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The Following is a summary of the minutes of the Conference on the Challenges to Democracy

Taking place currently at the Teatro Lara in MadridAt the working table dedicated to the discussion of the Crisis in the Middle East, discussion began on the situation in Iraq.

Martin Varsavsky began the discussion outlining the following three proposals for a resolution to the crisis in Iraq –

The presentation of a timetable for US withdrawal from Iraq.
The credible handover of power to the Iraqi government.
The establishment of an International Agreement of non-intervention of Iraq’s neighbors.

Arshin Adib-Moghaddam continued the discussion –

The perception of sovereignty is extremely important. The US needs to be perceived as being honest and willing to uphold its part of the bargain. What is happening in Baghdad presents a regional security problem. America and Iran worked together to stabilize Afghanistan. The war there would not have been as easy without Iranian support. US engagement with Iran is very important.

There is also a need for Shia-Sunni engagement. Current polarization is very dangerous. Sunnis close to Baathist groups have created terrible strife, and because the Shia majority is currently in power Saudi Arabia has continued to funnel money to Sunni groups. Iran meanwhile has played an important role in supporting Shia groups. Settling this internal strife can only be implemented through dialogue.

Juan Antonio Ruiz Castillo commented –

Conference beginning in Baghdad today was not a top level conference. The higher level conference to begin in April allows for the hope of a greater positive change.

The United States needs to present the clear possibility for dialogue with Iran, and offer the Iranian government a possibility to become a part of the agreement.

Paloma Gonzalez del Mino commented –

The reconstruction of the Iraqi state is also paramount. The US may withdraw but how?

Oil, Israel, the War on Terror, the democratization of the world – these were the four objectives of the US invasion of Iraq.

The US has hardly spoken at all about democracy since.

Manuel Torres Soriano commented –

The US had planned to begin reducing its presence in Iraq back in 2003. But when it all went wrong they realized they had to stay. Their presence is increasing the level of violence in the region.

If the US withdraws without being able to establish a strong Iraqi state the situation will collapse into civil war. Because Iraq controls 20 percent of the world’s oil, Saudi Arabia and Iran will fight for control in Iraq. Civil war will be inevitable as the US withdrawal approaches. A strong Iraqi state is necessary to create peace.

Vicente Garrido Rebolledo commented-

The Security Council never accepted the invasion of Iraq. The UN could play a role in Iraq, but the US must first withdraw its troops. New resolutions must be adopted, and the UN allowed to play a role.

Addressing Iran is also very important. China’s participation in Iran’s nuclear program must be recognized internationally.

Carlos Escude commented –

The Iraqi state is dead, never to be revived. It was an artificial creation from the start, the forced union of three distinct ethnic groups. We must realize that states want power, and that it is in the best interest of every ethnic group and every state involved to vie for control of the region. The choice must be made as to who will control post-Baathist Iraq. Will it be the US, Iran, the UN?

George Emile Irani commented –

It’s important to divide the Middle East into the micro and macro level.

When you talk about the states you have to divide the states up into their different ethnic groups, and realize the importance of these groups in determining state action.

The nuclear problem is also very important, why can Israel have nukes and Iran no?

The US will be in the Middle East for a long time. Total Withdrawal is unlikely.

40 years of occupation by Israel of Palestine is an important factor to be considered as well.

What must take place is the involvement of regional powers: Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan with support of NATO should step in and create a confederation Iraqi state.

The election of a new US President in 2008 will be very important as well.

Vicente Garrido Rebolledo spoke again –

Neither Israel nor Pakistan are members of the Non Proliferation Treaty. The NPT is very discriminatory treaty. 188 states are members. Only 3 are absent, and under international law you cannot oblige everyone to act as you want them to. There is a need to be strongly opposed to Israeli nuclear program in order to be consistent with opposition. Also crackdown on all weapons, chemical, biological not just nukes.

Manuel Torres Soriano closed the discussion on Iraq –

Every actor has their own agenda. We need to think about what each state wants, and look at perspective.