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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Showdown: Iraq: Look at Some of Iraq's Neighbors

Aired October 16, 2002 - 12:54   ET

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

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Over the years, Iraq has had difficult relations, to put it mildly, with its closest neighbors. Many say publicly they don't want to see Iraq attacked. Some are likely to bring at least some tacit support to Saddam Hussein's enemies.
Oar Miles O'Brien is joining us now from the map room at the CNN Center in Atlanta with more on that -- Miles.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Wolf. Call it geopolitics 101. We're going to talk a little bit about the region, the neighbors, and exactly how the shifting sands of allegiance change, and sometimes change overnight in this part of the world.

The big picture here. This is the region we're talking about, and get used to it, because we'll be talking a lot about this in the coming weeks. And with me to help point out some of the players and where they stand as the winds of war continue is Dona Stewart with the Middle East Center of Georgia State University.

Dona, good to have you with us.

DONA STEWART, MIDDLE EAST CENTER, GEORGIA STATE UNIV.: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: Let's start with the Kurdish region. Brent Sadler as just talking about this area. We're talking about northern Iraq, spilling over a little bit into Turkey, and therein lies the rub. Explain that.

STEWART: Yes, a lot of the neighbors here have serious concerns. Turkish concerns right now are about what Iraq will look like after Saddam Hussein is ousted. Will there be a drive for an independent Kurdistan? If there is an independent Kurdistan, will that include the 20 percent of the population of Turkey, which are of Kurd origin?

O'BRIEN: And the Kurds of course claim a little piece of Turkey. The reason the Turks are very important to the U.S. effort is Insalik (ph).

STEWART: Absolutely.

O'BRIEN: Insalik (ph) is a huge U.S. base, and presumably, air raids in Iraq would be staged from that location.

STEWART: Right. So Turkey right now needs assurances that if there is a Kurdish autonomous region, Kurdish state, it's not going to impair Turkish in territorial integrity. O'BRIEN: All right, Syria -- does Saddam Hussein have a friend there?

STEWART: Traditionally, he hasn't had much of a friend in Syria. You may remember that in the Iraq-Iran War, Syria backed Iran. Syria was also part of the coalition in the 1991 war, so it's going up against Baghdad again there. However, about two years ago, they started some economic cooperation and restarted diplomatic relations, namely, a pipeline from Iraq into Syria.

O'BRIEN: So this is a back channel pipeline which kind of thumbs its nose at the United Nations, and therein, lies a strange alliance there. Let's talk about Jordan and its potential relationship with Iraq. This is an interesting balance here, isn't it?

STEWART: Jordan has always been a very strong supporter of the United States. But Jordan, like many of the countries in the region right now, are looking for U.N. backing of this activity. Jordan has a lot of economic and demographic problems right now that would be severely exacerbated perhaps by a war with Iraq. There are 400,000 Iraqis already living in Jordan, in addition to Palestinians.

O'BRIEN: These are refugees from previous problems, or refugees from the regime, and presumably, you get a big flow of refugees if you have problems in Iraq?

STEWART: Absolutely.

O'BRIEN: All right, Israel -- this is a complicated matter. We're talking about a country that is within missile distance of Iraq, SCUD missiles, we all recall, from the '91 war. Will Israel stand by for all of this, or do you supposed it's poised to enter the fray in some way?

STEWART: We have asked Israel -- I believe in '91 we asked Israel not to respond. I think it's a question of whether or not they will hold to that policy if there is a new incursion. But I think Israel has two main concerns. One is if Saddam Hussein realizes that regime change is going to happen and he's up against a wall, that he'll load everything he has on to a missile, and he'll head it toward Tel Aviv.

O'BRIEN: That's foreboding.

Briefly, we're just about out of time. We've heard a lot about Saudi. We won't belabor that. Iran is an interesting one, because the theory that the enemy of your enemy is your friend. Does that follow in this case?

STEWART: Iran and Iraq, of course, have always had difficult relations. They've had a long war. Iran could be a major, I guess, in a sense, winner out of taking Saddam Hussein out, because they really would become the primary geopolitical power in the region.

O'BRIEN: All right, lots to think about. Dona Stewart, thank you very much for that 101 course. We'll come back and take a little more advanced level courses a little bit later as we continue our discussion of all of this.

We appreciate it. Back to you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Professor Miles O'Brien, thank you. Professor Dona Stewart, thank you as well.

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