INTERVIEWER:
The British policy in Iraq is failing. We’re giving over the whole of tonight’s programme to Iraq and the terrorist emergency facing this country. An exclusive poll shows that a majority of British people think the war in Iraq wasn’t justified and that our troops should be brought home.

The Foreign Secretary attempts to persuade us that not only was the war worth while but that we mustn’t thinking of leaving now. He’ll face opinion formers, Iraqi politicians and parents of service men who’ve died on this Government’s mission.

Good evening. British forces invaded Iraq to over throw a dictator they now find themselves fighting an insurgency. Where do we, where ought we to go from here? We’re going to take it in three chapters tonight. First we’re going to discuss an exit strategy, then we’re going to talk about the future of Iraq and lastly the measures the Government says they have to take to keep us safe from terrorism.

But first we commissioned a poll to find out what people think about the war now. We asked them take in to account the war itself and everything that’s happened since and tell us if it was the right thing to do or the wrong thing.

Ten per cent of them didn’t know, a third of them thought it had been the right thing to do but a decisive majority, fifty seven per cent, thought it had been wrong. Now Foreign Secretary what is it makes you so sure that the majority are wrong and you’re right?

FOREIGN SECRETARY:
Well I’m not sure about that it’s just I happen to have thought about this a very great deal, I understand why you have that majority given what has happened during the war and subsequently. But I think about it a great deal, of course I think about the people who’ve lost their lives not least the British service personnel and their families

I happen to believe however that the judgements we made in February and March 2003 were correct. I also profoundly believe that we have to see this through and that out of this there will come a very much better Iraq than there was before. And what people sometimes forget, I’m not suggesting you have, was that Saddam was a terrible dictator, appalling dictator. He ran a dictatorship at least, according to the best estimates by Human Rights Watch about two hundred and ninety thousand people lost their lives during that dictatorship.

And we are now, as a result of a UN mandate, on track to establish the beginnings of a democracy. We’ve had one election this year ...

INTERVIEWER:
All right...

FOREIGN SECRETARY:
...with eight and a half million voting, we’ve got a referendum on Saturday and a further election in two month’s time...

INTERVIEWER:
Okay we’ll got through that in some detail...

FOREIGN SECRETARY:
...(indistinct) ...

INTERVIEWER:
...let’s take first then a look at our first topic, the position of the British troops there.

There are almost eight and a half thousand British troops in Iraq mainly in the Shia dominated areas in and around Basra. Ninety-five British soldiers have been killed and it’s becoming a more dangerous place. Today the British Government again accused Iran of providing the know how for sophisticated bombs which have killed British soldiers.

In our poll we asked which of the following best represents your attitude to British troops in Iraq. Thirty one per cent said they should be withdrawn immediately. Twenty three per cent said they shouldn’t be withdrawn immediately but a firm date should be set for departure. Forty per cent said they should be withdrawn only when the Iraqi security forces are ready to take over, six per cent said they didn’t know.

The British Government’s policy is that troops should stay there until the Iraqi security forces can cope. But last month the British had to smash their way in to a Police Station to rescue two of their own soldiers who’d been held by a Police Force even it’s own commander admits is largely loyal not to him but to militia groups.

Okay let’s be clear about this straight off Foreign Secretary, you will not set a date for withdrawal?

FOREIGN SECRETARY:
We won’t set a date for withdrawal it’s the Iraqi Government may and under the United Nations’ mandate if they set, literally set a date to withdraw tomorrow we would have to start withdrawing tomorrow. But the current mandate runs out at the end of this year so it will have to be renewed. What it’s likely to say, although it’s the call of the Iraqi Government above all, is that we should stay until the job is done. We hope...

INTERVIEWER:
So it’s open ended?

FOREIGN SECRETARY:
...well it’s open ended, there’s no date set but we all hope that it could be completed in a matter of a very limited number of years.

INTERVIEWER:
And if it was peaceable and secure in the British sector could we withdraw despite the fact that the Americans stayed?

FOREIGN SECRETARY:
We would have to coordinate a withdrawal. Now there may be withdrawals by the Americans, other coalition forces and ourselves, which are not each proportionate to the other but that’s in the end a matter for the military commanders. What...

INTERVIEWER:
In February ...

FOREIGN SECRETARY:
...well if I may say so, what I think is improbable would be for the United Kingdom unilaterally to withdraw out of sync with the United States or other coalition partners, that’s ...

INTERVIEWER:
...so we don’t go till the others go?

FOREIGN SECRETARY:
...not our policy. Well we wouldn’t finally leave the till the others, others leave, I mean, the exact sequence of withdrawal would depend on the precise military circumstances.

INTERVIEWER:
In February this year the Prime Minister promised that there would be published a set of milestones that would have to passed in order for withdrawal to be achieved, that hasn’t happened, why hasn’t it been published?

FOREIGN SECRETARY:
Well, the milestones are there as a matter of fact I mean the milestones were there in Resolution 1546 setting out the political process. We’ll then get a renewal of the UN mandate, as least I think we will it’s a matter for the Security Council...

INTERVIEWER:
Why was he promising to publish them then in February?

FOREIGN SECRETARY:
...well I don’t think there was any big deal about this.

INTERVIEWER:
Well people want to know where they stand.

FOREIGN SECRETARY:
...well the milestones were there, the mandate will run out at the end of this year, if it does and it’s not renewed we would all leave. I don’t think it will because the Iraqi Government says to us that they want us to stay and they want us to stay to see the job done.

What also needs to be borne in mind is that there’s been a big increase in the numbers in the Iraqi security forces, it’s now I think at a hundred and ninety thousand, and in their capability. And what we...

INTERVIEWER:
And a very good number of them not even loyal to the Iraqi Government.

FOREIGN SECRETARY:
...well it was, I know it was a terrible incident but those were very, very specific circumstances.

INTERVIEWER:
But the Police Commander in Basra says he can only count on the loyalty of about a quarter of the Police there.

FOREIGN SECRETARY:
The prime responsibility for law and order and internal security is these days actually on the Iraqi Armed Forces rather than on the Police and a lot of work is going in to improve the capability and the loyalty and command and control of the Police as well.

INTERVIEWER:
Let’s look at the situation in Basra. There have been various unnamed sources in the Government who have said that the attacks there are coordinated or organised or the insurgents in Basra have been trained by the Iranians. Are you blaming the Iranian Government for the deaths of those (indistinct) service men?

FOREIGN SECRETARY:
Not directly and the Prime Minister said at a recent press conference that we couldn’t be sure about the direct responsibility of the Iranian Government. But what we think is the case is that these improvised explosive devices which are the ones which have killed quite a number of British soldiers recently, are based on a design which Hezbollah has used which in turn they’ve got from the Iranians. We also believe that elements of the Iranian regime may have been involved more directly in planning.

Now we can’t be certain about. We certainly look to the Iranian Government to...

INTERVIEWER:
What are you going to do about it?

FOREIGN SECRETARY:
...well first of all we made very strong representations to the Iranian Government. Secondly, of course, British soldiers are entitled to defend themselves and they will do so. And, and I hope however by a combination of effective action...

INTERVIEWER:
...you still think the use of force against Iran is, as you put it a couple of weeks ago, inconceivable because the Iranians clearly don’t think that?

FOREIGN SECRETARY:
Well I was talking about in a different context which is in respect of the nuclear dossier. I was essentially being asked to say as I have been for the last year ...

INTERVIEWER:
So it is conceivable in this context is it?

FOREIGN SECRETARY:
...well let me just finish the point. I’m being asked whether I thought that launching a major war against Iran on account of possible failures under their non proliferation treaty was likely and I said it was inconceivable and that remains my view.

As to decisions which the British Army may or may not have to take in respect of this kind of action if there was very clear proof, that’s a matter for military command as it comes under quite different areas of international law. And I, I ...

INTERVIEWER:
Would they be allowed to cross in to Iran if it’s necessary?

FOREIGN SECRETARY:
...it’s not, it’s not for me to speculate on the tactics which the British military would use, it wouldn’t actually ...

INTERVIEWER:
But you’re in charge of them ...

FOREIGN SECRETARY:
...no and you wouldn’t …

INTERVIEWER:
...this Government is in charge of them isn’t it?

FOREIGN SECRETARY:
...I’m sorry with great respect it wouldn’t help the British military if I was to be public about the tactics we would use. It’s not a question of who’s in charge of it it’s a question of safety of British soldiers.

INTERVIEWER:
Okay let, let, let’s hear from some of our panel, Lindsey German.

Lindsey German (Stop The War Coalition):
Well I feel that the only solution for peace in Iraq and in the Middle East is to pull out the American and the British troops and I think this whole argument about, about Iran is really something of a red herring. After all the, the (indistinct) the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq is part of the Government where as the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iran is, is seen as a big enemy. Every (indistinct)...

INTERVIEWER:
You say just pull them out straight away?

LG:
Well I’m in favour of that as are a third of the people...

INTERVIEWER:
Immediate withdrawal?

LG:
...well as are a third of the people in your poll Jeremy I think that...

INTERVIEWER:
But you, just be clear about this, you want immediate withdrawal?

LG:
Well this, yes I do and I would just say that this was the fig, the date that was put by the British Government itself. As Jack Straw has said only a year ago they said by Christmas of this year, by the end of this year, there could be withdrawal under the UN mandate.

So this isn’t a ludicrous or a far fetched idea ...

INTERVIEWER:
Tim Garden you are a military man does that make sense to you?

Lord Tim Garden:
It doesn’t I’m afraid...

INTERVIEWER:
But you still seek withdrawal?

TG:
...I, I, we, we all seek withdrawal we all seek a stable Iraq in the end but unfortunately we’ve had two years of incompetence in terms of the strategic management of the situation, it’s got very bad. There’s no doubt that if you withdraw instantly it will get a lot worse but we need to have a bit of a strategy for how we’re going to take it forward.

There is an assumption that we’re working just on a military basis, you’ve got to get the political and the economic bits sorted out as well and we need not just mile stones we need some bench marks and we need to put a bit of a challenge to the, the neighbours, to the Iraqis, to those participating. So we do need a form of timetable which gives us a challenge to the withdrawal and we need to phase down as the Iraqi forces go up. And of course I mean Jack’s just said a hundred and ninety thousand Iraqi troops trained the Americans have assessed it at one battalion useful, about six hundred men.

Reg Keys (Father of Lance Corporal Tom Keys):
(indistinct) you’re looking at Iraq through rose tinted glasses. You need, instead of going out there in shirt sleeves rolled up meeting soldiers smiling you need to talk to troops that have been there and that have returned that know the real Iraq.

My son trained Iraqi Police Men, he served in the Parachute Regiment before that he was a seasoned soldier though he was only twenty years of age. Now what you’ve got here you’ve got a tribal society since biblical times, this is a country fiercely tribal. You can’t barn storm, barn storm in to a country with a (indistinct) and the bullet and impose democracy, you’re going to live like us.

My son trained these Police Men and he said half the time he was wasting his time. They had no loyalty towards the coalition, there was inherent discipline. He tried to teach them what to do and literally they would not go and arrest anybody from their own tribe. They were fiercely loyal to their tribal and religious leaders. He said I may as well go in a junior school play ground and hold, and hand a load of Kalashnikovs to children because there was no discipline amongst them and this is what happened the other day in Basra. An officer said the seventy per cent of the Iraqi Police can not be trusted and when my son was killed there were forty to fifty armed Iraqi Police in that station with him and they all fled in fear of being shot as collaborators ...

INTERVIEWER:
Can you just ...

RK:
...that’s the real Iraq.

INTERVIEWER:
...right engage with some of these points.

FOREIGN SECRETARY:
Sure. Well first of all on Lindsey German’s point I, Lindsey I understand why you’re saying that but I honestly believe that if we were to withdraw now we would create a, a terrible situation. It’s not what the Iraqis want. On the time table, I mean, I do, I do know what I, I do recall what I’ve been saying about it since 1546 was passed in June of last year ...

LG:
And it is December this year.

FOREIGN SECRETARY:
...yes (indistinct) the, the mandate under 1546...

LG:
Yes ...

FOREIGN SECRETARY:
...runs out in December of this year because that’s the end of the political process set by 1546. However the Iraqis have indicated to us that they want it renewed and I think the international community, the Security Council, will say that too for the reasons that Tim Garden has spelt out. And, whatever position people took on the war itself, and they’re, they’re varied here and they’re varied across the country, most people believe that we have to see the job through.

Now in terms of bench marks we’ve certainly got, as it were, bench marks in prose but to put a precise, precise date against the, those is to pretend that we control over a process which is actually in the hands of the Iraqi people themselves...

LG:
But, but could I just say that ...

FOREIGN SECRETARY:
...and it’s called democracy.

LG:
...that there is a problem ...

INTERVIEWER:
Tim.

FOREIGN SECRETARY:
But I want to answer Mr Keys if I may.

LG:
...of credibility here.

FOREIGN SECRETARY:
Sorry.

TG:
By, by saying that, I mean what, what you’re saying is leaving it until the Iraqis re ready for you to go...

FOREIGN SECRETARY:
No...

TG:
...that is a recipe for strategic drift...

FOREIGN SECRETARY:
...no, no.

TG:
...you’ve got to put a challenge ...

LG:
But also you have been saying ...

FOREIGN SECRETARY:
...allow me to finish, we...

LG:
...for two and a half years ...

FOREIGN SECRETARY:
...sorry Lindsey yes.

LG:
...you have been saying things are going to get better and actually in 2003 you said they’re going to get better, in 2004 and again this year and every one knows the situation is getting worse there.

FOREIGN SECRETARY:
Well I, look it’s got, it’s a complicated situation. In terms of the moves towards democracy (indistinct) people talking about here, unquestionably things have improved. I never believed that the elections which did occur on the 30th January this year would take place in relative peace and calm with eight and a half million people, sixty per cent of the electorate voting in a peaceful elections.

And my answer Mr Keys to, to you if I may say so sir is this, yes it is a tribal society, it’s a divided society, these were divisions which Saddam sought to exploit as well in, and they’ve had no history of ...

RK:
They lived side by side, they inter married, they lived peacefully with each other.

FOREIGN SECRETARY:
...well no, no they didn’t live peacefully of it but Saddam murdered at least three hundred thousand of them. It was a reign of terror.

RK:
More people die in Iraq every day now than under Saddam.

FOREIGN SECRETARY:
No well with great respect that’s not the case but the difference ...

RK:
It is the case.

FOREIGN SECRETARY:
...the difference is ...

RK:
(indistinct) equivalent every day in Iraq to a London bombing.

FOREIGN SECRETARY:
...no the difference, the difference is there are no, there were no television cameras there no one could see what was going on before. These days quite rightly ...

RK:
There’s no electricity, food or water now.

FOREIGN SECRETARY:
...there are. Now what we’re seeking to do in support of the Iraqis which is what the Iraqis want is create democracy. I don’t, I’m afraid I don’t agree with you in this respect...

RK:
Do you really think you can do that?

FOREIGN SECRETARY:
...I think it’s happening elsewhere, it’s happening in Afghanistan. There were many countries in Eastern Europe where people said it was not possible to have democracies. I happen to believe that the principle of democracy was one that burns in the heart and soul of every person of the human race and I include Iraqis amongst them.

RK:
Well explain to me why did you choose Iraq...

INTERVIEWER:
Hang on, let (indistinct)...

RK:
...to impose your democracy? Why not Burma, why not North Korea, why not China? Why did you choose Iraq to impose your democracy?

INTERVIEWER:
Well I think you know the history of what happened in Iraq ...

RK:
No there’s no weapons of mass destruction, Iraq was no threat to Britain.

INTERVIEWER:
Come on let’s try, let’s try and look forward. Sue Smith you also have lost a son in Iraq in Basra I believe...

Sue Smith (Mother of Private Phillip Hewett): Alamarah...

INTERVIEWER:
...(indistinct) Basra (indistinct) yes. What lessons do you draw?

SS:
I think the troops should withdraw.

INTERVIEWER:
Why?

SS:
Because you are just seeing more people killed even Iraqi people are killing their own, own people, how can we be helping? I, I wrote a letter to Tony Blair; democracy starts within, you don’t just walk in and say geting rid of Saddam there’s your democracy. You’ve got to build on in it, it took generations in England, you can’t just walk in and do it.

Those three soldiers that were set on fire were, were from my son’s regiment and that was horrendous watching that again.

INTERVIEWER:
And your son died in one of these attacks with a device ...

SS:
Yes.

INTERVIEWER:
...which British intelligence apparently believes (indistinct) ...

SS:
Came from Iran.

INTERVIEWER:
...know how provided by the Iranians?

SS:
Yes.

INTERVIEWER:
What do you propose we should do about that?

SS:
Well I don’t think, well it’s down to the Government really isn’t it to do something about it but I can’t see the point in going in there. We’ve opened a can of worms in Iraq they, they don’t know where to go so they’re stalling, I think that’s what happening with the Government ...

INTERVIEWER:
You see, you see ...

SS:
...they don’t know what to do.

INTERVIEWER:
...this is a, a prevalent view and not just among those who have relatives or who are unfortunate enough to have lost relatives there but, you know, one thing after another. Now we discover Iran’s involved, it’s just, it’s just a can of worms.

FOREIGN SECRETARY:
Well again I understand why Mrs Smith is saying this but it isn’t a can of worms. I mean there is an insurgency and it’s a serious insurgency, let’s be clear about that. What the insurgents are seeking to do is to prevent the Iraqis as a whole from developing their democracy. That’s what’s going on. It’s part ...

RK:
(Indistinct) insurgency (indistinct) Iraq until you invaded ...

FOREIGN SECRETARY:
...well Mr Keys the reason for that ...

INTERVIEWER:
That’s because it was a dictatorship.

FOREIGN SECRETARY:
...it was a dictatorship it was a reign of terror and people, and there was, there was state funded sponsored terrorism it was called the Saddam regime. I mean it’s just true and hundreds of thousands were killed and people were denied all sorts of political rights that you and I take for granted.

But jut in terms of progress that’s been made ...

RK:
Well ...

FOREIGN SECRETARY:
...there are quite a number of the provinces in Iraq are peaceful, there are some which are profoundly not peaceful and that’s the real problem, particularly in the Baghdad area, to some extent in the south. A lot of reconstruction has taken place, more than people imagine, but there is this political construction taking place which is moving forward.

Now just to repeat the point; we had the elections in January, I didn’t think they would take place, they did. We then had ...

INTERVIEWER:
We’re going ...

FOREIGN SECRETARY:
...the constitution in August, I didn’t think it would get written it has and what’s more just over night we’ve had important changes made to try and bring the Sunni in, all part of United Nations’ mandate ...

INTERVIEWER:
We’re going to look at the (indistinct) ...

Several speakers: Indistinct) ...

INTERVIEWER:
...(indistinct) in a second but I ...

FOREIGN SECRETARY:...
and we’ve got (indistinct) it, it is a movement towards democracy.

INTERVIEWER:...
let’s continue this question of ...

Douglas Murray (Author, Neo Conservatism - Why we need it): We, we saw yesterday who would benefit most from any withdrawal when the State Department, the Defence Department in Washington released the transcript of the letter from al Zawahiri, number two of al Qaeda to Zarqawi. And when that translation was released yesterday it was clear that number two in al Qaeda was writing to his deputy in Iraq saying to him that what would happen if, if we had, even if we published a time table for withdrawal would be that they would wait until that time table was over and then they could wreak their havoc more.

I mean they’re going to wreak their havoc now, they will wreak it in six months, in a year but if you give them the timetable for withdrawal they will keep attacking any way. Why does nobody realise you can not placate these people, they’re not going to placate them now and you won’t do it even if you give them a time table for withdrawal lasting two yeas, they’ll wait and then they’ll hit there.

INTERVIEWER:
Well what do you think should be done about the apparent Iranian involvement in these attacks?

DM:
Well I’d like to se the Foreign Office in this country, the Government of this country taking a harder line with Iran and with Syria. I can’t understand from the beginning why it wasn’t made to the Syrian Government that any fighters found in Iraq, creating havoc and murder in Iraq, shouldn’t have been led back and blamed directly on Syrian Government for not securing their border. Why it wasn’t made clear from the very beginning and now in Iran as well that if they can not secure their border then we will not respect their border.

INTERVIEWER:
Why have you been so weak on this Foreign Secretary?

FOREIGN SECRETARY:
Well I, it’s not a description I’d accept, I think we, we have been proportionate to the problem we have faced and if you wanted to have a wider discussion about my approach to the nuclear dossier in respect to Iran what I’d say is that we’d been able to secure an international consensus on that and we’ve managed to persuade the Iranians by diplomatic pressure to continue to suspend their enrichment of nuclear fuel.

INTERVIEWER:
But Foreign Secretary on, on your own evidence British service men are dying as a consequence of actions by ...

FOREIGN SECRETARY:
I, I understand that and I ...

INTERVIEWER:
...Iran.

FOREIGN SECRETARY:
...I’m not going to speculate on the tactics (indistinct) military commanders in the south, they have to use in respect of that. But I also say that any decisions that are made will be proportionate to the problem.

Doctor Les Roberts (Author, Lancet report on Iraqi casualties):
The past couple of comments make the assumption that the coalition is a positive force. If we believe the former Attorney General of the United States we’ve dropped more tonnage of bombs on Iraq, one of the most urbanised countries in the world, than were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

There are eight estimates out there of how many civilians have died, four of which are over a hundred thousand so admittedly there’s a big range of what we don’t know ...

INTERVIEWER:
Right.

LR:
...but it’s way too many. And this style of occupation might not in the long haul be moving us in more of a positive direction than negative.

INTERVIEWER:
All right well let’s engage with some of those questions now and turn to the second area of discussion which is, which directly of course affects what will happen with British policy in Iraq and it is this question of when British troops could be withdrawn.

On Saturday Iraqis vote in a referendum on the new constitution which its authors hope will be the foundation stone of a new democratic Iraq. Despite the threat of a Sunni boycott and against the background of horrific violence delicate negotiations brought together the Kurdish, Sunni and Shia ethnic groups.

Bringing democracy to Iraq was said to be one of the principle reasons behind the decision to depose Saddam Hussein so in our poll we asked when do you think will become a stable democracy? Eleven per cent say in the next couple of years, twenty five per cent believe it will take three to ten years. Seventeen per cent think it’ll take more than ten years, twenty seven per cent say never, twenty per cent don’t know.

The violence is a sign of the militants’ determination to frustrate attempts to bring Western style democracy to the country. Iraq’s politicians hope Saturday’s vote will bring peace and stability and not deepen divisions.

Foreign Secretary when do you think Iraq ill be a stable democracy?

FOREIGN SECRETARY:
I’m optimistic about Iraq, I think five to ten years will see it becoming stable.

INTERVIEWER:
Five to ten years?

FOREIGN SECRETARY:
Yes and I, if you compare nation building in other situations, after the war in Europe building up nation, a stable nation hood from the, the collapse of the Soviet Union and so on. Look at Afghanistan. I think that’s a reasonable prospect. Iraq is quite a sophisticated society not withstanding the Saddam dictatorship. It had some, you know, greater perhaps institutional underpinning say than Afghanistan has had and has, self evidently, far less subject of sort of complete destruction say that Germany had immediately at the turn of the war ...

INTERVIEWER:
But, but the ...

FOREIGN SECRETARY:
...so I think it can happen and I say one of the things that make me optimistic out of what has been a very bloody situation for the past two and a half years is the determination of Iraqis to follow the time table set by the United Nations to meet it for these major mile stones towards setting up their own Government and constitutional apparatus.

INTERVIEWER:
But in the mean time the level of violence is getting worse, I mean, it’s now running at what ninety attacks a day?

FOREIGN SECRETARY:
No the level of violence is very serious and we have to recognise that the reason for that is the insurgents as you, you have said are seeking to undermine democracy. The quicker we can get a stable, democratic, permanent Government by which I mean one subject to a permanent constitution the better. We’re on track to do that with the referendum on, on Saturday. And if the referendum finds in favour of the constitution the elections for a Government which will last for five years ...

INTERVIEWER:
How many deaths would you say, we’ve already heard a figure ...

FOREIGN SECRETARY:
...(indistinct) October (indistinct) December.

INTERVIEWER:
...of, of a hundred thousand deaths, how many deaths would you say was too high a price to pay for this possible democracy in five to ten years?

FOREIGN SECRETARY:
Well any number of deaths is too high I’m not, I’m not going to get in to some kind of appalling calculus here. The fact that so many people have died in Iraq is terrible, I know I don’t happen to believe that the hundred thousand figure which is often quoted off the basis of the, the range of eight thousand to a hundred and ninety four thousand in the Lancet analysis is accurate. But any number of deaths is terrible. But let’s bear in mind who’s causing these deaths.

What you’re asking me to do is to speculate on the number of deaths which terrorists are likely to cause ...

INTERVIEWER:
I’m not asking you to speculate ...

FOREIGN SECRETARY:
to...

INTERVIEWER:
...I’m asking you to make, you say you’re not going to get in to the calculus of it the calculus is absolutely the heart of this. Is it worth the cost in human life?

FOREIGN SECRETARY:
...well the, the question is the counter factual. Is it, if we don’t pursue this, this policy towards democracy we walk away and do exactly what al Qaeda and al Zarqawi want which is to create a far, far greater chaos with no hope at all. That’s not what the Iraqis want.

INTERVIEWER:
Now Les Roberts, you were responsible for that estimate in The Lancet ...

Les Roberts:
That’s right.

INTERVIEWER:
...which the Foreign Secretary has just pooh poohed again as the British Government pooh poohed comprehensively at the time.

LR:
And misquoted actually. So there are many things wrong with what I just heard. First of all we didn’t give a range because we had part of our sample, the only part in Anbar Province that was so bad we didn’t quite know what to do with it, but it meant it was higher than a hundred thousand. That’s what we reported.

But the exact number isn’t so important. The really, really awful thing is what Jack Straw just said. He doesn’t want to get in to the calculus of it. He doesn’t want for his Government to be responsible for keeping track of the well-being of these people that under the Geneva Conventions they’re required to keep track of.

David Aaronovich (Columnist, The Times):
(Indistinct) he just didn’t say that. If you’re going to accuse the man of, of distorting things you shouldn’t distort what he’s just said.

LR:
He said ...

DA:
The calculation he didn’t say he wanted to get in to was how many lives were worth it. He didn’t say he didn’t want to keep track. He hasn’t been able to keep track. You may be able to criticise him for that. But he didn’t say the thing you just said he said.

Lord Tim Garden:
(Indistinct.)

DA:
That’s, that’s fair enough and you’ll agree that is a distortion.

Lindsey German:
(Indistinct) they know exactly the American, how many American and British soldiers.

(Indistinct)

DA:
...and it’s one of the kind of factors, sorry it’s one of the factors of this debate that somebody say associated with a, a scientific publication such as The Lancet should feel himself forced in to a discussion of that kind of, if you like that kind of level of (indistinct). Now I kind of understand it, but the question as I understood it was about the Iraqi people themselves. Well we have at least two representatives from the Iraqi people right here in the studio.

INTERVIEWER:
Okay (indistinct) a very good idea. Bayan Sami Abdul-Rahman, you tell us what you think.

Bayan Sami Abdul-Rahman (Kurdistan Representative to the UK):
Well first of all I think there’s been a lot of distortion tonight about what’s happened and what is happening in Iraq. People are forgetting what kind of a dictatorship we lived under in Saddam Hussein’s era. He was a genocidal dictator. There was the Anfal campaign, eight thousand Barzani people disappeared. Five thousand people died in a chemical attack. There were dozens of chemical attacks, not just Halabja. The Arab Marshes were ...

Indistinct:
Drained.

BSAR:
...drained. The Arabs in the Shia areas in the Sunni areas even were murdered and murdered every single day. And I think people are losing sight of all of that. The issue of democracy also like Mr Straw, I’m also optimistic about democracy. In one part of Iraq we already have been practising the foundations if you like or the early, we’ve been taking the early steps towards democracy and that is in Kurdistan. Thanks to the safe havens set up by the Coalition in 1992 we’ve had the beginnings of a democracy and we would like to expand that to the rest of Iraq. I think there’s been a lot of negative words here tonight based on media distortions, based on things that are happening in certain parts of Iraq. But that’s not the full picture.

INTERVIEWER:
No it’s not the full picture.

Fareed Sabri (Iraqi Islamic Party):
I mean ...

INTERVIEWER:
No one suggested it is the full picture, or the total picture (indistinct) ...

BSAR:
But I think they are, I think they are.

Fareed Sabri:
...(indistinct) I was in Iraq fifteen days ago ...

INTERVIEWER:
Go on, go on.

Fareed Sabri:
...and the full picture, I mean, well look Saddam has killed probably two hundred or three hundred thousand people in thirty years. The Occupation has killed a hundred thousand in two years. So if it continues like this I mean the Iraqi people will finish in ten years (indistinct) ...

BSAR:
Again I, I, I’m afraid ...

Fareed Sabri:
...I came from Iraq fifteen days ago and you have eleven thousand homes destroyed in Fallujah. There is not, I mean each village in, in the West of Iraq if they’ve got a hundred homes the Americans have destroyed at least ninety homes of this. Ninety per cent of the areas or villages has been destroyed. People are being killed. People are not keeping count of how many people are being killed in Iraq. Because the Iraqi people as a Muslim they will bury them the next day. I mean you say a hundred thousand people. I’m sure there’s at least two hundred thousand people who are killed in the past few weeks.

INTERVIEWER:
Well we just don’t know come on.

Fareed Sabri:
Iraq, yeah, because people are ...

FOREIGN SECRETARY:
Well hang on ...

Fareed Sabri:
...people are not keeping counts. Hospitals are not keeping counts. Every day you see people are getting killed (indistinct) by the Occupation, by the militias which (indistinct) the Occupation gave them Iraq.

INTERVIEWER:
But, but is it, is it not the case that during the latter stages of the policy of containment of Saddam Hussein that in fact he was able to kill very many fewer people (indistinct) ...

Fareed Sabri:
But this is a propaganda because in order to for the Americans and for the British to invade Iraq, I mean nobody knows what, was this is true or not. I mean during the sanctions these sanctions has killed a million and a half Iraqi people. And the America and the United States has really committed genocide against, against the Iraqi people in the past twelve or thirteen years ...

Bayan Sami Abdul-Rahman:
I’m sorry to (indistinct) with my, I’m sorry to disagree with my Iraqi friend ...

Fareed Sabri:
...you have, you have, of course you disagree because you want (indistinct) wreckage of Iraq, you want to break Iraq in to pieces ...

INTERVIEWER:
All right (indistinct) thank you, that’s enough, we’ll come to that one in a second. You just respond to though Foreign Secretary.

BSAR:
I’m afraid we don’t and I’m afraid you’ve (indistinct) again.

FOREIGN SECRETARY:
First of all there is no collateral evidence in support of a figure of a hundred thousand. There is none at all. There is the Iraq Body Count which is an entirely independent web site which suggests there might have been twenty five thousand total ...

Lord Tim Garden:
Twenty five thousand minimum.

FOREIGN SECRETARY:
...to, to, yeah total casualty ...

INTERVIEWER:
We just don’t know, isn’t that true?

FOREIGN SECRETARY:
...well, no, hang on a second. In addition to that there is what, what is now happening is that the Iraqi Ministry of Health say that they are producing as comprehensive figures as they can based on (indistinct) on daily reports from the hospitals and that puts the figures not since the beginning of war, but since I think March of 2004 at about eight thousand. It’s eight thousand too many let me say.

(Indistinct)

INTERVIEWER:
(Indistinct) I mean his point is we ...

Lindsey German:
But Robert, Robert Fisk, Robert Fisk said a thousand people died in Baghdad in July alone, that was Robert Fisk’s figure.

INTERVIEWER:
But with respect to Robert Fisk he also doesn’t know.

LG:
Well he goes to the mortuaries and he does talk to a lot of people so I mean I think ...

Jack Straw:
No I, I, I wish, I wish there were I wish there were ...

LG:
...it’s very, very high. It’s very, very high.

FOREIGN SECRETARY:
...far better systems of, of collecting (indistinct) ...

LG:
Well there should be a Government system and you should have put that in place ...

Fareed Sabri:
(Indistinct) Government now they would like the figure to be one or two, they wouldn’t tell you how many people are (indistinct) ...

LG:
...and you haven’t (indistinct).

INTERVIEWER:
Okay you’ve already raised one, one political point about what might happen to it, I want to bring in you though David Aaronovich. Is there, when you look at this war, which, which you saw a moral legitimacy to. As it goes on and things seem to get worse and we hear all these conflicting casualty counts do you have cause to reassess?

David Aaronovich:
Yeah, all the time, all the time. And I was just thinking this is about the third time I’ve been on a panel with Tim Garden about this and he’s consistently been righter than I have at each stage about it ...

Lord Tim Garden:
Thank you.

DA:
...and now I hear him talking when he argues with me I think well how long is it going to be before I end up adopting the view that he’s now got. None of the, you know the trouble was that absolutely all the options before the invasion were absolute rubbish. The sanctions, for the reasons that, they were rubbish too but they were, they were about containment, letting Saddam do what he want. That was complete rubbish as well for all kinds of strategic reasons and to do with inside Iraq.

So (indistinct) for, for, for reasons of history and for reasons of development every option we had was bad. Now there’s been a hell of a lot of mistakes made during the course of the Occupation but if you were going to talk about what we’re going to do now, whether the prospects of this newly federated Iraq which might emerge from this particular constitution has any chance of success the problem that we now have is that lies now in the hands of the Iraqi parties themselves, the Iraqi Islamic, the Islamic Party has just said yes to the, to the constitution. We’re now going ahead to the referendum. If the referendum passes then there may be a significant chance of a successful and federated Iraq. And some parts of it will be much, much stronger than others.

We know that Kurdistan will be extremely strong and probably very democratic. We suspect that the Shia part of Iraq will be, will be fairly religious although not actually theocratic. We, what we don’t know is what the third element of the country will be like and what will happen in Baghdad and that’s very (indistinct).

INTERVIEWER:
Fareed Sabri you could probably help us there. What do you imagine will happen?

Fareed Sabri:
Well I think, you see the problem is I, from the beginning the, the Occupation has gave Iraq in to the, on, on a silver plate in to the hands of the militias. The problem is Iraq is divided in to and, and the Americans, specially the Americans have made Iraqi society more divided so I think Iraq is going in to a stage when in the next few years we’ll be divided. The Kurds has already said that in five years they will declare independence and the other parts of Iraq will be divided as well as. So probably you’ll see about four or five Iraqs in the new few, five years. Hopefully, hopefully I think if we go in to the political process we would like to educate the Iraqi people that unified Iraq is better than a divided Iraq.

INTERVIEWER:
But you haven’t given up on that possibility?

Fareed Sabri:
No, of course we haven’t given up, we shouldn’t give up and we should (indistinct) ...

FOREIGN SECRETARY:
And it’s very, sorry, I was going to say it’s very good news that as a result of changes in the constitution agreed overnight your party sir has now decided to take part in the elections as I understand it (indistinct) ...

Fareed Sabri:
Yeah.

FOREIGN SECRETARY:
...we certainly recognise the responsibilities and I think the, the Kurds and, and the Shia do more particularly to embrace the Sunni who for very understandable reasons have felt alienated from these processes and pushed out over the last two years. But the Iraqi, the new Iraq is as David Aaronovich has said is in the hands of the Iraqis and the more you can embrace this and the more yes you can overcome the understandable anger that, that you and the lady behind you share for, for each other as it were towards a unified Iraq, the more that there is a much brighter future for Iraq ...

Fareed Sabri:
It’s true ...

FOREIGN SECRETARY:
...than people might imagine.

Fareed Sabri:
...yeah it’s true sir, but if you, if you put Iraq in the hands of the Government they will ask you to stay there for twenty years because they, they, they want you to fight other sections of Iraq society ...

FOREIGN SECRETARY:
I, I, I don’t believe that.

Fareed Sabri:
...we would like you really we would like you as a British Government, we would like you to involve the United Nation, we’d like to involve Arab Leagues and we would like you to involve all the nations around Iraq in order to solve the problem and in order to give us a timetable for (indistinct) the troops to pull out from there.

FOREIGN SECRETARY:
(Indistinct) well that and can I say that is exactly what we are doing ...

Fareed Sabri:
But we are not seeing it.

FOREIGN SECRETARY:
...we, well the United Nations has got two hundred and thirty staff in Iraq, all over Iraq now and that’s build, a great big build up compared with the numbers they had in August of 2003 when sadly so many of, of their number got assassinated. The Arab League after some questions about the constitution has as I understand it now come out in qualified favour of this constitution. We’re encouraging and I’m encouraging Foreign Ministers from all the neighbouring Arab states and from Egypt to visit Iraq and to give full and vocal support to the work of the Iraq Transitional Government. But ...

Lord Tim Garden:
But how much success are you having with the United States in this particular strategy ...

Fareed Sabri:
Yeah exactly (indistinct) ...

TG:
...because I mean one of the problems that we saw during the Coalition Provisional Authority time was and it’s on the record now that the, the British were frozen out from discussions with the United States and they were seen I quote by Larry Diamond as bad as the State Department. It’s run by the Pentagon and, and, and this is your problem. You will not internationalise in the way that you need to with the neighbouring states as long as the United States wants to stay in control.

FOREIGN SECRETARY:
Well a lot of lessons have been learnt and the, the situation is not as you describe it now ...

TG:
Not as bad as it was you mean.

FOREIGN SECRETARY:
...no, it’s, it’s, the situation not as you describe it now. It’s got very much better and policy both within the US Administration and between Coalition partners is far more knitted up. The strategy which I’m describing which is the, it’s the same as the, in fact the, the representative from the Islamic Iraqi Party has, has been describing for involvement of the United Nations and of the neighbours is one which has the full and active backing of the United States Administration. And what we have to do ...

INTERVIEWER:
Okay.

FOREIGN SECRETARY:
...even with those insurgents who may be insurgents who have a political agenda is try to ensure that they’re given a route in to the democratic process.

Humera Khan (An-Nisa Muslim Women’s Group):
Can I just say something here ...

INTERVIEWER:
Right.

HK:
...I just find it really difficult hearing you talk about the moral aspect of it when I think the whole reason for going in to this whole business you completely lost the moral plot right from the beginning. You tagged the, the rationale for going in to Iraq on September the 11th through weapons of mass destruction, that was the rationale for going in and getting rid of a dictator. That successive people have made representation to the British Government to get rid of him for decades, these representations had been made. Why suddenly after 9/11 using a completely different rationale, going in to Iraq, suddenly the agenda changes and we don’t go back to that. And you’ve given credence to any, you know, crazy Government now to say we can use bully tactics and just say we can just impose a change of Government a change of system ...

INTERVIEWER:
Okay.

HK:
...because you’ve given them the, the moral high ground.

(Indistinct)

INTERVIEWER:
I just want to, I think we’ve really got to move on now to this very ...

Reg Keys:
Just very quickly Jeremy.

INTERVIEWER:
No, no hang on, we’re going to have to move on I’m sorry.

RK:
Okay, yeah.

INTERVIEWER:
This discussion about the way forward in Iraq takes place in the context of a profoundly changed Britain of course. So changed the Government argues that new laws are needed.

The suicide bombers who struck London on July the 7th took the lives of fifty-two people. The four murderers weren’t foreign terrorists, but otherwise unremarkable British Muslims. One, Mohammad Siddique Khan, had made a video before blowing himself up.

Mohammad Siddique Khan:
Until we feel security you will be our targets.

INTERVIEWER:
An attempt to mount a second series of attacks two weeks later failed when the devices didn’t explode.

We asked people if they thought the Iraq war had increased the likelihood of terrorist attacks in the UK. Seventy three per cent of those questioned said it made attacks more likely. Two per cent said it made them less likely and twenty two per cent said it made no difference.

Today the Government announced its latest anti terrorism legislation. Plans for an offence of glorifying terrorism have already been watered down. But the Prime Minister stood by a controversial proposal to increase the maximum time terrorist suspects can be held without charge to three months.

PRIME MINISTER TONY BLAIR [Clip]:
The reason I remain wedded to it is that the people who are in charge of fighting terrorism in this country and in particular the senior Police Officer who is in charge of it says for reasons that I have to say personally I find absolutely compelling, that it is necessary to have this power in order to protect the public.

INTERVIEWER:
But there was a hint of compromise as he also talked of the need to reach a Parliamentary consensus.

Foreign Secretary, seventy three per cent of people in that poll think that our involvement in Iraq has made this country more likely to be a terrorist target. You’ve seen the intelligence reports. Do you agree with them or disagree with them?

FOREIGN SECRETARY:
I understand why they take that view. I don’t happen to agree with them.

INTERVIEWER:
And you’ve not been advised by your intelligence people or anybody that it has made us a more likely target?

FOREIGN SECRETARY:
I don’t believe it has been, made us a, a ...

INTERVIEWER:
Have you been advised though?

FOREIGN SECRETARY:
Have I been advised, no. I mean there’s been a lot of speculation. Let me just say this ...

INTERVIEWER:
You’ve received no dispatches or intelligence reports ...

FOREIGN SECRETARY:
...I’m not going to, I’m not going to, I’m not discussing the intelligence, but I want, just want to say this ...

INTERVIEWER:
Well ...

FOREIGN SECRETARY:
...I fully understand why you got that large number in that poll. Because people see the terrorism that’s taking place in Iraq. They see the justification that is used by people from al Qaeda and they then say well they’re, one has led to the other. What I say however is this. First of all those terrorists who organised what happened on July the 7th were organising that kind of terrorism well before we took military action in Iraq ...

INTERVIEWER:
Hang on there had not been a, there had not been an attack upon a British target or an attack by ...

FOREIGN SECRETARY:
Well, well, no, but ...

INTERVIEWER:
...Islamic terrorists upon British soil before the invasion of Iraq.

FOREIGN SECRETARY:
Well of course and that’s one of the reasons why seventy three per cent ...

INTERVIEWER:
Right.

FOREIGN SECRETARY:
...take that view but I’m saying I don’t happen to believe that it is directly relevant. I think we would still have been a target. I also (indistinct) the fact that there are quite a number of countries who either opposed the war in Iraq or who, or who were neutral, which includes Indonesia and Turkey and Egypt and many others who have none the less been the subject of the most vicious terrorism and that really has to be taken in to account.

INTERVIEWER:
Okay. Humera Khan.

Humera Khan:
I mean I, of course I completely disagree with you because I think Iraq does have a, a direct impact on taking a tiny, very tiny minority who feel that Western Governments are consistently not listening to the, the voices of Muslim, Muslim grievances basically in certain hotspot areas. And, and the Iraq war which most Muslims feel is to be a completely unjustified war under the circumstances that it was justified by the Government. It’s put some people over the edge and I think it has made us a target here in Britain and I think the British Government has, should take the responsibility for it. I don’t, personally I’ve never met in Britain and I’ve met a lot of British Muslims over the years who ever supported Saddam Hussein. I can’t think of one ...

HK:
...who would shed a tear if he was removed, the fact that he was removed. It’s the, the circumstances of it and now Muslims are being pushed, many British Muslims are being pushed to a point where what do you defend because they feel the war is unjustified in the first place but they obviously feel the tactics of people who’ve been pushed over the edge of course they don’t accept terrorism either. So you put us in a very difficult dilemma where the vast majority of British Muslims in this country have been tarnished by this whole terrorist sort of activities by the Government, the anti terrorist activities, to be somebody are you with us or without us.

FOREIGN SECRETARY:
Well ...

INTERVIEWER:
Do you want to engage with that?

FOREIGN SECRETARY:
Yes please, ’cause I mean I, I’m not a Muslim but I have a very large Muslim community in my Blackburn constituency who not withstanding the Iraq war and the fact that on the whole they disagree with me on Iraq none the less voted for me in sufficient numbers to return me with only a, a slightly reduced majority. And let me say not been for very substantial support amongst my Muslim community I would not be sitting here as Blackburn’s MP or Foreign Secretary. So we had to have, have a big debate in Blackburn about this issue.

I don’t share your analysis about where the Muslim community is. I know that because of the terrorism that some people who are very bad Muslims, are not Muslims at all but who claim to do this in pursuit of Islam, because of their terrorism that many members of the Muslim faith feel very vulnerable. (Indistinct) genuinely don’t believe this is to be placed at the door of this Government. It’s to be placed at the door of those who are committing the terrorism. And what we have sought to do in this country much more successfully than almost any other European country is to bind all the communities together including the Muslim community and, and one of the things we did historically and we continue to do is to ensure that people from all communities have full civic rights and don’t forget too that just as we are being attacked on the issue of the anti terrorism laws we’re also being attacked for something that I’ve believed in for years and years and years which is strengthening the law on incitement to religious hatred which is of fundamental importance.

Humera Khan:
You’re just saying something which actually is a complete, I don’t accept at all because I ...

FOREIGN SECRETARY:
I (indistinct) ...

HS:
...it shows that you don’t understand the Muslim community ...

FOREIGN SECRETARY:
...I’m not sure.

HS:
...because the Muslim community does feel disengaged ...

Lindsey German:
That’s right.

HS:
...from the, the (indistinct).

INTERVIEWER:
Can I (indistinct) generalise. (Indistinct) beyond the Muslim ...

HS:
I think it is a generalisation.

INTERVIEWER:
Lord Garden this proposal that people be held without charge for ninety days. The Prime Minister says the evidence for the need of it is compelling.

Lord Tim Garden:
Seems to me we’re making the same sort of mistake at home that we’ve been making in terms of the way we’ve tackled Iraq. That is that we, we, we do short term fixes which cause us long term problems and we tried internment in Northern Ireland and what you do is you inevitably put some innocent people away. Their families then become more supportive. It doesn’t turn more terrorist necessarily, but you broaden the support and all of this is about the support. I mean I, I, I tend to agree with Jack that you can’t put Iraq down as the cause of the bombs in London. But what you can say is it’s another factor which you add to Kashmir, you add to Israel, Palestine, you add to Afghanistan. Afghanistan’s the big factor. But Algeria, we see more Algerian insurgents in Iraq. All these different problems contribute. We are feeding the flames and if we (indistinct) we will regret it.

Douglas Morris:
(Indistinct) mistakes.

INTERVIEWER:
David Aaronovich you, you said a moment ago that you, you, he’s, you found yourself thinking more and more like Lord Garden as time. Do you find yourself ...

David Aaronovich:
Yes but always well, well behind him.

DA:
So, so at the moment, so, so at the moment I’m still not quite in a position of (indistinct) but I, I do agree with a significant amount of that. I mean again the debate is posed and tends to be posed extremely crudely. Had we not gone in to Iraq we wouldn’t have been bombed. This is, this is ridiculous ...

Lindsey German:
(Indistinct.)

DA:
...(indistinct) well they may do but in that case they, they ...

LG:
Well ...

DA:
...they can believe something ridiculous. I actually I don’t know that most people believe it. I know you believe it ...

LG:
....Well the polls, the polls show ...

DA:
...I know you have a tendency to, to say when you believe something that most people believe it.

LG:
...well David all you need to say is before the war in Iraq Britain was not a target in the way that ...

DA:
Yes it was. Have you heard of Richard Reid?

LG:
...well it wasn’t. It, during 9/11, during 9/11 nobody thought Britain was a target.

DA:
Have you heard of Richard Reid? Who was Richard Reid? Who was Richard Reid?

Douglas Murray:
(Indistinct) Stop the War Coalition (indistinct) ...

DA:
Who was the Shoe, who was the Shoe Bomber?

DM:
...consistently do is mixing up terror with reaction to terror and they seem incapable of making (indistinct).

LG:
It doesn’t do anything (indistinct).

INTERVIEWER:
Just want to put one final thought to the Foreign Secretary. The start of this programme said, you said you were not sure, you deliberately...from the word sure about the rightness of the, the war. That you thought about it.

Jack Straw:
Well ...

INTERVIEWER:
Now do you ever lie, lie awake at night and think maybe we were wrong?

FOREIGN SECRETARY:
Well I, of course, you know because of the, the fact that of what has happened subsequent to the, the military action, of course I think about it. People lost their lives ...

INTERVIEWER:
Yes.

FOREIGN SECRETARY:
...here of course they did and ...

Reg Keys:
Was it right or wrong ...

FOREIGN SECRETARY:
Well hang on a second ...

RK:
...’cause that’s the question?

FOREIGN SECRETARY:
...I mean I still happen to think that ...

RK:
It’s yes or no.

FOREIGN SECRETARY:
Well on the answer question was it right or wrong I think it was right, all right. But I am a human being Mr Keys. I, you may, you may not believe this ...

RK:
Well ...

FOREIGN SECRETARY:
...I grieve for your ...

INTERVIEWER:
You, it’s going to be, have to let him answer briefly.

FOREIGN SECRETARY:
...I, I, I grieve for your, your son, I grieve for Mrs Smith’s son. I grieve for all the other people who have died there and I understand my responsibilities ...

RK:
You don’t (indistinct).

FOREIGN SECRETARY:
...and so, and so the ...

INTERVIEWER:
But do you still think it was right?

FOREIGN SECRETARY:
I still happen to believe it was right and I think ...

INTERVIEWER:
Okay.

FOREIGN SECRETARY:
...although it’s difficult to say ...

RK:
The Prime Minister made a speech in Parliament February 2003 ...

INTERVIEWER:
All right, okay, thank you very much. Hang on, we’re going to have leave there thank you very much.

Thank you very much Foreign Secretary. That’s all from this special edition of Newsnight. Our thanks to the Foreign Secretary and to all our panel for taking part.