CNN LARRY KING LIVE
Panel Discusses Topple of Baghdad, Future of Iraq
Aired April 9, 2003 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, HOST: An unforgettable, historic day, dancing in the streets of Baghdad as a giant statue of Saddam Hussein comes crashing down. But how much fighting still remains? And is Saddam himself dead or alive? And we're live with reporters inside Baghdad.
We begin first with Erbil, northern Iraq. There is Ben Wedeman. Ben, the reaction from the Kurds in northern Iraq to what happened in Baghdad today. What's the story?
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Larry. It was a real celebration here in Erbil, and it's been going on for quite some time, late into the night, cars going through the streets of this Kurdish stronghold, people celebrating, waving flags, singing, a lot of happiness here. And it all began, really, much earlier in the day, when the news spread of the collapse of the authority of the former Iraqi leader, Saddam Hussein. He's one of the most reviled people in this part of the country, many people remembering the chemical attacks that took place on the Kurds in 1988 that left 5,000 people dead in the Kurdish town of Halabja.
Now, one of the reasons people are happy is that even though they've been living for 12 years free of the reign of Saddam Hussein, they've also been living for 12 years with a very palpable fear that the Iraqi leader might come back, might try to reimpose his rule, and more important than all of that, that Saddam Hussein might try once more to use his weapons of mass destruction, his chemicals on the Kurds.
Today, when they saw the news from Iraq -- and of course, people here follow the news very closely from down south -- they felt that, finally, they were free of that terror, the possibility that chemical weapons might be used against them -- Larry.
KING: And Ben, what are the leaders there saying about what happens next?
WEDEMAN: Well, the leaders here have been very much involved in the negotiations over the future of Iraq in a post-Saddam era. Now, they have said that they want to preserve a certain amount of the autonomy that they've enjoyed for the last 12 years, but they've always said very clearly they're not pushing for an independent Kurdish state. What they want is a democratic, pluralistic, federal Iraqi state in which all people -- Kurds, Shi'ites, Sunni, Arabs, all minorities -- have equal rights -- Larry.
KING: Ben, are any there planning to go to Baghdad?
WEDEMAN: No plans at the moment. They really realize that there are some red lines and that to have columns of Kurdish fighters heading toward Baghdad would really explode the situation. Kurdish leaders are saying that they only plan to enter those areas they consider to be traditional traditionally Kurdish, and Baghdad is not one of those -- Larry.
KING: Thank you, Ben Wedeman, reporting from Erbil, northern Iraq.
Let's go to Kuwait City and CNN's chief international correspondent, Christiane Amanpour. Christiane, is April 9 going to be a remembered day? Was this the day it all turned?
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, yes, I think so. And certainly, here already some of the early headlines are praising, obviously, what's happened in Baghdad. This has been something that the Kuwaitis have been waiting for for the last 12 years. I think that there's a lot of caution, as well, about the potential security vacuum that exists right now in Iraq, even though there are, you know, several tens of thousands of U.S. troops and British troops there. We've seen quite a lot of the looting and a little bit of the chaos that has followed the removal of the regime from some of these main cities. So that's a worry. And of course, the whole infrastructure and humanitarian situation, again, as well as trying to set up quickly some kind of interim -- some kind of administration to fill the vacuum of all the institutions that appear to have collapsed.
KING: Christiane, what are they saying there about what happened to the Fedayeen and to the Republican Guard?
AMANPOUR: Well, that's a big mystery. You know, we've gotten little bits of the picture from the last three weeks. We've been hearing that, you know, alternatively -- you know, they've moved back into cities. They've started to take on the troops, certainly, in the south, as the ground war was continuing, in sort of guerrilla tactics. But eventually, they basically got overwhelmed.
Now, the question is, where are they? Have they civilianized, in that term that has been used by the military? Are they lurking, ready to conduct attacks? People are still wondering about that. And I must say, there is word from the British sector that there is a worry again about the Fedayeen sort of coming around and harassing some of the rear areas in the south of Iraq. So it's not -- it's definitely by no means a completely secure situation yet, and that will take time.
KING: Secretary Rumsfeld said today there's no question that there are difficult and dangerous days ahead, and fighting will continue for some period.
AMANPOUR: Well, I think...
KING: How do you read into what "some period" means? AMANPOUR: Well, I think, you know, however long that takes. Look, it takes a lot of effort now to quell all those -- all that resistance. There's still other towns north of Baghdad that have not yet been dealt with. No one quite knows where all these irregulars and Fedayeen and whoever else -- where they've gone. And remember, the Fedayeen are a little bit like the Balkan paramilitary. These people are mostly, you know, criminals. They're down-and-outs. They're people who've been recruited. They're, you know, psychotic. I mean, these are really not very good people. This is not like a regular army that is pressed into loyal service.
And so there's a lot of concern about those people. And the other thing is that, as you know, a lot of the talk by the politicians in the administration before the war that was they hoped that certain structures would remain. I mean, there was this vision that somehow the army, the regular army, would remain and help police the state after the war, that the police structures may stay in place. But of course, that hasn't happened. And in many of the areas, the total administration of the country was by the Ba'ath Party political structure, and that has now, you know, been tossed out.
So it really is a start-from-scratch building block to try to get things up and running again. And of course, in the meantime, there is a vacuum, and people are worried about that.
KING: Misters Putin, Chirac and Schroeder are going to meet in St. Petersburg Friday and Saturday. Do you expect any changing of the tune?
AMANPOUR: Well, Schroeder already -- certainly, the Germans already came out before the fall of Baghdad, about -- I think last week, saying that they hoped for a speedy end to the regime. The French are being a little more on the fence about it. I'm not sure what's been coming out of Russia. But of course, they're going to take a very strong pro-U.N. line, and they're going to want to see some internationalism descend upon Iraq, I would assume.
And there is something to be said for -- at least in the humanitarian sector, for bringing in the experts who actually know how do that kind of infrastructure. And as yet, there is none of that. And you know, in some of these places -- I mean, let's take Umm Qasr, which is a small port. You know, they don't even have all the water sorted out there yet, and that was -- you know, the regime elements were removed from there more than two weeks ago. So it's a big challenge.
This is a big country. It's by no means a basket case. It was a sophisticated, technologically and technocratically advanced place, but it's undergone some severe hardship, obviously, because of the sanctions, because of the regime, and now because of the war. And there's a lot of reconstruction and getting the place back on its feet that needs to happen, And it's more than a military job.
KING: Christiane will remain with us. Let's go to Doha, Qatar and Dima Khatib, Al-Jazeera television producer and correspondent. What's been the reaction there on Arab TV to what happened today, Dima?
DIMA KHATIB, AL-JAZEERA CORRESPONDENT: Well, Arab TV's broadcast what you guys broadcast, which means the live, you know, entrance of all the troops, the Marines, into the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) square and all of what happened with the statue and all of that. So I think it was more of a surprise to all of the Arabs here because they didn't think that the fall of Baghdad was going to happen that quickly. There was the belief that there was going to be more Iraqi resistance, that the Republican Guard was going to show up, was going to make its very expected show. But it didn't happen. So I think there's a lot of people here are sort of still surprised and trying to understand what happened and why it happened.
For me, this war has been like an American film, really. We all know the end, but we still watch it because we want to know how it's going to get to the end. People now are actually thinking about it and wondering, these Iraqi people who were in jubilation, saluting and greeting the American soldiers, did they really mean it? Why is it happening like that suddenly? You know, this sudden fall and sudden reaction from the Iraqi people was very unexpected by the Arabs, actually, in -- not only here in the gulf, but in the whole Arab world.
KING: Thank you, Dima. You remain with us, as well. Let's now go to Baghdad. We haven't been able to say that in quite some time. Craig Nelson of Cox Newspapers is standing by.
What can you report, as dawn approaches in Baghdad this morning, Craig?
CRAIG NELSON, COX NEWSPAPERS: Hi, Larry. I can report that it's very quiet around the Hotel Palestine, the home to 300 foreign journalists. It's a different place than it was 24 hours ago. A day ago, two reporters were killed in this building when a U.S. tank shell glanced off the side of the 15th floor. Iraqi Information Ministry people were busy in the lobby, along with the secret police of Saddam Hussein. Right now, there are U.S. Marines in that lobby and about dozens of tanks and armored personnel carriers outside, plus hundreds of Marines.
KING: Craig, that celebration, it was very widespread? Did you run into any Iraqis who were unhappy over this?
NELSON: Yes, I did. I mean, there was a great -- I think the emotion was very genuine on all sides, but I -- besides the people who celebrated, who jumped up and down and went to embrace Marines, there were those people, Iraqis, who were very, very distraught. They were -- I think that it was humiliating. They said they were humiliated by the fact that they couldn't take care of business here themselves, that it required a foreign force, a foreign army, a Western army to come in here and get rid of a president that many said they didn't like. So it's a very double-edged experience for many Iraqis.
I think it's a very complicated situation here that policy makers in Washington are going to have to reckon with because the United States is seen in very complex ways. People like Mr. Chalabi, who sort of fancies himself as the Hamid Karzai of Iraq, is going to have a difficult time here with -- because of his ties, his well-known ties here to the Pentagon and the sort of Washington elite.
KING: Craig, anything about what you saw as you came into the city that surprised you?
NELSON: I've been in this city for six weeks now, and what struck me this morning as I went out before the Marine armored unit came up Sadun (ph) Street on the east side of the Tigris River was the fact there was simply no Ba'ath Party activists. There were no police. There were no soldiers visible at all. There's a complete absence of Saddam's security apparatus this morning. And as we speak, there still is none. There's -- I wouldn't say there's anarchy in the streets, but there is a real threat to law and order. It's a situation that's very volatile and could get out -- explode out of control at any time.
KING: And, Craig, any scuttlebutt about the whereabouts of Saddam Hussein and his sons?
NELSON: No. I think these rumors about Saddam Hussein -- not to trivialize them too much -- but they're rather like -- they're tantamount to Elvis sightings. I mean, you can talk to any number of Iraqis who swear they've seen Saddam Hussein in the last two days. I talked to one man the day before yesterday, he says he was driving down the street and he looked in his rear-view mirror, and there was Saddam Hussein in the driver's seat of the car behind him. And it had -- to him, it had some plausibility because Saddam Hussein was known as someone who liked to drive his car around Baghdad alone.
So you have these rumors every day that come from a lot of different directions, and there's simply no way to verify whether any of them are true.
KING: That's Craig Nelson of Cox Newspapers, on the scene in Baghdad.
Let's go to Abu Dhabi now and Jasim al-Azzawi, the Abu Dhabi TV anchor and executive producer. And what's been the reaction to these historic events there, Jasim?
JASIM AL-AZZAWI, ABU DHABI TV NEWS ANCHOR: From what we hear, from what we see, it has been a very historic day. This is a day that the Iraqis will remember for many, many years. Like the rest of the panel said, nobody expected it to be this quick, to be this clean, so to speak. The Iraqis were jubilant. That's true. The people we saw on the street, I'm absolutely convinced that their feelings are genuine.
But just like Craig said, we had reports from other sources and from other parts of Baghdad that a lot of eyes were crying. They did not want this to come from a foreign power. They wanted to do this themselves. They've been under the yoke of Saddam for over 35 years, and they didn't anticipate this end this way.
The dual symbolism of Saddam's big statue falling was not lost on anybody. I mean, the Iraqis wanted to do t. They couldn't do it. They hammered it. They couldn't do it. So they had to get an American tank to do it for them. The other symbol was that, initially, if you will remember, the Marine. He put the American flag, and then his buddy told him, We are not occupying power. So they put the Iraqi flag. So there was -- there was a measure that this thing is perhaps too complicated and too difficult for people to fathom from the first instance.
KING: We'll take a break and come right back with members of our panel and more questioning. And later on, General Clark will be joining us, and so, too, will Brigadier General David Grange. And we'll be in touch with correspondents throughout this hour, and we'll try to include some phone calls, too. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD RUMSFELD, DEFENSE SECRETARY: This is a good day for the Iraqi people. The scenes of free Iraqis celebrating in the streets, riding American tanks, tearing down the statues of Saddam Hussein in the center of Baghdad are breathtaking.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Toppling Saddam, a quarter of a century of tyranny goes...
ARI FLEISCHER, WHITE HOUSE SPOKESMAN: The Iraqi people can already see it and taste it. Their day of freedom has arrived, and it is coming.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Remaining with us in Kuwait City is Christiane Amanpour, CNN's chief international correspondent. In Doha, Qatar, is Dima Khatib, Al-Jazeera television producer correspondent. In Abu Dhabi is Jasim al-Azzawi, the Abu Dhabi TV anchor and executive producer. Joining us now in Beirut, Lebanon, is Tania Mehanna, the reporter for the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation. And in Washington, Robin Wright, the chief diplomatic correspondent for "The Los Angeles Times" and author of "Sacred Rage: The Wrath of Militant Islam."
Jasim, one more thing for you. You'll be continuing, actually, with our panel, but I understand some of your reporters are still somewhere in Baghdad and still in trouble? Is that true?
AL-AZZAWI: That's correct. We heard from them just about an hour ago, and they are saying that they are stuck. They are perhaps still in the crosshairs. The American forces surrounding that building, they know where they are, and yet they don't feel safe enough to come out. They have sent their second, perhaps their third SOS. They have informed the American forces through the highest possible authority here in Abu Dhabi that, Please, make sure that no harm will come to them. And I'm absolutely convinced nothing is going to happen to them.
KING: Robin Wright, are you surprised at the apparent capitulation of so many people there?
ROBIN WRIGHT, "L.A. TIMES" CHIEF DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT: Not at all. I think that everyone's been very surprised by the speed it happened, but Saddam Hussein's a very unpopular leader. The challenge, however, is too erect a structure very quickly that will prevent the celebrations from deteriorating into chaos. And remember, Saddam Hussein emerged for a reason. This is a fractured country that has long-standing differences among the different ethnic and religious and tribal groups. So one of the great challenges will be to find someone who is popular enough and who can provide the kind of stability that Iraq so desperately needs now.
KING: Tania, what are they saying in Beirut?
TANIA MEHANNA, LEBANESE BROADCASTING CO.: I think they were also surprised in Beirut to see how fast Saddam Hussein regime today fell off (ph), especially when it came to Baghdad. Nobody was expecting the battle of Baghdad to be so short. And I think we've been seeing much more observation to whatever's going to happen to Baghdad later on and how this security vacuum is going to be filled because this is the biggest concern now. Who's going to take over in the streets before we see the same kind of looting and the same kind of settling accounts that we've seen in Basra, for example.
KING: I understand we can now make contract with one of the soldiers, Lieutenant Colonel Bryan McCoy of the United States Marines in Baghdad. Can you hear me, Colonel McCoy?
LT.COL. BRYAN MCCOY, U.S. MARINE CORPS: Good evening, Larry. Yes, I can hear you fine.
KING: All right. Tell me your -- what took place for you personally yesterday and now this morning. Where were you? How did you come into the city? Give us the details.
MCCOY: The 3rd Battalion 4th Marines forged a crossing over the Dialo (ph) River two days ago and fought our way into southeast Baghdad yesterday. This morning, we began clearing in zone again. When we got the word that the Palestine Hotel was not far away, about 1500 meters from our present location, we accelerated our pace of operations just a little bit to get here and liberate the hotel, as well as several other facilities around area, sir.
KING: Colonel, did you run into much resistance? And if any, what kind?
MCCOY: At the river crossing, we had significant resistance. We felt we broke their backs that day that we crossed. The next day, we ran into small-scale ambushes, had a couple firefights resulting in about 30 of their KIA and none of my own. After that, this morning, couple sniper round, which we returned fire on, and that was about it.
KING: Did you or did anyone under your command take any casualties?
MCCOY: Yes, Larry, we have taken casualties. I'm not at liberty to discuss how many or how they happened or anything like that, but we did take casualties. We were engaged in combat probably for 10 days out of the last 21 or so. And certainly, the last four in a row, we were in pretty constant contact.
KING: Couple of other quick things, Colonel. What about this venture has surprised you the most?
MCCOY: What has surprised me the most is the closer we got to Baghdad, the more effusive the people were about welcoming us here. We thought it would be the opposite. It would be the closer we got to Baghdad, the less welcome we would be. I think the tipping point, psychologically, for the people was once we were close to Baghdad, they knew it was for real and the U.S. forces were going to finish the job.
KING: Colonel, where is your home town? If you want to say hello to anybody, take advantage of the camera.
MCCOY: I'd like to say hello to my wife and -- I'd like to say hello to my wife in Washington, D.C.
KING: Not a bad place to be from. Thank you, Lieutenant Colonel Brian McCoy of the United States Marines, on the ground in Baghdad.
Christiane, how quickly will they have to assemble the put- together of who's going to run this thing?
AMANPOUR: Well, I think quite quickly. You know, I wish that I'd jumped in there. I really wonder why they decided to go and, quote, "liberate the Palestine Hotel." I think that's really fascinating, given what happened to the Palestine Hotel the day before. And I was just wondering why they had decided to go there and how they'd heard about it. So that was just an interesting thing as I was listening to your interview with the lieutenant colonel there.
In terms of putting something together quickly -- something has to happen quickly. As you've heard Robin Wright say, you've heard all the other journalists on there say, the key worry for people now is that this looting, this sort of orgy, you know, now that the lid is off the pot, doesn't descend into something more significant and into, you know, anarchy. It's always been a worry, and particularly in the Arab states, which were always worried about what would happen in the post-Saddam Iraq, knowing that it was three, you know, ethnic factional groups, really, that were there, that it was the strong arm of Saddam Hussein who kept the place together, albeit it under a terrible authoritarian dictatorship.
But people have always been concerned about what happens next. And I think that to dispel those kinds of worries, and not least to sort of keep law and order and keep Iraq from descending into chaos, that needs to be attended to very, very quickly. And again, of course, the administration and others had hoped that some of the structures would remain in place, that the war would not disturb some of those structures, whether they were regular army units, even the Republican Guard, we were told, would lay down their arms and perhaps live to fight for a new Iraq, police structures, you know, the entire administration.
And it's gone. It's basically gone. It's not just the Baghdad regime that's gone, it's everything on the local level, as well. and that needs to be fixed in order to -- you know, to, as I say, not have this security vacuum or worse in the future.
KING: Christiane, are you intending to go into Baghdad?
AMANPOUR: Yes. We are. Yes. Yes. Today. Trying.
KING: Doesn't surprise me. Dima, are you going to go there? No, we don't have Dima? Jasim, are you planning to go into Baghdad?
AMANPOUR: Yes, indeed. In the next few days, I think we are going to have a town hall meeting, Larry, kind of either from Nasiriyah or from Baghdad. We are going to assemble a huge segment of Iraqi society, whether politicians, thinkers, ordinary people. And there is an idea we are toying with, and that is perhaps if we have an American counterpart, you know, we could do this transatlantic.
But let me add just a piece of information we got from our reporter in Kuwait City, and that is U.S. General Walters just got into Iraqi -- I think by that he meant into Basra -- in order to establish some sort of an interim government. Two days ago the British, they asked the leader of a specific tribe, al Saadoun (ph) tribe, to start managing the daily affairs of Basra. And similar events are happening also in Nasiriyah and other places, where tribal affairs are very strong and the leadership is quite respected.
So I think -- General Richard Myers was asked today when the Americans will move in, and he said when the war stops, when the fighting stops. And the sentiment we are getting from everybody, that between a week to 10 days, tops, I think Jay Garner will be in Baghdad, and that will be a huge celebration for the Iraqis.
KING: Robin Wright, are you planning on going over?
WRIGHT: I'd love to go. But I can tell you a little bit about what the United States are going to do. There are two things that will happen fairly quickly. One is that the United States next week will pull together a group of Iraqis, the first of what's to be several meetings to brainstorm about both the composition and the form of an interim government. This will be the first of several meetings, regional meetings around the country to bring together both exile groups and people who are emerging locally who are helping the various U.S. military and British military units. And they will meet with American and British officials.
Then you will see a series of other meetings in other parts of the country that will eventually lead to some kind of Baghdad conference to put in place an interim authority. And then separately, you see a parallel track, where the United States will send in General Garner and three different governors -- General Walters in the south, Barbara Bodine around Baghdad and General Moore in the north -- and they will become the civil administrators. And you'll see two parallel tracks. Unfortunately, it's going to take several days for this process to begin, and the challenge is going to be, you know, what to do with the vacuum on the ground?
KING: Yes. Let me get a break, and we'll come back with all of our panels. That break will be taken up with news headlines by Heidi Collins and a word or two, and we'll be right back. Don't go away.
KING: Christiane Amanpour, Dick Cheney, the vice president, said in New Orleans today that the United States and the allies will play the central role in keeping the peace and maintaining security in post-war Iraq. There are fears in the Arab world that Americans and British will be occupiers and not liberators. What's the role of the U.N.? You see a lot of difficult days ahead, Christiane?
AMANPOUR: A certain amount of difficulty ahead both in the actions and the reactions around the world. I think the rest of the world feels a lot more comfortable when there is a -- rather United Nations involvement because it gives some kind of legitimacy, to not mention cover for the rest of the world to sort of agree and accept a plan that has been very unpopular in most of the rest of the world.
I think also that people are very concerned that they're not be any kind of sort of image of occupation or colonialism. I mean it's really hard to overstate how sensitive certainly the Arab world is to that. And of course, as you know, Iraq had an experience with that where the British in the early part of the 20th century and it was not a happy or productive experience. So there were a lot of concerns.
On the other hand I would hate to see, as happened in Afghanistan, the force canard of occupation used by the United States to ignore the need for security there, and that's what happened in Afghanistan. They refused to support peacekeeping operations around that country and the liberation of Afghanistan has turned into really teetering back on to the bring of warlordism and anarchy there. And that is a major shame and a major waste of what happened in Afghanistan.
And, you know, the rationale was always given in public by senior administration officials, well, we're not an occupying force and it's up for the Afghans to do for the Afghans. Well, you know, sometimes these countries need help to get -- need help to get back on their feet and then to be able to be encouraged to take matters into their own hands again.
But there's going to be challenges. We've spoken for the last -- I don't know, half an hour about the security vacuum that needs to be filled and that does need to be filled pretty soon.
KING: Robin Wright, what -- tell us about this Mr. Chalabi fellow and what role he might play.
WRIGHT: Ahmed Chalabi is a very colorful and charismatic leader of the Iraqi National Congress. He's also a convicted felon. He was charged with bank fraud and embezzlement and tried in absentia by Jordan. And there are people who love him, including Vice President Cheney and the secretary of defense. And there are people at the security -- at the State Department and the CIA who are very, very suspicious of him.
In fact, the CIA has done a recent estimate of Iraqi sentiment about Ahmed Chalabi and his Iraqi National Congress and what the feeling is inside Iraq about the potential emergence of him as an alternative leader. And the overwhelming numbers indicate that there is suspicion and skepticism about him.
But, you know, he's a man that's likely be a divisive figure one way or the other.
KING: Dima Khattib in Qatar, what do you know of him?
KHATTIB: Well, actually I -- I don't think that at this moment Ahmed Chalabi will be one of the people who will take over. We know quite a loot about him. We know about a lot of opposition figures around the world. We covered a lot of the activities over the past few months.
But we don't think that he's going to be one of the figures that will take over now. Maybe later. We have a belief, actually here in the Middle East that the United States will take over in the beginning with the military government or semi-military government.
KING: Tania, is Lebanon concerned about how this occupation is going to go?
MEHANNA: Yes, I think so. I think so because the Lebanese are trying to see what's going to come after the Iraqi war is over. Who's going to be next? Is -- there going to be any problems with the Iranians, with the Syrians? And this is also a big concern for the Lebanese because we've been -- Iran and Syria have been accused of being next in line or that they should learn a lesson from what happened in Baghdad.
And I think this is why even for the Lebanese, they're concerned to see what's going to come up. They're also concerned about what's going on come up in the big cities like Baghdad and later on if the coalition forces keep on pushing to Tikrit and to Mosul and to Kirkuk. If people are going to -- if there is no control of what's happening on the ground, we going to see probably some people who suffered under Saddam Hussein's regime, trying to take justice in their own hands.
So who's going to control that and how to avoid some kind of civilian bloodshed that you might see in the streets and in the areas where people really suffered from the Iraqi regime.
KING: Jasim, any thoughts that the United States and the British may be thinking about going into Syria or Iran?
AL-AZZAWI: Well, I mean senior American officials they made it plenty clear that they have no intention of expanding this war right now into Syria or Iran. That is just not in the cards right now. Otherwise it will complicate things very, very badly.
However, we have to remember what John Bolton said, that is assistant secretary of state for arms control just yesterday. He warned that Syrians, they should take heed from the Iraqi example and not get into weapons of mass destruction, otherwise they might be on the list.
There are plenty of warning to Syria. One came from deputy secretary of state, Mr. Armitiage. He said the Syrians also should be aware and we will not forget what happened to our soldiers in southern Lebanon. And that was a clear and blunt warning to Hezbollah that perhaps they should tow the line right now.
As far as Iran is concerned, it's a big country, it's much bigger than Iraq. It's a lot more powerful. It's true, they have perhaps programs for nuclear -- nuclear program. But I doubt anybody, whether the U.S. government is thinking about expanding this war.
KING: Christiane, though, Mr. Rumsfeld did say, today Secretary Rumsfeld that there is some intelligence Syria may be helping Saddam's supporters flee Iraq. Again, warning signals towards Syria. What do you make of it?
AMANPOUR: Well, I saw that and then he said apparently afterwards that he wasn't talking about senior people. I'm not entirely sure, but this is not the first time Rumsfeld has threatened Syria and Iran during the course of this war. And I don't know what to make of it to be frank. I think it caused a lot of alarm certainly outside of the United States.
I just wondered whether Robin Wright was still with you because I'm fascinated to know whether she believed that this so-called domino theory of democracy around the Arab world will hold. And on the other issue, you know, the United States is called the Mujahedeena Hulk (ph), the anti-regime group, the Iranian anti-regime group who exists in Iraq under the patronage of Saddam Hussein.
The Americans call them terrorists and I wonder whether they took them out during this operation and whether they still exist as an army inside Iraq? Two questions, Robin.
WRIGHT: I actually don't know about the Mujahedeena Hulk. I did ask Secretary of State Powell in an interview I had with him today about the pocket of al Qaeda and Ansar al-Islam extremists who have operated out of northern Iraq. And there are indications, he said they have been virtually eliminated. That problem has been large look removed.
On the issue of the democratic domino, it's, you know, really the most important thing at stake. Iraq is a microcosm of the broader challenge, the United States and the West in general face in the Islamic world. And you know, you could build a case for Iraq setting a new example and perhaps being a catalyst for change.
But there is also the danger that -- that there is a reaction against the way that the transition in Iraq took place, a resistance to the use of the United States military might to make that happen. So, you know, it's probably the one thing that will be an indication, a year down the road of whether Iraq really did accomplish what the United States set out to do, not only in Baghdad. KING: Dima, are you surprised at how happy so many of the people are?
KHATIB: Yes, I was actually very surprised.
I think we all need for one part of the city also. We shouldn't be so quick at judging that all of the Iraqis are very happy to see the Americans and the British take over their country. I think we should -- we should wait and see really how the picture will become more complete during the next few days and during the next few weeks.
Yes, definitely I was surprised. A lot of my colleagues also were surprised. People are surprised all over the Arab world. Everybody thought the Iraqis were not receiving the Americans and British with -- with smiles and -- and with flowers. Actually, I think the people who were most surprised are those mothers and wives of men who lost their lives who are from Syria or Lebanon or Egypt or Tunisia or other Arab countries who actually went to Iraq and volunteered to defend the Iraqi people and then when they saw the reaction of the Iraqi people they were disappointed in a way because they, Well we thought we sent our men to defend the Iraqi people and look at them, they are actually very welcoming to the Americans and the Brits.
KING: Wouldn't that indicate, Jasim, that there are a lot of unhappy people in Iraq and this was a happy day for them?
AL-AZZAWI: Absolutely. I mean, they've been under the yoke for almost 35 years. Who -- who wouldn't be? I mean, this -- this is a great day for Iraq. This is a great day for Iraqis.
But, like I said, you know, they did not want -- not all of them, not every single Iraqi wanted it the American GIs, through the Marines for them to liberate them. There is some sort of wonderful feeling that if you do something for yourself. And unfortunately, it needed the mighty Americans to come and liberate them.
But let me just add a piece of information in reference to what Christiane said regarding the Mujahedeen help. This is about a 20,000 armed group. They are on the northern and eastern part of Iraq. They are supported by Saddam Hussein for almost 12 years. They have tanks, they have armored vehicles. They are men and women and they are secular. They are under the leadership of (UNINTELLIGIBLE). He is very, very charismatic and I think in the next phase, the United States might use them in one way or another to destabilize Iran. This is a very powerful card in the hands of the Americans which are going to run the Iraqi -- the Iraqi political aspect, at least.
KING: Jasim, thank you very much. Christiane Amanpour, as always, thank you very much. You think we might next be talking to you in Baghdad, Christiane?
AMANPOUR: Let's hope, Larry.
KING: Christiane Amanpour and Jasim, we thank you. And Tania we thank you in Beirut as well. We'll ask Dima and Robin to remain with us as we welcome General Wesley Clark and Brigadier General David Grange and if Ms. Wright and Ms. Khatib have questions for the generals we'll entertainment as well.
And that's all following these words.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes!
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fire!
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DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I cannot predict with certainty how soon this war will be over although I am pleased, as is everyone else, to see the reports coming out of Baghdad today.
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CHENEY: I want to caution everybody that we still have a lot of work to do yet.
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KING: Dima Khatib remains with us,. She's the Al-Jazeera television producer and correspondent. She's in Doha, Qatar and she may have questions as well for our upcoming guests.
Robin Wright, the chief diplomatic correspondent of "The Los Angeles Times" remains in our Washington bureau. And joining her right there in Washington is General Wesley Clark, United States Army, retired, the supreme allied commanders in the late 1990s through May of 2000, author of the book "Modern War."
And in Oakbrook, Illinois, Brigadier General David Grange, U.S. Army retired, the former commanding general of the 1st Infantry division. Both General Clark and General Grange are CNN military analysts.
I asked you at the start of the show, the other guests, General Clark is April 9 going to be a historic day in history?
GEN. WESLEY CLARK, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, Larry, I don't know how long it's going to be remember as a specific day, but it's certainly going to be memorable for the people of the Middle East and the people of Iraq and for all of the men and women who fought in our campaign there. They're going to be very proud of seeing that statue fall and especially proud of the reaction of the people in the streets of Baghdad.
KING: General Grange, after the early days of the war when there was a lot of resistance and people said that their might get hunkered down and we're going to see a lot, were you surprised at how comparatively easy Baghdad fell?
BRIG. GEN. DAVID GRANGE, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Yes, I'm not sure it was -- I guess you could say it was easy, Larry. But, you know, we always thought that there would be probing attacks, there would be seizing key terrain in certain places within Baghdad and holding it for a while or raids going in and coming out against command and control facilities as the city was isolated.
And then the other point was that once the spark started in certain neighborhoods in Baghdad, then you get the swelling effect of people wanting to rid the yoke of Saddam's regime. And I think that's the case in almost every -- every occupied territory in history finally took hold Basra. It took -- it's starting to take hold in Baghdad and most of the areas. And so, yes, it was surprising it went so fast, but it's also historically there's many examples that that's what caused it to get going.
KING: General Clark, do you fear suicide bombers and the like? Pockets of resistance?
CLARK: Surely there's going to be some pockets of resistance and perhaps there will be suicide bombers. But I think for -- as we heard in the previous segment of your show, Larry, a lot of the people in the Arab world are kind of stunned by the images that have been coming out of Baghdad. I think it will rock people back on their heels for awhile. I think it will take a determined hardcore effort on the part of the radical Islamic factions to pull together the suicide bombing and hit-and-run tactics and bring it to a low-level conflict.
I think that's the risk. I think it's likely in the midterm and I think that's why it's important for us to do our work in there and get an interim government established and turn it back to the Iraqis and leave.
KING: Before I ask Dima and Robin if they have a question, General Grange, do you expect a lot of -- more of this sort of looseness in the streets, anarchy of a kind, people just grabbing at anything, looting and the like, et cetera, before any kind of new government settles in?
GRANGE: Well, it's this transition period and it's a very dangerous period. General Clark and myself, we experienced this as many others in our armed forces in the Balkans. And what happens is you have the military already in position, organized rather efficient and then you have obviously power to back up whatever you're trying to do.
And then you have a transition to some type of interim government that can -- that's supposed to establish some type of rule of law, democratic governance, free market economy. At the same time you're waiting for that to happen you have all of the dark characters come in: black market, paramilitary, terrorists, revenge killings. And so who holds that together while the international community and nongovernment organizations are robust enough to handle that? Well, it falls on the military. And that transition period is very challenging for those that are on site right now. And that's the military, both Brit and U.S.
KING: Dima Khattib, the Al-Jazeera television producer and correspondent in Doha, Qatar, do you have a question are or comment for either General Clark or General Grange?
KHATTIB: Yes. Actually I have two questions. How long do they think this war will last and what will be actually the -- what are the symptoms of the end of this war? And then my second question is what do they think the threat that's made by Rumsfeld and by other officials in the U.S. to Syria and to Iran?
KING: General Clark?
CLARK: Well, first of all, I think that there will be an effort made to go out on the ground and check out whether or not the Iraqi forces and the Fedayeen in Tikrit have surrendered or not. This will take another three or four days, probably, there will be a day or two of armed persuasion up there. My guess is you're looking at another week, maybe ten days at the outside of any military operations at all.
The fighting will end. At least temporarily. And that's at the point of which the military operation as we know it will be over. But remember, we still have to find the weapons of mass destruction and there's a whole lot of other chips that have to be done to fully accomplish the purposes of this operation.
Now one of the purposes that the secretary of defense explained was to go after the chain of weapons proliferation. And he's going to follow the leads wherever that might take it. It may take it to companies that have supplied the Iraqis with know-how and material from other countries and it may take him to other countries in the region. There's a let of talk about Syria, as you know. And the secretary of defense and many others in the administration have made it very clear to the Syrians.
I think one of the agendas that's floating around Washington is the idea of an active policy in the Middle East. Not stability. And that means the possibility of using the threat of force to force Syria to give up its weapons and expel Hezbollah.
KING: Robin Wright, a question for either General Grange or General Clark?
WRIGHT: I have a great question for General Clark. We talked over the past few weeks about this issue. To step back and take a look at the governments in the Middle East, how are they likely to respond seeing how rapid the U.S. military victory was? Are they likely to open up? Are they likely to dig in?
CLARK: My guess is that they're all assessing this right now. They're looking at not only the speed of the U.S. military victory and the possibility of those troops being turned against them, but the impact on their own populations of both what they term to be an offensive or aggressive U.S. military action and then the reaction that's coming off the streets in Baghdad.
They're going through a period of calibration. My guess is they'll give ground. What they'll publicly say is they really appreciate the fact that the United States has rid the region of someone who is threatening them. They couldn't say it, but they are grateful to the United States. They'll praise our strength and our leadership. But underneath there will be a lot of seething and complaining in the midst of their population. And my guess is that we'll see an upsurge in recruiting for al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations because they'll be drawn to that means to try to defend Islam from what they perceive to be our threat.
KING: General Grange, what about the POWs and the MIAs?
GRANGE: Unfinished business. And it's no doubt in my mind it's the duty of the administration of the armed forces for both MIAs and prisoners of war, the British government and the American government to recover this personnel. It's a primary mission. It just -- haven't been involved in this. It cannot be forgotten and it won't be and I'm sure there is a full court press right now in every corner possible of Iraq where these individuals may be held.
KING: General Clark, for the thousands of mothers and wives and family, how long are our soldiers going to be there?
CLARK: My guess is that the first units will start coming home within 30 to 45 days and that what we've got is this plan of General Franks to bring follow-on forces in.
And so you may have forces leak the 4th Infantry Division which only deployed the troops within the last three or four weeks, they may be looking at another four to six months of duty before they're replaced by somebody else. But the early-arriving forces like the 3rd Infantry Division that have been there a long time, some of the Marines, I would think they'll be had headed home within a month to two months.
KING: Let me get a call in. Kingston, Ontario, hello.
CALLER: I'd like to say thank you for what you guys are doing for them. As a Canadian, I'm embarrassed of our government for not helping more than what they are. It's a little embarrassing and I want you to know that.
My question is the POWs. Do you have any idea where they are and how do you know that something that you bomb now might not be where they would have been and how will you know that?
KING: General Grange?
GRANGE: This is a constant intelligence-driven operation. I mean, it changes constantly, it's fleeting information. There's disinformation. All kind of collection means are used from satellite overhead to signals intercept to human intelligence, using agents. I think they're getting a lot of information once they start -- the more they question people as territory is seized and relationships are established. Information will continue to pure in to try to find out where these people are.
KING: I'll try to get one more call in quickly. Grand Dig, New Brunswick. Hello.
CALLER: Hello. Yes, my question is for anyone. I wondered if after the war in post-war Iraq if they would separate Iraq into three provinces, the Kurds, the Shiites and also the middle of Baghdad?
KING: Robin, what do you think?
WRIGHT: I think in fact that the U.S. is going to work very hard to maintain the territorial integrity of Iraq. This is critical not only for Iraq, but also for all of the neighboring countries. This is one of the things that Saudi Arabia, Iran, Syria, Turkey, Jordan, all have been deeply concerned about and even nations further afield because if Iraq should fall apart others could fall apart, too.
KING: General Clark, do you agree?
CLARK: I do. But I think there will be strong fractionating forces present in Iraq. It's going to be difficult to keep these three parts of Iraq together. It's going to be a principal task of the United States in the early days to make it clear that there can only be one Iraq.
KING: And, General Grange, we have about 30 seconds. Any thoughts in that area?
GRANGE: Yes, I think your comment earlier about how long forces will stay in Iraq. I think what's very important, and this also came out earlier with the discussion on Afghanistan. That there has to be a force large enough and with the right mobility and power to continue to put the pressure on any remnants, remnants of opposition throughout the country as well as keep everything together. That takes a substantial force to do that.
KING: Thank you, Brigadier General David Grange, General Wesley Clark, Dima Khattib in Qatar and Robin Wright, the chief diplomatic correspondent of "The Los Angeles Times."
More tomorrow night as this historic making episode continues.
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