First Amendment Room
National Press Club
529 14th Street, N.W.
Moderator: Eleana Benador
MS. BENADOR: Ladies and gentlemen: My name is Eleana Benador from Benador Associates. Before we start, may I please ask you to turn off your cell phones.
Today we are privileged to host this important event. All around the world, with the liberation of Iraq, we have been hearing most of all the well-intentioned voices coming from the West. Now, as we are at the beginning of a new chapter in the history of Iraq and the Middle East, a new chapter also for all of us, we strongly feel that the time has come to let the voices of the Iraqis themselves be heard.
There is no one else that we would want to start this kind of event with than the man who has endlessly been advocating the notions of federalism, democracy, nonviolence, respect for diversity, and granting new roles for women in the new Iraqi society. This man, one of the greatest minds in our times, Kanan Makiya, leaves in the United States and his writings have been focusing on the atrocities of the former regime of Saddam Hussein. Kanan Makiya is now active in the shaping of the new Iraqi constitution and other things that we'll hear from him directly.
So, ladies and gentlemen, without further ado, please join me in welcoming Professor Kanan Makiya.
MR. MAKIYA: Thank you, ladies and gentlemen, for coming to this event. Thank you, Eleana, for organizing it so suddenly. My apologies for having to change it suddenly from Tuesday to Wednesday, which must have caused you a great deal of inconvenience.
I have returned, just returned from Nasariya and am about to go to Baghdad for the first time in, what, 34 years. So it's quite a momentous moment for me personally, to say nothing of the momentous political events taking place there and throughout the rest of Iraq.
I'm going to comment very briefly on the situation as I see it politically and then discuss the steps that I think we need to take and the vacuum that we need to fill, Iraqi democrats and the United States government, all those who wish to see a new and dramatically different kind of Arab state, state emerge in Iraq than the one that has been there in the past.
Now, let me begin by saying the situation at the moment, especially in the South, is very messy and complicated. I think the fundamental explanation for this arises from the vacuum of authority that was left after the sudden collapse of the Baath regime. Whether this could have been predicted or not is a question that I think historians and others will ponder for a long time. Let me say that I and many other Iraqis have long argued and tried to convince the administration that, given the nature of this regime, the kind of arguments that we have developed in books about its nature, its inner workings, its precise method of functioning, one should always have expected this regime not to fall cleanly, but to shatter like a sheet of glass.
Namely, the idea that parts of it could be won over in the course of the war, large chunks of the army for instance which would simply join the allied effort, did not materialize. That part of the current situation in Iraq was not surprising to a person -- certainly not to myself and to many Iraqis.
What transpired was a collapse -- "collapse" is not even the right word, but like a sheet of glass, a breaking up into thousands of tiny pieces. This I do not think the United States appreciated adequately, and as a consequence of that it did not prepare for what is today the most paramount, central missing ingredient in the political situation in Iraq, which I shall call for the moment a new Iraqi force, imbued -- police force, law and order force, imbued with the values of the coalition, that is the values of the new Iraq that we wish to see here, a force that would immediately fill the vacuum of authority that was created in part because of the infighting inside Washington because of the view of some sections of the American administration that in fact the Baath, large sections of the Baath regime, could be won over at a sufficiently senior enough level that these people would retain loyalty and the command of their troops and of those who worked under them, civil servants.
Because of that belief, there was an active discouragement of the creation of an independent Iraqi force that would work as an ally of the coalition in the bringing down of this regime. As a consequence, we have no Iraqis today, or very, very few -- and I will talk of them in a minute -- we have very, very few Iraqis who are in fact inside Iraqi cities carrying the values of the coalition.
I go back to this crucial word, "carrying the values of the coalition." You can work with bits and pieces of a shattered police force in Basra, in Mosul, in other parts of Iraq, but that has two problems. Number one is you are working with what was the police force in Iraq, always was, at the bottom of the bottom of the heap, the most downtrodden, the most oppressed, the most beaten up, and the least able, the least spirited of the Iraqis various apparatus of social control inside Iraq. The Muhabarad, the army itself, have all essentially disintegrated. I say that. Individuals are a separate matter. But what remains are tiny little fragments, with a few policemen here, a hundred policemen there; and the idea that these can re-assert authority in the turbulent situation that we now see unfolding is, frankly, ridiculous.
What is needed is a spirited new force that is trained by the coalition, by the U.S. forces, for the time being, whose numbers must increase very rapidly. They should have been there weeks ago, but better late than never.
This force, I believe thousands of volunteers and recruits for it exist. There are people banging on the doors of the INC to join the Free Iraqi forces. The problem is there's no money to pay for them, there's no support from the U.S. government, and because there's not adequate liaison, numbers of the, at least the Free Iraqi Forces that the INC has created are even being killed through friendly fire incidents. I think three or four such people have been killed thus far by American soldiers by accident, simply because the liaison between this force and CENTCOM is not yet in place.
So to be a central authority, to begin even the political process -- Eleana introduced me as somebody interested in democracy -- obviously, this is the be-all and end-all of my life -- and in the constitutional process, in which I feel very personally committed. But to even begin all that work, we need the very elemental, basic pillar of it, which is that institution of law and order that shares the same uniform, shares the same values, is brought up in a new kind of ethos, one that is of course not the Baathist ethos and one that identifies with a democratic, secular, future Iraq.
That message is what I have heard back from Nasariya to talk to people here in Washington about. I have been pressing it in my various meetings and I think it is finally being appreciated.
We have, as always, unfortunately in this Iraq situation been hobbled, seriously hobbled, because of the situation within Washington, the fighting that goes on, fighting which, incidentally, represents very different views on the future of Iraq. It's not just personal squabbles and one who uses those words tends to undermine the importance of it. At stake here are very, very different views of the Iraq that emerges.
There is a view that deep down does not accept really what I think is in the President's heart when he says he wants to see a genuinely democratic Iraq. That view is driven often with the idea that such a thing is not possible: Let us go for the least common denominator, let us see what sections of the Baath Party can be won over, let us keep the social structure intact as much as possible, work with perhaps the establishment that exists and modify it slightly to remove the worst excesses of the regime, certainly clean things up a great deal, and so on and so forth.
The other view, which is a view pressed by the Iraqi opposition now for many years -- which has incidentally been held at an arm's length ever since the London conference and pushed away and not involved in the process of the war, another central mistake I think that we are now paying the price of it. I could come back to this question because again, to go back to this issue of law and order, which as I said is what's primarily on my mind at the moment, having seen the situation in the South, that there was a unified command that emerged from the group of parties and organizations that represent the historic legacy, if you like, of the Iraqi opposition, the two main Kurdish parties, the INC, the INA, SCIRI, and the others, that met in both London and in Salahadin, and a unified command was put together before the war broke out, the intention of which was to work closely with CENTCOM, to liaise with them.
For that they needed officers, especially to make those liaisons. They needed special equipment that would allow them to be distinguished from enemy forces. They needed all kinds of arrangements to be set in place. And this was not done, out of the belief that emerged as a consequence of the logjams in Washington that said: Stay away from the Iraqi opposition; these people are exiles, these people have nothing to do with the reality of the country or very little to do with it, and rely solely on the allied coalition of CENTCOM to do the job.
Well, the absence of Iraqis has meant a vacuum of authority inside cities, because the U.S. Army and the British Army have not gone inside cities, as you all know, with a consequence that a kind of free-for-all has developed all across the South. In some places it's not as bad as others. In some places, elements that are allied with the coalition are in control; a city like Hilled comes to mind. In others, the allied coalition is totally not in control; Najif comes to mind. Basra, a reasonably good situation does exist.
Everywhere it's different, is my main point. And everywhere it is a rising force, local councils are appearing, which are sometimes dominated by forces that are not going to be friendly to democracy, let's face it. And everywhere potential centers of armed might are developing, which will make the country's integration and unity very hard down the line.
Well, there are two theories at work in this which I think are dominant in the conflict, in the logjam that exists in London. Let me lay them out for you. Behind everything that you see and behind much of the debate going on in Washington and even behind what you see unfolding now on the ground inside Iraq lie these two very different conceptions for how to go about building a new order in Iraq.
In the first conception -- and this, by the way, is going to play itself out, is already playing itself out, in the debate that is taking place over the shape of the new Iraqi Interim Authority, whose next meeting, as you perhaps all know by now, is going to take place in Baghdad next Monday. This meeting, unlike the one in Nasariya, is going to be very large. Much more is going to be asked of it politically speaking and it will be essentially in Iraqi hands. Once the initial opening or convening of the meeting is finalized and one or two spokesmen for the coalition speak, it will then be turned into Iraqi hands.
So we will have a rare and important event, very large, in which very many groups have been invited, that will be addressing the issue of the Interim Authority in all its very many complexities, and I'll come to that in a second.
Now, what are these two underpinning theories? One has it that -- and they are about how you bring democracy to work in Iraq. One has it that the process comes first. Above everything else, you need to have everyone represented. Above efficiency, above leadership, above actual exertion of authority inside cities, comes the question of a kind of rainbow coalition of views, opinions, parties, etcetera.
I'll put it this way, and this theory is what dominated the vacuum of authority that took place: Let 100 flowers bloom, is the idea. Iraqis, we have liberated the country, we have knocked out the tyrants; let the situation now -- let them form their popular councils, let them form their local militias, let them establish different police forces, and if they're wearing a different uniform in Najif than they wear somewhere else and sometimes they're the old Iraqi police force and sometimes they're a new police force with an entirely different structure and so on, that's democracy.
To my mind, that is not democracy. That is a recipe for chaos and anarchy in a country like Iraq, and democracy is about none of those things. Democracy -- we do not have democracy simply because the tyrant is gone and the hands of the state have been unleashed everywhere. We have simply a people waking up for the first time from what you might call a deep, dark sleep full of nightmares and horrendous experiences, suddenly coming out into the bright light of the day and, naturally, not knowing quite how to behave, quite how to conduct themselves, and voicing the very first thing that comes to their mind, forming organizations overnight, disassembling them overnight, new things coming out, and so on.
The pace of events that's going on in southern Iraq is so rapid, so changing by the day, that I would put very little credence on any one single event. One must see these as part of an unfolding process by which people ventilate themselves, by which they speak out for the first time, and so on. But it is a process that can go dangerously wrong, a process that can go in directions that none of us want to see it going, and it is not a process that should have been unleashed quite in this way.
So we need quickly -- and we have a very short window of time, I put it to you, and this is what I have been saying throughout the government in various departments and situations. This is not democracy. This is not even the beginning of democracy. This is anarchy and this is confusion. This is a recipe for the breakup of Iraq.
We need order. I, who believe in rights and believe in democracy and for whom that is the be-all and end-all of his life, say we need now first and foremost a new Iraqi police force, imbued with new values, in a new uniform, that, yes, can recruit from amongst the old police force. If 100 police officers who have a sense of responsibility and duty in Baghdad come back and report to work, of course they must be integrated into this, into such a new force. But they must also do so in a new fashion, wearing new uniforms, and realize that they're are being officered and being structured in a way unrecognizable to the patterns of the past.
We must recognize that that's what we're about to do. But this new armed police force, this law and order force, is not an army. It must not be organized as an army. We don't want an army in Iraq. It is eventually a budding institution that will be passed over, it seems to me, to the new Iraqi Interim Authority.
Now, when we tried and [inaudible] in particular and Chalabi tried for many, many years before, long before the onset, the outbreak of the war, to argue for such a force, to say that the Iraqi Liberation Act was about the creation of such a force and so on, he was balked, he was thwarted. The argument was always made that this was a private business. And in the end of the day, of the few people who were trained in Hungary -- the training ground that was finally established under the auspices of the Iraqi Liberation Act -- 68 only joined the coalition forces prior to the outbreak of the war. So that is not a serious effort.
As a result, what Chalabi did, aware I think of the magnitude of the task in front of him, is set up and create his own Free Iraqi Forces -- no doubt you've heard about them, you've read about them -- of 700 or so people. He set them up and trained them in a very quick and fast way in northern Iraq and finally, with a lot of reluctance, got them flown over to southern Iraq, where they have proved to be -- I'm speaking now from reports of local commanders on the ground, not politicians here in Washington -- very, very useful and effective in finding caches of weapons and dealing with Iraqis in towns and cities. But they are 600, 700 people.
What Chalabi then did was pass them over to CENTCOM. So he no longer controls these forces, 600, 700 people. What this force is, the technical name for it is "Free Iraqi Forces." It's now the only Iraqi part in the coalition. Think about that for a moment. We have here a coalition that waged a fantastically impressive war in Iraq, very short duration and so on, but there is no Iraqi army, no Iraqi component that speaks in the name of the values of the coalition, and the one and only component that might have been, the Iraqi opposition, was shunted aside because of the infighting that was going on in Washington at the time.
The possibility of marginalizing this development of radical Islamic forces in Iran was possible through the auspices of the Iraqi opposition, which of course included then the SCIRI, the Supreme Council, and the whole idea was by involving SCIRI to head off this kind of development that is now taking place in cities of the South.
So technically, today the Free Iraqi Forces, 600 or so men, a tiny minuscule amount of what is needed, represents the only Iraqis employed as Iraqis, not as Iraqi-Americans or something like that, inside the coalition, and they are the -- it is my contention to you now that, this is what I am arguing for, this force needs to be rapidly, like yesterday, massively increased, trained. This whole process has to go on together. It must become 10,000 within a week. The numbers of people just clamoring at the gates -- there's no shortage of people, believe me. Thousands of people are banging on the doors in the North and even more thousands in the South. But if you don't utilize these people, if you don't bring them in, how on earth can you counter the groups that are taking over in the cities because the United States is holding back from any kind of involvement?
Okay, so I have spoken enough about that. So the alternative to this viewpoint, let 100 flowers bloom type of thing, is to understand that what is missing is leadership. Leadership is not a rainbow coalition of people. Leadership is concerted action. Leadership is what you need to get results. Representativeness is what you need in other places.
Our intention is to create the structures of representation that will allow the country as a whole to participate. Democracy is about institutions, it's about law and order. It's not something that comes out of some textbook, some anarchic anarchist's handbook of local councils everywhere.
That's what's missing now. To make these things happen, we need Iraqi leadership, and the new Interim Iraqi Authority should be that vehicle of leadership. The plans for that Interim Authority were seen as evolving over -- let me put it this way: Whatever time scale was thought to have governed the creation of the Iraqi Interim Authority before my visit to Nasariya, I came back out of Nasariya saying that time scale has to be rapidly moved forward. We need to push in the direction of the creation of such leadership.
Now, a final word on what this -- my thoughts are shared by a number of Iraqis; they're not mine alone - - what this Iraqi Interim Authority might consist of. These are ideas that I believe are broadly consistent with those of the United States government, with all details left aside. These of course still have to be worked.
Broadly speaking, I think of the Iraqi Interim Authority, I think it is going to turn out this way, as three or perhaps four very separate parts. Part number one is what we're going to call for the moment the Leadership Council. The Leadership Council is going to be the executive, the political, the place where the politicians congregate, the place where executive decisions are taken.
The concept at work at the moment, I think is a good one, is to start with the six people who were elected at the Salahadin conference, to add to those people, let the six people decide, an extra seven from inside the country. That would bring the number up to 13. Then there should be added a representative from each of the governors, who would be chosen perhaps by assemblies formed by each governor. Many different mechanisms could do that. That brings the number up to 31, and then a number of other delegates representing the different minorities -- Assyrians, Chaldeans, Turkomans, and so on - - who are not thus far represented because they have no real weight in any of the governments, governors.
That is the leadership tier. The second, completely separate tier, is what you might call, what we are calling the Higher Judicial Council, a group, a small group of say 9 to 12 to 15 people, something like that, Iraqis of course, who would be in charge of the issuance of the laws, reform of the existing structures, and the establishment of an interim constitution if one is needed, to be ratified by either the Leadership Council or the next, the third body, which is the one that interests me the most, and that is the Constitutional Commission.
The Constitutional Commission is a party that I think ought to be separate entirely in terms of its membership from the others. That is, no member of the Leadership Committee should be inside the Constitutional Commission. The Constitutional Commission is body that we envisage ultimately being about 150 to 200 people. It would be, perhaps begin with the 65 people who came out of the London conference, minus those who have entered into the Leadership Committee and minus those who are not willing to make a permanent commitment to return and live in Iraq.
So let us say that leaves you with a number of 50 or so people. I don't know how many. But it is very important that those who wish to remain inside the future Constitutional Commission in Iraq make a commitment to live inside Iraq. So that is something that will be required of the 65 to decide upon.
The other element is the governors. Here there would need to be, perhaps through assemblies -- we have yet to work out the mechanisms by which the different governors would have representatives inside the Constitutional Commission; and all minorities, groups, major national groups -- the Kurds in northern Iraq -- all have to find a say inside the Constitutional Commission proportionate to their numbers and proportionate to their relative populations.
The idea would be that the Constitutional Commission as a whole is a body that is representative of the regional, ethnic, and religious diversity of the country. Here representation is truly important. Here representation is truly significant, I believe, unlike in the original structure, where leadership and results ought to dominate. But let's leave that out.
The Constitutional Commission will of course need a Drafting Committee. Its purpose will be to inject the idea of a permanent basic law in Iraq into the society at large. So long before it comes up with its final draft, it will be charged with initiating and enriching a public debate over the future of Iraq. It will have a special office attached to it whose purpose will be to allow all Iraqis to participate in discussions about the future of the commission.
It will have an office whose job will be a purely technical one of developing alternative ideas. Take a question like federalism: How many different types of federalism are there? The Constitutional Commission, the Drafting Committee, should have the ability to turn out a fact paper, if you like, a position paper, which discusses the very many different types that exist, the pros and cons of each, and submit this, A, obviously to the assembly at large, also to the public at large, and initiate the discussion in the country at large over these kinds of questions: the question of a human rights commission, questions of civil rights, and above all the question of the separation, or religion and the state, how do we handle this very important question; without of course offending anyone, how do we find truly imaginative, new ways of dealing with this question of religion and the state -- questions that are so tricky that even Israel has to this date not got a constitution precisely because some of these questions are so tricky.
We will have to try to do that which even Israel's founders were not able to do, and we will have to try and tackle that very difficult question in a way that is in no way, shape, or form offensive and, more important, not only is it unoffensive, in fact it is about enriching spiritual and religious traditions in the country, allowing them their separateness from politics that is necessary for that enrichment culturally speaking to take place. And we will try the find novel ways of thinking about this inside the Constitutional Commission.
So this body would then, the technical drafting committee, would present drafts, would present position papers of the issues I have just discussed with you to the body of 200, who would act like a sounding board for these ideas. And perhaps other members of the 200 would undertake polling experiments, demographic experiments. There will have to be a demographic department, a polling department, and so on.
My point is that the work, the entire work of this body, would have nothing to do with interim politics. And I think -- and I intend to argue for this in the meeting in Baghdad -- there should be a condition that no member of the Constitutional Commission should run for office in the coming elections, in the first set of national elections in Iraq, in the national elections and the local elections. They will have to also make a commitment not only to live in Iraq, as I said earlier speaking of the 65 people who emerge from the London conference, but they will have to make a commitment not to run for national elections. That will help ensure that the people who are in this body -- and I am the first person to be prepared to accept that condition -- that they are willing to devote themselves, not to short-term interests that may perhaps be personal interests and so on, but to long-term questions of the future of the country. Perhaps it will ensure that the body of people collected really only have the very long term of Iraq in mind.
Those are the three bodies. There's much discussion taking place now amongst Iraqis over a fourth body, an Economic Council. This is a kind of, again, a higher sort of group, small group of very professional, technocratic Iraqis, who will be discussing such fundamental questions as the re-integration of Iraq into the world economy, the rescheduling of loans and debts and so on. We need people with contacts at the international agencies and so on to be able to do that, and perhaps again for the duration of the interim period that will be required.
That in a nutshell is where I'm coming from, and on my way to Baghdad and what I think is going to be an extremely important meeting where these issues will be discussed, and let us keep our fingers crossed and hope that we can get some kind of resolution.
Thank you. Questions, of course.
MS. BENADOR: We're open for questions, please.
MR. MAKIYA: I've spoken for much too long.
QUESTION: How can we be assured that a tolerant system will be implemented in Iraq, a system that's tolerant of everyone? Is that possible?
MR. MAKIYA: There's no guarantee in politics of anything. But if we go through the process, if we separate the powers there and spelling them out, if we succeed in going down this path, a path by the way which is built on the very diversity of Iraq's population, we will end up there.
I like to say that, a phrase I like to use is that we wish to replace a republic of fear with a republic of tolerance. How exactly we will go about it, how I can guarantee it to you, I don't know. It's a process that's followed. It's like art. You play it from hit to hit. It changes from day to day. You try to make it happen.
QUESTION: You didn't name names when you were talking about the infighting in Washington, but the people I've been talking to in Washington say that, not surprising perhaps, that it's the exact opposite about the State Department people and the CIA people, who've been the disparagers of Ahmed Chalabi, are the people who understand Iraq and who were precisely the ones who were predicting the chaos that we now see, and that the Pentagon civilians who, after all, aren't really too familiar with Iraq and haven't spent their lives studying it, are the ones what were supporting Chalabi and who -- I don't know if it's resolved which side will win in this, but it seems to me that you're saying that the people what were supporting Chalabi understood Iraq, whereas it seems to be the opposite in terms of at least the people I'm talking to in Washington who know Iraq, everybody from Judith Yafay to people inside the State Department and the CIA and so forth.
MR. MAKIYA: Well, let me say I disagree with that analysis. The State Department certainly knows the upper echelons of the bureaucracies of Arab governments. They are diplomats. They know how to hobnob inside Arab diplomatic circles, yes. They know how to do that perhaps better than a lot of other people. But that gives them a very twisted and distorted perspective on Iraq, or rather a one-sided perspective, naturally.
They are also the ones who think that what ought to be done in Iraq is appeasing those kinds of people that they have long experience with, naturally. That's in the business of a State Department. The nature of a State Department is to make people happy, namely make the neighbors, make other countries happy.
I am not in the business of making other Arab countries happy. I am not in the business of trying to replicate the systems of other Arab countries, nor should any self-respecting democratic Iraqi be in that business, in my opinion.
MS. BENADOR: Deborah. Identify yourselves, please.
MS. ORIN: Deborah Orin from the New York Post.
There's also been, today Ari Fleischer in the White House said that the U.S. government has warned Iran not to foment trouble with the Shiites. How much of a concern is that in your mind? Is there a danger of there being a Shiite theological state, something like a theocracy, as you would say, like Iran emerging out of this because of the chaos?
MR. MAKIYA: There has been a major, major oversight on the part of CENTCOM, if I might say so here, just to show you that I don't stand on one side or the other of this fence. They left the entire eastern border of Iraq open, with truckloads and truckloads of people being shoved into the various cities of the South. When I was in the South, local Shiites were telling me the numbers had already reached over 10,000, people bussed in.
Why that was the case, I don't know. Why nobody thought to close the entrances to Baghdad, I don't know. Why they thought it was not necessary to control the border, I honestly don't know. Why they thought it was not necessary to toss a tank or two in front of the National Museum, I don't know.
These are -- whatever explanation you may give to them, they are very grave mistakes. That was entirely predictable, and the gentleman here is correct in making that point. And those are the kind of precautions that may not have been necessary from a military point of view, but certainly were necessary from a political point of view, for precisely the reason that you allude to, namely that this development is now being made worse by those, that influx.
I hope, I think, I have reason to think that that is going to change.
MS. ORIN: How will it change? I mean, what will change it?
MR. MAKIYA: They would close the border.
MS. ORIN: And those who are in get kicked out?
MS. BENADOR: The microphone.
MS. ORIN: I was asking what do you do now?
MR. MAKIYA: No Iraqi should ever be kicked out of Iraq. We don't want to repeat such practices. There is a major, major problem. Something like half a million to three-quarters of a million Iraqis are refugees inside Iran. They're perfectly normal people. They're people by and large who are very unhappy being there. I've walked among them, I've spoken to many of them. They have had very terrible experiences. These people have to return to Iraq one day.
However, it has to be done in an organized way, because among them can be inserted people what may foment trouble inside the South. One of the most striking -- that's all I want to say. So that was not the way to allow people back in. That is something that needs to be worked out with an agreement between the new Iraqi Authority and the Iranian government as to how these people will return and be resettled inside Iraq. But I don't think the people who were pushed in were of that nature. They may very well have been Iraqis. I cannot answer that question with any kind of confidence. But they were people with a mission.
MS. BENADOR: Next question?
MR. DAWONA: My name is Khaled Dawona from --
MS. BENADOR: Louder, please. Can you talk louder?
MR. DAWONA: Okay. My name is Khaled Dawona from the Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram. I just have -- actually I have two questions.
The first one: You repeatedly say that you don't want an Iraqi army. You just said that right now, so I just want to understand your vision on how you're going to maintain Iraq's security in a very troubled region, with Iran and Turkey as your neighbors, and would this entail the presence of U.S. troops for a long while, and how long do you think they should be there?
My second question is on whether you have any information, since you're just back from Iraq, on the fate of the Iraqi president and what's happened to all his government members, where they are?
MR. MAKIYA: The fate of who?
MR. DAWONA: Saddam, the Iraqi president. I know he's gone, but --
MR. MAKIYA: Just on your first question, I said at the moment we should not be talking about creating an Iraqi military force of any kind, because any army that is shaped in the crucible of policing its own people is founded on wrong principles and its fate will eventually be that of the Iraqi army itself, which was to intervene in politics over and over again and to destroy the fabric of civilized life in Iraq, starting in 1958, when the army tore the only constitution Iraq ever had and threw away the parliament and kept itself in power.
So we need a different kind of army. I have my own private views. Those are not the views of anybody else. I wish to see a constitutionally extremely limited army. I wish to see a limit on expenditure on military forces. I wish all the money to be turned to reconstruction and rehabilitation of Iraq.
I want to change the formula of Arab politics, in which strength has always been viewed as in the possession of such standing armies and weapons of mass destruction and this has been seen as the only way to counter Israel. I believe that to be a complete illusion, a myth that we Arabs have lived with for something like 30-odd years since 1967. It has been proven wrong time and time again.
I think strength is internal. I think strength is inside a people, and therefore I don't want to help in any way, shape, or form to cultivate the growth of a force which is a parasite on society at large and which will take away from the path of reconstruction and rehabilitation. I want a new paradigm of strength to emerge in Arab politics, one which is economic, one which is social, one which is political, not military, and on those kinds of grounds we can compete even with countries like Israel or other countries in the region. We do not need armies for that.
You're right, for such a dream to even be possible we will need very special treaties, we will need very special agreements with our neighbors, among others, perhaps with the United States, perhaps even with the United Nations. We will need those agreements to guarantee the territorial integrity of Iraq and so on. Then we Iraqis, the Iraqi Interim Authority, not myself -- I intend not, as I said, not to be involved in that leadership sort of political questions -- we need to negotiate those treaties and see if they will guarantee the security of Iraq in order to achieve this objective that I pointed out. I can't answer that question definitively. It's a question time will tell.
MR. DAWONA: The fate of Saddam?
MR. MAKIYA: Oh, the fate of Saddam. There are two points of view, as you know. One in the U.S. government is that he is dead, that he died in the first strike or shortly after it, or perhaps shortly after it; and another that he is still alive.
My contacts and colleagues inside Baghdad, Iraqis, seem to think they have very good evidence that he is still alive, that he is organizing until last week perhaps outside the [inaudible] region, that in fact he's preparing with leaders, sections of the surviving leadership, which is quite considerable, as we know, since very few leaders have actually been caught, and with the remnants of his regular forces that used to protect him for what amount to a series of pinprick attacks, a kind of Tet offensive, inside Iraqi cities.
That is the theory. Of course I have no proof of it 100 percent, but that is what Iraqis whose knowledge and experience I trust their judgment on these questions and have great confidence in tell me.
MS. BENADOR: Hisham? Identify yourself.
MR. MELHAM: Hisham Melham, [inaudible].
How is it possible to reconcile the need for establishing political leadership, given the current difficulties there, with the increasing calls on the part of many groups, particularly many Shia, including the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution, for the Americans to withdraw as soon as possible? How can one define "as soon as possible," quote unquote? And now SCIRI and other groups are saying, we are opposed to the American presence politically, not calling on their people to attack the Americans yet.
Are you concerned that if the situation is not contained quickly, if there is no military movement that is quick in the next few days, a week at the latest, and given the fact that the leadership clearly has been taken back by the unfolding events in the last few days, are you concerned that some groups would begin to call on their own followers to use violence against the Americans?
MR. MAKIYA: Yes, I'm concerned, very concerned. How to reconcile those? There's no easy answer to your question. I think it's wise to immediately begin doing what should have been done some time ago: not to confront them, let these forces expend themselves in by and large fighting each other. They after all did start their development with assassinating one another inside the city of Najif.
I don't think in the long run Iraqis will have truck with this. I don't think these forces can dominate Iraq. Iraq is not Iran. The Shiites are not -- you know all the arguments here, Hisham. So I think we need to let some of this volatility and energy expend itself and stand back at the moment, very quickly building up forces of law and order that should quickly go into the cities and that will prove themselves in very simple ways: food, water, electricity, in vast amounts, in vast numbers.
That also is a part that we should have actually talked about, that Jay Garner's group has been slow, not for its own, not because of its own inabilities, but again because CENTCOM has deemed the area for far too long unsafe for those kinds of efforts in the provision of amenities, water, and medical supplies.
So it is going to take time. You know how slow these bureaucracies are to get this stuff going. But once it gets going, I am hoping that, and the formation of a new force and the call for a new authority will start to sort of pull us away from this mess or -- I don't know what word to use for it.
MS. BENADOR: Jay?
MR. TOLSON: Jay Tolson, U.S. News and World Report.
The plan that you call for, the alternative to the chaotic, anarchistic democracy, obviously follows very closely the transitional plan that the INC produced, that you helped put together. My question to you is what do you think of the chances that a plan somewhat along these lines will succeed among the convening body that comes together, among other times in the future, we hope, next Monday? What is your sense of that body and its potential for a supportive plan such as the one that you've outlined to us today, and also that the INC has collectively endorsed?
MR. MAKIYA: That's a very, very good question. I wish I knew the answer, and I'm about to find out.
MR. TOLSON: But do you have any sense of that group?
MR. MAKIYA: Not really. I don't know everyone who's coming, to be honest with you.
MR. TOLSON: How many INC people, for example?
MR. MAKIYA: I honestly don't know. I honestly don't know.
MS. BENADOR: Nasser.
MR. FARGHATY: My name is Nasser Farghaty from Abu Dhabi Television.
This formula that you've outlined with the four different parallel layers work for the establishing of an interim government authority, has it been discussed here with American officials and is this the formula that's going to be advocated by the Americans in the next upcoming meetings in Iraq?
Secondly, if you could elaborate. We all know that you have close contact with the top American officials, starting with the President. Has it ever been discussed, the situation, the position of a future Iraq towards Israel?
MR. MAKIYA: To start with your first point, yes, it has been discussed with American officials at the highest level. I cannot tell you -- I do not think the United States intends to propound any plan at this meeting. In fact I'm very convinced that it's not going to do anything of the sort.
It is not an American plan, and the United States actively and, believe me, sincerely does not want it, to sponsor or to be the spearhead of the creation of such a plan. It is very much up to us, starting -- and I emphasize, starting -- next Monday to see where we can go with this.
Your question is a follow-up on the one of the gentleman before, and I again -- this is politics. We're in very hard times and people's minds and views -- naturally, we're in revolutionary times, to tell you the truth, and people's minds and views are changing constantly. So it would be foolish of me to tell you that I know how it will work out, even to speculate on it. All I can tell you is what I think and I believe and what I will try to fight for and what I think is right and why I think it's right. But I can't guarantee anything.
As for the other issue, I have never had discussions with any American official yet over Arab- Israeli questions. That is not because I would not like to. It's because I have not been asked, asked my views on that question. And also, we have such a big weight on our shoulders from an Iraqi point of view, let's take one problem at a time.
MR. FARGHATY: What are your views?
MR. MAKIYA: You know, my views have been so profoundly erroneously presented by my fellow Arabs, unfortunately. I believe in a separate Palestinian state, built hopefully on principles, democratic principles, like the kind of state I outlined for Iraq, something of that nature. I am a firm believer that all the occupied territories that were occupied in '67 onwards should be returned and should be part of that state.
At the same time, I think the Palestinian leadership missed an historic opportunity at Camp David to accept the formula that was worked out by former President Clinton. So I regret that. I was in the beginning of the Oslo process a supporter of the Oslo process, like most of my fellow Arabs at the time, and I kept on hoping that the Oslo process would deliver results. And then when it didn't, unfortunately, I now feel, like again many other Arabs, that we are in a kind of very dark, dark tunnel and we need to emerge from the pain of the intifada and we need to emerge somehow differently, that that chapter was closed that began with Oslo with the intifada, unfortunately, and in part through the intifada.
I do not think the intifada was a good thing. I do not speak about it in the same way many other Arabs do, as a great heroic venture. I think it was a catastrophe for the Palestinians above everyone else.
However, I believe in a Palestinian state on the West Bank and one that is closely tied and allied with Israel in some sort of partnership. That is an economic necessity. All my Palestinian friends tell me so. There is no reason to think otherwise. Therefore there needs to be, in my deepest heart I believe there needs to be, before almost even the formal bits and pieces of paper that need to be exchanged between Palestinians and Israelis, there needs to be a people to people reconciliation.
This is the hardest thing of all. But it is very difficult to build a genuine peace when peoples have been so walled off from one another politically speaking, and there is a lot of repair work that needs to be done.
If I were a Palestinian today, I would say the most paramount job, duty, or responsibility of a Palestinian today is to build bridges with his Israeli counterparts, to agree on what can be agreed, to agree to disagree about what cannot be agreed, and to proceed on the basis of at least opening connections as one people to another people, human being to human being.
That unfortunately, let's put it this way, is not precluded, but it has been deeply, deeply wounded, and any piece of paper in the absence of that means very little. Unfortunately, many people in the Arab world, Arab governments, don't appreciate this fact. They think it is all about formal treaties and pressuring Israel to do this, pressuring the Palestinians to do that, and so on and so forth, getting them to reform their act. Whoever just thinks in only those categories does not realize the abyss that unfortunately this conflict -- which by the way my formative years in my life politically speaking were spent as a member of many Palestinian groups and as a supporter; I put ten years of my life in that question.
So you know, it is not about any longer, not after the intifada, it is no longer just about a piece of paper. It's about something deeper, more fundamental.
MR. FARGHATY: The question is, until what you support has materialized --
VOICE: Could we talk about Iraq? I have a question on Iraq.
MR. FARGHATY: Until the condition that you support has materialized, do you see a normalized Iraqi- Israeli relationship before what you support is materialized on the ground? And it's about Iraq, I believe.
MR. MAKIYA: I can't really predict that, the answer to that question. I certainly want to see a breakdown of the wall of hostility between Israeli and the Arab countries. I want to see normal relations, and I think that is a very important long-term objective of the new Iraqi state and I certainly would be willing to work towards that, and I wish to see a change in the discourse, the language, the habits, the manner of thinking by Arabs, incidentally, about Israel and by the Israelis about the Arab world.
MS. BENADOR: Lauri.
LAURI: Thanks a lot. I really enjoyed your information and bringing us news.
Question: What is happening with the Iraqi National Accord and people like Iyan Alawi and Hazar Hazrogi, who appears to have been brought to the CIA to Iraq, maybe for a coup or whatever?
MR. MAKIYA: Well, Hazar Hazrogi was spirited out of Denmark, which I think is a very illegal thing, but I'm not an expert in international law, to first of all Saudi Arabia and then Qatar, where he seemed to work with CENTCOM for a while. I don't know where he is. I'm guessing he's back in Iraq.
Iyan Alawi is definitely now settled with the Iraqi National Accord, has opened offices in Baghdad a few days ago or maybe a week ago. I forget exactly. Most Iraqi parties, incidentally, are now sort of settled and starting up in Baghdad. So Alawi is definitely back in Baghdad.
MS. BENADOR: The gentleman in blue.
MR. JONES: Thank you. Bill Jones from Executive Intelligence Review.
You lamented the fact that the U.S. didn't give its support to the INC and to the Free Iraqi Forces already from the beginning, and obviously there was some concern about the credentials of the INC in the Iraq situation. You mentioned the diplomatic circuit and the biggest criticism of Mr. Chalabi was that that's what he was doing, not so much the diplomatic circuit in Iraq but in Washington, the cocktail circuit as it was called. And what he had going in Iraq was still a very, very big question mark, and it was not enough to be a friend of Richard Perle to make yourself into an influential person in Iraq; there had to be more to it.
So there was a lot of reticence over this issue.
VOICE: A question, please. What is your question?
MR. JONES: My question is that, aren't you really the new guy on the block in Iraq, and that you still have to really prove your credentials and your support among the Iraqi people, and until that point is made making you someone special in the move on Iraq going in on the back of U.S. tanks is not going to increase your popularity among the Iraqi people, and therefore it would be like dead men walking when you get to Iraq, and somehow you really have to prove who you are in a situation in which there are many other competitors? Is this not indeed the case there?
MR. MAKIYA: Maybe if I end up dead coming back from Iraq it will fulfill your expectations with that comment.
MR. JONES: I said that metaphorically.
MR. MAKIYA: Well, a very nasty metaphor if you ask me.
But to answer that smear question, if it was a question to start with, Mr. Chalabi will deliver inside -- will count by what he is delivering inside Iraq. Can you name me any other person who has thus far delivered to the U.S. forces two or three very high-ranking members of the Iraqi Central Command, namely Zubaydi, whose image is enshrined on all our memories because he was the man who was booting in people's faces in the video that was taken of the crushing of the uprising, and was picked up. The former deputy vice president of Iraq was picked up by INC forces near Hilled and delivered to the U.S. Army. Vast sums of money, tons of documents, have also been handed over and delivered, and also another hierarchy member found on the list of 52 was also delivered.
There's not a single other Iraqi group that has delivered anything like that, and for that very reason -- it's results that count and you will find that that is in fact what's going on. More than that I'm not going to say because it's too cheap to even answer the rest of your question.
MS. BENADOR: The gentleman on the left.
QUESTION: I'm [inaudible]. I'm an Iraqi- American.
Events are moving very, very quickly and it could be out of control, what's happening inside Iraq. The one element, though, that you said looking at the local level may not work, and I really want to understand why. It seems to me that a dual track, working from the top down, addressing the issues of leadership, the constitution and democracy, is very long range. This takes a lot of time.
In the mean time, the Iraqis need successes, and the best successes will be on the local level. Why not create local councils, councils that can address the five issues of security, housing, humanitarian, economy, and health, and address them locally, and that gives the Iraqis for the first time a taste of democracy at the local level, while the big picture issues are being handled in the long term.
MR. MAKIYA: I'm not against local councils and certainly they should be worked with. I just think they're not enough because, as you see in the cities of the South, the local councils are entirely dominated by radical Islamic groups at the moment, who are changing the shape of them from day to day.
A local council is a start, but also local councils can be a fragmenting force. They need to be complemented by something that speaks to Iraq. As we were talking earlier before the start of the press conference, the Iraqi-ness of Iraq is crucial. What force -- I put to you that there is essential need for a force that speaks to Iraq as a whole, which these groups and sub-councils inside their cities in the South don't. What group stands for, in its values, the integrity of Iraq as a whole, and hopefully democratic Iraq as a whole?
We need some counterpart of that idea in terms of law and order and security, because, coming from Nasariya, the sense, the palpable sense, was authority, we need authority. The people who were there have this -- something palpable, something they could touch. They need it fast. They needed law and order. They wanted very basic things.
They weren't talking about democracy. They were talking about these fundamental things, and herein lies precisely the vacuum that was created. The United States did not think about law and order inside Iraqi cities in its planning for this war. It thought it could stay outside, for good reasons, because it didn't want to interfere in the affairs of Iraqis inside. But I say to you now, with the kinds of pressures, not just because of the political pressures but with the demands to get food, water, services, and health, very considerable, and although people can patch up a repair station, it needs to be fixed in a proper way for the long term. That is going to require the kind of services that Jay Garner's office was supposed to be able to get in there.
There are ships and ships waiting to get unloaded that haven't been brought into Iraq. When those ships are unloaded and those services are brought to the cities, who are they going to be handed to? Should they be distributed by the local councils? A big question. Should the services, should the benefits of liberation, be seen by the population to come from the hands of the local militias that are creating themselves in the cities of the South? Or should they come at the hands of forces that represent the new Iraq?
Unfortunately, this is politics and they are connected, these things are. I say that we need both. This is not to discourage anyone from organizing anything.
MS. BENADOR: Yes?
QUESTION: My name is [inaudible]. I work on [inaudible] magazine.
Mr. Makiya, you talk about treaties like three or four times. Are you talking about treaties like what was alluded for, and what Mr. Rumsfeld denied it, that there would be bases in Iraq, when you talk about American troops staying maybe longer or guaranteeing the security and integrity of Iraq?
Secondly, you talked a lot about Ahmed Chalabi and [inaudible] who praised him so much and heaps praise on him, that he's a man of vision and so on. In the context of that, when you said you supported the Camp David and the missed opportunity, which talked about the right of return, especially in the Arab world, it's talking about settling in Palestine or here or there or Iraq, so that's fueled a lot of anxieties in the Arab world. What are you doing to allay these fears?
MR. MAKIYA: I can't say what somebody says about somebody else. I can't really comment on it, what his reasons are. So I can only speak what I know. The treaties I referred to are all things that may happen in the future. The gentleman asked me a question about the long term. I gave my personal view about the long term. More than that I can't say. And it's about the kind of Iraq that I wish to see, but there is no plans at work here. Nobody has agreed to talk to anybody about these things, bases in Iraq or otherwise. It's all much, much too early. There is no legitimate Iraqi authority or even partially legitimate Iraqi authority in place that can bring about these types of treaties. So it's all too abstract to talk about in any kind of manner.
MS. BENADOR: The lady, yes.
MS. WILKINSON: Marian Wilkinson from the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper.
I wonder if you could give us some insight into how you think the Baghdad meeting will go just in this aspect. Do you think that it will be boycotted by some of the key groups, as Nasariya was?
Number two, you have outlined what you think is going on in the South, especially with these local councils. Do you think there's a coordination going on there with SCIRI or any of the other groups, or do you think it's genuinely individual bases of power being set up there?
MR. MAKIYA: I would be very surprised if some groups did not boycott this meeting. That's very expected. I sincerely hope SCIRI doesn't boycott it. They've been invited, as they were invited to Nasariya. I hope groups participate instead of standing off.
Now, regarding what's going on in the South, there is turmoil and tumult, certainly attempts by political groups to control these councils. There's simply no doubt about it. It's a natural human impulse to build power, to try such a thing. But it is my sense that everything is very instant and very patchy and very insubstantial at the moment, that we have a shifting sand of alliances, if you like -- I'll use that expression -- that nothing has jelled that we can point to.
There are sentiments and moods that can be read into the current situation, yes. But nothing organizationally has yet taken shape.
MS. BENADOR: The gentleman from UPI.
MR. KINNANE: Derk Kinnane, United Press International.
You mentioned the ships that are coming up to deliver humanitarian aid. Why isn't any of the airports being used? I mean, there's an airport, isn't there, in Basra? There's the one at H-3. There's several others. I haven't heard of any humanitarian aid being brought in that way. Can you tell us perhaps why this is so?
MR. MAKIYA: Well, I'm not really privy to the CENTCOM type of connections with Jay Garner's office. I do know that there's been a general CENTCOM reluctance to give Garner a free hand inside Iraq at the moment because of security considerations, and there has been this usual tension between security and provision of aid and assistance with perhaps different views.
People may have different judgments of this situation, but the call, of course, is that of Mr. Tommy Franks because he's in charge of it. Until he declares the arena safe, it's difficult for Jay Garner to take control of the distribution of supplies and relief inside Iraq.
MR. KINNANE: May I also ask you what you make of Muktaba Alsalwa and his spectacular rise to eminence in Najaf? Do you see him as having much of a future or a lasting future? And is it correct that he is supported by Dawa?
MR. MAKIYA: I don't know if he's supported by Dawa or not. I suspect there are alliances forming and reforming. He is historically a very anti-Iranian force within the Iraqi clerical leadership. He's a very young man, very inexperienced, with no clerical weight behind him. I think he is very much resting on the coattails of his father, who was murdered most recently in 1999, and of course of the Ayatollah [inaudible] back in 1980. I am really not in a position, I think it's too early to judge, how permanent a fixture of Iraqi politics he will be.
Let me say that he's a changing fixture, and that is he has been changing his tune, what he thinks, very rapidly in the course of weeks. This normally happens in a revolutionary situation, the kind we find ourselves in. So I can't tell you which way he'll end up.
QUESTION: Could you describe what those changes have been?
QUESTION: Could you describe what those, what the range?
MR. MAKIYA: It's been difficult for me from the outside to really know what the ins and outs of what's been going on there. But he was anti-Iranian and he is now less anti-Iranian. He was accommodating of the regime; he is now totally unaccommodating of the regime. He has suddenly come up with very extreme statements about the Islamic republic which were not known and associated with him before.
There is a competition going on between these forces and amongst one another and sometimes they end up rhetorically sort of outbidding one another. The bottom line of what I'm trying to say is I'm not willing to put much substance on it yet. I'd say it's a dangerous development, it's an unfortunate one, but it is not yet a fixed development.
MS. BENADOR: Adam.
MR. DeFALLEL: Adam DeFallel from the New York Sun.
A two-part question. First, could you maybe discuss a little bit about Mr. Zubaidi, the supposed mayor of Baghdad, your take on the events as to how that whole thing happened, and maybe comment a bit on how Barbara Bodine is not recognizing his authority. I saw varying reports. A lot of them expressed confusion, some of them saying the INC didn't know how he ended up becoming mayor and what-not. So maybe talk a bit about that.
Secondly, you said that there would be seven indigenous Iraqis on the Leadership Council.
MR. MAKIYA: That's the proposal.
MR. DeFALLEL: Right, your proposal. Could you maybe tell us how those people will be discovered and how the search is going to find indigenous Iraqis? I know a lot of religious leaders, obviously, have appeared as leaders, but have you found or has anyone found any secular, more liberal democratic leaders inside the country?
MR. MAKIYA: The events in the South should not deflect from what's going on in Baghdad, where the overwhelming bulk of the secular traditions exist, and half of whose population roughly is Shiite. So there are vast numbers of very secular people. One of the reasons why an Islamic republic is totally impossible in a country like Iraq is precisely because of the weight of the secular tradition, which I still insist, in spite of what's going on inside the South, is going to prove to be the dominant element in the country.
Mr. Zubaidi self-appointed himself. Mr. Zubaidi was not put in his position by the INC or anyone else. He did have relations with the INC. He was a crucial link in the chain of -- or rather, he was a link in the chain of information that brought people out and brought information in, and so on and so forth, to the outside over the years. But he appointed himself mayor of Baghdad, no one else. I'll leave it there.
MR. MILLIKAN: Al Millikan, Washington Independent Writers.
With all the concern about radical Islamic forces, what role and voice did the minority Christian community play in the first meeting you attended? Were they apprehensive? Was there fear or concern that democracy would impose Sharia, or Islamic law, on non- Muslims, particularly Christians, and restrict the level of freedom to worship and live out their faith even to the extent that they had under Saddam Hussein?
MR. MAKIYA: No, there was absolutely nothing of the sort in the Nasariya meeting. There were representatives of the various Christian organizations and groups and none of them ever had such anxiety at that meeting. That's what you asked me. Nor was there any question but that the meeting, the sense of the meeting was that it was overwhelmingly a secular one. Several clerics, turbaned clerics, Saids from Karbala, got up and actively spoke for the separation of church and state. Very, very brave statements were made by a gentleman from the Hosweni family, a very prominent Said family.
So in a sense there was no one in the meeting arguing for a clerical state. I mean, no one.
MR. DESMOND: Chris Desmond, Fox News.
My question was, is it possible, do you think, for the different communities in Iraq to come together in the end, after the volatility settles down and what-not?
MR. MAKIYA: Yes, it's possible. Of course it's possible. I wouldn't be here if it were not possible. But we have to make it happen. It's not something that is going to happen by itself.
MR. DESMOND: Do you see that happening, though?
MR. MAKIYA: Yes, I do. Otherwise I wouldn't be here. I'd give up and go and teach back in the university.
MR. DAWONA: I have another question. The issue of when Mr. Bush should declare a cessation of violence or the end of the war in Iraq has been circulated in recent days because if the United States declares an end of the war then it becomes an occupation force responsible for the Fourth Geneva Convention --
MR. MAKIYA: I don't agree with your interpretation.
MR. DAWONA: I'm asking, actually. I'm asking your opinion about this. Do you think President Bush should immediately declare the cessation of violence or the situation should be kept fluid in order not to call the U.S. forces occupation troops?
MR. MAKIYA: I honestly don't think any such considerations are going on in that vein. And by the way, the more I learn about how the U.S. government works, the more I realize the independence of CENTCOM in a moment of war. General Tommy Franks is the be-all and end-all of everything. I don't even think sometimes even the President can overrule him. He has to decide. He has to decide and it's his decision. What motivates it I gather is a military one and it's not a political one.
Believe me, that's the case. I just talked about the big issue of supplying humanitarian relief, the struggle inside the U.S. administration. On the contrary, Jay Garner actively wants to get in there. He was tearing his hair out when I saw him last in Kuwait and in Iraq itself. He wants to get in there fast. He thinks it's okay, it doesn't matter; there may be some fedayeen here and there; he wants to get in.
So there are some people who think, no, it's not safe, some people who think, yes, it's safe. It's that kind of a debate. I don't think the issue has anything to do with whether it's an occupation or not. The process for the formation of an Iraqi Authority, a transitional, a temporary -- very, very important word to use, underlined -- a temporary administration, pending a fully legitimate government, is under way. it's going to take a few weeks. It's going to take a bit of time, naturally.
But the intention undoubtedly is the United States, I now realize -- I myself worried about whether or not the United States was going to have a regime, a military occupation. I wrote about this. Perhaps you saw some of the articles, perhaps two months ago, something like that, before the war started.
I am now convinced from discussions -- I mean, you have to learn as you go along in life, and as you go along you talk to people, you figure out, you try to understand what's going on, you move on. I can tell you now, I have learned that the United States administration has no intention whatsoever, whether that's a good thing or a bad thing -- and some Iraqis wish it did and some Iraqis wish it would stay there as a military government for some time. They worry about the anarchy.
So we should not fetishize this question of a military government and so on. The United States is committed to staying there, as far as I understand it, until a stable and legitimate regime comes into existence, and I think that's true, and they don't want to stay there a moment longer, as many American officials have now said, and I also think that's true from my discussions.
Mind you, there is a responsibility that accrues to anybody who takes out a government and that the United States is aware of. So the question more properly ought to be, is the United States -- the more important question from an Iraqi point of view, for the future of the country, and even from the point of view of all Arabs -- is the United States going to take upon its shoulders the responsibility that goes with taking out the regime?
My sense is yes. Now, they may do this in all kinds of funny ways. Maybe they will make mistakes. We will all make mistakes, I am sure of it, and wish we hadn't done them, wish we had thought of certain things earlier, and so on and so forth. But there is a responsibility when you take out a government and that primary responsibility does lie on the United States, and it is right that it should lie on the United States because it is, after all, the force that brought this about. So we, however, as Iraqis, have the responsibility to make it possible for a legitimate Iraqi government to come into being as quickly as possible.
Let me say, if we get this right -- and I do hope you will bring this to your Arab audiences. I really wish to speak here from the bottom of my heart. If we do get this right, we will have something new in Iraq, something different, something very legitimate. Don't look now. It's the process that counts. It's what takes us -- it takes two or three years. Other people, the United States, think it needs to be done much shorter than that. I think it's three years. Iraqis disagree among themselves how much time it takes. But it needs time.
The time for what? The time the come up with a constitution that is genuinely reflective of the country at large, and people will vote on that document, so you will know that it is a legitimate document at the end of the day. It will go to a national referendum. We will have the constitution ratified by a national referendum, that will then set the terms of the first elections to be held in Iraq. That's legitimacy.
If we can get that far, and we will get that far, we will have done something truly novel that is worthy of every Arab to support. Think about it. It's a big thing. Don't hijack it. Work with it.
MS. BENADOR: The gentleman in the back, please.
MR. TIMMERMAN: Ken Timmerman from Insight magazine.
It's a pleasure to listen to you. In some of your earlier occupations you have been very concerned about torture and bribery and you brought that to the public eye. I wonder if you can give us some information about the types of documents, document troves, that have been found in Iraq since the liberation? Has the INC any structure in place to systematically search out documents from the Baath Party, from the Intelligence Ministry, the Muhabarat, and various others?
Are you looking for that? Are you safeguarding that? Is there going to be some kind of national archive of horror? And are you moving towards war crimes tribunals or will there be internal tribunals in Iraq? What is your current thinking on that? Thank you.
MR. MAKIYA: The issue of documents is very important. At the moment many different organizations are collecting quantities of documents. Obviously, the U.S. government has quantities of them. Some unfortunately have been destroyed at Basra already. The INC is consistently fighting to preserve documents. It has a warehouse of documents that have come into its possession that it intends to hand over to a central warehouse.
We need to centralize all these efforts. These documents are an archive for the future of Iraq. They're an archive of what happened in this country, about the accumulated pain it has gone through, and I for one have a very large interest in the proper indexing and filing of these documents, both for the purposes of war crimes, but also for the more long-term purposes of affecting the memory of and the way in which the history of this period is written.
We have at the Iraq Research and Documentation Project, which the Iraq Foundation and Harvard University jointly house and which I'm a director of, we have a trove of about 2 million documents that came out of the last Gulf War in 1991. We hope that what we have done with these documents is the seed or the nucleus of what might be done with the many, many, many millions of documents that they have now found.
So we are transplanting the Iraq Research and Documentation Project into Baghdad over the summer. We are intending to set ourselves up there. Naturally, these documents will have security dimensions to them, first of all. But we intend to get them and house them in a public, what you might call -- we have a project, which is a very large, long-term project, non-governmental project, to essentially establish a kind of museum or resource center for the history of this regime from '68 to 2003, a kind of Holocaust Museum of Iraq, if you like, set in central Baghdad, that records for all time what was done to the very different -- to all Iraqis, what was done to the Kurds in the war, what was done to the Shiites in the South, what was done to the Sunnis, what was done to every community in Iraq equally and nondiscriminatory, not preferring one community over another.
I hope that that will be a central, central monument, if I might use that word, to counter the monuments that Saddam built. We would need to house it in a huge structure. We would need to have an outreach center that would go out to the schools, that would educate, that kind of history exercise inside the Iraqi schools, primary schools through intermediate schools. We would want to have a research function, and we would want to have a public outreach base where people could come and inquire about their families, find their lost ones, delve into these archives, after of course they have been -- people's names had been filtered out. We do not want to end up with a witch hunt exercise where these documents are used to finger people.
But this is a very complex project if you think about it as a whole. We want this to show the crimes, the different ways in which people were hurt. We want oral history projects to be part of it, and we want -- a crucial pillar of it also is these records. So we hope to have the official history of the regime by its own words and we have the oral history of survivors of this regime very, very professionally taken, in interviews that last several hours, of the kind that was done and you can see at Yale University in relation to Cambodia and the kind that you can see in the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem, many of the survivors of the Holocaust and so on.
So it is my dream, my ultimate long ambition, to be involved in such a project, which would not be a government project but would be an enterprise that somehow, a public corporation of some kind that went about the business of doing this big, big thing. The documents are a crucial pillar of it.
MS. BENADOR: We will switch to this side for one minute.
MR. ABURAHMA: Eyad Aburahma, Saudi Information Agency.
Would you speak about what I see as an orchestrated attack on Mr. Chalabi in the Arab media and some of the American media close to Arab governments and the continuous doubt and impatience with the forming of an entity in Iraq versus there -- you know, we have another situation happening in the territories, where Yasser Arafat, comparing to Chalabi, and the inability to appoint a prime minister for six months, where they didn't go through such a vacuum --
MS. BENADOR: Your question?
MR. ABURAHMA: Can you compare and explain the two images and why this attack on emerging structures where in comparison they are not doing that for the similar situation in the territories? In six months they couldn't even appoint one prime minister.
MR. MAKIYA: I don't think there's really any connection. There is a smear campaign, you're absolutely right, but I don't think there's any connection between that and what's going on in the territories.
MR. ABURAHMA: Comparison?
MR. MAKIYA: A comparison? It's hard for me. This is the first time I've had that question. But more substantially is, why is there a smear campaign? That's a very interesting question. Deep down, I think it is because the kind of Iraq that he would represent is so dramatically different from that which, let us say, the Arab intelligentsia for so many years has peddled through the papers of the regular Arab press.
Sadly, the whole smear campaign against, not just Ahmed Chalabi, but myself as well, is almost out of control. May I tell you a good incident? Right after the London conference a paper published an article, front page, saying: "Kanan Makiya has just gotten kicked out of the London conference of the Iraqi opposition for promoting homosexual rights inside the conference."
Now, I have no real objection to promoting rights of gays or anyone else, but it also happens they went into detail. It was such-and-such a committee, it happened, and then somebody else went and told somebody else, and so on. Usually you construct a lie, you start with a kernel of truth and then you build your lie around a bit of truth. In this case there was not a single shred of truth, and this whole thing, the front page story, was designed to smear me in the sort of mud.
So we just -- all it took was one letter to the editor to say, we're going to take you to court for this. They immediately backed down. Unfortunately, this is what has happened to our press. It's very sad.
MR. ABURAHMA: Can I just have a follow-up, just a short follow-up. Regarding the documents, with the exposure and the downfall of Saddam, do you intend to open it, to sort of put the list of Saddam recipients in the media, especially in the Arab world, from Egypt and Palestine and Lebanon who have been receiving money from the Iraqi people?
VOICE: From the Iraqi people.
MR. MAKIYA: I'm not in the business of pinpointing faults that people have done. Other people probably do that. I myself will not spend my time on it.
MR. ABURAHMA: Based on the documents?
MR. MAKIYA: Oh, if they exist I'm sure such stories will come out. And by the way, the German and French firms that helped build up these weapons of mass destruction, don't forget those. I have seen some American firms in the 1980's, I'm sure they were involved, too. I certainly hope all that information does come out.
But more importantly, I hope that a sense of rethinking, a sense of shame, a sense of perhaps we were wrong on some of our questions. Maybe we don't agree with what's going on in Iraq. I can understand many Arabs rightfully thinking this was wrong for all sorts of reasons. They can have good reasons. But the usual reasons that are peddled in the Arab press are sadly out of whack with reality and they are designed often to present it as though the regime of Saddam Hussein somehow represented something legitimate.
There is a deep rethink of this that needs to take place inside -- and let me put it in the broadest sense -- our culture as a whole. To just go around and point the finger of blame at so-and-so and so-and-so, it will be done. I'm sure it will be done. I'm not going to do it. But something much deeper is required. You need to get to the core of why, why we allowed ourselves to think for a moment that this regime was a source of strength for us as Arabs. That's shameful. This regime was nothing but a discredit, a source of our shame. To think that its maintenance was somehow associated with Arab pride and Arab honor is itself a dishonorable thing.
So how that happens, I don't know. The biggest way in which it will happen is by our success. No amount of argument, no amount of evidence, will do the job. Success in terms of having a constitutional government two to three years down the line will.
MS. BENADOR: This gentleman here.
QUESTION: Jamie [inaudible] from Voice of America.
If you could pick a [inaudible] for Iraq, what type of [inaudible] would you like to see? And also, your vision in the future of Iraq, how you'd like to see Iraq after the war?
MR. MAKIYA: I'm a strong, strong supporter of federalism, but of a federalism that is not ethnically based, a federalism that is defined by geography, an administration in which certainly communities like the Kurds would be a majority in their part of Iraq, but in which therefore as a majority they would naturally be self-governing themselves, but in which politically speaking that majority does not have a preference or does not have a politically defined difference or distinction between it and, let's say, a Turkoman or an Arab or another type of Iraqi who is not a Kurd, and, vice versa, this applies to Kurds inside Baghdad, where a million or so Kurds, as you know, exist.
Again, this problem is very important. So I support federalism, which means regional parliaments, which means local control, local autonomy, which also means, by the way, a constitutionally defined way of distribution of resources. This is a very radical thing. No longer does the central state distribute resources to the different regions, but when you construct the state on the basis of regional bases up front, by a formula that is present in the constitution, which no Iraqi central government can ever rescind, is a formula that says how the oil revenues will be expended.
I think also, constitutionally we should not allow those revenues to be spent on anything other than economic infrastructure and social services. They should not be spent on -- we should find a way -- and these are the kinds of things I would very much hope we try and do in the constitution -- of not allowing the oil revenues to fund police and army. Let's fund police and army through taxation, but let's not fund social services -- let's use our resources, our windfall, for social services and economic infrastructure of we can.
These are the kinds of things I would like to see happen.
MS. BENADOR: Deborah.
MS. ORIN: Could you address the question of what you think should be done with the UN sanctions and how -- and also the suggestion by some French and Russian officials that their contracts, oil contracts with the Saddam government, should in some way be maintained by the new government?
MR. MAKIYA: There is actually a petition circulating amongst Iraqis right now -- I have no idea how many people have signed it yet -- for an end to all sanctions except -- and an appeal to Kofi Annan personally -- for an end to all sanctions, for a freeze, a moratorium, on all debts and loans pending a rescheduling of those debts and loans. Also, the appeal says that the Iraqis wish to fund their own state and do not wish to be a trustee of the United Nations or any other party.
Just for your information, I happen to support that fully, all those three points, and I'm very glad to hear that the French government only yesterday also finally came on board.
What was the other part?
MS. ORIN: The oil contracts, the French and Russian ones with the Saddam government.
MR. MAKIYA: I don't know enough about that to comment, but I certainly think we should look at them carefully. If there's any kind of favoritism, if they have been used for purposes that are contrary to national law, then I think they should be rethought.
MS. BENADOR: Bob, you wanted to make a question?
MR. DREYFUSS: Well, I wanted to just follow up, ask about the oil. Who on your team is thinking about what happens to the Iraqi oil industry, not only getting it back up on stream, but where it goes, what kind of organization it will have, whether it will be partially privatized, what contracts, all that? Who's doing the thinking about that and how far along is it?
MR. MAKIYA: I'm really not familiar with that side of things at all. But what I do know is that there are a group of Iraqis working with Jay Garner's team in Kuwait who are thinking about these things, Iraqi- Americans, Iraqis, who are working with Garner's office. I myself am not involved enough to know how far they've gotten along.
MS. BENADOR: The microphone is coming.
MR. MILLIKAN: Al Millikan, WIW again.
The press announcement identifies you as the leading Iraqi intellectual in exile. Do you know, under the dictatorship and terror of Saddam Hussein --
MR. MAKIYA: Make allowances for the fact that Eleana is very fond of me, please.
MR. MILLIKAN: Yes, that's obvious.
But now, is your voice and writing heard at all? The people who you met with last week, did they know who you were?
MR. MAKIYA: Well, we face this much vaunted problem of whether or not the "internals," quote unquote - - a terrible word, this "internals" and "exiles," but nonetheless it has entered into the vocabulary. And I can tell you that the divide that was talked about in the press that was expected to occur between the people who are inside, who have lived under the oppression of the regime, and the people who have been outside for one reason or another never materialized in the Nasariya conference.
In fact, I was extremely personally gratified when a tribal Shia who I had no idea of before, I never heard his name and didn't know which tribe even he represented, got up there on the podium when he spoke and referred in the kindest possible way to me. He apparently knew of some of what I had written at any rate and was very familiar with my name. So I was very happy.
Also, incidentally, after the meeting when we mingled and so on, we found at, at least at the Nasariya meeting -- I'm not saying that this is a general attitude; I'm not saying it's not going to emerge as a problem in the future; it may very well do so. It often does in countries all over the world. But at the Nasariya meeting it didn't materialize. Quite the contrary. That was a very interesting experience.
MS. BENADOR: Lauri.
LAURI: Have you seen any -- you described this logjam among the bureaucracies in Washington. Have you seen any, since the start of the war, any progress, any change, or are things just basically what they were before, and the same people arguing over the same questions? And if it has changed, how has it changed?
MR. MAKIYA: You know what, I don't know even if it's right for me to comment on it, my impressions, because you end up paying a big price for that down the line. But it hasn't fundamentally changed, and I have been saying that I think a presidential decision is required on this question. I can tell you something else. It was one thing to have that kind of fighting going on before the war started; it's another thing to have it now, when the war is going on, because we are starting to see one incident after another, which I don't want to get specific about, in which this kind of fighting is having very bad effects on the situation on the ground, really bad effects, and perhaps even lives being lost, enmities being created, and Iraqis being divided one from the other, and so on.
So this is now no longer a joke. It's no longer just a Beltway preoccupation. It's having an effect on the ground inside Iraq. I'll say openly, and I hope those of you here report it, the President needs to decide and stop it, one way or the other.
MS. BENADOR: Any other questions?
Thank you so much. I just want to mention, the transcript of this event will be on the website, www.benadorassociates.com, tonight, after 10:00 o'clock tonight.
[Whereupon, at 2:18 p.m., the conference was adjourned.]