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Analysis of Blair's Address

Aired December 14, 2003 - 08:39   ET


AARON BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: It's early afternoon in London and that, if you listen carefully, is the message of the day. The message of the day is that this is a moment of reconciliation in Iraq. The prime minister saying, particularly to Sunnis who had benefited greatly under the regime, the -- though a minority in Iraqi society, got all the goodies, if you will, of the Saddam regime, that this is a moment for them to look to their future, a shared future with the rest of the country. That's the message the coalition will put out today. That's the message that Paul Bremer had, earlier this morning, the message that Tony Blair, the British prime minister had, just now, and we wouldn't be surprised if we heard, at some point today a very similar message from the president of the United States, should or when he comes to speak to the country and to reporters.
Dana Bash is at the White House this morning. Dana, any word on when or if the president will speak?

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Aaron, not yet. We are waiting to hear all of -- answers to all of those questions. The president, we are told, is in the oval office at this time on this Sunday morning, meeting with senior advisers. We are also told by British officials, not yet confirmed by the White House, but by British officials, that the president and Tony Blair did have a phone conversation just before the prime minister went before cameras and gave his statement. No doubt that the two of them talked about the capture this morning, of course. Tony Blair and George Bush have been the ultimate of allies, really brothers in arms if you will, on this issue. And -- but to answer your question, we do not yet know from the White House when and if the president will speak. But certainly, the expectation is that we'll hear from him, at least get a statement very shortly. At this point, the only thing we have officially is from an administration official, which is that it is a great day from the Iraqi people.

BROWN: Dana, stand by here. Let's bring in Christiane Amanpour. Christiane is in London, it's a little bit past lunchtime there.

I gather, Christiane, the news has spread through -- through London and the country. What are you hearing? What sort of reaction?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, not just through London, but the left of the rest of world. People here have woken up slightly earlier than you in the United States. The news has been digested after Tony Blair became the first world leader in his office this morning, in confirming that it was Saddam Hussein who had been captured. And, there you just heard his official statement on the issue. There have been messages pouring forth to the president of the United States from countries around the world. Of course, the countries that were aligned with the U.S., Spain, Australia, Italy, Blair and President Bush, as you heard, have been talking about this today. But also, messages to the president and to the Iraqi people from President Jacques Chirac of France and from Chancellor Gerhardt Schroeder of Germany, both of whom, as you know, were staunchly opposed to the war.

Jacques Chirac saying in a message via his spokeswoman that this is a very important day, that he was delighted with the capture of Saddam Hussein. A major event that would strongly contribute to the democratization and stabilization of Iraq, and to allow Iraqis to once again, gain control of their destiny. Schroeder himself wrote a letter immediately to the president, saying that he congratulated him on this momentous and successful mission and that he had learned of it with great happiness -- learned of the capture of Saddam Hussein.

So a lot, as you can imagine, of those kinds of messages coming in from around the world. But, of course, these are not just messages, this is a very real factor, this a majorly important psychological boost for the United States, for Prime Minister Blair. Both leaders had been under quite considerable pressure over the last eight months because, not only of the failure to capture Saddam, but because of the insurgency that has been operating in Iraq with some sophistication and with a great deal of success in killing American soldiers and coalition soldiers over the last eight months. So. the big question, of course, is will this capture have an appreciable effect on the insurgency in Iraq? And, this is obviously what many, many people will be looking for, because security is the be all and end all of a successful democratization, successful attempted at rebuilding. An, , on both rebuilding, democratization, trying to hand over power to the Iraqis, the U.S. and its partners are very, very far behind, and this is something that's going to have to really take off if a successful handover is to happen by July, as it is scheduled.

But a very clear, clear, big, big boost. Not just for the U.S. and Britain and the other countries, but also for the people of Iraq, who had been so concerned and so worried still, eight months after, of the shadow of this dictator lingering over them and not knowing whether the U.S. was going to leave, whether he would pop up again, whether his legacy would be again entrenched by some of these insurgents. So clearly, the operative thing right now is going to be watching this insurgency and whether that, with the capture of Saddam will be snuffed out. Many people have different opinions on how easy or difficult that is going to be.

BROWN: Well it's -- security has, as a Ken Pollack, the other day, reminded us when we were talking to him , has two forms in Iraq. There is the insurgency question, which is of great concern to the Americans and the coalition, and then there is a whole other area of security, which involves street crime, which was pretty much nonexistent in the Saddam era and very much in play these days.

Christiane, this -- there's not a bad time for a moment like this obviously, but this comes at a particularly good time for the White House and for the coalition,. James Baker is off to European countries, others try and get them to forgive Iraqi debt, and one of the things that he can now point to is very clear, dramatic historic progress in the American occupation of Iraq. He's got himself a headline he can show to capitals around the world. "We got him!"

AMANPOUR: That's absolutely correct. The fact that Saddam Hussein has been captured is a major, major accomplishment, of course. I mean this was --you know, one of the most wanted, this was the great demon that had set himself up against the United States and against whom successive American administrations had been pitted since George Bush the first, back in the early 1990s. So, this is a big deal in that respect. However, and you mentioned James Baker going to Europe, there are very real issues that go beyond the capture of one man, no matter how important. And that is the issue of reconstruction, the issue of security.

We've -- I've just come back from Iraq and was talking at length with senior commanders on the ground who had really tried to achieve this moment by a mixture of an armed counteroffensive against the insurgents, and that they hoped was going to flush out intelligence on who these people are, who their leaders are, who's funding them, and by the way, where is Saddam Hussein, as well?

Now, perhaps some of that intelligence is what led to the capture of Saddam Hussein. But, what these commanders on the ground really are trying to do now is to cut off the head, the legs, and the operating brain behind the insurgency, and is not at all sure whether these people were taking their orders or their encouragement from Saddam Hussein, whether they simply want to gain power for themselves, and different commanders had different views on that particular issue. Different commanders had different views on who precisely the guerrillas were. What was their makeup? What was their aim? And, how would they eventually be cut down?

Commanders were telling us, and it was becoming increasingly spoken with one voice amongst American military commanders on the ground, that the insurgency was getting more sophisticated, more coordinated, that in terms of communication, in terms of funding there was, what they told us, a much more centralized command and communication operation over those issues. So, how will that be affected by this? We really have to wait and see for that.

Now, on the other very important issue, and Baker will have a lot to hear and to talk about on this, and that is reconstruction. Well obviously, security has played a big role in slowing down reconstruction. Almost no NGOs are there, almost no companies and governments have come in, in terms of big-time infrastructural projects, because of the security. And this is -- you know, the U.S. is very far behind on reconstruction. And now, with this memo that was leaked by -- from the Pentagon that apparently Paul Wolfowitz had pulled out -- put out saying that certain countries were not welcome in the reconstruction. Well, that has caused a lot of consternation because people are saying it's not as if the U.S. is able to do this on its own, as we've seen. They're far behind. So many, many people, on the ground in Iraq, want to see many countries come in and help with the reconstruction because still electricity is a problem, still getting the oil infrastructure up is a problem. Still just getting people -- although they are going to school, to have the trust to take their kids to school, is a problem because of the security and other aspects. So, the feeling in Europe is that the U.S., right now, needs all the help it can get. And they are hoping to send that message when Baker comes.

BROWN: Well, I think the Americans would welcome any help they can get. It's a question of the terms of the help -- you're looking in the big side of the screen, the right side of the screen, of some celebrating that is going on in the Iraqi capitol. We don't want to either overstate or understate the reaction. It's just difficult to tell sometimes from a camera shot, which is a tight shot, how many people are celebrating for the camera, how much of and how widespread it is, we're doing some reporting to try and get a sense around the country of how widespread it is. But clearly, there is some going on and from our eye, clearly some of it's for the camera and some of it is not.

Christiane, will simply the capture of Saddam himself, for the moment at least, give Prime Minister Blair, give President Bush, give supporters of the coalition some breathing room in the reconstruction effort and in the security effort, or is this, like so much else in modern society, going to be a short-lived hit?

AMANPOUR: Well, I think what it gives is a massive boost and an analysts that I've been talk -- that I've been listening to over the morning have said that it is inevitably going to be a massive boost, not just to the political fortunes of both President Bush and Prime Minister Blair, but the general well-being, if you like, the good feeling in those countries, as well, because to get Saddam Hussein is a big deal. This man has been the epitome of the antagonists ever since 1990 and he's never been got. So, to get him after eight months, and after eight months, which were -- you know, blood and tears and sweat and death, have happened to American soldiers, to many of the coalition partners. To get him is a big, big deal. And of course, as I say, for the people on streets of Iraq, you can bet that many of those people are not just mugging for the camera but they are genuinely, genuinely pleased, because having just come back there, even eight months later, they were -- still had a chill in their heart wondering what was going to be the outcome. Would this man be captured? Would the U.S. military stay until he was captured? If not what would that mean? Were the insurgents trying to bring him back? All those questions that these traumatized people over the last 35 years had, have to an extent, been put to rest.

Now, does it buy time on the reconstruction? I don't know. It depends on the politics. It depends upon whether the U.S. and Britain and others are going to try to get a wide group of people to help with the reconstruction. Analysts have pointed out, as I've just said, that so far, it's not going as fast as anybody wants. Will it help in terms of getting the Iraqi police force, the Iraqi armed forces, the Iraqi security forces up and running into a credible force so that they can replace the American administration, the occupation administration by the beginning of July? Will it encourage NGOs, people like the U.N., the Red Cross, all the NGOs who usually come in in post-conflict zones and who are not there because of security, will it encourage those kinds of people to come back? These are all major questions that we're going to keep our eye on and will have a deep, deep effect on the pace of reconstruction and democratization.

BROWN: Christiane, thank you -- Christiane Amanpour.

It's a day for questions, but also a day for one clear headline. Saddam has been captures and you can only, Wolf, imagine what it's like in various parts of this complicated country. The Kurds in the North who suffered under Saddam, the Shias in the South who suffered so dramatically under Saddam, and what the reaction must be in every village, every home, every place in Iraq today, Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you very much, Aaron.

Our national security correspondent, David Ensor, has been checking in with his sources in the U.S. intelligence community elsewhere, here in Washington. David, as they -- what do they do now with Saddam Hussein now that they actually have him?

DAVID ENSOR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well Wolf, he has -- he has been interrogated already to some degree. And the man who -- who they have caught admits that he is Saddam Hussein, according to U.S. officials. They've shown him to a number of other senior detainees that are in U.S. custody and those detainees all say they believe this is indeed Saddam Hussein. Now, officials tell me that there will be a DNA test conducted. It has not been done yet, but they are very confident, obviously, that they have the right man, based on these actions they've been taking so far. And the interrogation of Saddam Hussein is already underway.

Now, how did they find him? Officials tell me that over the last couple of weeks, the U.S. was able to capture a couple of people that were in the outer circle of those that were -- that have been helping Saddam Hussein to hide and to move. And then in the last -- in recent days, they captured a couple of people that they believed might be in the inner circle of those that were doing this, and it was based on information from those people, interrogations of those people close to Saddam Hussein who were helping to conceal him, that led them to this extraordinary capture in Tikrit.

Now, on the significance of the matter, U.S. officials are saying, obviously, they believe it will send a powerful, important signal to former regime loyalists who have been conducting the insurgency against the coalition forces that they are going to be pursued to the end. One official said this step was, quote, "a necessary, but not sufficient step for a peaceful Iraq." In other words, they do believe -- and he's -- this official says, they do believe the insurgency will continue, there are going to be more attacks. But also, officials are saying this is obviously a major morale boost for coalition forces in Iraq. As one official put it, "It's the best thing since the statue came down," -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I think, that would be an understatement, to put it mildly. David, we were told by Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez that that briefing -- dramatic briefing in Baghdad earlier, that the U.S. military acted on what was described as actionable intelligence, the kind of information you're talking about from various sources pointing the U.S. military in this "Operation Red Dawn" toward that farmhouse just outside of Tikrit, where Saddam Hussein was found yesterday. Last night, Iraq time, around 8:30 p.m. local time, that would be about 12:30 local time Eastern Time, here in the United States. That actionable intelligence resulted in this capture without a shot being fired. Does that suggest to you that no single Iraqi may have given the U.S. the information that they needed? In other words that $25 million reward? Does it sound to you like it going to go to an individual or going to be split up, perhaps, among a bunch of Iraqis?

ENSOR: My understanding, from the officials I've been speaking to, is that they got some help to find members of the outer circle, those who knew something about those who were helping to conceal Saddam Hussein. So, there wasn't anybody who just came in and said, "look, I know where Saddam is and I want that reward." It was more a case of getting tips that led to others, and this was a couple of weeks ago and then those others who the -- members of the outer circle, once captured and interrogated, led U.S. officials to members of the inner circle, those who really knew where Saddam was and in recent days, they captured a couple of those people, one or more of those people. So, I hardly think that someone who's been captured and interrogated is going to be given a reward. Probably there will be some discussion about whether or not people who led the U.S. to members of the outer circle should receive part of the reward, because that apparently did occur, but it was a couple of weeks ago. All of this, it's interesting to note, Wolf, is human intelligence. This is one of those cases where all the technological wonders that U.S. intelligence have weren't going to lead them to a man who was down in a hole, you know, buried under a basement. That had to come from people. And they had to get it directly, bit by bit, painstakingly through human intelligence capturing and interrogating the people close to Saddam -- Wolf.

BLITZER: They actually had to do it the old fashioned way, not with satellites, not with electronic intercept, but getting information from human sources. David, stand by. We're going to be getting back to you throughout the day. Obviously, as more of these fascinating details begin to come into CNN. In the meantime, let's go back to the CNN Center, Heidi Collins is there.


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