The Next Century Foundation provided the only international observers operating at large in the interior of Iraq and accredited as election monitors to the Independent Electoral Commission for Iraq during the recent referendum on the new iraqi constitution. Their warts and all report concludes that Overall, we regard this referendum as having been fair — despite minor local irregularities. Though these were regrettable, they had no significant effect on the final outcome.
The Kurdistan Regional Government web site carries a transcription of the joint press conference given by Tony Blair and the Iraqi Kurdistan President Barzani on 31st October.
Tony Blair met with Masoud Barzani at Number 10 and spoke briefly to journalists afterwards.
Good afternoon everyone. A very warm welcome to President Barzani. We are delighted to have you here, Sir. Thank you for everything that you are doing in Iraq at the present time. Obviously after the Constitutional Referendum the next stage is to have successful elections in December. We hope that they will be successful and that that will allow Iraq to become the stable and democratic country its people want to see. And thanks to you and all of your colleagues for your courage throughout this process. Thank you.
Thank you very much Mr Prime Minister. Allow me to express our thanks and appreciation for the warm welcome and also the thanks and the appreciation of the people of Kurdistan and the majority of the people of Iraq for the brave role that you have personally played and also for your courage in helping the people of Iraq to be liberated.
And I would also like to express our condolences and sympathies to the families of the British soldiers who have sacrificed their lives in order to save other people’s lives and also to create freedom.
Mr Prime Minister, we have started a democratic process in Iraq with the help and support from you, from the United States and from other coalition partners.
We are facing and confronting the terrorists who have tried their best in order not to allow for this process to succeed.
There might be voices here in Britain and in the United States and in our country of people who are anti-war, but this will have been imposed on us. If there is any weakness in dealing with this war, then the war will come to our doorsteps.
And I would like to assure you, Mr Prime Minister, that we in Kurdistan will do our best so that the election results will be very good so that after the election we will be able to form a government that will represent all the peoples of Iraq and also succeed in our efforts with the democratic process and we will try our best in order to work for the implementation of the Constitution that was ratified recently after the vote on the 15th of October so that we will be heading towards a future that will be prosperous for all of the people of Iraq and also for us to live in peace because Iraq is a key.
And once again I would like to thank you and express my appreciation.
Thank you Sir. Thank you very much.
Question and answer session
Mr Barzani, my question to you is regarding the coming elections. The elections that have been announced. Which of these lists to you feel is closest to the Kurdish people’s aspirations and do you expect an alliance with the United Iraqi Alliance after the problems with this government?
Prime Minister, if I may ask you regarding the number of 26,000 Iraqi civilian deaths over the past 2 years, is this number as high as you expected and what are the responsibilities of the coalition troops to protect Iraqi lives?
In Kurdistan we enjoy very good relations with all the different groups and lists and we have to wait for the results of the elections. We will work on the basis of commitment to the Constitution that was drafted and that was ratified. And we will continue to play our role, which was a mediatory role, and the role which we play with all the different groups and our coalition will be with all of them.
Let me make it clear, we regret any civilian deaths. Those who don’t regret civilian deaths are the people engaged in acts of terrorism deliberately killing civilians, and that is not the Iraqi Security Forces nor the Multinational Force. It is the terrorists and insurgents who are killing people in order to stop the democratic process, and my point is very simple for everybody. Let the democratic process work, let people vote freely, let them decide their own government, and if the violence stopped today, the multinational force could leave tomorrow. It is the violence that keeps us in order to support the political process. So those who are responsible for civilian deaths are those who are engaged in acts of violence to prevent democracy.
Two questions, the first for President Barzani. After your visit and your meeting with the Prime Minister, I know that important issues have been raised and discussed. Could you give us some of the basic things which have been discussed between you which is relevant to the future of the Kurdistan region?
And a question for Prime Minister Blair, the coalition of the alliance between Kurdistan and Britain, could we call that one of the bases of this alliance is confronting terrorism?
Of course we discussed the current situation in Iraq and the future, and we also stressed our full co-operation for the domestic process that we have started in Iraq so that it will make progress and will succeed and our views were identical.
Look, one of the interesting things about Kurdistan is that there, because there has been the opportunity for people to live and work in peace, that region is so much stronger. It is economically stronger, it is stronger in terms of the living standards of its people and what it shows is what Iraq itself could be like if the terrorism would stop and proper systems of democracy then shape the future of Iraq. This is a basic and important struggle for not just the freedom of people in Iraq against terrorism, but for the freedom of people everywhere against terrorism. The self-same people who are killing innocent people in Iraq are killing innocent people in India, in Egypt, in this country, in other parts of Europe, in other parts of the world, and therefore the bond between us is a very, very strong one. It is to stand firm for democracy against terrorism, and to be prepared to carry that fight to whatever corner of the world these terrorists operate.
Abdullah Muhsin and Gary Kent review a history of the Stop the War movement at Democratiya and conclude that This book should include a health warning. It embraces authoritarian language with little space for dialogue or even fair debate. It is glossy, visually busy and bitty in the modern style, with coffee table production values, attractive photographs, and appalling politics. One day a decent history of the Stop the War Coalition will be written. This isn’t it.
The Guardian writer Ghaith Abdul-Ahad interviews the leader of a band of Sunni insurgents who openly defied al-Qaida in Iraq by actively supporting the referendum. He says that in the Sunni areas of Iraq, the people and the local Iraqi insurgents among them had a different view: they were eager to vote. There was a widespread sense of regret about the boycotting of the last elections, which left the parliament in Baghdad dominated by Shia and Kurdish parties – and left the Sunnis, who held the power in Saddam’s Iraq, out in the cold. The Sunnis wanted to take part in last week’s referendum; they wanted a “no” vote on the draft constitution. The writer says that This might just change the way things develop in Iraq
President Talabani tells Toby Harnden that Iraqis have started to hate these killers and butchers and they are isolated from the people. In certain areas, even some tribes are ready to co-operate with the government and coalition forces to fight against terrorists. British troops, he said, had helped to create such conditions for Iraqis, including Kurds, who under the federalism enshrined in the new constitution will be guaranteed regional autonomy. A country which had been a concentration camp built on top of a mass grave under Saddam was being slowly transformed. If terrorism is not controlled, it will increase and spread all over the world. Now you are fighting the terrorists here in their own place. If you stop doing this then you will be fighting them in your own cities and towns. You are our partners in this.”
The International Federation of Journalists has condemned the brutal murder of Mohammad Harun Hassan, an editor and the Executive Secretary of the Iraqi Journalists Syndicate, who was gunned down by unknown attackers in Baghdad city centre.
Nick Cohen in the Observer profiles Maryam Namazie who personifies the gulf between liberal apologists and those who really want equality
The IWPR carries a wonderful photoessay on the referendum on the constitution.
The BBC reports that three offices of an Iraqi Sunni party which dropped its opposition to the new constitution have been attacked, a day before a referendum on the text. The report quotes Alaa Makki, a senior party official, saying the party would use the political process to fight terrorism and promote stability in Iraq.