RAY SUAREZ: Now, an assessment of the latest moves by Prime Minister Allawi to assert control over the country. For that we're joined by Larry Diamond, a former political adviser to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad from January to April this year, he's a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, and Eric Davis, a professor of Middle Eastern Studies at Rutgers University, and author of "Memories of State: Politics, History and Collective Identity in Modern Iraq."
Well, Larry Diamond, a lot of the latest news, whether it's a response to the militia uprisings, or the shutting down of Al-Jazeera, warrants out for the Chalabis, one name keeps popping up in these stories, and that's Iyad Allawi. Are we watching five weeks after the handover an attempt to coalesce power in one set of hands?
LARRY DIAMOND: Well, Ray, obviously we are watching that. What we don't know is whether we're watching it by an autocrat or a democrat. That remains to be determined.
But we have to keep in mind that Iraq doesn't really have a state right now, and so some effort to establish and consolidate power in the authority of the state and face down lawless elements, and I think Muqtada al-Sadr and his Mahdi army clearly are among them, is vital if Iraq is going to have any democratic order. But if he crosses the line into rampant abuse of power, then much of what we have been fighting for could be negated.
RAY SUAREZ: We'll get back to Muqtada al-Sadr a little later. Professor Davis, what do you make of Iyad Allawi's recent moves?
ERIC DAVIS: Well, I think that he is very concerned about the fact that Sadr has left the political process and now has tried to use his radical elements to assert his power. I think this all goes back to last month when there was supposed to be a national convention to elect 100 delegates. There would be an interim assembly that would in effect be setting up the elections of January 2005.
I think al-Sadr feels that the bosses, in effect, behind the scenes have already predetermined who would be elected to this assembly and what work it would carry out. So I think that he is trying to now flex his muscle and Allawi is responding.
RAY SUAREZ: But should the U.S. be concerned, as Larry Diamond hinted at whether Allawi sees himself as an autocrat or a democrat? What sort of is waiting at the end of this process of consolidation of power?
ERIC DAVIS: Well, I think this is a very difficult situation for anyone who tries to assert their authority. There is going to be a measure of abuse of power.
I think the fact that there are warrants that have to be reviewed by both the ministry of justice and the ministry of the interior, and the fact that there is a vigorous press in Iraq right now, anyone can go to the Internet and read the Arabic press -- there's a vast number of Iraqi newspapers that are online every day, and I think that unlike under Saddam these newspapers are going to play a critical role in making sure that he does not abuse his power.
RAY SUAREZ: Larry Diamond, what about that? Now that the CPA has been dismantled, there are still more than 100,000 troops there but Paul Bremer is home. What is the interest of the U.S. in which way Allawi turns?
LARRY DIAMOND: Well, I think it's obvious the interest of the U.S. is in seeing him and his interim government succeed in building a viable state that has real authority, but at the same time one that-- one that respects the interim constitution which is a profoundly liberal document, which I might add, Salem Chalabi had a major role in drafting; and that does so in a way that is more or less respectful of the rules and principles of democracy.
And I'm not saying Allawi has crossed the boundary toward autocracy yet, but it's tempting to do so if you are under the kinds of pressures that he is, and we need to be mindful of that.
RAY SUAREZ: Well, you heard John Burns calling him someone who is becoming Iraq's hard man. How did you hear that? What did that mean to you?
LARRY DIAMOND: Well, I think John perhaps, in his brilliant reporting, left it a bit deliberately ambiguous. But a hard man is necessary in order to establish order. And in order to face down a number of formidable challenges to the authority of the new Iraqi state of which I add one way or another, Muqtada al-Sadr and his Mahdi army are prominent among them and have to be dealt with.
I think that Allawi was chosen precisely because he is tough, he's resolute, he's fearless and he's willing to use force to confront the enemies of a kind of decent and humane political order. But that has to be done in a way that is respectful of the rule of law. And I'm a little bit concerned about these indictments in terms of the possibility that they may imply the use of law as a political weapon.
RAY SUAREZ: Professor Davis, do you think those indictments may carry that risk, that taint of politicization?
ERIC DAVIS: Certainly. I've spoken today to a number of Iraqis and they have all expressed both confusion and concern with the arrest warrant that has been issued for Salem Chalabi.
They've also pointed out that the individual in question who he is alleged to have conspired to murder, Haitham Fadil, a director general of the ministry of finance was engaged in an investigation apparently being carried out quite efficiently of improper use of the CPA of Iraqi government money. So if this is the case, there is obviously a lot more than meets the eye.
RAY SUAREZ: Well, Professor, are we facing the possibility of a situation where the door is left open for Muqtada al-Sadr, who has been accused of many crimes, including the murder of the senior cleric to return to politics while Salem Chalabi may be indicted and tried for murder?
ERIC DAVIS: I think the Iraqi press again and the organization of civil society and ex-patriot Iraqis are going to have to press the matter of Salem Chalabi. But to return to Sadr, one factor has been lost to the eyes of many.
And that is the fact that I do not think that the large number of young people, we are talking about Iraqis between 16, 17 and 24 and 25 who have been attracted to al-Sadr's movement, these people are without jobs, many of them have some education, they have upward mobility.
And I think Allawi has been very shrewd in offering amnesty but I think he also has to set up a type of WPA, a New Deal type project, even if it is make work to clean up garbage, to clean up sewers, to do some kind of civic work on their part in which they will receive a wage and there'd be much less of an incentive for them to continue in this organization.
RAY SUAREZ: Well, Larry Diamond, this very issue must have been something that bedeviled you at the CPA -- what to do with all those young men.
LARRY DIAMOND: It bedeviled us chronically, Ray. And the problem is it is an extremely intricate chicken and egg problem. You can't have security, as Eric Davis has so well rightly noted, if you don't have a hope and economic prospects, particularly for the angry young men on the streets.
On the other hand, it's hard to generate the jobs if you don't have enough security for the truckers to go out and deliver goods and services and for the economy to prosper.
And I think the only answer is we need to move vigorously, creatively and simultaneously on both fronts. You move militarily on the front of confronting the insurgency and not letting a bully and a thug, and I really think Muqtada al-Sadr is that, define the rules on his own.
On the other hand, I think Professor Davis has correctly implied that this insurgency is not going to be beaten purely by military means. Our military commanders on the ground repeatedly note that themselves. So we have to have a strategy, if possible, to draw in Sadr's forces into the political game beginning in the national conference and certainly an economic strategy to give these people jobs, employment, income and most of all hope.
RAY SUAREZ: Professor Davis, before we go, does the warrant for Salem Chalabi suddenly stamp a great big question mark over the eventual trial in any timely way of Saddam Hussein? Today one of Hussein's lawyers said it is a miracle from God to help Saddam Hussein, the warrant issued for Salem Chalabi's arrest.
ERIC DAVIS: Well, again, I think there may be more than meets the eye as Professor Diamond has indicated. There may be a situation developing in which Prime Minister Allawi wants to not give the illusion, or the impression that he is trying Saddam for United States.
And in effect, by excluding the Chalabis, who have in the past been closely associated with the United States Government, he may be trying to send a message that this is going to be an Iraqi, not an American trial in an Iraqi court of Saddam Hussein.
But I think there is no doubt about the fact that Saddam will have his day in court and that he will ultimately be judged according to the crimes he has committed.
RAY SUAREZ: Larry Diamond, your view on the trial, coming trial of Saddam Hussein?
LARRY DIAMOND: I think Eric Davis is right in what he said. There is no way that Saddam is not going to be tried vigorously and, you know, meet the fate that he deserves.
Let me just say that I worked closely with Salem Chalabi over a number of weeks in advising on the drafting of the interim constitution and I found him to be a deeply liberal person, profoundly committed to the rule of law. I would really be shocked if these charges are true. It doesn't mean they're not, but it certainly is not at all consistent with the Salem Chalabi that I came to know.
RAY SUAREZ: Gentlemen, thank you both.