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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Perspective on What's Happening in Basra

Aired March 28, 2003 - 02:55   ET

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

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Daryn Kagan, live in Kuwait City. Fierce fighting continued in Basra on Thursday. Coalition sources tell CNN that forces targeted an Iraqi surface-to-surface missile launcher that is thought to be responsible for missile attacks on Kuwait. And British forces say their tanks fired on and destroyed 14 Iraqi tanks. Coalition forces also targeted the Ba'ath Party headquarters inside the city.
To get more perspective on what is happening inside Basra, we're joined by a professor from Kuwait University, Professor Abdul-Rida Assiri.

Professor, thanks for being with us here today.

ABDUL-RIDA ASSIRI, KUWAIT UNIVERSITY: Thank you.

KAGAN: I think many Americans are wondering back in the States, where is this uprising that many people thought was going to happen in this large Iraqi city? Where are the people who are supposed to be grateful that the American and British forces were coming in?

ASSIRI: Perhaps I think, you know, the war plan or liberation plan went on the wrong assumption, I think went on two wrong assumption. The first was underestimating the strength of Saddam and his regime. And the other assumption was overestimating the potential of uprisings. I think as far as the -- the power and the forces of Saddam -- Saddam Hussein was able in the last 12 years to rebuild his army, restock his lost armament, and able to penetrate through the whole society, reestablish militias here and there, Fedayeen Saddam and the Ba'ath Party, use the party as an instrument to penetrate throughout the society.

KAGAN: I'm going to interrupt just for a second here. Since I want to call on your expertise as a professor and help us with just a tiny history lesson here -- what happened of significance in 1991? Basra was such a huge, significant uprising, and yet it ended in such tragedy for the people of that city.

ASSIRI: Well, this is why we did not, you know, see any uprising now, whether in Basra or elsewhere. Last time, in 1991, 14 provinces out of 18 provinces, some 80 percent of Iraq went into a popular uprising. And there -- you know, they went uprising, you know, perhaps from their feeling that they cannot change their way of life, the regime, except through, you know, spontaneous uprising. And they perhaps trusted what the coalition, the Americans and other, had told them then. Then after war, they realize that they were, you know, machine gunned by the Iraqis. They left their powerless. So that created perhaps, you know, a conspiracy syndrome or mentality among the Iraqis that this time will happen the same, just like what happened in 1991. Therefore, this time we did not see yet any uprising. Or I think another reason, as I said earlier, that the Iraqi were able to penetrate throughout the society, as we've heard, that they put in each corner, in each house, you know, a member of the Fedayeen, a member of the party...

KAGAN: So people are scared.

ASSIRI: ... to look after...

KAGAN: So there's two things working against this, that there's a definite fear factor that's working in Basra. Also, the leadership that would be there -- many of those people were executed back in 1991, and there hasn't been an environment where people can foster new leadership, and those would be the people that would lead the way towards a popular uprising.

ASSIRI: Certainly. That's the case. Moreover, inside Iraq, there is no genuine opposition, as organized. You know, oppositions always outside the country, and outside the country, you know, they are divided along ideological, along sectarian, along nationalist lines. Therefore, you know, there is no -- perhaps no ideal figure, you know, that will lead the uprising. Moreover, there is no -- no grass root, you know, organization to help them. So (UNINTELLIGIBLE) depend on them (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

KAGAN: Just so quickly, as we just wrap, just a couple words. Do you think that, ultimately, Saddam Hussein will fall?

ASSIRI: Certainly.

KAGAN: No question.

ASSIRI: I think, you know -- all, you know, indication are that he is not going to win the war. Perhaps it takes a little much longer, with high cost, but I think eventually, he will...

KAGAN: It will eventually happen. Professor, our time is short, but your insights are intelligent, and we appreciate them. Thank you so much.

ASSIRI: Thank you.

KAGAN: Professor Abdul-Rida Assiri, Kuwait University.

We will be back after this with a look at the headlines.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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