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Showdown: Iraq

Aired October 12, 2002 - 12:00   ET


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: President Bush and Congress present a united front with Iraq, but is the U.S. public and the world on its side?
Good afternoon, I'm Fredricka Whitfield at the CNN Center. Welcome to this Saturday edition of SHOWDOWN: IRAQ.

We begin this hour with a look at the major developments involving Iraq this week. In an address to the nation President Bush says Iraq is a threat to peace and must be disarmed.

A CIA report commissioned by Congress and released this week contradicts Mr. Bush saying Iraq does not poise an immediate threat to America.

And both the House and Senate give President Bush approval on a resolution allowing the use of force against Iraq.

Our live coverage this hour takes us to Washington, the Persian Gulf and other key spots.

CNN's Nic Robertson is in Baghdad, Kelly Wallace is keeping track of the story at the White House and Jamie McIntyre is with the U.S. 5th Fleet in Bahrain.

We begin in Baghdad where Iraqi lawmakers have gathered for what's being called an extraordinary session of parliament. And CNN's Senior International Correspondent Nic Robertson is covering the story from the Iraqi capitol. And, Nic, what do you have for us from there?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that session began about two hours ago. Journalists were invited in with cameras to film the beginning of the session.

It was to be about Jerusalem. It was also to be about the vote in the U.S. Congress.

Now after about 40 or 50 minutes the session was then closed to journalists and the parliamentary members, the assembly members were then addressed by Iraq's Foreign Minister Naji Sabri.

Now we know that he's been on a tour of Gulf states recently to build support for Iraq at this time but it's still not clear exactly what he has told those assembly members and whether or not they might seek to take a resolution at the end of it. This assembly does not often take resolutions of this type nor does it normally meet in extraordinary session. So we still are not -- we still do not know the outcome of this meeting.

In another move in the last few days many, many hundreds of journalists have been arriving here in Iraq in readiness for a referendum next week on Tuesday -- a referendum where the Iraqi people -- some 11 1/2 million of them -- will go to the polls to vote to show their support for President Saddam Hussein.

But on this day Iraqi government officials took those journalists to a contentious weapons of mass destruction site -- al Furat -- that was at the beginning of the last Gulf War a site where Iraq had been experimenting with gas centrifuging to enrich uranium in a nuclear weapons program.


ROBERTSON (voice-over): Backing up furiously, dozens of camera crews try to keep pace with Iraq's latest defensive against claims by the United States.

A media trip for hundreds of journalists of the contentious al Furat complex.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have decided that it has nothing to do with nuclear activities in any way -- material-wise or equipment-wise or even people working in this place.

ROBERTSON: An unfinished roof extension at the center of this controversy.

The new building atop the al Furat nuclear weapons research facility cited by President Bush as evidence of Iraq's attempt to rekindle its nuclear program.

In these satellite photographs used by president Bush, the arrow points to the building with the new roof extension.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Satellite photographs reveal that Iraq is rebuilding facilities and sites that have been part of its nuclear program in the past.

ROBERTSON: Not so, say Iraqi officials.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): This building was built in the year 2000. It is used for research purposes. It serves armed forces and civilian industries and works in the field of electronics.

ROBERTSON: Outside the building in question new equipment is unpacked and military repairs are underway.

The equipment in these crates does seem to support the Iraqi claim that this is a radar research facility. However, in a dossier recently released by the British government, they set out that they believe Iraq is embarking on a program to enrich uranium and it is doing it by acquiring technology that has dual use applications such as legitimate research and weapons development.

Inside technicians work on equipment described by Iraqi officials as used in radio frequency scrambling or decoding. On a wall outside the lab a written warning -- anyone giving away decoding secrets will be killed.

Besides the radar facility, little else outside appears to have been developed here since the last building was constructed in 1991.

Lacking also high voltage electricity lines necessary to power uranium enrichment that could turn industrial grade uranium into weapons grade nuclear material -- a process that Britain and the United States suspect Iraq is pursuing.

Without weapons inspectors around to make an informed assessment of the site, Iraq appears intent on maintaining the diplomatic initiative by demonstrating it can have an open door policy to contentious sites.


ROBERTSON: Now Iraqi officials are saying that they would welcome an inspection of this site by U.S. officials. So at this time very much Iraqi government throwing open the open doors of its open door program, if you will, to essentially everybody who they say is welcome to come and look. Fredricka?

WHITFIELD: Nic, let me ask you about a report just coming in here to CNN that an Iraqi presidential adviser apparently sent a letter to Hans Blix, the U.N. weapons inspector chief, saying that now Baghdad -- Saddam Hussein -- is willing to allow inspections to go on.

Any reaction coming from there about the legitimacy of whether indeed there is such a letter?

ROBERTSON: Well, that letter we believe has been sent from Amer al-S'adi. He is the senior scientific adviser to President Saddam Hussein.

Now we had heard earlier today about a letter that he had sent previously a couple of days ago to Hans Blix -- that a letter he had sent earlier was in response to Hans Blix's request that he confirm -- that Amer al-S'adi -- confirm that all of the points of agreement made in the meeting between the U.N. inspectors and the Iraqi officials in Vienna at the beginning of this month.

In the response -- in that response -- a letter a few days ago from Amer al-S'adi he did not specifically answer Hans Blix's question. He did not specifically agree to all of those points -- perhaps most importantly access to presidential sites.

However, what we are hearing now -- what you have just outlines -- there is another letter in the works. Perhaps an indication that Iraq has read the response or read the reaction, if you will, to this -- to their earlier letter and perhaps deciding to send another one. However, we have to say it is still unclear and it is still unconfirmed to us categorically the contents of this new letter. Fredricka?

WHITFIELD: All right -- Nic Robertson from Iraq. Thank you very much from Baghdad. I appreciate it.

Well, armed with the powers he sought in Congress, President Bush is standing tough today in his showdown with Iraq.

In his weekly radio address Mr. Bush says Americans are now speaking with one voice and their message is Iraq must disarm.

The latest from CNN White House correspondent Kelly Wallace. Hi, there, Kelly.


Well, White House officials very pleased about the vote -- the win -- in the House and in the Senate for a resolution giving the president the authority to use force against Iraq if necessary. Now their strategy is to try and use the votes in Congress for leverage when it comes to convincing skeptical allies such as France and Russia and China to back a tough new U.N. resolution.

The president seemed to be trying to get a message out to U.S. allies. In his radio address he is saying basically if the U.N. does not act, the U.S. and its friends might.

Take a look at what the president had to say.


BUSH: This week both the House and Senate passed strong bipartisan measures authorizing the use of force in Iraq if it becomes necessary.

Our country and our Congress are now united in purpose. America is speaking with one voice.

Iraq must disarm and comply with all existing U.N. resolutions or it will be forced to comply.


WALLACE: And U.S. officials say they are cautiously optimistic that in the not too distant future they will get a tough new U.N. resolution. It does appear the administration is likely to have to compromise a bit, maybe get a resolution, a call for Iraq to do a number of things and call for consequences if Iraq does not comply but possibly.

It does not use the words "military force" in that resolution.

Now meantime the administration is talking more and more about plans for a post Saddam Hussein Iraq. And one option that is out there first reported in Friday's "New York Times" is for the possibility of American military rule in Iraq if Saddam Hussein happens to be removed from power.

That could pave the way for some civilian government and possibly local and national elections.

Now U.S. officials are trying to downplay that a bit although Secretary of State Colin Powell was asked about that idea in an interview with National Public Radio yesterday and here is what he said.

He said, "We are obviously doing contingency planning and there are lots of different models from history that one could look at -- Japan and Germany -- but I wouldn't say that anything has been settled upon."

What U.S. officials are saying is that the more they talk about plans for a post Saddam Hussein Iraq, the more they are showing President Bush's resolve to deal with the Iraqi leader.

This also, though, comes as this administration had faced some criticism that the president and his aides are not focusing enough on plans for a post Saddam Hussein Iraq. So more talks continue. Fredricka, back to you.

WHITFIELD: All right -- Kelly Wallace from Washington and also the White House downplaying -- trying to change the language they're using in that post Saddam occupancy -- no longer occupancy but perhaps the White House is saying they'd like to classify it as liberators.

WALLACE: This administration very concerned about any notion of occupying the country. President Bush for his part yesterday saying American forces are liberators, not conquerors. So any military rule, U.S. officials say, would solely be to provide stability to pave the way quickly they say for a civilian government in Iraqi. Fredricka?

WHITFIELD: All right -- Kelly Wallace from the White House -- thank you -- or from Washington, rather -- thank you very much.

Well, we turn now to CNN's senior Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre. He is in the Persian Gulf nation of Bahrain where the U.S.' 5th Fleet is based. We'll be getting to him via videophone momentarily.

Let's move on now -- still ahead -- targeting Iraq. We'll take a closer look at the U.S. military arsenal already poised in the region. Also, oil is the grease that keeps the Iraqi economic machine running. We'll take a closer look at the politics of oil and this ...


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It just feels like there's about to be an explosion of events.

(END VIDEO CLIP) WHITFIELD: The last time the U.S. and Iraq faced off today's college students were in grade school. We'll hear what they have to say about the current crisis in the second half hour of SHOWDOWN: IRAQ. We'll be right back.


WHITFIELD: Coming up in 60 seconds, we'll take a closer look at the reported U.S. plans for a post Hussein Iraq.


WHITFIELD: Well, welcome back. We think we've re-established our connection with CNN Senior Pentagon Correspondent Jamie McIntyre. He is in the Persian Gulf nation of Bahrain where the U.S. 5th Fleet is based. And he's with us now via videophone. Good to see you, Jamie.


It is, in fact, the headquarters of the U.S. 5th Fleet here but we can't actually show it to you -- evidence of how sensitive these Persian Gulf governments are about demonstrating publicly their support for the United States.

There is a Navy base here that we can't show you nor can we show you any of the U.S. ships in port. However, tomorrow we'll be reporting from the USS Abraham Lincoln, which is currently operating in the Persian Gulf -- one of the ships that makes up the troops -- U.S. military presence in the Persian Gulf region. About 25,000 or so troops there -- about 4,200 U.S. military personnel here in Bahrain.

What we're seeing essentially is a very slow military build up in the Persian Gulf region as the U.S. prepares -- the U.S. military prepares to carry out any war plans once President Bush makes that decision.

The U.S. military has been insistent that it can't start really doing the kind of preparation for war until they get a real decision from the president. They keep underscoring the point that he has not yet made that decision to go to war.

Nevertheless, many of the routine operations and exercises that are going on here clearly give the U.S. military a head start once they have to go to war in the region.

Now, as I said, the Lincoln is operating in the Persian Gulf. There's another U.S. aircraft carrier -- the George Washington -- within striking distance of Iraq operating in the Mediterranean. Now that's all normal.

And what we're going to see in terms of U.S. military operations in the coming months are things that pretty much stick to the normal schedule of events but, again, with an eye -- military planners with an eye toward the idea that they may in a matter of months have to carry out a war plan against Iraq.

Now during the 1991 Persian Gulf War the U.S. military used about six aircraft carrier groups in that war -- about 500,000 troops. The thinking is there would be considerably fewer troops here -- probably only about four aircraft carrier groups where incidentally somewhere in December there will be four in the region because that's when the aircraft carriers swap out.

But right now the U.S. is getting what it wants -- not necessarily big public declarations of support but the quiet support that they need to base military facilities in the region. Fredricka?

WHITFIELD: All right -- thank you very much. Jamie McIntyre from Bahrain. I appreciate you joining us from the videophone.

Well, if there is a war with Iraq, what happens afterwards? One answer now being floated in Washington is a U.S. military-led occupation of Iraq similar to that in Japan after World War II.

To discuss that idea and more we go one on one with Richard Murphy of the Council of Foreign Relations. He is also a former assistant secretary of state and former ambassador to Syria and Saudi Aria. Good to see you, Ambassador.


WHITFIELD: Well, this is certainly a dicey situation. The White House says it wouldn't be a U.S. military-led occupation but perhaps liberation -- a real play on semantics for many who say the Muslim community there and Arab nations would certainly be very disturbed by a U.S.-led military operation or occupation.

So explain why it is important to perhaps get the semantics straight right from the onset.

MURPHY: Well, frankly, for me at this point in time I'm not sure that in the area liberation occupation is going to make much difference in the way it plays. It's right to emphasize it's a temporary military presence after a war if that war takes place. But the atmosphere is pretty poisonous right now in the Middle East -- a reflection of Arab-Israeli tensions or questions about U.S. willingness to do anything about the peace process and the fact that we are on the verge of taking out a major Arab leader.

Now they don't respect him, they don't like him but he is a major leader and that makes some of them uneasy. What's next?

WHITFIELD: There is reportedly concern from the White House that instead of handpicking who the U.S. believes should be the next American leader, that perhaps this would be the best way in which to bring and promote peace in that region so that perhaps the Iraqi people would be ultimately happy with a democracy -- a democratically- selected government.

Do you see that as a potential possibility? MURPHY: It's a potential but I believe it's going to take time. First of all, I'm very encouraged to hear the talk about the work that's going on within the administration on planning a post war situation because the need for law and order in the wake of the removal of Saddam Hussein's regime is going to be major. There will be a lot of tension. There could be a lot of efforts of retribution, revenge killings, et cetera.

And the people will want an assurance that their lives and property will be protected.

WHITFIELD: Now, Ambassador, there is also concern being expressed from the White House, though, that they don't want another situation like Afghanistan where they have a government that is democratically elected but now you've got infighting -- a tribal infighting taking place.

How could possibly Iraq be avoiding a very similar scenario?

MURPHY: Well, I think the direction is correct to emphasize it will be the choice of the Iraqi people. But the problem is they haven't had a real choice for decades and if it's going to -- it's going to take time to let things settle down.

And that's why I think reviving the role that we've not played since the Second World War in Japan -- in Germany -- is going to probably be essential.

WHITFIELD: All right -- Ambassador Richard Murphy, thank you very much for joining us. I appreciate it.

MURPHY: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: Well, as the tensions rise between the U.S. and Saddam Hussein we'll take a closer look at the U.S. military might in the region. And, later, a check of Internet freedoms in Iraq. That's straight ahead.


WHITFIELD: Time now for our guns and ammo segment with a look at U.S. military capability. For some insight we turn now to an expert in military firepower and logistics. He is Retired General George Harrison, former Commander of the U.S. Air Force Warfare Center.

Good to see you, General.


WHITFIELD: All right -- well, let's talk about what's already in the region. There are already at least 55,000 soldiers, Marines and Navymen in the region there. Your assessment -- is this enough to help begin build up for war?

HARRISON: Well, of course, it's enough to build a base. The important thing that's going on now is the development of command centers, the development of logistics support networks and the capability to accommodate either a much larger force or a force of a different character.

As we go through this process -- I think Jamie McIntyre had it right -- it's very important that we have -- that we maintain a slow build up -- a slow, steady pace -- and that we have quiet support from our allies. We don't need any parades when the troops arrive but we do need this quiet support that's going to be necessary as we bring in primarily the logistics support that's going to sustain the troops and the airmen and the sailors.

WHITFIELD: And let's talk about some logistics support that's already in the region. There are already two aircraft carriers there -- both in the Mediterranean as well as in the Arabian Sea.

We've got the USS Washington and the USS Lincoln.

HARRISON: That's correct.

WHITFIELD: These carriers obviously have a battleship with them as well. They've got quite the fleet especially in the case of carrying a lot of these airfare -- or air carrier -- or jets, et cetera. Sorry.

HARRISON: That's right.

WHITFIELD: That's very important here, isn't it?

HARRISON: Well, of course it is. And I think the fact that we do have two carriers almost routinely in the area is an important factor. That gives us a fair amount of firepower.

We also have considerable land base there that's located within reach of any kind of Iraqi targets. So there is a fair amount of air firepower available.

We also have pre-positioned supplies, equipment, logistics and considerable support in the area of Kuwait. That support has been maintained there since the Gulf War.

WHITFIELD: But isn't it particularly important to have this fleet, though, perhaps because Saudi Arabia and Jordan have already said that, "We'll allow your soldiers to be transported here but we're not going to allow any firepower from here. This is not going to be a launching pad area."

And so the U.S. is not finding that kind of level of cooperation from places they ordinarily do particularly as they did in the Gulf War.

HARRISON: Well, that's correct. But as we look at the map we can see very clearly that the areas of Bahrain, Qatar, United Arab Emirates -- those areas which are potential launching points -- are almost as close to Iraq as some of the furthermost bases in Saudi Arabia down along the Red Sea. So the land based air will play a role as well as the carrier based air.

You can see that the major bases are located scattered around. We're within reach.

Turkey is a potential launching base although there are some difficult diplomatic things to be worked out with the Government of Turkey. But they have been a staunch ally in the past and I suspect that when the hard part comes Turkey will continue to be a staunch ally.

WHITFIELD: Now the USS Washington in the Mediterranean has a sub in its battle group. How might that sub be used? How would it be functional in a battle that could possibly ensue in that region?

HARRISON: Well, a submarine, of course, is a part of the normal compliment of a battle group. A prudent Naval commander defends himself both laterally, vertically -- in both directions -- upwards and downwards. So a submarine is a large part of his defensive plan and the submarine has some offensive capability depending on the kind of submarine that can launch Cruise missiles -- conventional Cruise missiles against land targets.

WHITFIELD: All right -- General George Harrison, thank you very much. We appreciate it. Thanks for joining us.

HARRISON: Always a pleasure. Thank you.

WHITFIELD: Well, still ahead -- the latest on the search for the D.C. area sniper. We'll have a live report from the Washington, D.C. area.

Also, the conflict between the White House and the CIA -- at issue -- does Saddam Hussein pose an immediate threat to Americans? We'll take a closer look.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to start sending people over there and people will start dying. And I'm not really down with that as far as war goes.


WHITFIELD: War talk on a college campus. How do they see this conflict effecting their future? SHOWDOWN: IRAQ continues in a moment.


WHITFIELD: Much of the debate this week focuses on whether Iraq poses an imminent threat to the U.S. To debate the issue, Cliff May, president of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. He joins us from Washington. And Mark Perry, author of "A Fire in Zion." He's with us from Southfield, Michigan. Good to see both of you, gentlemen.

MARK PERRY, AUTHOR, "A FIRE IN ZION": Good to be here.


WHITFIELD: All right, Mark, let me begin with you. Bush said earlier in the week that there is evidence in his view that Iraq could pose an immediate threat within the next year having a nuclear arsenal intact, but then the CIA says that perhaps there's is no dateline. It may not be immediate. And not all members of Congress were privy to this report. How much of a difference do you suppose it might have made in the Senate and House had all members been privy to this report, Mark?

PERRY: Well, I thought that the CIA report was very carefully worded. I thought it might have made a huge difference in the debate in the House and the Senate, talking to some congressmen and senators yesterday. They were quite surprised with the CIA's conclusions, but it's always been very clear to me that there isn't an imminent threat, that the president hasn't made the case for an imminent threat. I thought the CIA report shed very valuable light on Iraqi capabilities, which are not as strong as we think they are.

WHITFIELD: Well, Cliff, in your view, why wouldn't congressional members demand seeing that report before making their vote? Why wouldn't they wait?

MAY: I think it was pretty clear to most members of Congress, which is why you had a pretty strong bipartisan support for the resolution, that Saddam Hussein is somebody who represents a real threat to the United States.

Now, do we know whether that threat is tomorrow or in a month from now? No. Do we want to have the timetable for dealing with him, one that is most beneficial for Americans or most beneficial for Saddam Hussein? I think it's pretty clear. We want the timetable we want.

Now the president has the authorization that he had asked for. We have -- now he can go to the U.N. and say, understand, we are going to do something to disarm this threat, and probably the real window of opportunity is any time between now, or more realistically after the elections, and the early spring, because if you do have to fight Saddam Hussein, you want your soldiers to wear protective gear so they can protect themselves against the chemical weapons that Saddam Hussein says he doesn't have, but which he has used before and which he will probably use again if we are engaged in the fighting with them.

WHITFIELD: Well, Mark, this very issue now is highlighting the relationship or even lack of cooperation between the White House and the CIA. Earlier this year, Americans got a view of how the FBI and the CIA were perhaps not communicating, were not cooperating with one another. Do you believe that this only further jolts the confidence of Americans who say, wait a minute, if the CIA and the White House aren't talking, what's going on here?

PERRY: Well, I think that there is very clearly some tension between the White House and the CIA. There has been over the Israeli/Palestinian issue, there was over 9/11, and now there is over the real threat in Iraq. But the president has great confidence, I understand, in George Tenet, the head of the CIA. And after all, the CIA is there to provide objective reporting without fear or favor. They did that in this report.

I think we have to understand, there's no question Saddam Hussein is a tyrant. The president has made that case very clear. I don't think he really needs to convince anybody of that. The real question is, what kind of weaponry does he have? And we do need an objective look at that. And the CIA, I believe, has provided that objective look. So it's an open question now. Why are we having a war against Iraq? Are we doing it to disarm him when he might not have the weapons, or are we doing it simply for regime change? There is a big difference.

WHITFIELD: Cliff, do you see how this is further polarizing the nation, even though the president says now with both the Senate and House vote in favor that we are speaking as one voice?

MAY: I think with the Senate and House behind him, we are more united now than ever before, though there will be some dissidence. Remember, if you will, that when we went into the Gulf War the last time and we found out that Saddam Hussein was much closer to having developed a nuclear weapon than the CIA thought. The CIA is one branch of our intelligence operations. It's not the only one. We have military intelligence, we have the National Security Agency. There are all sorts of things that the president has to look at, no just this.

The burden of proof is on Saddam Hussein to prove that he is disarmed, which we have every reason to believe he is not and never has. That was the agreement he made in exchange for a cease-fire in 1991. He would get rid of all his weapons of mass destruction. He has never done so. He has played a cat-and-mouse game with us, hide- and-seek with the inspectors. At this point or any point, the burden of proof is on him, and if we need to disarm him, we should use whatever means necessary.

If Saddam Hussein is smart, he will say, I understand. This time the Americans are serious. This time the international community is serious. Do I want to live and do I want to run this country? For the sake of -- for the sake of Iraq, he's...

WHITFIELD: All right, let me interrupt you for a second. Mark, let me ask you real quick. There are those who say this is now -- this agreement, this U.S.-led resolution, may now provoke Saddam Hussein, if anything, as opposed to encouraging him to allow weapons inspectors in. Do you see that argument?

PERRY: I don't think that he'll be provoked, frankly. I think he's going to do anything he can to save his regime. It he's provoked and he attacks us, he'll be absolutely destroyed. He has to know that. And it would be something that some people in this government would welcome. I don't welcome war, but some people, I think, in this government would.

I don't think he'll be provoked. I think he'll try to drag this out. It's the job of this president and it's the job of the United Nations now to hold his feet to the fire and make him prove that he doesn't have these weapons and allow these inspections anywhere, any time in Iraq. If he doesn't do that, I think the case builds for the president and for the United States to take action against him.

But certainly, we shouldn't want a war. You never know how war will end, and once we start the conflagration, it could spread. We don't want that. So I hope that the U.N. will be very tough and the president will be very tough, and Saddam Hussein will cave in.

WHITFIELD: All right, Cliff and Mark, I'll let you have the last word. Ten seconds or less.

MAY: I don't think there is anybody who wants a war, but a lot of people believe that the only way to disarm, to de-fang, to de-claw Saddam Hussein is through regime change. And I also think a lot of people believe, and I do, that a regime change would mean taking Saddam Hussein's jackboot off the throat of the Iraqi people. Liberating Iraq would be an important secondary benefit of regime change.

WHITFIELD: All right. Cliff May and Mark Perry, thank you very much, gentlemen. Appreciate it. Good to see you.

MAY: Thank you.

PERRY: My pleasure.

WHITFIELD: Well, coming up next, the politics of oil. How much of a role does it play in the showdown with Iraq and its leader Saddam Hussein? We'll hear what an expert has to say when we come back.


WHITFIELD: Well, how much do you know about Iraq, its leader Saddam Hussein and its oil supplies? In fact, the U.S. buys a million barrels of oil a day from that country. Joseph Tragert wrote the book, "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Understanding Iraq," and he joins us again to help us better understand the country, the leader and its resources. Good to see you again, Joseph.


WHITFIELD: All right, so a lot of folks don't know that the U.S. relies quite heavily on Iraq. How does Iraq stack up in U.S. oil supplies?

TRAGERT: The U.S. uses about 20 million barrels of oil a day. We import half of that. Iraq imports about 600,000 to a million barrel a day. It's anywhere between, you know, 2 percent to 5 percent of our total consumption on a daily basis.

WHITFIELD: Most of our oil supply is coming from Saudi Arabia in terms of foreign oil supply. Why is it that we are relying so much on Iraq?

TRAGERT: Well, there's two reasons. One is, Iraq actually has a great deal of oil. If you look at proven reserves of oil in the world, Iraq has about 10 percent of the world's proven oil reserves. There's about a trillion barrels in the world; Iraq has about 100 billion barrels in reserve. Their production capacity is much less, but it's still significant. So it is a significant producer of oil, and the United States, of course, is one of the primary consumers of oil. So it's almost a natural market for us that we would consume the oil that they produce.

WHITFIELD: So if there was war in that region involving Iraq and the U.S., what is going to happen to our oil supply, our dependency on other Arab nations?

TRAGERT: Right. I think there's two issues that I would see. There is the immediate impact of Iraqi oil being cut off from the U.S. economy. That's actually happened before, including earlier this year in April. Saddam cut off oil in protest to U.S. policies in regards to the Palestinian situation, and he lifted that ban about a month later. And I don't think most of us noticed a difference in oil prices.

However, the other concern is the longer-term impact. If Saddam can affect deliveries of oil from the Gulf region, where, as you pointed out, a great deal of our imports come from. So it's not whether he turns off his own spigot, but whether he can stop the Saudi, Kuwaiti, Bahrain, Qatari, United Arab Emirate flows of oil from coming out of the region, because that would have a much more dire impact on our economy.

WHITFIELD: And that's a seriously potential issue, isn't it?

TRAGERT: That's right. I mean, we talk about whether he has biological or chemical weapons. Those to me are a theater threat, where he can threaten his neighbors, not so much the United States, per se, but it's a very legitimate threat to his neighbors. And short of invasion, coercion has a great power in these states. And he may just threaten his neighbors in terms of making them support maybe an OPEC-led boycott, if he could get that kind of power.

WHITFIELD: We talked earlier in this hour about U.S. military- led occupancy, or perhaps liberation in that region. If it were to come to that, now I'm talking about a post-potential war here, what kind of control would the U.S., or what kind of control do you see the U.S. taking over that Iraqi oil supply, or at least controlling it?

TRAGERT: Yeah. I think -- before the Iran/Iraq war, Iraqi oil production was around 3.5 million barrels a day. It's now down to something between 500,000 to a million barrel a day. So there is a great deal of rebuilding that needs to be done. So one way the U.S. could influence that is simply by encouraging its oil companies to take an active role in investing in the Iraqi oil infrastructure to move those export levels back up to where they used to be.

The impact, of course, would be hopefully lower oil prices overall, more oil in the economy, but also increased U.S. economic leverage into the country, with the benefits to the Iraqi people that would come from increased oil revenues to the country.

WHITFIELD: And do you see it as therein lies the root of a significant concern that a lot of other Arab nations have that, perhaps, this mostly -- the heart of this Muslim community would be greatly influenced by Western cultures and Western ways of doing business?

TRAGERT: You know, it's a constant friction right now in the region. You know, the U.S., obviously, has a great deal of influence in places like Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, and we see the extreme polls that are created where Saudi schools are rather radical in their teaching, whereas there's a great deal of U.S. influence overall in the country's culture, and certainly in its economy. Again, most of the money that flows into this region comes from the U.S. So I think the friction would definitely be there in Iraq in a post-Saddam regime.

WHITFIELD: All right, Joseph Tragert, thank you very much. Appreciate it. Always good to see you.

TRAGERT: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: Well, coming up next, there is a lot of talk about the lack of freedoms in Iraq, but in the Kurdish-controlled northern regions of Iraq, it is quite a different story. The Internet is free from the laws of Baghdad, and the Kurdish people are free to use it. A virtual tour when we come back.


WHITFIELD: For most of Iraq, the Internet is tightly controlled by the government. But in the Kurdish region, there are some distinct differences when it comes to civil liberties and freedom of expression on the Internet. CNN's technology guru Daniel Sieberg joins us for more on that, and Dan, take us on that virtual tour.


And not only is Internet access in most of Iraq extremely restricted, but modems are also outlawed for personal use, meaning that most Iraqi citizens either have to go to Internet cafes, or simply do without. But as you pointed out, in the Kurdish-controlled regions of northern Iraq, civil liberty are more open, and technology has made a lot of inroads in that area, particularly in the 10 years since the Gulf War ended.

So let's check out some sites that will offer us some insight into the wired world of the Kurds. We're going to start at We'll begin with a map that illustrates how far the Kurdish region extends. You can see it in the gray area here. The borders were actually redrawn after the first world war, dividing it among Iraq, Iran, Turkey, Syria and Azerbaijan.

Now, from there we are going to click on another link that offers some Kurdish culture. From this page, the Kurdistan regional area, as we pointed out,, and on this page here, we can see a lot of links to the Kurdish culture. In fact, the image here at the bottom of the screen is actually a tribal rug that was made about 30 years ago. But going much further back, there is information about the thousands of years of history in the region, as well as profiles of various political leaders we can see here on the side.

From here, we are going to go to, which stands for Kurdish Human Rights Watch, to look at some images of people within the cities working on various projects. We can see some of the photos here on the site. The motivation of this site is one of rebuilding. It has offices across the U.S. and into Iraq as well. And one of its offices is located in the city of Erbil, a city of nearly 700,000 people in the Kurdish-controlled region. And here we have an image of it now, so we can have a look of how it looks. It is actually considered one of the largest cities in Iraq outside of Baghdad.

And finally, we're going to go to the self-proclaimed first Internet service provider in Kurdistan at The main site talks about these services offered over phone lines, bringing this Internet into people's homes in the region, and a few other links that we can see on the page.

Now, if we go into the prices section, we can actually see how much it might cost to somebody who's living there. We see in the currency in Iraq, and of course, also $50 would offer people unlimited access. Now, not everybody can get Internet access in the Kurdish region and they may not be able to afford that price, but it does offer people a chance to set up an e-mail address or surf the Web in a much less restricted way.

Finally, lastly, there is a link to the links page, where we can see links to various Kurdistan government sites, media sites. And finally, even a link to So in a sense, I think we've come full circle here, Fredricka. That's our "Wired in Iraq" segment for today. Back to you.

WHITFIELD: So it sounds like, Dan, outside the, perhaps, those Web sites don't really address the weapons inspections or even the planned toppling of Saddam? Do they?

SIEBERG: In some cases, they do. In many cases, they're offering links to outside information and international news. Some people can get that perspective within the Kurdish-controlled regions in Iraq.

WHITFIELD: OK, Dan Sieberg, thank you very much. Appreciate it.

Well, coming up next, it's back to school with college-aged kids sharing strong opinions about America's role with Iraq.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) WHITFIELD: Well, the pros and cons of a possible U.S. attack on Iraq are at the center of hot debates on college campuses across the nation. Like members of Congress, students are asking, is the U.S. overstepping its bounds? How many lives would be lost in war? And what are the consequences? This is what I heard from a few.


(voice-over): On the downtown Atlanta campus of Georgia State University...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The issue here is not only that of Iraq, but a broader issue.

WHITFIELD: Room 400. Professor Rashid Naheem (ph) asks his global issues class...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How many of you think that the administration has made its case?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's starting to make it a little more.

WHITFIELD: Here, there are no wrong answers. Arguments and open dialogue welcome.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would the U.S. lose allies if they attacked Iraq?

WHITFIELD: After class...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Peace would be amazing, but I really don't think it's possible.

WHITFIELD: Four of the students volunteer to be in our debate.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No one really knows exactly, you know, exact motivation for this attack.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wars usually boost the economy in the long run. And I'm being nervous because I can see that being a motive of some of the leaders who are, like, taking this charge.

WHITFIELD: Still respectful of differing opinions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think definitely the U.S.' responsibility because we're mainly the target of the terrorism and of Iraq and Saddam Hussein.

WHITFIELD: But no less passionate...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, we trust to you the best we have to give.

WHITFIELD: ... then the fiery congressional arguments this week in Washington. SEN. ROBERT BYRD (D), WEST VIRGINIA: People want us to ask questions. They want us to take a stand. They want us to take a stand against this stampede!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going start, like, sending people over there and people will start dying. And I'm not really down with that as far as war goes.

WHITFIELD (on camera): Some have made the argument that the U.S. has no business being in a new war when it is still in the throes of an ongoing war on terrorism. How do you see it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They didn't really find Osama. We find tapes here and there, and it kind of dead-ended.

WHITFIELD (voice-over): Freshman Matthew Parker (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I think that we are just trying to chase something, because we're the United States, and if we come up empty- handed, we're going to look stupid.

WHITFIELD (on camera): Do you see that giving green light to military action raises the risks for the U.S.?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What I think the main concern would be...

WHITFIELD (voice-over): Junior Chris Beckett (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... more terrorist attacks toward America.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: While patriotism has been such a big issue...

WHITFIELD: Stephanie Cherry (ph), a sophomore.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... an issue like Iraq would really divide the country and divide its citizens.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It just feels like there's about to be an explosion of events.

WHITFIELD: Because, sophomore Heather Young (ph) says, Congress rushed to back the president. Should have demanded more clarity.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's important to challenge your authority and challenge what, you know, what people say is the authority, and we ought to challenge it. We need answers.

WHITFIELD: They don't see eye-to-eye on everything, but agree on one issue -- a war with Iraq will impact every college student, every American.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's going to involve us sooner or later. If we do go to war, gas prices might go up, for instance.

(END VIDEOTAPE) WHITFIELD: Those were just some of the feelings, the divided feelings about Iraq and a possible war being discussed on the campus of Georgia State University.

And beginning this Sunday on CNN at 10:00 p.m., "Inside Iraq," a week-long close-up look at the people directly affected by all of this talk of conflict. NEXT@CNN will not be on today, but you can see it tomorrow at 4:00 Eastern time.

Coming up next, a special edition of "CNN SATURDAY," the search for a sniper who is terrorizing the D.C. area and its suburbs.


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