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INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENTS

INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENTS

Aired June 20, 2003 - 19:30:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

WALTER RODGERS, CNN ANCHOR: Hello. I'm Walter Rodgers, in London. And welcome to CNN's INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENTS, where we examine how the media are covering the big stories of the moment.
The major combat in Iraq may have been declared officially over May 1, but the peace remains an even tougher battle to win. The United States launched Operation Desert Scorpion last Sunday, the largest military deployment since the height of the war in early-April, this in response to a series of deadly attacks on American soldiers.

Joining me now, Fareed Zakaria, editor of "Newsweek International." His latest book is "The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad." It questions issues such as whether the United States can sow democracy in countries like Iraq, and moreover, should it.

Answer your own question, Fareed, should it?

FAREED ZAKARIA, AUTHOR: Oh, absolutely, it should. But I think we've made a big mistake in the way we've approached Iraq, in not recognizing that this is a massive transformation we're talking about.

I think there was a group within the administration, the Bush administration, who pushed this war, who seemed to believe their own rhetoric, that the bad Saddam Hussein was oppressing the good Iraqi people, and that once we got rid of the bad Saddam Hussein, suddenly the Iraqi people would leap for joy and visibly go about the business of building Jeffersonian democracy.

In fact, all experiences with transitions to democracy is, it's incredibly hard and requires a huge political effort.

RODGERS: So, was the Bush administration remarkably načve?

ZAKARIA: It's stunning. For such a calculating, tough-minded administration in waging war, it was remarkably načve, as far as the peace. It entirely underestimated how many troops you would need, even though the experiences of Bosnia and Kosovo clearly suggested that you need many, many more troops.

And they entirely underestimated the fact that the old order would crumble, even though it crumbled in every other case we've looked at.

RODGERS: How can you have democracy in Iraq when you have no legal culture there, no tradition of democracy, no experience with free speech, no experience with separation of church and state?

ZAKARIA: I think the honest answer is, it's hard and it will come slowly, and that the answer is not that you want democracy tomorrow.

But if you look at Japan, another country with no history of democracy of free speech or any such, and let's face it, Nazi Germany in 1945 didn't look like such a hot candidate for democracy either.

But you built the institutions of liberty -- what I call in the book the institutions of liberty -- are courts, administration, constitutions, separation of powers. If you do all that, then you can hold elections and it becomes meaningful. Otherwise, you hold elections and some thug gets in power. That's not democracy.

RODGERS: One of your most interesting arguments was that Iraq's oil wealth actually makes democracy harder to sow and grow. Explain why.

ZAKARIA: Well, the simplest way I can is just look around the world. If oil produces modern state and democracy, let's name all the oil rich countries in the world that are democracies. Well, it turns out there's just one: Norway. And Norway, of course, gets its democracy before it gets its oil.

Oil, generally speaking, is a curse, because it means countries don't have to go through the hard work of modernizing their society, their legal systems, creating market-friendly economies.

No, they just did in the ground for black gold.

So what we found in general is, when you have oil, the political system doesn't modernize, the economic system doesn't modernize, and you end up with dictatorships, kleptocracies (ph).

Now, again, what that -- that doesn't mean it's impossible. It just means you really have to think hard about what you're going to do with the oil industry so that it doesn't have that corrupting effect it's had in so many oil rich countries.

RODGERS: Has the European news media in particular, but have they done a good job of covering the post-war Iraq? Or have they been simply preoccupied with citing every American failure they can find?

ZAKARIA: Well, I wonder what today's media would make of Germany three months after the allies had taken it over. You can imagine all the headlines: "German occupation a disaster," "Water is not flowing into Berlin yet," et cetera.

In other words, some of this is simply going to take time, and I think the intense focus on our inability to turn Baghdad into Belgium in one month is silly.

Where I think they have been useful is pointing out that the United States has not yet really established law and order, figured out whether or not they really want to be the governing authority. I mean, do you want to rule Iraq with martial law right now? If not, you need Saddam's law.

In other words, there are some political ambiguities which were well- epitomized by Jay Garner going around the country saying, "I'm not in charge," to which of course one had the feeling that every Iraq was wondering, "Then who the hell is"?

That part of it I think they've covered well, but the sort of ceaseless pointing out that every street corner in Basra is not yet fully electrified is simply a matter of time. It will get there.

RODGERS: In your book, you also talk about the difficulties that the United States faces in dealing with Iran. Does the same difficulty we're talking about here, exporting democracy it Iraq, also apply to the difficulties that lie ahead in U.S. relations with Iran?

ZAKARIA: Well, Iran is an odd case. It may be unique in the Middle East, because what you have in Iran is the fantasy of the Islamic fundamentalists came true, an Islamic government. And the people of Iran have realized, they just hate it.

In the last four elections, 70 percent of the Iranians have voted against the government candidate, and therefore against the government. Now, those elected officials have no power, but it tells you something, and I think it tells you that the Iranian people are now inoculated against the virus of Islamic fundamentalism.

So the next time some mullah comes pedaling his brand of theocracy, the Iranians will say, "Been there, done that," you know, "We've seen this. We don't need it anymore."

That gives it a powerful advantage, but I think the fundamental reality remains, which is people will be suspicious of American values if they come too heavily wrapped in American power.

If we pushed these values too much as, you know, here's what you need to do, there would be a nationalist reaction. It happens in any country in the world.

RODGERS: Fareed Zakaria, thanks very much. Thank you for the insight, and good luck with the book.

Days of violent protests in Iran against the ruling clerical establishment have been openly supported by Washington. Iranian officials are accusing the United States of trying to incite and exploit these protests to undermine the Islamic regime.

But one major thorn in the side of Iran's government are certain Farsi-language television and radio stations broadcasting into Iran from abroad, and their message is clear: overthrowing Iran's leaders.

I'm joined now in Los Angeles by Zia Atabay. He runs Iranian National Television, a California-based satellite broadcaster. And on the line from Tehran, Dr. Sadeo Zibakalam, professor of Iranian studies at Tehran University.

The first question to you, Mr. Atabay. There are students that suggest that you broadcasting from California about the future of Iran, really don't care that much about what's happening there, what you're really trying to do is create a political role for yourselves. Answer him.

ZIA ATABAY, IRANIAN NATIONAL TELEVISION: OK. You said the student. Are you sure the student, they have this question, or they are saying that, or not? Because I don't believe that the student did have a question.

This is advertising, propaganda the government will have because, you know, the truth is that nothing in the future I need or I will have, only things that's happened, I am the voice of the people in Iran. They don't want this government. And that's all.

RODGERS: Dr. Sadeo Zibakalam, from Tehran, the view. What impact, if any, do these broadcasting stations, like Iranian National TV, originating from the United States, have on the people of Iran?

SADEO ZIBAKALAM, TEHRAN UNIV.: Let me first of all say salaam from Tehran to Mr. Zia Atabay and to all my Iranian compatriots living there in the United States.

I think the overt support of these royalist satellites (ph) and also worse than that, the overt support of President Bush and his colleague actually hasn't helped at all the causes of the Iranian student, because to have the grudges against the Islamic regime, which many Iranians have, including students, is one thing, but actually to call for the overthrow of the regime is quite another thing.

I really believe that Mr. Atabay and his colleague do not realize that if under the present situation the Islamic regime is overthrown, we would be in a terrible mess. I would say that with all the ethnic problem that we have in Iran, the Kurdish nationalists, the Azerbaijan nationalism, the Arab nationalism, the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) nationalism.

If there is weakening on the part of the central government, I would say that Iran as we know it today would no longer actually exist, because it would be destabilization, it would be chaos, it would be civil war, and I just don't think that the people outside do realize the gravity of the solution that they are proposing.

RODGERS: Mr. Atabay, address that, please. Are you sowing chaos and anarchy?

ATABAY: First of all, what I don't like, that Mr. Sadeo Zibakalam called me and named my station monarchy, and he knows it from the beginning, our saying the person or kind of government, monarchy or republic, is not important, for myself.

What happens in here. I think the last civil revolution was in Iran, we had the same problem, but nothing happen. Not Kurdish took over the country. Not Azerbaijan and nothing else.

What happens here, the truth is that it's nothing to do with monarchy or something. Nobody outside the country has a right to say to Iranians what to do, but the problem is that don't you think this has one simple solution, what the Iranians and all the students want, free elections, to choose what kind of government.

So there will not be war. There will not be any challenges or, as you see it, they're not going to kill or torture their young students.

And you guys inside, some of you people that are working for or protecting President Khatami, insist in the last seven years that the promise was left to give to the people, that nothing else will happen. You promised the people you're going to protect this government, an Islamic republic, but really, truly, Iranian people, as you said, sir, they don't want it anymore.

So what's the big challenge here, please tell me?

RODGERS: Mr. Zibakalam, I wonder if I could ask you this: the Shiite clergy in Tehran suggest that these expatriate broadcasting exiles are stirring up the populists. Isn't the dissatisfaction level in Tehran sufficient that the Iranians would be protesting regardless of whether these stations were on the air or not?

ZIBAKALAM: I quite disagree with the Shiite clerics and with the Shiite leader and even with the Islamic leadership and whoever says that we don't have any problem in Iran and only our problems are created by dissident and by the United States government in Washington, that is totally nonsense.

We have lots of problems. We have these political problems, social problems, economical problems.

But the question is, how are we going to solve these problems?

All I'm trying to say is that the overthrow of the Islamic regime would not solve these problems. Moreover, it would make the situation far worse.

RODGERS: I'd like to throw a final question to you, Mr. Atabay. How difficult is it for you to broadcast to Tehran from California, difficult in terms of money, in terms of resources? And what sort of reception do they get?

ATABAY: Look, what's happening here is a lot of the problem, but even the European countries and government, they're trying to help the Iranian government, like France, they when they two times they jammed our signal and Mr. Khatami and (UNINTELLIGIBLE), even French people they (UNINTELLIGIBLE) our satellite.

And now in Iran, they're going house to house and bring the dishes down. They're jamming our signal in the course of the cancel (ph) to the people. This is very difficult, but I believe it's nothing to do with the outside, believe me. Nothing to do with the people of the outside.

For people inside, what I am doing is for that, and it's very difficult, money-wise, as you say, and broadcasting, and we can only broadcast it from America.

RODGERS: Mr. Atabay, thank you very much. Mr. Zibakalam, also, thank you.

Up next on INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENTS, the marketing machine behind the little wizard. Can this book beat out the Bible, when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

RODGERS: Welcome back to INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENTS.

It could be a bigger seller than the Bible. At least that's what the media hype suggests.

The hotly anticipated "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" has arrived in bookstores worldwide, but not before the press went truly potty about Potter.

Joining me now, Sarah Crompton, arts editor-in-chief of Britain's "Daily Telegraph," and in New York, Amanda Bower, "Time" magazine correspondent.

Ladies, this is truly a huge story, but if it's really that big, why does it need all that much hype? Shouldn't we recognize the bigness of the story ourselves.

Let's begin with you -- Sarah.

SARAH CROMPTON, "DAILY TELEGRAPH": Well, I think the press and the media generally are just responding to the demand for the book. I don't think we're creating hype in this instance.

I think there's been three years since the last "Harry Potter" and everybody has waited for this moment, the fifth volume coming out, and if we didn't say anything about it, I think our readers would certainly wonder why we had remained silent on the publishing event of the year.

RODGERS: But how can you respond -- how can media respond to something which hasn't happened yet?

Suppose, for example, Sarah, that it's a bad sequel. Will that get reported?

CROMPTON: Well, I think that will get reported.

The nearest equivalent I can think of recently is the "Matrix" sequel, which generated the same amount of excitement. It was the front cover of "Time" magazine, like the "Harry Potter" has been. And then when it did come out, and everybody waited so long for it to come out, it did -- it was disappointing, and everybody thought, "Oh, what a dumb sequel (ph)." And that was quite clearly reported, and I suspect they'll have trouble generating so much excitement for the third.

So, JK Rowling must know that this has to be a good book. We're very much in her hands.

RODGERS: Amanda, you wrote the lead story for "Time" on this. Is this news, or is this frivolity rising to new heights?

AMANDA BOWER, "TIME": No, I think it is news. I mean, the fact that, obviously, it's an unprecedented event in publishing history, an 8.5 million first run of a book -- that in itself is pretty newsworthy.

But I think particularly in the United States, the thing that parents, teachers, adults are reacting to as part of the news is the fact that this book or these books have gotten kids reading.

And, you know, we've spoken to lots of kids who said they never made it through a book before, and now they're staying up all night to go and buy a book that's 896 pages. So, obviously, this has had an effect that's sort of wider than just, you know, a great tale about three kids at a wizarding school.

RODGERS: Amanda, this is a tough one: are we seeing a blurring of the lines here, ethically? Time-Warner films owns the "Harry Potter" movies. "Time" magazine is putting "Harry Potter" on the cover of the magazine. Is there an ethical issue here?

BOWER: Obviously, people can make that an ethnical issue, but I think, as we've been saying, this is not something that is being created. This is something that's really out there.

I mean, you go out and talk to kids, to parents, they've been talking about this date for such a long time, June 21, that I really don't think we're creating the news.

And, of course, all the other publications that have no affiliation to Warner Bros. are doing exactly the same thing.

RODGERS: Sarah, I think you wrote that every child needs unconditional love and security and Harry does that. Just exactly what do you mean?

CROMPTON: I think the thing about "Harry Potter" is, he has -- he goes through all the troubles and traumas of a child growing up, and the only difference for Harry is that he's a wizard, and so he can sometimes magic his way out of some of them in a way that normal children can't do.

But the key theme of the books, it seems to me, is that good constant triumphs over evil, and Harry is good, because his mother, who gave her life for him, has given him a kind of protection of goodness that wards off people who mean him harm.

And I think that is something that children probably unknowingly respond to. I think what they really respond to in the books is the excitement and the great stories and the magic effects and the quidditch matches and the goblins and all the rest of it.

But the undertow, the thing that puts "Harry Potter" in line with all great children's literature is this great sense of familial love which has protected Harry and made him the boy he is.

RODGERS: Amanda, is there any publishing precedent that rivals this, or is this the biggest thing that's come down the publisher's street?

BOWER: Well, certainly, nothing's ever had a print run this great, and I think, in terms of its broad appeal, I mean, this is something that's been published in so many languages, so many countries, across so many cultures. Kids, adults, I mean, there are plenty of adults who I've spoken to who, as soon as they were able to preorder their copy of this, you know, months before the book ever came out to bookstores.

So, I don't think there is. The fact that it's a kid's book, obviously, gets people excited. But certainly no book has really been this anticipated since, probably, book four.

RODGERS: Here's another tough one for you. The head of MI5 or MI6 this past week suggested that al Qaeda is preparing to launch a nuclear strike or poison gas strike against the West, either the United States or Britain. That story had about two day's worth of legs, and yet everyone is still talking about "Harry Potter." Put this in some sort of perspective - - Amanda.

BOWER: You know, I think that certainly our readers know that every week they are going to get stories about al Qaeda, Iraq, the Middle East, what's going on in the world, and certainly that's not something we're ignoring.

But at the same time, something like "Harry Potter" is also something people want to read, and maybe the reason it is so popular at the moment, that people are talking about it so much, is that it's nice to have something to feel hopeful about, something to feel good about, while we're still going to be hearing that sort of news.

In terms of, you know, how long a story has legs, we keep hearing these stories. That's the terrifying thing about terrorism, I suppose, is that you keep hearing new versions of a similar story, and I'm sure they'll prop up again and people obviously will pay attention to them.

RODGERS: Sarah Crompton, Amanda Bower, thanks for joining in the fun this week.

That's all for this edition of INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENTS. Tune in again next time for another look at how the media are handling the big issues.

I'm Walter Rodgers. Thanks for joining us.

END

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