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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Discussion with Former Assistant Secretary of State James Rubin

Aired August 19, 2003 - 09:53   ET

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

BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: From London, James Rubin, the former U.S. assistant secretary of state is with us by telephone.
Jamie, welcome back to AMERICAN MORNING.

I don't know if you've seen the pictures, but we certainly have. And if you've been living to Ken Pollack, and General Grange and Barbara Starr, your take initially on what we're watching today in Baghdad.

JAMES RUBIN, FMR. ASST. SECY. OF STATE: What we're watching is terror. This blast is a form of terrorism that the efforts to overthrow Saddam Hussein was designed to stop. Let's face it. We've had an attack on the Jordanian embassy. We've had attacks on the water supply, attacks on power supply. Now the attacks on the U.N., which hark back very much to the attempt the by the Al Qaeda organization to blow up U.N. headquarters in New York.

So this is terrorism. This is the wanton, indiscriminate killing of innocent people, and in this case, particularly innocent, in the U.N. efforts, as you just said, were designed to help humanitarian aid, provide average Iraqis with a better life. So we now have opened the Pandora's Box of terrorism in Iraq in recent weeks, and it's a major, major setback to the success of overthrowing Saddam Hussein.

HEMMER: Jamie, you mention Al Qaeda in your answer there. Do you believe this is Iraqi resistance? Do you believe this is Al Qaeda? Or do you believe at this point, they're merging one into the same?

RUBIN: Well, my best guess, and I'm just guessing based on very, very fragmentary information, is there is increasingly an effort on the part of Islamic fundamentalists groups, primarily Sunni -- and this is where I think I would disagree with Barbara Starr's report -- Sunni clerics who are paying average Iraqis that might have been members of the Fedayeen or other members of Saddam's organization, or just average Iraqis trying to make a buck, to commit terrorism in the hopes of discrediting the U.N. -- the U.S. invasion of Iraq in the hopes of driving away the United States.

Let's face it, if you're a terrorist in the Middle East, and you have a mission to kill Americans, Iraq is now the place you're going to want to go, because you have for the first time a wide-open country with over 100,000 American soldiers, thousands of civilians, and it is a target of opportunity for you, if you're one of those sick terrorists who wants to kill Americans, and I think there is a gravitational pull now for all of the, perhaps Saudi groups that there have been reports of Saudis going across the border into Iraq.

But again, those are Sunnis, not Shiites, Sunnis connected to the Al Qaeda organization or supportive of the Al Qaeda organization. The politics of Iraq are complicated. And it seems to me the current threat are Sunni clerics in the Sunni part of Iraq where Saddam Hussein used to control the situation, who are affiliated with Al Qaeda or affiliated with similar fundamentalist organizations, who are either carrying out the attacks or paying Iraqis that may be disgruntled members of the former regime, or Iraqis who just want to make a buck to commit these terrorist acts.

HEMMER: Jamie Rubin, by telephone, thanks. A bit of a difficulty hearing a clear signal there, but nonetheless from London, on a cell phone, Jamie, thanks for your input there.

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