will stay under American domination for a while. At the same time, the American influence that is present in the whole region that these Americans will watch very closely the status of the balance of power in the area as far as there is oil interest. Thank you very much.
TIM SEBASTIAN
It's all about oil is it, as far as you're concerned? The British and American attitudes are all about oil?
MOHAMMED AL DOURI
Not only oil, they have other strategical ambitions in the area.
TIM SEBASTIAN
As far as the neighbours are concerned, a week ago we had a statement from the Prime Ministers of Jordan, Kuwait, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. They said the elections represent the only opportunities in sight along the path of democracy and freedom.
MOHAMMED AL DOURI
When? This is true, but when and how?
TIM SEBASTIAN
A week ago in Oman. This was their statement.
MOHAMMED AL DOURI
Yes, I know. I read it. This is a kind of declaration imposed by them. Translated in Arabic and they just read it.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Well what are you saying, they don't believe it?
MOHAMMED AL DOURI
We know that.
TIM SEBASTIAN
It's not a genuine statement? You don't believe it?
MOHAMMED AL DOURI
I don't believe it, of course.
TIM SEBASTIAN
But do you believe then they have actively been working to subvert the chances of a democracy appearing in Iraq. I know you don't think it's going to happen, but have they been actively working against the possibility?
MOHAMMED AL DOURI
Openly not. They can't do that because of the pressure, American pressure on them, but I think with them themselves, I think yes. They don't want democracy.
TIM SEBASTIAN
They would prefer, they would prefer civil war or chaos.
MOHAMMED AL DOURI
Unless there was a kind of change in their mentality and their regime, and their political regime.
TIM SEBASTIAN
So if they don't want democracy, what do they want in Iraq? Civil war? Chaos?
MOHAMMED AL DOURI
No, no, no, I don't think so. They want a stable country, but not a democracy. Not democracy.
TIM SEBASTIAN
But traditionally democracies are more peaceful, easier to live next to, aren't they?
MOHAMMED AL DOURI
Yeah, but, you know, we never had a democratic time - neither in Iraq nor in these countries. So really we don't know democracy. What is democracy? The meaning of democracy, we don't know it. We haven't practice it as a people.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Mohammed Al Douri, thank you very much indeed.Let me call now on Clare Short to speak against the motion please.

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Clare Short

Speaking against the motion
Clare Short

CLARE SHORT
Thank you. I'm asking you all to oppose the motion that this House believes that Iraq's neighbours have no wish to see a democratic Iraq, and I stress it's the neighbours. It doesn't say the neighbouring states, it says the neighbours - the people living in the vicinity. Now of course there's ambiguity in this motion as we've just seen, and because it's for a debating society, deliberately clever people can argue on both sides of a motion like this, whereas if we were making a binding decision about the foreign policy of this country, we'd have a clearer motion before us, if it was about the attitudes to the elections or whatever. So, you could say you could vote either way depending how the arguments go. But I say how you vote matters because this argument - that there is no commitment to democracy in this region - is used by the United States, supported to our shame by my government but without the support of most of the people of the United Kingdom, to support the attack on Iraq and the continuing occupation of Iraq. The claim is - as you all know - that the rush to war in Iraq was in order to liberate the people of Iraq, and the occupation is designed to liberate the people of Iraq and bring them to democracy, and the destruction of Fallujah and the killing of all those people is presumably in order that they can be liberated and brought to democracy and freedom. And this is the argument of the extremist group around President Bush, who try to pretend that the whole problem of the Middle East is that there's no commitment amongst the people of the Middle East to democracy and respect for human rights, and that that's all the cause of the problems of the region, as you know. I mean you've heard this argument repeated time and time again. And my view is that this is an untrue and outrageous argument, and it's really important that people here don't give it any credence or any support. As you all know, there is a lack of democracy and respect for human rights in the Arab world, but I believe it is because of the unresolved tension between Israel and Palestine. The United States have fought for outrageous Israeli policy. There continues the suppression and hurt of the Palestinian people and because if this region was democratic, the people would vote for policies that were critical of the United States, and supported action in order to bring peace and progress to the Palestinian people, for that reason the United States supports dictatorship in this region, and the reason for the lack of democracy and respect for human rights is the external intervention. So this argument then comes full circle to blame the Arab people for what is oppressing them, by claiming that they themselves do not know or respect democracy and human rights. It's a cruel and disgraceful argument because it's turning the cause of the problem on its head and blaming the victim for the problem that is being inflicted on the region. Now my view is that this continuing support for an Israeli policy which is expansionist and which is trying to take more and more Palestinian territory is a tragedy for the Palestinian people, the occupation is a tragedy for the people of Iraq and for the whole region. And I believe there could be rapid progress to democracy and respect for human rights in this region if there was a settlement of Israel-Palestine which was available on the basis of the Oslo Peace Accords in two states on '67 boundaries with Jerusalem as the capital and a proper settlement around the right of return for the displaced Palestinian people, there could easily then be agreement that all weapons of mass destruction should be removed from this region, including Israel's nuclear weapons, and then you'd get a region free of that aspiration to have those very destruction weapons, and in Iraq it would be very easy to agree an end of the occupation and a handover to the Iraqi people to make arrangements with the help of helpful outside countries that they would invite in to grow up their own constitution and their own arrangement to run their own country. And if those things were done there'd be a flowering of this region. There'd no longer be external support with military support and financial support for dictatorship. The people of the region would be able to go forward and select their own government. There'd be economic development in the region too. So I ask you, and I repeat, to vote against this motion because what it implies is that the problem of this region is the people and the neighbourhood of Iraq not supporting the principles of democracy and the respect for human rights. And that is a deep untruth and a big insult to the people of the Arab world who I'm sure are yearning for democracy and freedom, but because the complexities of the region that flows from the problems of Palestine and now the occupation of Iraq are being deprived of that right which belongs to all people. Thank you.
TIM SEBASTIAN
So Clare Short, it's all down to the external world, it's all down to Britain and America that they don't have democracy in this region?
CLARE SHORT
The rulers of the region have to take responsibility for their own actions. But the external interventions have completely distorted the history of this region. Both the desire to control oil, I think by balkanising the region, and the unquestioning support for Israeli policy in breach of international law which I think is against the interest of everyone in the region and the people of Israel.
TIM SEBASTIAN
But where do you see this commitment to democracy in this region?
CLARE SHORT
I don't think that this region has had the chance to develop democratic government because of these interventions and because of the propping up - quite deliberately - and manipulation. I mean time is too short to go through the history, but manipulation in the region in order to support and prop up governments that are sympathetic to the United States of America.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Well you've just seen democratic elections in the Palestinian territories, you've just seen them choose a new president.
CLARE SHORT
Well we've seen a limited form. You can't have full democracy under occupation when people are not free to move about their own territory...
TIM SEBASTIAN
Well, the Palestinians are saying they had a free and fair election.
CLARE SHORT
If I may finish my sentence. So it's a limited form of democracy but yes, I agree, the Palestinian people have chosen Abu Mazen as their leader, and I'm sure they're all hoping that he will be respected and able to negotiate a two state settlement. I'm afraid I'm very pessimistic that he will be allowed to do that, but that is the right way forward and that would bring peace to the Palestinian people, and then if we could have a negotiated end to the occupation of Iraq and the removal of WMD from the region, as I say, there'd be movement towards economic development and democracy across this region.
TIM SEBASTIAN
And you see Abu Mazen's problems all coming from Israel or from the United States and not from Islamic Jihad, not from Hamas, not from the splits or the eleven security organisations, separate organisations operating in the Palestinian territories. The lack of regards for human rights much criticised by international organisations like Amnesty International, Human Rights - they're not to blame at all, it's all the -
CLARE SHORT
No, I've already said the governments of the region, every human being must take responsibility for their own actions but the people of this region - and particularly the Palestinian people and now the people of Iraq - are not in control of their own fate and their own future, do not have the right to freely elect their own government, draw up their own constitutions, use their talents and intelligence and the wealth of the region for the benefit of their people. So everyone must take responsibility for themselves, but this region has not had a fair chance to develop democracy and governments that respect human rights.
TIM SEBASTIAN
And the neighbouring governments, are they interested in seeing democracy in Iraq? They've said they are backing the electoral process?
CLARE SHORT
Well I'm not sure support for the elections that are about to take place in Iraq is support for full democracy in Iraq, but what I would like to see is enough Iraqi people getting the chance to vote in a way that shows they want the occupation to come to an end, because I'd like to see Iraq get the chance to bring the occupation to an end without so much suffering and bloodshed. But I don't think these elections will be the flowering of a full democracy in Iraq, I'm afraid.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Does that justify the neighbouring countries instigating insurgency as the Iraqi government at the moment have accused them of doing?
CLARE SHORT
This is another outrageous untruth - or lie, I suppose I should call it a lie to be franker. It's always suggested it was just a few awkward squad, but that the whole of the people of Iraq welcome the occupation and the war. Then it was supposed to be foreign intervention. But in all the killings and the arrests, foreigners are a small minority of the people who have been arrested for engaging in the insurgency. This is largely a nationalist Iraqi resistance to occupation and all human beings throughout history do not like being occupied and oppressed by foreign forces.
TIM SEBASTIAN
So when Iyad Allawi says we have documents, we have proof that indicates that some neighbouring companies are contributing to increasing the violence in Iraq, you don't buy that?
CLARE SHORT
Well I think he is largely a spokesperson on behalf of the US Administration. There might well be interventions from neighbouring countries - you would suggest that - but to suggest that is the cause of the insurgency is completely false...
TIM SEBASTIAN
Clare Short, thank you very much. Patrick Theros, would you speak in favour of the motion, please.

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Patrick Theros

Speaking for the motion
Patrick Theros

PATRICK THEROS
Thank you. I'd like to take a different tack on this one. It's not so much that there is an ingrained prejudice against democracy in the region but simply that the neighbouring states are governed by rational, intelligent people who have their own national interests at heart. In a few weeks, the Iraqi Interim Government will conduct national elections that the US Government hopes will produce a democratic government, and this democratic government will accomplish two purposes - it will stabilise Iraq and allow us to claim victory as we head for the exits. This has been endorsed by the United Nations and the entire outside world with enthusiasm. Iraq's neighbours, as Tim Sebastian noted, have all gone along with this endorsement because a) they had little choice but probably they didn't think it would happen. After all, they will have to live with the democratic Iraq in their neighbourhood should it happen, but they're probably hoping or assuming that it can't. Most of the neighbours should have some very strong reservations about a democracy in Iraq. I don't mean to label the neighbours as anti-democratic, as knee jerk reactionaries. In fact, most of their populations probably want democracy to some degree. Furthermore, four Iraq's six geographic neighbours themselves have some form of democracy in their political systems, for better for worse. But as I said, these governments are run by rational and intelligent men who have a clear view of their interests and those of their states. History proves that democracy does not automatically produce either internal stability or a peace loving, non-aggressive neighbour. The most ancient democracy in the world - Ancient Athens - went through a period of a hundred years of constant provoking and aggressive war against the other Greek states. We need only ask the Native Americans how they felt about living next to a democratic state that expanded west and essentially eliminated any residue of Native American rule in the Americas. Revolutionary France was democratic and Revolutionary France promptly attacked all its neighbours. Britain and France, as reasonably democratic states, were aggressively colonial. I doubt that there is an ex-colonial country in the world that would regard democracy as something that prevents a country from being an expansionist. Certainly no citizen of the Arab world today believes that Israel as a democratic state is not expansionist and is peace-loving. And as for stability, Lebanon - the state that was the most democratic state in the Middle East - fell apart in sectarian war. Democracy in Iraq, in whatever form it takes, whatever happens immediately, later would produce fear. After all not only is Iraq, a democratic Iraq, something unexpected and unknown in this region, but each of Iraq's neighbours has a special relationship with it that heightens that fear. First, the Iraqi people have suffered considerably over the last 25 years. They've suffered under the dictatorship of Saddam and they've also suffered in terms of the relationship with their neighbours. In the 1970s, a combination of Iranian, US and Israeli actions cost Iraq the control of much of its northern regions, and it cost Iraq control of the Shatt Al Arab waterway. Turkey must be terrified of the prospect of a truly democratic Iraq because one of two things will happen. Either the Iraqi Kurdish minority will move towards more independence, or the Iraqi Kurdish minority playing a role in democratic Iraq will be able to influence Iraq towards a more hostile anti-Turkish policy. Ankara has had a long and happy relationship with the governments in Baghdad and I don't know how comfortable it would be, whether it would be able to co-operate with a democratic government there. And this is the state on Iraq's borders that is probably the most democratic. Iran is a semi-democratic state. Democracy is not a great success there, but it does exist. It fought a bloody nine year war with Iraq that left it in possession of territory, including control of Iraq's most important waterway that Iraqis historically regard as their own. Iran has another worry for a democratic Iraq. That is primarily that Iran has monopolised the leadership of the Shia world for the last twenty or thirty years. A democratic Iraq with a Shia majority, holding the bulk of the most important places in Shi'a Islam, would be a direct competition, a strong competition, for Iran. Kuwait has special reasons to worry about a democratic Iraq. Saddam may have ordered the invasion of Kuwait, but he did it knowing that the overwhelming majority of Iraq's population does regard Kuwait as legitimately Iraqi. As a consequence of the 1991 Gulf War, a very harsh territorial and economic punishment was inflicted on Iraq and in favour of Kuwait, and Kuwaitis must deeply feel that a revanchist government could easily come to power under democratic means. There is a sense of resentment in Iraq towards the Kuwaitis that easily could be exploited and probably would be exploited by a political leader. Furthermore, a democratically elected Iraqi government would find itself in a morally superior position vis a vis Kuwait. As for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, we see a country that has been paranoid about its minorities and permanently fearful that either Iran or Iraq as Shia states could stir up the minorities against their kingdom. One can argue as I do that this paranoia is unjustified, but the paranoia exists. Jordan has special worries. Again, partly historical. The Jordanian Hashemite Dynasty imposed on Iraq by the British proceeded then to impose a minority Sunni regime. Finally, Syria, in its connection with the Baath party must be remembered by the overwhelming majority of the Iraqi people as a kindred soul to the regime that ruled Iraq until now. All these are factors that will, that promote and provoke Iraqi nationalism and Iraqi popular resentment to all their neighbours, and it's the kind of popular resentment that can be exploited by clever politicians. If I were government or perhaps even population of most of the neighbours, I would have a lot of concerns about a democratic Iraq. Thank you.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Patrick Theros, thank you very much indeed. The neighbours didn't enjoy life much in the region when Saddam Hussein was there, so why wouldn't they favour a change?
PATRICK THEROS
Some did, some didn't.
TIM SEBASTIAN
A lot didn't. You mention Kuwait, for instance.
PATRICK THEROS
Yes, Kuwait didn't.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Kuwait didn't enjoy it at all.
PATRICK THEROS
But it's still easier to deal with an authoritarian government than an aggressive revanchist democratic government.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Why does it have to be an aggressive revanchist democratic government? It could just be a weak democratic government like many democratic governments, couldn't it?
PATRICK THEROS
It could. But I rather believe that Iraqi politicians, if in such a position, would be - and again we're talking about the perception in the neighbouring countries, that a democratic Iraq could be one whose population would push it towards setting the bill straight, towards recovering lost Iraqi territory, towards opening the Shatt Al Arab, towards recovering the border areas with Kuwait. And again, there are difficulties with Turkey, there are difficulties on the border. Turkey has dealt very happily with the governments in Baghdad. I'm not sure how happy they would be with a democratic state -
TIM SEBASTIAN
But if it was a choice now between civil war on the one hand and democracy on the other, which would the neighbours favour?
PATRICK THEROS
I think it would depend on the neighbours
TIM SEBASTIAN
Surely a democracy?
PATRICK THEROS
I'm not sure. I mean I think it would depend on the neighbours. I don't -
TIM SEBASTIAN
Civil war would spill over, civil war could infect their own country and stir up latent problems among their own populations.
PATRICK THEROS
But would it stir them up more than their fears of a revanchist Iraq?
TIM SEBASTIAN
What about a normal democratic government? You rule that out?
PATRICK THEROS
No, I don't rule that out, I regard it as unlikely simply because any democratic state, any democratic government will take power in Iraq, will be on the heels of thirty very unhappy years. Thirty years of great difficulty. This is not a stable society or a stable polity and as a consequence a government that comes to power will necessarily in my view be a government that will be dealing with a lot of passions in the population.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Patrick Theros, thank you very much indeed. Abdel Bari Atwan, let me ask you to speak against the motion please.

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Abdel Bari Atwan

Speaking against the motion
Abdel Bari Atwan

ABDEL BARI ATWAN
Actually, I have my own reservation about the motion, when you said that the neighbours of Iraq don't want to see democracy in Iraq. Are we sure that it is a sovereign state that can decide what they want to see and what they don't want to see? I believe the neighbours of Iraq, especially the Arab neighbours, they don't have actually the sovereignty or a sovereign government who can decide for themselves. They are a satellite of United States. If the United States actually ask them to support democracy, they support democracy. Oppose democracy, they oppose democracy. So they are not really a government which can decide for themselves this one thing. They are moved by remote control from United States, and to prove that, when there was American invasion of Iraq, all the Arab countries and one way or another Iran supported this invasion and they opened their territories for the American troops as a springboard to attack Iraq. So this proves that they are not actually a sovereign country who can decide. This is one thing. The other thing, when we talk about the Americans wanting democracy in Iraq, are we sure United States would like democracy in Iraq? If we look at the Palestinian election, the latest American designed election, or, you know, what happened to the Palestinians? They told the Palestinians, listen if you don't elect Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) we won't accept your leader. So they actually determined for the Palestinian people the leader who they should elect. If they didn't elect Mahmoud Abbas, there would be no democracy in Palestine. And we noticed that. Arafat was elected with a higher percentage than Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) - 87% of the Palestinians voted for him to Abu Mazen's 60% only, and despite that America said no thank you, we don't want to play, you are completely discredited, you are not accepted as a leader of the Palestinian people. The other election which produced Arafat, who is not acceptable, is not a democracy. This one which produced Mahmoud Abbas, the friend of the United States, is a democracy. So another thing I would like is refer to, did the Americans go to Iraq for the sake of democracy? I think the answer is a big no. They did not go to Iraq to establish democracy in that part of the world, they went to Iraq for oil, they went to Iraq to have a base there. Bases, permanent bases there. To control the oil. The oil supply, the oil production. To actually control the oil pricing, control OPEC, and that's the reason. If they went there for democracy, OK, I accept it. But it's not that. To prove that, Americans have supported the most rotten dictatorships in the Middle East, the allies of the US, for the last thirty five or forty years. Look at Egypt. Look at Saudi Arabia. Look at Libya or others. Most of them are rotten dictatorships. So they don't have a history of supporting democracy for them to say that they are going to Iraq to establish democracy. Another thing, if we consider what's happening in Iraq is a democracy, look at the election. The candidates, they are not allowed, or they are scared of declaring their candidacy. We have a list of parties and no actual names of the people who are supposed to be elected for this democracy. This is a democracy? The other thing is, United States, again when it looks at Iraq, says, or President Bush says only four of eighteen Iraqi governments or provinces are against democracy and they wouldn't have democracy there, which is the Sunni Triangle as they call it. OK, but can we have an election in the United States without New York, without Washington, without California, without Miami? Would this be considered an election if it happened in the United States? And is this democracy going to create a stable Iraq for its country? I don't think so. So please, please I would like you to vote against this motion.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Abdel Bari Atwan, thank you very much indeed. If the United States is controlling all the countries in the region as you suggest, there wouldn't be an insurgency of the kind you're seeing in Iraq, would there?
ABDEL BARI ATWAN
I am really amazed when you say that the neighbours of Iraq sends, or supports insurgents. The Americans, when they occupied and destroyed Fallujah, they only captured twenty foreigners at that city, and about 1,200 were Iraqis. So there's no insurgence, they are Iraqi people resisting this occupation. And if there's insurgency -
TIM SEBASTIAN
(OVERLAP) So the Interim government is talking nonsense then? The fact that Syria arrested two thousand people trying to cross the border into Iraq, that's nonsense as well, is it?
ABDEL BARI ATWAN
We don't know. But they deceived us before. They could give us the wrong information, as the weapons of mass destruction. They told us there are weapons of mass destruction, and nothing.
How can you believe them? A Bedouin told me, you know, people are entitled to go (inaudible) American occupation from the Arab land. We are Arabs. We believe that we are one nation and this is occupation -
TIM SEBASTIAN
Since when do you believe that you're one nation? Look at the disagreements of the Arab League. Do you think they can agree even on where to go for lunch let alone anything more serious than that? What do you mean you're one nation? You've never exhibited any signs of being one nation at all.
ABDEL BARI ATWAN
No, I'm talking about people. The Arab League representing the government are Arabs from Mauritania and the Gulf here. We speak the same language, we have the same culture, we have the same religion, we have the same background, we have the same history, so we are one region.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Same religion? Sunni and Shi'i?
ABDEL BARI ATWAN
It doesn't matter.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Does it feel like the same religion?
ABDEL BARI ATWAN
Doesn't matter. Same - yes, it is Islam.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Sunnis are not excluding Shi'is and the Shi'is are not excluding Sunnis? There's no problem between them at all? There is no problem?
TIM SEBASTIAN
No problem in Saudi Arabia between Sunni and Shi'i?
ABDEL BARI ATWAN
This is the Saudi government's problem, not the Saudi people's problem. The Saudis consider themselves one nation, one people, one religion. And what makes barriers between people are the governments, the (inaudible) dictatorships. But when it comes to people who are together, who have the same aspirations, who have the same feeling -
TIM SEBASTIAN
Who, who says so? Who says so? Where do you see signs of it?
ABDEL BARI ATWAN
History. People
TIM SEBASTIAN
Now? Where are the signs of it?
ABDEL BARI ATWAN
Give us the chance to have a real democracy, I think it will be much better, or different as you mention.
TIM SEBASTIAN
And what signs among Iraq's neighbours do you see that they want to see a democracy?
ABDEL BARI ATWAN
Well actually, as I -
TIM SEBASTIAN
Where are the signs? To bring it back to the motion.
ABDEL BARI ATWAN
Well I think, Turkey would like to have democracy in Iraq simply because it means for them, if it's a true democracy it means stability, because civil war could actually have independent state of the north, and Turkey wouldn't like that. Civil war is against Turkish interests. Iran, they would like to have democracy in Iraq simply because if you have democracy - proper democracy - the Shi'is will be ruling, maybe you'll have a Khomeini-type regime in Baghdad, and this will suit Iran, for example. So Kuwait would love to see democracy simply because it means for them some sort of stability.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Abdel Bari Atwan, thank you very much indeed. Let me throw the discussion open between the two sides. Patrick Theros, how much do you agree with what you've heard from Abdel Bari Atwan?
PATRICK THEROS
Very little, I'm afraid. I find it unrealistic to believe that Kuwaitis assume that the Iraqis are just like them, that the Iraqis bear goodwill towards Kuwait, that there is no sentiment in Iraq that Kuwait is legitimately part of the Iraqi state. I think that this is a widespread sentiment in Iraq. Certainly I mean whether the Iraqi citizenry in the past would have gone to war to unify Iraq with Kuwait is another matter but Saddam was not the first person to threaten Iraq directly. As for the Iranians wanting the democracy in Iraq because it might bring the Shi'a to power, do we forget that for nine years Iraq fought a war against Iran and with an army that was 70% Shi'a and nobody deserted and soldiers died by the tens of thousands quite bravely. It was no community of interests between the Shi'a of Iraq and the Shi'a of Iran. There was a great deal of nationalism. I think the nationalism extends to other places as well. I think it is extremely unrealistic to argue that the Arab people will simply rise up as one. There is a sense of nationalism, there's a sense of belonging to towns. I spent four years in Damascus. One of the most dangerous things you could do was tell the Damascenes that Aleppo had better food. There was a great deal of distinction and arguments. Lebanon is a country that universally speaks Arabic. It broke down at civil war, despite having what was, in my opinion at least, perhaps the most united form of government in the Arab world. There are divisions
PATRICK THEROS
Yes, Iraq is a potentially very powerful country. As a democratic state, Iraq could be the most powerful country in the Arab world.
CLARE SHORT
Do you think these elections that are planned are going to produce a democratic Iraq?
PATRICK THEROS
I would be very surprised if they did, but that again is not the point of the motion, it's what do the neighbours want? Are the neighbours trying to prevent it from happening? I don't think there's clear evidence.
CLARE SHORT
Do you mean by the neighbours, the people or the government? It says neighbours, it doesn't say neighbouring governments. Don't you think the people of the Arab world would like a future that's democratic and free?
PATRICK THEROS
I think
TIM SEBASTIAN
They're not necessarily the same thing, democratic and free, are they?
CLARE SHORT
But people everywhere want to be free to pursue their life, to express their opinions, to see their children have a better life. This is part of being a human being. And I'm sure the neighbours want it for themselves and their neighbourhood.
PATRICK THEROS
This morning, the most democratic government amongst all Iraq's neighbours - the Turkish government - issued what was virtually an ultimatum to the Iraqi government about not permitting Kurds in certain areas to vote, to insist that they vote in other areas. It was delivered in the form of an intervention. There are Turkish troops in Northern Iraq -
CLARE SHORT
The whole country's voting as one, so that's nonsense.
ABDEL BARI ATWAN
My point is, you know, if you are a Syrian for example and you see the American democracy in Iraq and until now a hundred thousand people were killed, half of them actually women and children, and you can see the destruction of Fallujah, and you can see all these atrocities in Iraq. Do you think people will like this kind of imposed democracy by guns and by war planes and by destruction? I, I -
TIM SEBASTIAN
So are you saying they would buy it if America wasn't the salesman?
ABDEL BARI ATWAN
Yes because they are the worst salesman and you know what's happening in Iraq actually is putting people off all the American values and they don't trust the Americans especially when they talk about human rights, when they talk about democracy. This is the problem. So I wouldn't believe any American, I wouldn't trust any American administration, especially this administration when they talk about democracy, when they talk about freedom, when they talk about human rights and you know what happened in Abu Graib prison and -
TIM SEBASTIAN
OK. Mohammed Al Douri, you wanted to come in.
MOHAMMED AL DOURI
I have these three small observations. First of all, comparing Iraq to Palestine - I think it is not correct. It is different. The situation is completely different between Iraq and Palestine. The occupation is very recent here. There is another kind of system of regime, Israel, the relationship between Israel and the Palestinian government is different from the relationship between the Iraq government and the United States, so I cannot compare both Palestine and Iraq. Second, neighbouring - I understood that we are talking about governments. About the people I think we will have hardly any difference because all peoples in the area
CLARE SHORT
It says Iraq's neighbours.
MOHAMMED AL DOURI
Yes madam. All peoples in Iraq's
TIM SEBASTIAN
- government.
MOHAMMED AL DOURI
Whether Iranian, whether Turkish, whether Iraqi, whether Syrian, whether Jordanian, whether from Saudi Arabia, are hoping, loving to see this democracy at the end of the day arriving so they feel free at the end of the day. But regarding Iraq, those countries have different positions. Iran has different interests from the interests of Syria and Iraq. Turkey has different interests from Kuwaiti interest in Iraq. So we can not say...
CLARE SHORT
 I, I agree, but don't you think the Turkish people, the Iranian people, the Egyptian people - the people of the region - would like to see more genuine democracy and freedom across this region - MOHAMMED AL DOURI
Yes - I agree with you.
CLARE SHORT
And they'd like it for Iraq and they'd like it for themselves.
MOHAMMED AL DOURI
But the government, no.
CLARE SHORT
But it doesn't say government. Please note.
MOHAMMED AL DOURI
Anyway, I think there's some countries in the area, neighbouring countries, would like to see the Iraq divided into several states, smaller states. They have interest in that. Other countries no, they would prefer the integrity of the whole Iraqi territory as united state. Others they want to have Iraq as federal.
TIM SEBASTIAN
So you're saying they only want to push their own agendas as far as Iraq is concerned, they have no interest for the Iraqi people?
MOHAMMED AL DOURI
I cannot generalise this between Syria and Iran or Jordan and Kuwait.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Clare Short, let's pick up a point that Abdel Bari Atwan made. He asked the question whether the US wanted democracy in Iraq. You served in Tony Blair's government. Did the British government want to see democracy in Iraq?
CLARE SHORT
Tony Blair just did whatever America wanted and was dishonest with his own government and people about what he was doing. Because he promised us we were only going through the UN, you know, that we were having the inspectors, that war was the last resort, whereas we now know he'd given his word to President Bush that Britain would do whatever America wanted.
TIM SEBASTIAN
So you're saying he had no interest in democracy, just keeping America sweet?
CLARE SHORT
He was just supporting America. He just wanted to keep a close relationship with America. He wasn't thinking about the people of Iraq. I myself think that the rush to war was outrageous because we could have tried other ways of dealing with Iraq, but secondly the failure to prepare any stability for afterwards is criminal. And both the Bush administration and Blair are responsible for that, to give this chaos and continuing suffering to Iraq. I think Tony Blair had dishonoured our country and my party terribly by supporting America in this crazy and wicked adventure.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Patrick Theros.
PATRICK THEROS
I disagree in one respect. Even though I was opposed to the war because I thought it was badly thought out, badly planned, badly aimed, there was very little you could say in terms of the preparation for the war, its execution and the follow up. It was stupid, which is probably the kindest thing I could say about it. However, I do believe there was a strong misguided belief that we could impose democracy on Iraq. I certainly saw this reflected throughout the United States at the time. People who supported the war honestly believed that democracy could be -
CLARE SHORT
So you kill people to give them democracy?
PATRICK THEROS
Well, democracy's messy -
CLARE SHORT
You can't do that!
PATRICK THEROS
But they honestly believed it. They honestly believed there would be no war, they honestly believed, I mean they fooled themselves, they deluded themselves into thinking that this war would be a cake walk. What has happened since then - and here I would disagree with both - is that we have lost control of Iraq. Here I agree completely with Dr. Al Douri in that the Israelis in fact control most of Palestine. The United States army and British army control the hundred metres in front and behind where they march. We do not have control of Iraq. We are essentially desperately trying to hang on to what we have and they would be delighted if the elections produced some sort of democratic government that could legitimately ask them to leave, because I think right now the dominant political desire in the United States is to pack and leave in some honourable and decent fashion. But that can only be done if asked by a government that is perceived to be legitimate right now.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Right, Abdel Bari Atwan, I'm going to bring you in here, but after that we're going to take some questions from the floor.
ABDEL BARI ATWAN
Actually what I'm wondering about is the cost of this bloody democracy in Iraq. Who is going to pay the cost for that? For example, when you have a hundred thousand people killed and maybe more than, you know, four hundred thousand people injured, and hundreds of thousand of houses were demolished and destroyed. So who is going to pay compensation for the Iraqi people after, especially after Kofi Annan, the highest international man, the Secretary General of the United Nations, said it was illegal war? So who is going to pay, who is going to compensate the Iraqi people? Kuwait, for example, for seven months of occupation of Saddam Hussein with the minimum of destruction were paid until the day of the invasion about twenty billion dollars. So how much is the compensation of the Iraqi people for this war and for this democracy which is going to be imposed on them which is not working until now and I don't believe it will work.
PATRICK THEROS
If - and it's a big if, I grant - but if there is democracy there is virtually no cost that should be paid for it. The French Revolution killed in its time tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of people and yet this was the best thing that ever happened to Europe was the French Revolution - the first real -
ABDEL BARI ATWAN
 Yes but you're paying to Kuwait, you asked Saddam Hussein to pay for Kuwait. I don't want to pay.
PATRICK THEROS
No, no, no. From the Iraqi point of view - and assume the Iraqi point of view - the payments to Kuwait were outrageous.
CLARE SHORT
I thought you were against the war. If you argue that these elections are not going to produce democracy, the rule of law, freedom for all the people of Iraq if you argue that, then that's the argument of the US administration. We went and killed everyone and destroyed Iraq to bring them democracy -
TIM SEBASTIAN
But also the argument of the neighbouring states who you believe want democracy in the region.
CLARE SHORT
I didn't say the neighbouring states, I said the neighbours. I said the people of this region would like to have democracy for the people of Iraq and for themselves.
PATRICK THEROS
I would argue that the neighbouring peoples want democracy for their own countries. I would also argue that they have no reason to believe that bringing democracy to Iraq would necessarily speed up that process.
CLARE SHORT
But these elections in Iraq will not be democracy.
PATRICK THEROS
That's entirely possible, but that wasn't the question.

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Audience questions

TIM SEBASTIAN
All right, let me bring the audience in here. You've heard the views of the panellists. It's now your chance to put your questions to our panellists. Please, I see you're raising your hands. I'm going to indicate which questioners I'd like to get a microphone to. Please wait until that microphone comes to you, and please keep your questions as short as possible. A lady in the third row over there, please.
AUDIENCE Q1
Is Iraq capable of moving smoothly from dictatorship to democracy?
TIM SEBASTIAN
I don't - who would you like to address that? I mean, perhaps Mr Al Douri could start with that?
MOHAMMED AL DOURI
Is Iraq prepared to change?
AUDIENCE Q1
Capable of moving.
MOHAMMED AL DOURI
Capable. Well of course yes. There are no people in the world who are not capable to practice democracy. One of the major ambitions for our life, for our civilisation, is to have democracy. But which kind of democracy, who will want this democracy? Might it be imposed, imported from outside, dictated by other, by occupation power. No, what we would like as Iraq, we would like to have a democracy, our democracy. We are to changing our regime, our system, to have a democracy in Iraq.
PATRICK THEROS
Can I add a comment please. You hear very much in the Western world that country A or country B is not ready for democracy. I once had a conversation with an Arab ruler in which he said how do you know that a country isn't ready for democracy until you try it, and there's no reason at all why the Iraqi people, under the right circumstances, given the opportunity to take power - it may be messy, it may be bloody, we may see another hundred thousand dead in the process, but most countries that went from dictatorship or authoritarian regime or colonialism did it though a very bloody or messy process. So there's no reason to believe that you can't end up with a democratic state in Iraq.
TIM SEBASTIAN
The lady in the second row there.
AUDIENCE Q2
I would like to address the question to the party who is arguing against the motion, and my question is it appears to me that the Iraqi people have no choice but to accept the democracy, but to what extent do you think that the upcoming elections is a result of the American invasion, or is it by the will of the Iraqi people?
TIM SEBASTIAN
Clare Short.
Audience questionCLARE SHORT
I absolutely do not accept elections that some people will participate in and others won't because they don't approve, or others won't because they're frightened, as democracy. If we talk about these elections that are coming up in Iraq, they're not democracy, they're a set of elections that are partly intended for propaganda purposes so the occupying powers can say, "There you are, we've got a government that's arisen from the people, and that's the purpose of it." So let's not muddle genuine democracy where people are really in charge of their own fate and how this country's governed with these forthcoming elections in Iraq. I agree with you, the elections are going to take place. Some people will be enthusiastic to participate, others disapprove, others will be too frightened. It's dangerous in that it looks as though the Shi'a people will participate in big numbers and others be under-represented which could cause tension and division, which could exacerbate the problems of the country. I mean there's some suggestion that there'll be appointees into the parliament for the under-represented people, so these are just gonna be some very messy elections that aren't going to end the insurgency and won't represent everybody. This is not democracy. They're being designed so the occupying powers can claim that they're in favour of freedom for these people that are being oppressed and killed.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Isn't it even a good first step? I mean if the security division doesn't allow for elections throughout the country, isn't this a good first step?
CLARE SHORT
Those who are not participating in the elections have said if we can have a negotiation about the end to the occupation then we'd very happily - so if there was a negotiation saying let's help Iraq elect an interim government and they can ask the occupation to end, then the whole country would participate.
TIM SEBASTIAN
The gentleman in the second row.
AUDIENCE Q3
A lot of the people in the Middle East are tired of war and violence in the region, yet if we put all that behind on election day - and the question is to Mr. Mohammed Al Douri - as a previous representative for the UN during the rule of Saddam Hussein, do you think Iraq is better on January 30th 2005 or with Saddam Hussein in power?
MOHAMMED AL DOURI
Well I think you have to answer that question, not me, because everything is clear. Hundreds of thousands of people killed. Thousands and thousands of ton of weapons of mass destruction thrown to Iraqi people and you see what is going on actually so I ask you the same question.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Are you satisfied with that answer?
AUDIENCE Q3
So if you have the election or bring back Saddam Hussein, what would you do?
MOHAMMED AL DOURI
Well you know, I will tell you honestly that this will never happen, because the Iraqi people are seeking to look toward the future, to build a real democracy, a free country, free of all kind of occupation.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Mr Al Douri, I don't want to labour this, but I don't think you've answered his question yet.
MOHAMMED AL DOURI
Sorry?
TIM SEBASTIAN
I don't think you've answered his question yet.
MOHAMMED AL DOURI
What?
TIM SEBASTIAN
Do you think he's answered his question?
AUDIENCE Q3
I'm satisfied with the explanation, but still do you think it's a good idea to bring back Saddam Hussein or not?
MOHAMMED AL DOURI
It is not a question now.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Well it's a question that he's asking.
MOHAMMED AL DOURI
It is not a question now. No, it is not a question.
TIM SEBASTIAN
OK, well we'll record the fact that you don't want to answer the question
MOHAMMED AL DOURI
If the Iraqi people would like to have Saddam Hussein again (inaudible). If we are democratic we have to accept that. But it is not a question.
CLARE SHORT
I think the people don't want Saddam Hussein, they didn't want him, and they don't want the chaos they've got now. They want a decent future where they can control their own affairs - so both are totally miserable for them.
TIM SEBASTIAN
OK. Gentleman in the third row there.
AUDIENCE Q4
Tim, thank you very much. The point here that I would like to bring is a lot of our people talk about democracy. Democracy's a relative term and it's a very flexible term. But going through the main point that we are talking about, self initiated democracies. We have lived for a long time with Arab world with certain regimes that have taken a lot of the Arab countries backwards. They have so many resources, so many talented people and they have taken them backward and we keep on repeating on the conspiracy theory that the West is here only for the oil and they are going to control this for the oil. I think whatever democratic reforms you are talking about, the process had to be initiated either peacefully or violently. Europe have gone through a lot of civil wars until they come to the level where they are right now. The United States the same thing. Now we are seeing some violent movements in the Arab world and we are talking just next door neighbour in Saudi. Why is that? We have to address the situation. We don't have to talk about conspiracy theory and keep on repeating it. We have not shown any credibility in these regimes that we are changing. We need to cast our votes. We need to, you know, to say no don't do this. There are two types of Arab governments. Governments with a lot of finance, with a lot of money, and that's why a lot of people are quiet because they don't feel the heat. But look at a very rich company like Saudi when things went bad and a lot of people are suffering. Things are changing. So, you know, we need to understand that and not only to say that is this going to help Iraq? Definitely it's going to help Iraq. I believe that a lot of people will stand in line, a lot of people will go and cast their vote, feel that they are part of the system, part of the process. For so many years they have been under a very apprehensive regime. What are we looking for? Another Saddam? I'm sorry Mr Atwan, I like you very much but sometimes you keep on pushing too much on these things. I think we have to address what they have shown, what credibility. We talked about Israel. Israel would not do what it does if we had a credible democratic states around Israel. Then even the United States and Britain would say OK, we have to respect what the people are saying. But I don't want to take more of your time.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Abdel Bari Atwan, want to come back on that?
ABDEL BARI ATWAN
Thank you very much. Actually, I would love to raise these questions. Yes, we love democracy. We would like democracy to be prevailing in all countries. You refer to Saudi Arabia. Yes, if there is a democracy in Saudi Arabia we wouldn't have Al Qaeda, we wouldn't have the radical groups conducting this kind of violence. We wouldn't have this spread to Kuwait which has a relative democracy. Who is responsible for that? OK, we as the people, we did not push enough for democracy simply because we did not have any help from the outside. When Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries were under the wings of the United States, for example, the friends that support the United States and the American administrations were short sighted. They did not say to them, look you know, the danger is coming if you don't actually introduce reforms. When United States starts to talk about reform they shut up now. Why do they shut up? Simply because their project in Iraq failed. When their project in Iraq failed and when their allies in Egypt and other places say look, you know, it will put us in trouble, they stopped talking about democracy, they stopped talking about human rights or about reforms. This is the problem. Yes, we want democracy, but we want our democracy, not the American democracy. We want the real democracy, the organic democracy. We don't want this false democracy which they are trying to impose on us in order to serve the American interest in the region. That's the problem.
TIM SEBASTIAN
You want to come back on that, can we let him come back.
AUDIENCE Q4
I think (inaudible) democracy, if we want to use that word, in (inaudible), either it would come from us and everybody would carry a rifle and start shooting until we come to an agreement like what happened in a lot of countries, or we have been forced from the outside. But, once the process starts, believe me we will not listen to anybody else because at the end of the day I would have to go to the polls and elect who will represent me for my benefit and then things will change. But if we go on saying we don't want anybody to push us to the (inaudible) and we don't want democracy, I tell you things will change. Nothing will stay still, OK. Look at the history, look at the minority groups in the States and how they came to get to the Congress and Senate, enforcing certain things. Again, I go back to the point. I say that in the Arab world we have not shown credibility. Why are you coming to (inaudible)? all the time and people listen to you? Because we try to show some credibility relative in comparison to the rest of the Gulf countries and Arab countries. And unfortunately not a lot of people are addressing or appreciating what we are doing. So please, don't be a part of that process, be a part of change, and I -
CLARE SHORT
Do you think the elections in Iraq will end the insurgency?
AUDIENCE Q4
No, no it will not end the insurgency, but that's a beginning, that's a process.
CLARE SHORT
But I'm not against elections. I agree with you, elections should be used. But let's not call that democracy.
AUDIENCE Q4
No, no, you see democracy is very relative in terms. We have democracy in our world, we have democracy in the Gulf. I can - not me - anybody can ask for an appointment with the Emir of Qatar. That's democracy if you want to look at it from that point. I can say whatever I want. That's democracy. But then implementing things, changing things, people have to be listened to. I agree with the Iraqi thing. To initiate the process, that's very important. When we see in Afghanistan, a sixty five years old guy, waiting for three hours to cast his vote, that's a process. This is one per cent change, this is positive change. This is what I want. I don't want to sit and say no, time will come for me. When is time. Time -
TIM SEBASTIAN
OK, I want to move on because I want to take some more questions, particularly from our student population over there. The gentleman over there.
AUDIENCE Q5
I'd like to ask two questions. First Mr Mohammed Al Douri, do you suggest that the USA should leave Iraq right now, and the second question is to Mr Abdel Bari Atwan, if you are against the current government and against the election, then what are you for?
TIM SEBASTIAN
OK, do you want to take that second one first?
ABDEL BARI ATWAN
Ok, just one minute, I'll get to that. Yes, I want the American administration to say we failed in Iraq, we are pulling out of Iraq, we don't want to have permanent bases in Iraq and we want to let Iraqi people have reconciliation and sort out their problems by themselves. If they do so, that's what I want, we will have a stable Iraq. But as long as they are favouring those people and they want to design a special democracy in Iraq in order to keep Iraq as a satellite state for the United States, as a spring board to threaten them, the militant people, and to impose its will on the people in the region, in this case no I don't want it. To say that we are leaving, we are not going to have permanent bases, and this is our agenda of withdrawal, I will support this.
TIM SEBASTIAN
OK, and the question to Mohammed Al Douri.
MOHAMMED AL DOURI
Well of course I am in favour of the American withdrawal from Iraq but this is not me, this is the Iraqi people. The Iraq people now put all their potential to get rid from America. (OVERLAP)
TIM SEBASTIAN
How's it going to help democracy in the short term?
MOHAMMED AL DOURI
Look, the Americans will not, will not export democracy to Iraq. This is -
TIM SEBASTIAN
But by their departure how is it going to -
MOHAMMED AL DOURI
By their departure - look the Americans came to Iraq to destroy Iraq. They did that and they have now to leave. After -
TIM SEBASTIAN
No, but I'm asking how their departure will help democracy.
MOHAMMED AL DOURI
After the, after the - look please. After that there's the United Nations, there's the Arab League, there's - I don't know - a lot of organisations
TIM SEBASTIAN
So they'll produce democracy will they?
MOHAMMED AL DOURI
They can help Iraq. They can help Iraq to build a future in terms of democracy, in terms of economy, in terms of - so the Americans have no other choice than to leave Iraq as soon as possible. Otherwise, the national resistance is there and they are treating this problem.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Patrick Theros, this is your team member. Do you agree with this?
PATRICK THEROS
Generally I agree, I'd phrase it somewhat differently but the problem with the argument against the motion is it's sterile. It is a re-hashing of all the mistakes the United States has made, rightly or wrongly over the last fifty years. The issue before us right now is that there will be elections shortly. One way or another they're going to produce something that is going to be less than democratic but is going to produce something. What that thing is going to be, I don't know. But what it may very well produce is a government sufficiently credible to ask the United States to leave.
CLARE SHORT
That would be the best possible thing, but the motion isn't 'we are in favour or not in favour of elections in Iraq'.
PATRICK THEROS
No, but what I'm saying is that using the argument about the United States leaving or not leaving, or using the argument about the United States having caused all the troubles in the Middle East has nothing to do with the motion either. The motion essentially is what do the neighbours think? The neighbours have a great deal of reason to be apprehensive. Nonetheless, I believe that the United States government today - not the United States government of eighteen months ago - but the United States government today very much wants to have a sufficiently credible regime in Iraq that will permit us to depart.
CLARE SHORT
Pro- American, pro-Israeli regime.
PATRICK THEROS
It doesn't matter at this point.
CLARE SHORT
But they can't have a democratic pro-American -
Audience question PATRICK THEROS
No, I said it doesn't matter at this point. We have become part of the problem.
CLARE SHORT
Well we agree on that.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Gentleman at the back, if we can get a microphone to him.
AUDIENCE Q5
I am Iraqi and I lived in Iraq during the war and after the war. The United States had had control of the situation in Iraq for two years and now the Iraqi people are afraid of going to their centre, to centres of elections to elect or vote for a government.. The question is that would the American army have this magic ability to control the situation in about two weeks and provide a good environment for the Iraqi people to go and vote?
TIM SEBASTIAN
Who would you like to address that question to, Patrick Theros?
AUDIENCE Q5
Mr Abdel Bari Atwan.
TIM SEBASTIAN
OK. I think we know the answer!
ABDEL BARI ATWAN
Please, I'm glad you addressed this question to me, you know, it's my favourite question. Yes, you know, there are five thousand police stationed in Iraq according to the high committee of election. Do you believe that a hundred and fifty thousand Americans are going to protect this? It will be, you know, a job left to the resistance who are spreading all over Iraq. So if the Iraqi police until now they cannot protect themselves, do you think they will be able to protect those people who are going to be a candidate or who are going to cast their votes? This is one thing. Second thing, I would like to tell you that the Americans recruited a hundred thousand police or National Guard members in the last 12 months or so. Fifty percent of them stay at home. They don't want to go to the police station because they are scared. And the other fifty percent, you know, half of them they go there not all the time, just part time - probably maybe two days a week or something like that. And the people who stay - and the Americans are still paying their salaries. You know why? Because they don't want them to go and join the election and make the same mistake when they disbanded the Iraqi army. So if the police can't protect themselves, if the Americans can't protect the police, and if the government can't leave the Green Zone which is a few square kilometres, if the candidates cannot go and talk to people and actually explain their programmes, so how can we have election -
TIM SEBASTIAN
OK, so the short answer is no.
ABDEL BARI ATWAN
No - big no.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Thank you very much. Can I just come back to you who asked the question. You've heard our speakers speak in your name and tell the audience what you think you as Iraqis want. Do you believe as an Iraqi that the elections are worth holding? Are they worth participating in? Would you recommend that your people take part in those elections?
AUDIENCE Q5
Nowadays, I don't think that there is a good environment to make these elections. As I say to you that people - including my family who are living in Iraq now - are afraid of going to the centres to vote. So how can there will be a good, a fair election? You tell me how.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Mohammed Al Douri, very quickly because we've got a few more questions and we're running out of time.
MOHAMMED AL DOURI
Yeah, I don't think, I don't think this question of the people are secure to go to the, to go to polls. No, the question is -
TIM SEBASTIAN
You don't think so, he does.
MOHAMMED AL DOURI
The question is if there's a real democratic election or not. If the people are willing to have this election, to elect their representative at their national assembly, this is the question. And the Iraqi people now, a half of Iraqi people, they are seeing thirty percent or forty percent of (inaudible) I don't know, but all those from people from Mosul to Baghdad to Ramadi to Baqubah to Samarra they are not willing to go to polls. So now if that's happened are the elections democratic or not? Are the elections free or not? Will the elections lead to a democratic state in the near future or not?
TIM SEBASTIAN
Well let me throw the question back to the student in the audience then. If Iraq was more secure, would it then be worth participating in the elections?
AUDIENCE Q5
I think yes. The big problem now is the security. Not even the police men have control of their own security, so how can they secure other people? So the most problem now is the security.
TIM SEBASTIAN
All right, thank you very much. The gentleman that's sat very patiently in the front row, waiting to put a question.
AUDIENCE Q6
Thank you very much all of the panel. I have a question for you, gentleman.
ABDEL BARI ATWAN
My name is Abdel.
AUDIENCE Q6
Americans were involved years ago in Iraq. The track record of American in terms of democracy is always negative. 1915 Iran, and so on and so forth and onward. But my question to you is that have you ever thought all this fiasco in Iraq today is the responsibility of Iraqi people who sat quietly for so many years and allowed Saddam to do what he has done? Iraqis are going to the polls not because Americans are there, but because of what Saddam represented for thirty years. And as long as you people and in fact the entire Arab world do not face this, question this particular answer, nothing will be resolved. What do you expect? Why shouldn't the Americans be there. Americans were there in 1969 when he took power.
TIM SEBASTIAN
OK, can we get Mr Al Douri to answer your point.
MOHAMMED AL DOURI
I completely disagree with you on that interpretation, but you have to ask yourself also why are the Americans there, what are they doing in Iraq? What they did already for two years, and even before that. Were they imposing sanctions and killing two million people. What is this, what are the Americans doing there? So you have not to blame Iraqi people, you have to blame America and Britain for making this chaos. Put the responsibility on their shoulder, not on the shoulder of the Iraqi people.
CLARE SHORT
The Iraqi people did rise up and try and get rid of Saddam Hussein, and they were brutally put down.
TIM SEBASTIAN
OK, I think we have time for three more questions. I'll come to the front and it's first the lady in red.
AUDIENCE Q7
Thank you. Well I have a couple of simple questions. The first one to Dr. Al Douri. You mention that resolving the problems of minorities in Iraq would cause a threat to some countries. So don't you think that these problems would be solved anyway, with or without democracy, and in this case, how would these countries threaten react in your opinion? The second question I think any of the guests can answer it. If democracy is not expected in the coming years in Iraq, why is Syria acting against elections now, or is it not acting at all and it's just an American campaign against Syria?
TIM SEBASTIAN
Clare Short, do you want to take that one first?
CLARE SHORT
I don't know in detail what Syria is doing, but I want to say this to everyone. Britain, when it had its empire, tried to organise elections to hold on to the empire, and all over the empire people wanted to get rid of the occupation and have their own democracy. And so elections can be a tool for freedom if it's a preparation for an occupation to end. Or in Vietnam they had elections to try and have a pro-American Vietnamese government. So I think if you can have fair elections, people should use them to say what they can say, but lets not pretend that these coming elections which are going to be terribly flawed in the way the young man pointed out are going to bring police or security to Iraq or are going to going to really allow the people of Iraq to express their wish, but they're going to have to struggle through it because this is the mess they're in. And America is responsible, and my country, for this invasion and this killing and all this chaos. This is America and Britain's responsibility. TIM SEBASTIAN
Let me bring this, cos we've got a lot of questions still to -
MOHAMMED AL DOURI
Well look, Iraq tried in the past to resolve this very complicated problem, because this is not only a hundred percent internal problem. So, the neighbouring countries are involved without a question because they have this minority. And their official positions are different from the Iraqi position from the beginning. And early in 1970, Iraqi government tried to resolve that question in a proper way. And at that time Turkey and Iran was against this kind of solution for the problem because it was initiating a democratic way at initial stage, but after that it was complicated. Now, if there is a democratic regime in Iraq, really, that means the Kurds will have their rights, whatever are these rights, but for that the Turkish government or Turkey or Iran, I don't think they will be happy for that because the Kurdish there will ask the same what they have, what they got from a new Iraqi government.
TIM SEBASTIAN
All right. I'm just going to take, very quickly, one last question from our student contingent there. The lady who's sitting second along the row.
AUDIENCE Q7
I have two questions I want to ask.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Could you just ask one please, because we don't have time for two.
AUDIENCE Q7
Yes. Ms. Short, does democracy bring freedom for us?
CLARE SHORT
I think democracy and freedom are interlinked, and I think just to see democracy as one set of elections where there's no - that's not democracy. Democracy is a system where people are free to speak, free to organise, free to get rid of their government by voting. The rule of law is part of democracy, you know.
AUDIENCE Q7
Can American democracy bring freedom for us?
CLARE SHORT
I think what America's done in Iraq and what it's doing in the Middle East is bringing continuing conflict and suffering. I think you've got to take charge of your own region. But America's got to stop interfering, and it has made it very difficult for this region to be free and to go forward, bur the people have got to do that.

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Vote result

TIM SEBASTIAN
All right, we've come to the point where I'd like to ask you to vote on the motion. The motion 'This House believes that Iraq's neighbours have no wish to see a democratic Iraq'. You have your voting devices. 'A' if you are for the motion and 'B' if you are against. Would you please point the devices at the screen behind me and make your selection and do it now. Can we put the result up on both screens, please? No expense spared in bringing you the latest technology, but it does take a few seconds. It should be up there any moment now and we will see how effective our speakers have been in persuading you of their arguments. All right. Good. 63% against the motion. It is rejected.
Thank you very much indeed to you, the audience, for coming, for our speakers, eminent speakers. We're back next month with an Israeli Palestinian debate. Meanwhile, our website is up and running. Do consult it. Thank you very much indeed for being here tonight, and have a safe journey home. Thank you.

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