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Iraq Votes

Aired January 30, 2005 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, an historic day in Iraq. Millions risk their lives to vote in the first free elections there in half a century, despite insurgent attacks that killed 29. We've got reporters live all over the region with the latest.
Plus, Michael Weisskopf of "TIME" magazine, who lost his hand covering Iraq; Robin Wright, Middle East expert with "The Washington Post"; Jasim Al-Azzawi, presenter and executive producer with Abu Dhabi TV; Senator Jon Kyl, who was in Iraq over Thanksgiving; and Senator Dianne Feinstein, she was in Iraq last month. John Wroblewski supports the war even though his son, John Jr., was killed there. Ivan Medina, his twin brother Irving killed there in a war he opposes.

Plus, from Amman, Jordan, Representative Christopher Shays. He was in Iraq Sunday to witness the historic vote. And Representative Jane Harman, ranking Democrat of the Intelligence Committee.

They're all next on LARRY KING LIVE.

Let's begin with Senator Kyl. President Bush today called it a resounding success, despite poor turnouts in Tikrit and Falluja. Do you agree with that assessment, Senator?

SEN. JON KYL (R), ARIZONA: It certainly seems that way, Larry. We'll have to wait a few days to see what the actual turnout was, where people turned out from, who won, obviously. But the mere fact that the election was held and that the turnout seemed to be as good as it is, and that the Iraqi people have the opportunity to express themselves in the face of great danger, has to be considered a tremendous success. The pictures of the Iraqis dancing in the streets and celebrating don't lie.

KING: Senator Feinstein, what do you think?

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: Oh, it's amazing. I couldn't believe when I saw the lines and I saw families bringing their children to experience this. And then I thought back in the history books, you know. This is the first election ever.

I can never remember an election held under these circumstances. And the bravery, I think, and courage of the Iraqi people, their delight after the election, I think it really is a major signal of perhaps a turning point. It's certainly a big first step, and now comes the hard work.

KING: Michael Weisskopf of "TIME" magazine, you will certainly always remember this war for a lot of reasons, including a missing hand. What do you make of today?

MICHAEL WEISSKOPF, "TIME" MAGAZINE: Well, of course it was pretty extraordinary to see those numbers in the face of all that danger, Larry. But I think we've got to add always the little dose of realism when we look at what's happened in Iraq. From the start it probably would have been a better idea. And, after all, this is the case of 150,000 American troops creating a very secure perimeter of Shia clerics delivering millions and millions of their followers.

I would have felt better if I saw a better turnout in places like Mosul, which has a mixed population of Sunni and Shia, places like Ramadi and Falluja, Tikrit. All these places are dominant Sunni populations. That would have been to me an even more heartwarming sign of democracy on the run.

KING: Robin Wright of "The Washington Post," who also wrote "Sacred Rage: The Wrath of Militant Islam," what do you make of today?

ROBIN WRIGHT, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Well, there's a lot to celebrate. But I think we have to remember that this is the beginning of a yearlong transition and that this is the easiest step. The Iraqis next have to take on the process of writing a constitution, a very controversial issue trying to bring these different ethnic and religious groups together under one roof to rule in the future, and then hold criminal elections at the end of the year.

In many ways, the election was the easiest step. And also, one of the great ironies of today is the fact that the United States did not want these elections originally. They had called for a different process that was designed to have a bunch of complex caucuses that would then select a government, that would then write a constitution. And only then would you have elections.

So the real heroes today are the Iraqis.

KING: And Jasim Al-Azzawi, he's in Abu Dhabi. He's the executive producer and senior news anchor for Abu Dhabi TV. What's your read from over there on what happened?

JASIM AL-AZZAWI, ANCHOR, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER, ABU DHABI TV: Larry, needless to say that the Iraqis today broke through the fear barrier and defied terror. Although the expectations of high turnout was reduced a lot, and in order to justify perhaps the high claim of success.

One thing we have to remember, that a great segment of this society, more than 25 percent, they have opted to stay out. A mechanism has to be found in order to include them, otherwise they will turn bitter and they will feed into the insurgency.

This is a very good day for Iraq. This is something the new Iraqi government and the Iraqi people could build on. But we just have to wait and see what's going to happen next.

KING: Senator Kyl, can you say based on your visit there in November -- or tell us, what, if anything, surprised you today? KYL: Frankly, I was a bit surprised at how enthusiastic the voters seemed to be, how they braved the terror, how they stood in line for so long, how many of them did turn out. We were in Afghanistan as well, and I saw there the results of an election in which the Afghan people had basically said to the terrorists, "We're tired of you and we're going to take this country back." And they did.

And I wondered whether or not the Iraqi people would do that. At the time we were there I wasn't sure. And that's I was so heartened to see what I saw today.

And I must just respectfully degree with Robin. I don't think this was easy. I think this perhaps was the hardest time.

The people had to turn out for the first time and brave all of this terror, some of it which occurred right at the polling place, and demonstrate that they were ready to take their country back. I think writing a constitution and doing the other things that have to be done, while difficult, are not going to require the same kind of courage that today took. And that's why I think today was such an important step.

KING: Senator Kennedy said today, Senator Feinstein, that the best way to demonstrate to the people there that we have no long-term designs is for the administration to withdraw some troops right now. Do you agree?

FEINSTEIN: No, I don't, and I'll tell you why I don't. I think the important thing is to get the Iraqi army trained and up, the Iraqi National Guard trained and up and equipped, the police trained and up and equipped.

Until Iraq can provide for security on its streets, protection for itself as a nation, I don't think we should announce any plan. Once that happens, I believe -- and hopefully sooner rather than later -- we can certainly do a new status of forces agreement and begin to draw down on troops.

If I could, I'd like to say one quick thing about what comes next, because I think, as has just been mentioned, the key thing is reaching out now to the Sunnis and getting them involved because there are two elections this year, two other elections. One in October for the constitution. And if three provinces reject the constitution by a two-thirds vote, the constitution is rejected.

So there really has to be a major effort to involve Sunnis. And I think also to set up the government, to get the ministers appointed, get the premier in place, the president in place, and really move to put people back to work and rebuild the infrastructure. And then, also, most critically, to figure out what the role of Islam is going to be in this new Iraq.

KING: Michael, how far are we away from American -- logically leaving? WEISSKOPF: Well, if you listen to the administration now, they say that they won't set a timetable. And the big hope, Larry, is to begin the process of integrating American advisers into Iraqi security forces in the hope that this will expedite the training of those forces.

And, you know, there are various assessments of how quickly that can -- that can happen. We've been into this effort for almost two years now, and the administration claims 120,000 Iraqi security forces are trained. Others, Pentagon experts who have been over there recently, talk about 12,000.

So it's -- and I've been out with Iraqi security forces, albeit a year ago, and I can tell you that they are not up to securing their nation, at least the ones I saw operating. They often turn around in the wrong direction when the guns go off.

KING: We'll take a break and be back with lots more on this special edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.


KING: Before we get back with our panel, let's check in with Nic Robertson, CNN senior international correspondent who is in Sulaimaniya, Iraq. I don't know if I pronounced that right.

Nic, what's your read on what happened today?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Really a day of celebration for the Kurds. They waited a long time for this, Larry.

They look back at some of their recent history with Saddam Hussein and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) in Baghdad, and they want to bring an end to this. They want to get the maximum number of Kurds to come out and vote so that they can have the maximum representation in the new Iraqi government, which means that they shouldn't be under threat from an Iraqi government again.

They've been gassed by Iraqi leaders before. They've been chased into the mountains. Thousands of them, hundreds -- tens of thousands of them killed by Iraqi leaders before. And that's what they wanted to end.

And it was really a day of joyous celebration. That's what people were telling us. And it was quite something to behold. People coming out in their national costumes, really celebrating this opportunity -- Larry.

KING: What was the turnout like where you are?

ROBERTSON: It started really quite briskly in the morning, lines forming, people getting ready to come in. It was very, very brisk. And the turnout that we could see seemed quite strong.

And the election officials we talked to said at the end of the day they looked at the number of ballot sheets they had left, and they said from that simple calculation they could see how many ballots had been cast. And from their perspective they had a high turnout. And that's what the Kurdish leaders were telling us at the end of the day.

They were really pleased that there hadn't been the high levels of violence that had been threatened on their particular area. And they took that as an indication that the Sunni insurgents can't really get into the Kurdish areas, that they have good security. And they saw this an indication, again, that their vote was strong in their favor -- Larry.

KING: Thank you, Nic Robertson, in Iraq.

Let's go back to the panel.

Robin Wright, do you think there can be a virus, an election virus occurring in other areas in that region?

WRIGHT: Clearly, the Bush administration hopes so. Iraq really is designed to be the catalyst for a broader democracy promotion that inspires not only the 22 nations of the Arab world, but the 50-plus nations of the Islamic world.

Whether this is the equivalent in the Islamic world of the fall of the Berlin Wall really has yet to be determined. But it is a pivotal moment, and it -- I'm sure there are a lot of Iraq's neighbors that are very nervous tonight about the fact that so many turned out, that there was such jubilation. And I suspect there are many in that region who will be, indeed, inspired by the fact Iraq pulled it off despite extraordinary odds.

KING: Jasim, what is the reaction in Abu Dhabi?

AL-AZZAWI: Well, they are quite happy that the Iraqis, they have opted to go through the ballot boxes. And there's going to be an orderly institutions and government installed very, very soon.

They are fearful that this insurgency will continue for a long time based on the fact that, according to the chief of the Iraqi intelligence, there are 40,000 insurgents, i.e. boots on the ground supported by 160,000 people giving them shelter and support. Those people, they are not going to disappear overnight.

Today they have opted to have a minor clash. They have opted to choose another day to do battle. And according to the Americans, military commanders on the ground, that this thing might continue for another two, three years. So people here in Abu Dhabi, they will be watching to see whether this insurgency will melt away or whether it will continue.

KING: Senator Kyl, there were critics of the administration who wanted these elections delayed. Were they wrong?

KYL: I think it turns out that they were wrong. In any event, the Iraqi people had to make the decision about how they wanted to proceed. As much as we might like to try to micromanage it, that's not a good idea here. And I think that today's results demonstrated the fact that when you -- when you do go forward with what the Iraqis themselves wanted to do, it can have good results.

I also got the same assessment that has just been expressed, that this is not going to be -- that the terrorism threat is going to continue, and probably for a long time. So it's not going to be easy.

But the Iraqis can calibrate this. They can make the decisions themselves. And I think if we take their lead and supply the security that they need, working together we have a great opportunity here.

KING: Senator Feinstein, what's the effect in Iran?

FEINSTEIN: Well, I don't know right now. I think it depends on which ticket gets elected. The Sistani ticket, of course, has a big connection to a major party in Iran. I think we have to watch and see that.

One of the interesting things when I was there, we visited with King Abdullah of Jordan, Jordanian intelligence, Mubarak of Egypt, and it's fair to say that there is considerable concern as to whether the government will, if it goes Shia, if it will end up as a religious government. And now whether that's paranoia or not, I don't know. But I do know that it's real and it's visceral.

And that's why I said earlier that I think the real key is reaching out to the Sunnis. I think a major mistake was made in doing in with all of the military and the police department and with, frankly, Mr. Bremer's de-Ba'athification, which I think reads too deeply into Ba'athist managers and supervisors in places. They went too deep down.

So when I was there, we were told that the insurgency was 80 percent Sunni-driven. And, of course, 20 percent so-called foreign fighter or terrorist.

KING: Michael, was this a bad day for the insurgents? It's kind of weird to put it in those terms, but 29 killed.

WEISSKOPF: I agree with the earlier spokesman from Abu Dhabi that the -- that this was a day in which the insurgency took the day off. The real work of the insurgency was in the lead-up to intimidate people, to keep them off, to keep them away from the polls.

I think 500 yards was the margin of safety people were given. That's a pretty good distance away from the ballot box.

The threats were bloody. And they did as much as they could. But in the face of the -- the many layers of security that were set up, in the face of no vehicular traffic in the cities, and the curfews and those things, this was not a place for any insurgent to fight.

These are basically people who operate through stealth, cover of night, and often from a cowardly distance, where they can push the button on a remote control. These are not people who are going to go toe-to-toe with superior force.

KING: We'll be right back with more on this special edition of LARRY KING LIVE, an historic day not only in Iraq, but everywhere.

Don't go away.


KING: Before we check in back with our panel, let's go to Baquba, Iraq. By videophone, Jane Arraf, CNN's Baghdad bureau chief.

What's the view from where you are, Jane, as to today's outcome?

JANE ARRAF, CNN BAGHDAD BUREAU CHIEF: Well, earlier, Larry, it was absolutely euphoric. And we've spoken to election officials who say that this turnout was way better than they expected. But if you look at it realistically, a lot of independent observers believe it might be close to 30 percent, which is not bad.

We're talking about a city, a region where there's a chronic level of violence, a chronic level of threat. And people went out and voted anyway, not just Shias and Kurds, but Sunnis. And to most people, that is remarkable -- Larry.

KING: The 30 percent you're saying is where you are, or is that your overall read everywhere?

ARRAF: That would be where we are, here in the heart of the Sunni Triangle. In the Shia areas of Iraq, of course, in the Kurdish areas, where they have been voting since 1991 for a regional government, and it's relatively safer, the turnout would be much higher. But it was really places like this and places in Falluja where we were in last week that the really worry was that people would be intimidated and not going to the polls, that the level of organization just wouldn't be there.

And one of the things we saw here, Larry, was that fewer than half of the election workers actually showed up. They were just too scared. And that meant there were a lot fewer polling places -- Larry.

KING: Jane Arraf in Baquba, Iraq, by videophone.

Back to our panel.

And Robin Wright, what about security for members of the new national assembly? Isn't that a kind a danger spot to put them all in one place?

WRIGHT: Well, that's what has to be the focus of the future. The real danger is that the insurgents will now target the individuals who won, once the list comes out of who is in this new national assembly.

There'll be 275 new faces, very vulnerable people. Not all of them will be able to live in the Green Zone or bring their families there. There's a real danger that the next phase of the insurgency escalates and focuses on this body to try to get people to both eliminate them physically and to prevent people from getting together to write this important constitution.

KING: Senator Kyl, what problems does Secretary of State Rice face now?

KYL: Well, first of all, there is much work to be done. And our State Department will be very significantly involved in that.

Secondly, she will have to continue to work with the countries in the region in two ways both to try to gain cooperation from those countries in the context of this Iraqi election, and also to continue the war on terror to the extent the State Department works that. Public diplomacy remains a big feature in the war on -- against the terrorists. Public diplomacy is winning the hearts and minds of people. And we still have a lot of work to do in that region of the country.

So she certainly has her work cut out for her. And that's not even to mention what she will be doing with regard to the Israelis and the Palestinians, a situation which now looks much more hopeful than it was even a month ago.

KING: Senator Feinstein, do you think these elections might bring around some countries that were opposed to going into Iraq and change their cooperation now?

FEINSTEIN: Well, I think whether the election was 30 percent or 50 percent or 60 percent, I mean, we certainly had 30 percent elections in this country. The fact is that they were conducted and carried out under the most unusual and difficult of circumstances.

So I do think they send a beacon of hope to others that look and think that they might want to go the same way. I also deeply believe that in a country that has only known dictators, where many people just crave for security and clean water and electricity and a job, that the basic fundamentals are extraordinarily important.

I think Robin Wright hit the nail on the head that protecting the newly-elected people, seeing that they can meet without harassment, seeing that they can consult and write a constitution, is going to be a very full-scale and all-consuming job. And, you know, one suspects that that's where the terrorists will go next.

And I think it's extraordinarily important that these people be protected as best as possibly can be done and have the opportunity to write that constitution. And that the presidential council gets appointed and makes the necessary executive appointments so that the government can come -- come through. They expect that, I gather, around mid February. And I hope it goes promptly and really without a problem.

KING: Thank you senators Kyl and Feinstein.

We'll take a break. And when we come back, we'll meet the relatives of two servicemen who gave their lives. And then our panel will rejoin and we'll meet Congressman Shays and Congresswoman Harman.

We thank Senator Jon Kyl and Senator Dianne Feinstein.

I'll be right back. Don't go away.


KING: We're going to spend some moments now with John Wroblewski. His son, United States Marine Corps Lieutenant John, Jr., died on April 6, 2004, due to injuries received from hostile fire in Al-Anbar province, Iraq.

And in Boston is Ivan Medina. His twin brother, Irving, was killed on November 14, 2003, in a convoy ambush in Iraq. He's a military veteran who's served in Kuwait and Iraq. He got out of the military a year ago today. And he's co-founder of Iraq Veterans Against the War. He's also a member of Military Families Speak Out.

John, what are your feelings today? You've lost a son. How do you feel watching this election?

JOHN WROBLEWSKI, SON DIED IN IRAQ: Well, first of all, Larry, let me just extend my condolences to Ivan to all the families who have fallen heroes. Obviously, they paid the ultimate price.

I think this day will go down as a historic day, not only in Iraq, but also in that entire region. We have to remember that this is probably, for the first time in the history of the world, that an election like this was able to take place in an Arab country. And this all was on the backs of our military. And I think it definitely shows that our military is definitely a big part of the solution.

KING: So you never feel that your son may have given his life in vain?

WROBLEWSKI: I would only feel that way, Larry, if we did not complete the mission. I was privileged to meet with President Bush, and in meeting with President Bush, the one thing that I asked him that was important for me is that we complete the mission. And I think this was a big step in completing that mission. We have a ways to go, but once the mission is completed, I'll feel that my son's life and the lives of the other fallen heroes have not been in vain.

KING: Ivan Medina, your twin brother was killed on November 14, 2003. You served in Kuwait and Iraq. Why do you think that his -- I guess, you gather, since you're co-founder of Iraq Veterans Against the War -- that he did die in vain?

IVAN MEDINA, BROTHER DIED IN IRAQ: No, Larry. Most of us in the -- all of us in the members do not believe that our soldiers are dying in vain. They're proud of the freedoms that we fight for. But this was a war based on lies. This was a war that gave our soldiers not well-equipped. They're not being taken care when they come back. Soldiers are committing suicide.

And as a matter of fact, there was no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Our own intelligence have said that. And now you're asking soldiers to die for a war, to die for a mistake that we did by invading Iraq.

KING: But yet you think that his life was -- that he fought for a principle that was correct, if you're opposed to the principle?

MEDINA: We're not opposed to any principle. We're opposed to the invasion of Iraq. What we're saying is, all the soldiers fight for freedom, for our freedoms. Iraq was not a threat to our national security, not how much George Bush wants to make it seem, not how much Condoleezza Rice wants to make it seem.

The bottom line is, George Bush won't even meet with us. George Bush or none of his cabinet members will have the face-to-face veterans who actually fought this war.

KING: John, does it concern you that it appears to be a lot of reports about the troops not being adequately prepared or financed or equipped?

WROBLEWSKI: Quite frankly, no. I think one of the items that was brought up -- a question by a reporter to Secretary Rumsfeld, I think, kind of stirred that all up. But you know, the only thing I can say, Larry, about that is that, after hearing that, I did some reading and found out that a lot of our vehicles were being up-armored at that time and continue to be.

It's not an easy thing to get that all done. You know, all of a sudden the factories have to double or triple their orders. But what I can say, in speaking to my son, my son always talked to me about how well he was trained, and how well his men were trained, and how there was never anything too much for the soldiers to have or for the marines to have. And he was very proud, obviously, to be a marine.

MEDINA: I totally disagree with that, because I know half of my division did not have body armor plates. We did not have armored vehicles when we went into Iraq. My brother said he saw the saddest thing. Before his last e-mail to a friend, he said, "I've seen the saddest things here. Our own soldiers are killing innocent Iraqis everyday." And how can you say to me that there are terrorists over there, people who George Bush calls terrorists, when the truth is, there are people who are fighting to free their nation from a foreign occupation. If our country was occupied by somebody else, we would tell how to live -- we will not like it, and we will fight to make sure that we live the way we wanted to live.

KING: You don't think our intentions are pure then, Ivan?

MEDINA: I think the military's intentions are pure. We try to help the Iraqi people. But the bottom line is, we have become the problem and not the solution. George Bush made that with all of his remarks of "Bring it on," and not giving us the well-equipped, not listening to Congress and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) I call on every congressman and senator to say, "It is time to pull out and bring our troops home now."

KING: John, are you surprised that the majority of the public in polls are against the war?

WROBLEWSKI: I don't read that, Larry. I don't see that the majority of the public are against the war. A lot of the polls I see, you know, it's like very close, 54 percent in favor or in that area. However, that does show, you know, 48 percent or so against the war.

But, you know, in reply to Ivan, what I'd like to say is -- and I wasn't there. And I respect Ivan's service, and I truly do. The only thing I can say is a letter that we received on April 5th, the day before our son was killed. And our son said in the letter that, "Dad, we're doing the right thing. The Iraqi people come up to us all the time and thank us for what we are doing." However, he did say that the adults were fearful, fearful if they made friends or became too friendly with the Americans, that, at night, when they went home, they would be killed by the terrorists.

So I think this election, you know, just obviously shows that Iraqi people chose democracy over terrorism.

KING: Now, Ivan, do you expect Americans to start leaving?

MEDINA: I know, knowing Condoleezza Rice and George Bush, they will not. And that's why we're calling on all the senators and all the congressman to start saying, "Let's bring our troops home now." Because they are dying and not being part of that solution anymore. They're becoming a problem, and most Iraqis do not want a military force, an American military force, in their country.

KING: I'm sure that everybody watching, whether they agree or disagree with our guests, would share their grief and their condolences to them.

John Wroblewski and Ivan Medina, thank you both.

MEDINA: Thank you.

KING: Thank you, guys.

WROBLEWSKI: Thank you, Larry. Thank you so much. Appreciate it.

KING: My pleasure. You're watching a special edition of LARRY KING LIVE.

When we come back, back to Weisskopf, Wright and Al-Azzawi. And we'll be joined by Congressman Chris Shays -- and, by the way, he's in Amman, Jordan -- And Congresswoman Jane Harman. Don't go away.



GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The people of the United States have been patient and resolute, even in difficult days. The commitment to a free Iraq now goes forward. This historic election begins the process of drafting and ratifying a new constitution which will be the basis of a fully democratic Iraqi government.


KING: You're watching a special edition of LARRY KING LIVE.

In Washington is Michael Weisskopf of "Time Magazine." Also in Washington, Robin Wright of "The Washington Post." In Abu Dhabi is Jasim Al-Azzawi, the executive producer and senior news anchor of Abu Dhabi TV. In Amman, Jordan, is Representative Chris Shays of Connecticut. He was just in Iraq for election day. This was his seventh trip there. And in Washington is Congresswoman Jane Harman, ranking minority member of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

Before we check in with our congress people and our panel, lets go to Damascus, Syria. Brent Sadler, CNN's senior international correspondent, stands by.

Syria was one of the countries where expatriates from Iraq could vote. What's the reaction there, Brent?

BRENT SADLER, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Larry, reaction here has been a general overwhelming joy. We're watching the voters over three days of out-of-country voting here. And after the end of the balloting yesterday, we saw a couple of hundred, and mostly Iraqi Kurds in traditional costume. Some of them were weeping with joy, dancing, and really having a good time in the streets of Damascus.

Remember, Larry, this is Damascus, the Syrian capital, a country where there's been unbending one-man for decades, now led by President Bashar al-Assad, he himself under heavy U.S. pressure to get more on board with the U.S. plan to democratize Iraq by stopping insurgents thought to be living here in Baghdad -- sorry, living here in Damascus, say the U.S. intelligence authorities, supporting, facilitating and planning acts of terror.

KING: Do you think he might be moved by these elections?

SADLER: I don't think so at this stage. I don't think we're going to see any Syrian rush to embrace sweeping democratic reforms, Larry. What the Syrians see, as far as they're concerned, is a high degree of chaos still in neighboring Iraq, despite the fact that this election is being applauded by the U.S. administration as a success, and by the Iraqi authorities.

The Syrians see it in a different way. They see it as a role model for democracy in the Middle East that's being imposed by an American hand and won't necessarily work. Farouk Shara, I saw recently, has said quite clearly -- he's the foreign minister here -- he said, "We do not think the Americans will be able to succeed -- may not be able to succeed." However, he said that the Iraqis should be able to vote, conditions are difficult. If this plan to change to democratize Iraq succeeds, then good luck as far as the Americans are concerned. But as for a role model for Syria, no, the authorities here say. KING: Brent Sadler reporting from Damascus.

Let's check with Congressman Chris Shays in Amman, Jordan. What did you make of what happened today, Chris?

REP. CHRISTOPHER SHAYS (R), CONNECTICUT: Well, Larry, this was one of my most thrilling days ever. I've been in Iraq now seven times, but 20 months ago was the start of this. And in 20 months we've moved this sadistic regime of Saddam Hussein, transferred power to the Iraqis, and now they've elected their own government. It's thrilling. It's absolutely thrilling.

KING: Are you surprised?

SHAYS: I'm not surprised, because I felt the Iraqi people wanted this opportunity. In fact, one of the first people I spoke to 20 months ago, Muhammed Abdul al-Assan (ph), he had a rough life. And I thought, "You must be a bitter man." And he said to me something like this: "Like you in the United States, I'll get to choose my own leaders." And he had that chance yesterday.

KING: And Congresswoman Harman in Washington, as frequent and often on with us with Christopher Shays, what's your reaction?

REP. JANE HARMAN (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, Larry, I observed the first free elections in Chile, in Hungary, in Czechoslovakia, and the scenes are very similar. People in their Sunday best with the indelible ink on their fingers, smiling and laughing. But my question is, what will the scene be like a month from now?

I am truly worried about how we keep stability in the country. Remember, today we had 300,000 security troops, half ours and half theirs, and helicopter over-flights and a lockdown for three days. We actually had an intelligence success. This might have been our first. We predicted what would happen and we prevented it.

But over time now, the Iraqi security has to phase in. The face of America has to be reduced. And we have threats all over the region, especially in Iran, that we need to pay more attention to now. And Iran may be an unintended victor today, in the sense that now there will be a Shia majority in neighboring Iraq, as well. And we've been preoccupied there for so long that Iran has had a chance to build up its nuclear and missile capability without too much attention.

So I worry about a month from now and a year from now. I'd love to see these people dancing in the streets then, after two more successful elections at the end of the year. That's what the challenge is.

KING: Michael Weisskopf, do you share Jane Harman's concern?

WEISSKOPF: Yes. And I would add to that, that whenever we get too euphoric about Iraq, we end up paying the price big-time. And this has got to be seen with a certain perspective. And the perspective is that, while extraordinary numbers turned out, that this was an election which was orchestrated by our government and it was also supported by a ruling -- or at least a majority religious community, the Shia community. And they are capable of delivering many millions with a Friday prayer service in that direction.

So it's best to see this as an important event and look at it quickly through our rear-view mirror and see how it's going to look a month from now or many months from now.

KING: Robin?

WRIGHT: Well, I guess I share those concerns. But I'd also say that there are many in Iraq, including the senior cleric Ayatollah Sistani, who was said over and over again that they don't want to copy Iran's theocratic system, that, in fact, they want a secular constitution, in which Islam plays an important role, but that doesn't call for religious rule by the clerics.

And there's a tremendous difference between Arabs in Iraq and Persians in Iran. They've fought wars. They've been hostile to each other in the past. They continue to be political rivals. And, while they are brother in that they're both dominated by Shiite Muslim majorities, they have very different visions, different traditions, different nationalisms.

At the end of the day, when the two countries fought a war, Iraqi Shiites were loyal to Baghdad and did not move across the border into Iran. So I think there are tremendous differences between these two countries. And I frankly think that we are a country that has strong Judeo-Christian values in our Constitution -- reflected in our Constitution and that Iraq -- most Iraqis, anyway -- really want to see Islamic values reflected in their constitution, but that's different from having an Islamic rule.

KING: Jasim?

AL-AZZAWI: Let's put it in perspective. This is a very important day. It depends what the Iraqis are going to do with it. The history of the 20th century is littered with elections that promise democracy and freedom and brought nothing.

The next phase in Iraq should be building a very strong Iraqi army. Today the Iraqi minister said it's going to take 18 days. I suspect it's going to take a lot more than that before, the Americans, they will be able to scale down.

Completing the mission, as the president says, meaning democracy -- you know and I know building democracy, especially as it happened in Europe and the United States, took many decades, if not centuries. So let us not think that and equate this election with democracy.

KING: We'll take a break. We'll be back with some more moments and check it with a final comment from all of our guests. Also, we'll check in with Christiane Amanpour and Anderson Cooper. Don't go away.


KING: We only have about five minutes remaining, but before we get a final comment from each of our panelists, I want to get a quick word in with Christiane Amanpour and Anderson Cooper. They're both in Baghdad, the only (UNINTELLIGIBLE) work they've done all day.

Christiane, what's the aftermath now? What's Monday morning like?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, very good question. Obviously, today was a failure for the terrorists. But what will tomorrow bring? Were they just gathering their resources, deciding not to attack on an important and highly secure day? Many people are wondering, what will tomorrow bring? And U.S. commanders who we've spoken to say they don't have any illusions that this one election day is going to end the insurgency.

KING: And, Anderson, what's your read on the results of this day?

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Well, you know, Larry, we won't know the results in terms of who won today, but I think we do know who lost today. And I think the insurgents lost today. Despite their bombs and their bullets, despite them slitting the throats of American hostages, despite them murdering small children with car bombs, Iraqis, aware of the danger, not forgetting the danger for a second, but chose to ignore it, chose to step outside their homes, take a few simple steps, which, of course, were not simple at all, which were extraordinary dangerous steps and defiant steps, and they chose to vote. They chose to have a say in their future, and that is a remarkable thing and a remarkable thing to have witnessed, Larry.

AMANPOUR: Larry, in terms of the insurgency, I think that the real key test now will be whether this new government can get up a proper Iraqi force, it's own force that will be willing to fight and die for it, for the new Iraq and to fight against these insurgents in a meaningful way. That's it.

KING: Great work, both of you, today.

Christiane Amanpour and Anderson Cooper.

All right, Congressman Shays, you want to respond to the little critique of your euphoria?

SHAYS: Well, let me just say, Christiane and Cooper have done an amazing job for so long. And they're right. But no one can erase what happened today. And the Iraqis feel tremendous pride. Ten thousand Iraqis pulled off this election. They ran it. They were in charge of it. And they've spent over a year preparing for this day. It was a huge success.

And more Iraqis voted in this election that vote in our elections in terms of population. It's just an amazing thing that we saw, and it will have tremendous benefits.

Let me just say one other thing. Both Prime Minister Allawi and President Ghazi, they both acknowledge that they need to bring in the Sunnis. And they've already been reaching out. And so I think they've become somewhat sophisticated. Iraqis like politics, and I think they're going to love democracy.

KING: Jane Harman, want to comment on that comment?

HARMAN: Well, Chris Shays is right. Today was a triumph of the human spirit. But I do worry about tomorrow. And the president was properly muted today, President Bush. There was no "Mission Accomplished" sign behind him in the Oval Office, as there should not have been on that aircraft carrier. And there shouldn't be one hanging over the Green Zone tomorrow.

When there is a "Mission Accomplished" sign, it will be hung by the Iraqis, after this year, after two more difficult elections. That should be what we wish for, is their victory in their fashion, fashioning their government, which is hopefully a secular government at peace in the region. And that's what I think we may get.

KING: Michael, are you optimistic?

WEISSKOPF: I'm more optimistic about the Iraqi people. And they are a civilized band who have enjoyed democracy, albeit half a century ago. And with probably the highest literacy rates in the Middle East, more PhD's than any others, and a people who enjoy a freedom. And we'll see whether today's results make that a lasting freedom.

KING: Robin, you optimistic?

WRIGHT: I think we have to understand that Iraq's election today was a vote of confidence in themselves and a desire to grab control of their future. Yes, it was a great day for the United States, but it was also a signal from the Iraqis that they're ready to have the United States wind down. They'd like to get them out. They want control of their political future.

KING: We thank you all very much. We thank Jasim Al-Azzawi for reporting to us from Abu Dhabi TV, as well. This has been a special edition of LARRY KING LIVE on this historic day in Iraq. I'll be back in a couple of minutes. Don't go away.


KING: We'll be back again tomorrow night, starting off another week, big week. State of the Union address this week. We'll be following that, and so will Mr. B, Aaron Brown, who will also toil on this Sunday night.

Yes, we do it, don't we?

AARON BROWN, CNN HOST: Well, you know what?

KING: We toil in the vineyards of media.

BROWN: Here's the truth. If you're going to toil, this is a good night to do it. Something cool happened today, and it's nice to get to write about it and talk about it.

KING: Go get 'em, Aaron. BROWN: Thank you, sir. Talk to you tomorrow.

Good evening again, everyone. A page of history was written today. A country spoke. There are, of course, plenty of disclaimers.


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