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Experts: Iraqis 'eager for change' from Saddam

U.S. intervention is long-term commitment, senators told

Former United Nations arms inspector Richard Butler and Sen. Joseph Biden confer during the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearings on Iraq.
Former United Nations arms inspector Richard Butler and Sen. Joseph Biden confer during the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearings on Iraq.  

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Iraqi experts Thursday told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the United States must follow through if it undertakes a military operation to remove the regime of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

Saying that Iraqis are "ready, indeed eager for change" after years of repression by Hussein's Sunni regime, Iraqi scholar Phebe Marr said there would have to be long-term U.S. military and political commitment in Iraq, which has not had experience with democracy.

She said that United States occupation appears to be the most effective way to establish new leadership as opposed to pressuring those inside the government to change or introducing outside opposition as alternative leadership.

"If the U.S. occupies Iraq, it will have the best opportunity in the short term to provide both law and order, prevent retribution and begin the processes by which Iraqis inside and outside can refashion their political system and move toward democratic reforms," Marr said.

U.S. intervention would "represent a considerable commitment" over several years and "some troops on the ground, preferably in conjunction with allies."

The development of new institutions of leadership must be done swiftly, maybe in six months, before the United States is viewed as a foreign occupier.

She said it is better "to take a firm hand in the beginning to provide the building blocks for regime change.

Speaking of the three main sectors in society, the Kurds in the north, the Arab Shiites in the south, and the Arab Sunnis in the country's center, she said the majority of the population has shown a consistently strong desire to keep the state together. She said it is unlikely that Iraq would break up into three components.

Rend Rahim Francke said that if the United States gets involved and removes Hussein, its role should be sustained and it must establish itself as a friend and not an occupier.

If the United States embarks on an operation in Iraq, it would have to build partnerships with Iraqi opposition leaders and create a core group to work with remnants of Iraq's police force, said Francke, whose group promotes democracy and human rights.

Regime change and nation building

She said intervention and regime change should be the beginning of a commitment to nation building.

"Iraqis desperately want to be free" of Hussein," said Francke. "They know the only country to help them is the United States. ...

"I would not like to see Afghanistan as a model. By which I mean, and to put it crudely, and you'd excuse me, I do not think we should have a hit-and-run operation in Iraq."

Francke and Marr are two of the Iraq specialists testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the Iraqi threat to the United States and possible U.S. responses, including a military attack on Iraq.

The two-day hearing began Wednesday with testimony from several analysts who addressed dangers from Iraq's reported development of weapons of mass destruction, which it denies.

The hearing comes as the United States ponders removing the Hussein regime.

President Bush Thursday, speaking to reporters with visiting Jordan's King Abdullah said, "Hussein is a man who poisons his own people, who threatens his neighbors, who develops weapons of mass destruction. And I will assure his majesty, like I have in the past, we are looking at all options, the use of all tools" in dealing with Hussein.

Sources told CNN Thursday that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is unhappy with the types of military plans and options that generals and admirals have presented to him about how to deal with Iraq.

Rumsfeld told the Pentagon to rework the military options, saying he wants to see a plan for lightning-quick attacks against Iraq. Sources said he wants the plan to be developed quickly so he can brief President Bush in the next few weeks.




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