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Scholar Disusses Political Futures for Iraq

Aired October 14, 2002 - 12:44   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Some day, of course, one way or another Saddam Hussein will fade into history and someone else will get the job of leading Iraq but then again, when might that be?
Phoebe Marr is an Iraq scholar, a retired senior fellow at the National Defense University here in Washington, knows a lot about this subject.

Thanks for joining us.

Is that realistic, that Saddam Hussein might be removed from power relatively easily with some uprising, a coup, some colonel or general simply taking a shot at him?

PHOEBE MARR, IRAQ SCHOLAR: Well, I don't see Saddam fading from history. I think when Saddam goes, it's going to be with a bang and certainly not with a whimper. There have been plenty of attempts to remove him. Attempted coups. Of course after the Gulf War in 1991 there was a substantial uprising, Kurds in the north, Shia in the south. None of those have been successful, so I don't think we have any reason think it's going to be easy.

BLITZER: Right now, this week, they have the so-called referendum, yes or no, do you support Saddam Hussein. He's going to get, like he did the last time, 99.999 percent of the vote. What's the point of doing that?

MARR: Well, first of all, strange though it may seem, his modified constitution requires him to run every six years and so he's going to do it. The point -- there are several other points, however. One is to prove to everybody that he is supported by his population. There may also be a point in sort of smoking out any opposition, obviously people are going to be expected to show up at the ballot box, we know how they're expected to vote. Should anybody not show up, not vote, there would be consequences. So...

BLITZER: That would take a pretty courageous person...

MARR: It certainly would.

BLITZER: ... to a, not vote, because you have to, and b, to go and vote no against Saddam Hussein. I want to meet that person if that person is around. I mean, the security services, the Muhaberat (ph), the interior ministry would be all over that person very quickly.

MARR: That's very true, but there are certainly pockets of -- not only pockets, but plenty of opposition, I understand his posters are being defaced in country and so on. So we certainly do expect a 99, maybe even 100% vote, he's aiming for. But nevertheless, this is a message to his population as well as the outside world: Don't even think about defecting; don't even think about staying home.

BLITZER: I don't think that we'll be doing exit polling in advance to determine the mood in Baghdad.

Right now, we have an e-mail, Brad from Franklin, Tennessee, wants you to answer this question, if you can, why doesn't the rest of the Arab world want Saddam ousted? he is a threat to them, and it seems that a coalition to end his regime would be welcome..

MARR: The -- most -- much of the rest of the Arab world would like to see the back of Saddam. It isn't because there is support for Saddam. But people are worried about a war, they're worried about the uncertainty of what happens after Saddam, a potential instability and in short, the costs of replacing him. And it's that fear that holds them back.

BLITZER: Here's another e-mail from David in Connecticut: Is there a possibility that Iraq might successfully form an alliance with Iran if war occurs, since Iran has been deemed a member of the so- called "axis of evil"?.

MARR: I think that's very unlikely. You'll remember they fought a very bitter and bloody eight year war between 1980 and 1988, There are no good feelings between the two populations. And there's a fear in Iraq of a much larger Iran, and there is, of course, the difference in ideology, one state religious, the other secular. So although there is a lot of talk about this kind of an alliance and it seems like they should both be against a so-called common adversary, that's very unlikely that they're going to get together.

BLITZER: Those of us who covered the first Gulf War, 11, 12 years ago, remember there were what -- 80 or 100 Iraqi jet fighter planes that flew into Iran supposedly to be safe from U.S. coalition bombing. Whatever happened to those planes? To the best of my knowledge, they're still in Iran, right?

MARR: That's right, They're safe, they're perfectly safe, but they're in Irannian hands. And of course the Iraqis would like to get them back but they have very little chance of having that happen.

BLITZER: The Iraqis still do intimidate their neighbors, though.

MARR: Well, I'm not sure I would say that about all Iraqis, I would say that about this Iraqi regime, with...

BLITZER: Referring to the regime of Saddam Hussein.

MARR: Yes, absolutely.

BLITZER: The Kuwaitis, the Saudis, the Jordanians, even the Turks, to a certain degree, are still intimidated. MARR: That's correct. Listen to his bellicose rhetoric, his long-term, aggressive goals for achieving leadership in the region and his acts, of course, such as arming Palestinian suicide bombers and so on.

BLITZER: All right. Phoebe Marr, who knows a lot about this subject, thanks for joining us.

MARR: Thank you very much for having me.

BLITZER: Appreciate it very much.


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