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Iraqi TV: Iraqi Authorities Will Impose Night Travel Ban

Aired April 6, 2003 - 01:32   ET


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Fredricka Whitfield in the CNN Newsroom, and here's what's happening at this hour.
Iraqi TV is reporting that Iraqi authorities will impose a night travel ban, restricting people from exiting Baghdad, and that begins on Sunday night. As U.S. forces close in on the city, the push in to Baghdad picked up more speed from the Southwest. Southeast rather. A column of U.S. Marine Corps vehicles made its way toward the city, taking aim at small pockets of resistance along the way. Meantime, the Army has resumed recognizance missions inside the heart of Baghdad.

Around the clock now U.S. troops are now under friendly skies. Coalition planes are now providing 24-hour surveillance over Baghdad as part of a new strategy to protect U.S. ground troops as they push deeper inside the city.

In other news. If you thought last year's hurricane season was rough? Hold on to your hats. Forecasters predict the 2003 hurricane season will see twice as many hurricane as last year's four. The six- month season begins in June.

And now, there are two. The Kansas Jayhawks secured a spot in the NCAA Championship game, by defeating the Marquette Golden Eagles. In the other semi-final match in the final four last night, Syracuse defeated the Texas Longhorns, 94 to 84. The Jayhawks and the Syracuse Orangeman face off for the NCAA Championship title on Monday.

Well before you turn in tonight, don't forget to Spring forward. For most Americans, daylights savings returns at 2:00 am Sunday. And that means you lose an hour of sleep.

Those are the headlines for this hour. Now back to Anderson.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Fredricka, thanks very much. Christopher Dickey is the Middle East regional editor for "Newsweek" magazine. We just heard from a journalist from Abu Dhabi television. We want to talk to Christopher now. He joins us from Amman Jordan, with a look at how the Arab world is reacting to the war. Christopher, the coverage you've seen, what big differences jump out at you?

CHRISTOPHER DICKEY, "NEWSWEEK:: Well, the essential difference is if you watch American television and read the American news, what you see is a lot of reporting about victory. If you look at the Arab media, the Arab television, Muslim news, what you see is victims. It's all about that difference between victory and victims. That's the difference in perception. And it's extremely bad news for the future, because there is an awful lot of anger out here, directed at the United States because of this war.

COOPER: But you know, we have heard that over and over again about this anger, and we have heard for months before this, about an explosion we would see throughout the Arab world, and one of our guests earlier said that you know, the headline from his perspective was that there has not been this explosion. I talked to this professor from Georgetown University, who said that is, what he is taking is the headline.

DICKEY: Does he know anything about the Middle East? Because these things don't happen from one day to the next. They build over time. If you look at the history of the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982, people were welcoming the Israelis with flowers and with rice, and a year later, they were blowing them to smithereens along with the Americans who came in to Lebanon. That's the whole history here. It's a history of delayed reactions built on accumulated anger, because of the perceived invasion, colonialization, and implicit racism that exists in a lot of these operations, including this one.

COOPER: What about Iraq's information minister? You know, we keep seeing these press conferences and these statements he makes to Al-Jazeera now, and the like. The people you talk to in Jordan. How do they view his statements? Does he have credibility?

DICKEY: Well, it's a mixed bag. First of all they think he's a buffoon. The way he speaks Arabic is just ridiculous in the eyes of a lot of people. It's sort of amusing. But at the same time, Iraqi media, the Iraqi information minister have built up a lot of credibility during the course of this war that they didn't have before. I think they're going to lose it now, as Baghdad is the direct target. But in the early days of for instance, they kept saying no Umm Qasr, that little town that the Americans and British kept fighting over, has not been taken. And day after day after hearing that first it was taken, then that it wasn't taken by the allies, there was a perception that it was more reliable to listen to Baghdad television than to the briefings from CENTCOM. And that was certainly the way it was viewed by most Arabs and Muslims in this part of the world. There's a real, as they used to say during Vietnam, credibility gap that's emerged.

COOPER: Over the last couple of days from, coming out of Amman Jordan, we had heard a lot of stories about Iraqi nationals, other Arab nationals using Amman, coming, who were planning to go to Baghdad, taking these buses, allegedly paid for by the Iraqi regime. Do you still hear that? Is that still going on?

DICKEY: Yes. It's still going on. And in fact, in the fighting on the ground in the last few days, American troops have found themselves running up against some of these foreign fighters. I think it's pretty bad news. I don't think it'll change the course of the war. But what you may see, is a prolonged low intensity conflict in Iraq, that is used by zealots of different stripes, not only Islamists, but Arab nationalists, as a kind of training ground. Just the way Bosnia was, just the way Afghanistan was, just the way Chechnya was, for terrorism and terrorists. And I think that also doesn't bode very well for the future.

COOPER: Chris, we are looking pictures of some women said to be about to undertake Jihad. We have this story of this pregnant woman involved in the suicide bombing. Did that surprise you? And if not, why?

DICKEY: No, it didn't surprise me. And I think you know, if you want to know what this occupation is going to be like, or is in danger of becoming, all you need to do is look at the occupation of Gaza and the West Bank by the Israelis. I think that that gives us a very good model for what we can expect in Iraq. A population that is sometimes collaborating, sometimes cooperative, but many times angry and sometimes extremely violent. And that can be exploited by extremist elements to create reserves of suicide bombers, of terrorists, and people who will be very hurtful to the United States and its interests over the long run.

COOPER: You don't think there's going to be an outpouring of support at all from Iraqis, who once they realize Saddam Hussein is gone, are going to be happy about that?

DICKEY: Oh, I think lots of them. Lots of Iraqi are going to be extremely happy. I think they hate Saddam. And the minute they stop rejoicing about the fact that Saddam is gone, the next question they're going to ask is when are the Americans going? And I'm not sure that Washington has a very good answer for that question. It certainly hasn't been clear with the American people about that, and I don't think that it's been very clear or is going to be very clear with the Iraqi people about that.

COOPER: All right, Christopher Dickey, "Newsweek", appreciate it. It was interesting talking to you. Good luck to you in Amman Jordan. When we come back, our coverage continues. The question. What will Saddam do now? Is the end game near? We'll be right back.


ANDERSON COOPER: Well, as our Walter Rogers told us earlier. U.S. troops will be making more trips into Baghdad today. Our Miles O'Brien shows us what they may be looking for.

MILES O'BRIEN: With U.S. forces on the ground in Baghdad, it's time to look at what's next, and one of the key priorities for those U.S. forces, is targeting the top of the regime, from Saddam Hussein to his closest confidants. Here to tell us a little bit about how that might happen, is retired General David Grange, of the U.S. Army. Good to see you, General Grange.


O'BRIEN: Interesting piece of tape we saw just this past day. The Information Minister of Iraq, giving a live interview on Al- Jazeera television. Standing there on a balcony, in wide open. That is possibly something that could be used to help Special Operations or other U.S. forces, target this particular member of the regime. Do you suppose this kind of thing is a reflection of their hubris or whatever?

GRANGE: Well, you know this information minister as well as some of the other leadership, do flaunt their presence openly in different venues throughout Baghdad. You would think that if it was a live tape that the opportunity to take him out could be executed as an example of an Apache helicopter launched right out of the international airport. But it may be that they're getting some information from these interviews, these statements, and even though it may be a very small piece of information, when you put thousands of bits of information together, and collate them, you get actable intelligence at times. And so that may be one reason he's not attacked. The other is, he's in close proximity to other, to civilians like the international press, and the damage to others may not be worth the effort.

O'BRIEN: All right. Right at the top of the pyramid, Saddam Hussein. It is presumed if he is in fact alive, that he's spending much of his time subterranean. We'll tell you a little bit more about that in just a moment. But we did see this remarkable image of what purports to be Saddam Hussein, surrounded by people in Baghdad, supposedly captured recently. What does that tell you about him and whether he could be someone who unwittingly finds himself in the cross hairs of U.S. forces?

GRANGE: It was obviously a manipulated crowd; controlled just like old communist propaganda. So again, I think it is a double, but why not take out the double? So what? But again it's a tape or it's just not a timing, it's a time issue, where you can't do it right away and then that opportunity is gone.

O'BRIEN: All right. Let's talk a little bit about this bunker, this subterranean refuge. We've had quite a few Western reports about it. It's a $60 million structure beneath the Republican Palace. And as we zoom in using, on to the Republican Palace, we're told this thing is 5,000 square feet, can hold 60 to 90 people, literally nuclear proof, if a blast as close as 650 feet away, built in the early 80's.

Let's take you inside briefly with some animation we put together to depict what it might look like. There's the palace, and supposedly at least 100 feet below, sitting on springs to guard against the blast and to protect those inside. This is a, talk about a harden target David Grande. How do you go about that if you're trying to identify and get a target inside such a bunker?

GRANGE: Well, the primary method and what we've seen to date, has been air strikes or from missile launches. And it may take more than one. You know some of these targets have been hit by multiple strikes. In other words, maybe the first five levels has a gaping hole in it from the initial strikes, and then they continue to strike the same area to continue to go deeper and deeper. But there are limitations to the munitions. I think there's some munitions in the arsenal of the coalition forces that could go that deep, but they would cause terrific damage around the target area. So maybe it's, it was decided not to go about that. But the other option is use a Special Operations forces to go in and get that leadership. O'BRIEN: But as far as other options he has before him to fight back. What are they? It's a pretty limited portfolio right now, right?

GRANGE: Well, he has some pretty good options using unconventional warfare techniques within the city. Using the built up area, the buildings, homes, civilians in the area, as a combat, as combat multipliers to kind of level the playing field of the coalition forces. Plus close in combat negates some of the prowess of the coalition forces for acquiring targets at long ranges. Since the coalition forces over matched the Iraqi forces that way. So again, hit and run, close combat, around a corner, under windows, above the Earth, below the Earth, is his best bet in Baghdad.

O'BRIEN: David Grange, thank you very much. Appreciate it. Back to you.

COOPER: OK. All right, when we come back, we're going to talk to David Bowden, an embedded British correspondent about the battle for Basra.



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