CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Scholar Discusses Hussein's Successor
Aired October 1, 2002 - 14:19 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: President Bush has said that he wants to see a regime change in Iraq. But who would replace Iraqi President Saddam Hussein?
Joining us now with some possible candidates, Rob Sobhani, an adjunct professor of foreign policy at Georgetown University.
Rob, good to see you.
ROB SOBHANI, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY: Thank you very much.
PHILLIPS: We are going to get right down to it. You and I have talked about four possible candidates. Let's start with Ahmed Chalabi, the head of the Iraqi National Congress. Why do you say this is a possible candidate?
SOBHANI: Because Ahmed Chalabi, as head of the Iraqi National Congress, represents the broadest cross section of political culture and geography and ethnic groups: Shia, Kurds and Sunnis. And he is also a secularist, Ahmed Chalabi is, but most important, Kyra, he's a Shiite. Iraq is majority Shia. Therefore, in a post-Saddam Iraq, Chalab would be the guarantor of the Shia rights. And that's very critical.
PHILLIPS: And you say he's not Patrick Henry, but he's close to it?
Absolutely. Absolutely. He is -- I have had many conversations with Ahmed Chalabi. He has a vision that is a Democratic vision for Iraq. But most importantly, Kyra, he believes the people of Iraq should decide that future. He is only going to be the leader of the transition period should we liberate Iraq.
Now, this was a very interesting candidate: Crown Prince Hassan of Jordan. You were talking about this recent gathering in London with Iraqi military officers, and they embraced him.
SOBHANI: Absolutely. The crown prince is viewed with enormous respect. Why? Because he is the one single voice in the Middle East, in the Arab world, that talks about democracy. He is ardent about this issue. He believes that democracy can be brought to the Arab world, and that's why he's a significant figure and potentially a future candidate to look at a post-Saddam Iraq.
Third possibility: Sharif Ali bin al Hussein, the heir to the monarchy of Iraq. let's talk about this younger candidate a bit. SOBHANI: Absolutely. He is, of course, the heir to the throne. Iraq after all, was a constitutional monarchy until 1958. The monarchy actually was the guarantor under the monarchy: Jews, Christians, Shia, Sunnis lived side by side. And I think there is a possibility of a role for Sharif Ali to play in the future of Iraq.
But once again, the Iraqi people have to make that decision.
PHILLIPS: And you pointed out the multicultural society under a monarchy. It would also follow a constitutional process, right?
SOBHANI: Absolutely. The Iraqi people will be given a choice in a national referendum as to what type of government they want to choose, a republic, a constitutional monarchy -- no different from Spain's Juan Carlos and no different from Queen Elizabeth in England. But the most important thing is this: Iraqis are intelligent, smart people. They can make that decision for themselves. They don't need someone to hold their hand.
PHILLIPS: Finally, Dr. Ayed Allawi with the Iraqi National Accord, someone very close with the CIA, you tell me.
SOBHANI: Absolutely. He was part of Saddam Hussein's regime at one point. He is a physician by background. He was part of the Baath Party, yet very close to the Central Intelligence Agency, and could play a critical role in the transition period.
But once again, when one looks at all the candidates that are out there, Ahmed Chalabi stands far and above beyond any of the candidates out there simply because he brings together the cross sections of Iraqi political culture.
PHILLIPS: Of course, all these individuals, very well educated. It shows that Saddam may have destroyed the fabric of the Iraqi society, but definitely not the people's potential.
SOBHANI: Absolutely, Kyra. Iraq was the cradle of Arab civilization. Iraqis are secular, Iraqis educated, and they have just had a bad luck of having Saddam Hussein.
And more importantly, if you look at the cities, the top five cities in Iraq have over a million people. Baghdad itself is 6 million. This is a country that is secular, and that's why someone like a Ahmed Chalabi with U.S. support, with Arab support, can be the leader of that transition to a point where the Iraqi people decide in a national free and fair referendum their people. But the Iraqi people can do it.
PHILLIPS: That's because they can go to the ballot box, they can vote, and all these desperate groups can come together.
SOBHANI: Absolutely. The moment when that ballot box is open and the Iraqis are allowed to put that ballot into the box, a revolution will have happened in the Middle East, a revolution in the Arab world, and that's what President Bush needs to focus on beyond the weapons of mass destruction. It's the future of the Arab world at stake here.
PHILLIPS: Our foreign policy expert Rob Sobhani with Georgetown University Thanks, Rob. Always a pleasure.
SOBHANI: Thanks a lot, Kyra.
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