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CNN Presents: Hope and Fear

Aired April 11, 2004 - 20:00   ET


CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Carol Lin at the CNN Center, and here are the headlines.
Iraqi insurgents holding American hostage Thomas Hamill say they will kill him if U.S. forces do not leave Fallujah. The Macon, Mississippi resident was captured while working in Iraq as a civil contractor.

Meanwhile, Al-Jazeera aired video today of what appeared to be eight hostages being released. There's no official confirmation that they were, in fact, hostages. But a voice on the tape says they worked for the coalition and were being released at the request of Sunni clerics.

And two crewmembers of a U.S. Apache helicopter were killed today west of Baghdad International Airport. Coalition military officials say their chopper was shot down by a surface-to-air missile.

Tonight at 10 o'clock Eastern, former Defense Secretary William Cohen joins me to talk about what the U.S., what the Bush administration has to do to successfully hand over power in Iraq by June 30th. Join me at 10 o'clock Eastern.

But right now CNN PRESENTS "Hope and Fear."

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): Iraq is ravaged by violence. Extremists are trying to tear the country apart.

Religious and ethnic tensions threaten civil war, and the U.S.- led occupation is scrambling to hand power to a new Iraqi government.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So far, the coalition hasn't set Iraq on the right track. On the contrary, it's set it on the wrong track.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They have to succeed in Iraq, and they will.

ROBERTSON: For millions of Iraqis, life goes on regardless of danger. There is laughter, hope and courage.

SUAD ABDULLAH, IRAQI WIDOW: I wish my husband was here in this moment, to rebuild back again our life.

ROBERTSON: But can Iraqis overcome the daily violence? They blame America for allowing terrorism into their land. Patience on all sides is wearing thin. LT. COL. NATE SASSAMAN: Nobody told me that I was supposed to win hearts and minds over here. They did tell me that I had to keep the peace.

ROBERTSON: Hundreds of U.S. troops have been killed, billions of dollars spent.

Can Iraq become a model for the Arab world? Or will fear smother hope?

It's now a year since Saddam Hussein was overthrown and Iraq became an occupied country.

I'm Nic Robertson, and I'm back in Baghdad.

As I look around me now, I can see the former dictator is well and truly gone. But the destroyed buildings around here tell me Iraq's future is still far from certain.

And one thing I've learned coming here over the years is, if you want to understand this complicated country, you need to listen, and listen carefully, to people.

In this documentary, we'll hear from six very different characters: an Iraqi policeman afraid for his life; a grieving widow, wondering if there's a future here for her family; a Kurdish entrepreneur, whose people won't surrender hard-won freedoms; a Shiite cleric, impatient for power and influence; and the heir to the Iraqi throne who fears Iraq is slipping towards civil war.

But we begin with an American soldier, using force and favors to help forge the new Iraq.

LT. COL. NATE SASSAMAN, U.S. ARMY, IRAQ: There was no one out here yesterday. And that one house is the only house ...

ROBERTSON: Lieutenant Colonel Nate Sassaman.

SASSAMAN: ...20357 ...

ROBERTSON: West Point quarterback 1985.

SASSAMAN: OK. All right. Good. Let's go.

ROBERTSON: Now hard-charging commander of 600 men, tackling one of Iraq's toughest neighborhoods -- Balad in the Sunni Triangle north of Baghdad.

SASSAMAN: Nic, this is where they fired from the other day. Right here.

ROBERTSON: A mortar position used by insurgents to fire on his base.

ROBERTSON: You returned fire right away.

SASSAMAN: Yes. Less than five minutes. That's one of our rounds right there.

It's more of a show of force. It definitely galvanizes the community to rally around finding who these two folks or three or four folks are.

OK. What are we looking at? Right here?

ROBERTSON: More persuasion is coming. In less than an hour's time, an F-16 is going to drop a 500-pound bomb right here. And that's designed to send a message to the insurgents not to fire mortars.

SASSAMAN: All right. We're going out right now. We're not going to stay here any longer.

ROBERTSON: Sassaman pulls his men out.

SASSAMAN: What I want to do is just tell them that we need to have everybody back in their house by 1700 tonight.

ROBERTSON: But despite coordination with the Air Force, the F-16 will arrive before curfew.

Sassaman warns local farmers.

SASSAMAN: We're having to drop a bomb right now for where they shot at us yesterday.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Five minute window, sir. They want to drop it now.

SASSAMAN: OK. They're good.

That's better. That's better than that other 500-pounder.

ROBERTSON: Pressed for time, Sassaman heads for base. As darkness falls on the way back, news over the radio - an Iraqi shot by Sassaman's troops.

SASSAMAN: He's working on him. Pointer, how bad?

ROBERTSON: Within minutes, Sassaman is on the scene.

SASSAMAN: Did you find an exit wound, too?

ROBERTSON: Taking charge of a potentially explosive situation.

SASSAMAN: He was going about 50 to 60 miles an hour.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was about two in the front, and then that's when he passed us.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And then we fired into the rear end.

SASSAMAN: OK. Firing low?


SASSAMAN: Yes. As long as he's got the I.V. going, I want him out of here. So, let's go.

ROBERTSON: Eventually, Iraqi police arrive to take the luckless driver off to Balad hospital.

SASSAMAN: They stabilized him. A better ending than him dying for running that checkpoint. Just another day in Balad.

ROBERTSON: Ten months of that, how does that ...

SASSAMAN: It's getting - I'm going to tell you, it's wearing on me and it's wearing on all the soldiers, too. We're - you can tell, at 10 months, these folks are tired.

ROBERTSON: Back at base ...

SASSAMAN: Guide-ons (ph), guide-ons (ph), guide-ons (ph), this is eagle six.

ROBERTSON: There is little time to rest.

SASSAMAN: And welcome to the Friday night, fighting eagle FM update.

ROBERTSON: But it's more than tiredness. There's anger here and disappointment.

SASSAMAN: I had set a goal that I could bring everyone back. I really thought I could do that.

And now, you know, I'm going to come back down two, and I hope that's where it ends. Two killed and 35 wounded. And I shed a lot of tears over it. My heart's broken.

ROBERTSON: His resolve is not.

SASSAMAN: You've got to meet aggression with controlled violence.

A lot of people will say violence leads to more violence. I'll tell you that controlled violence leads to no more violence.

ROBERTSON: That's the way he was trained.

SASSAMAN: Yesterday they fired from northwest.

ROBERTSON: But much of this conflict doesn't fit into any military textbook.

SASSAMAN: Good, good. Thanks a lot.

ROBERTSON: In this conflict, Sassaman is part soldier, part diplomat.

SASSAMAN: Tell him, thanks for coming.

ROBERTSON: At a meeting with tribal leaders and sheiks, ...

SASSAMAN: And I know that the unit that was here detained several people from the area. I'm really out for two guys right now. Two - you know, Fawzi Younis and Dalab Ahmed Marzouk.

ROBERTSON: Among this crowd, Sassaman has earned respect.

This sheik tells us he's a brave and strong man. When Sassaman was in trouble, he was standing on the tank, not hiding inside.

Barely 12 hours later, in a pre-dawn raid, ...

SASSAMAN: Does he have any weapons in the orchards?

Good. So I find one - if I find - I should not find any weapon between this house and the orchard.

And then they're saying Hamdan (ph) was with us yesterday?

ROBERTSON: Sassaman suddenly realizes one of his targets is one of the sheiks he met the day before.

SASSAMAN: Good. Well, while we're at it, how did he think the meeting went yesterday?

ROBERTSON: So how does that happen? Yesterday he's a good guy ...

SASSAMAN: I know. He's still - yes, isn't that a riot?

This is not the first time this has happened, where we've had meetings with individuals, and then that night, we've actually had them targeted.

It's not about winning hearts and minds. Nobody told me that I was supposed to win hearts and minds over here. They did tell me that I had to keep the peace.

ROBERTSON: The raid ends without the weapons they were expecting to find. A few people, including the sheik's uncle, taken into detention.

SASSAMAN: We need to like be able to rapidly go through the detainee stuff.

ROBERTSON: Another pressure on Sassaman. The number of detainees suspected of aiding the insurgency is mounting. Through the day, more brought into the primitive lockup.

This rare glimpse of detainees reveals poor security. The captives have full view of informers arriving to brief Sassaman's men. Some of the soldiers here on the edge. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Suck my ass, bitch, OK? Say OK. OK, I want to stick my foot in your ass, that's what I want to do.

ROBERTSON: That was a soldier addressing a detainee.


ROBERTSON: Another told us he wanted the prisoners to try to escape so he could shoot them.

Since our visit, Sassaman has improved detainee security. But he has also been reprimanded for impeding an investigation when some of his soldiers were accused of abusing Iraqi detainees by pushing them into a river.

At the time of our interview, he talked of the stress on him and his men.

SASSAMAN: It is really hard being away. And I really feel for the kids.

My son has lived for almost two years without a father. My daughter misses her dad, and then Marilyn (ph) and I are probably going to start over with some dates, and then just getting to know each other.

ROBERTSON: Time to reflect, though, is rare. The sun is going is down.

SASSAMAN: And then we'll go down to pediatrics.

ROBERTSON: But it's far from the end of Sassaman's 20-hour day.


ROBERTSON: A visit to Balad hospital.


ROBERTSON: This one bringing him some joy.

SASSAMAN: Oh, here you go, sweetheart.

ROBERTSON: The skeptic in me asks what good can handing out candy in a hospital do?

But as I watch, undoubtedly, hearts are being won.

SASSAMAN: Oh, I don't know if the kids should be eating that now.

SASSAMAN (voice-over): When you invest a year of your life - Doc, is it OK for them to eat Girl Scout cookies in the hospital like that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's OK. SASSAMAN (voice-over): When you've had a couple of your soldiers die on this soil, we have paid a high price.

The challenge here is, it's not going to look like a democracy in the States or in Europe. I mean, you've got some serious religious relationships and ties and foundations. And then you've got some serious tribal lines that run very deep.

SASSAMAN: Does he want to grow up and be a soldier? Or does he want to ...

SASSAMAN (voice-over): The final solution is Iraqis making those decisions for Iraqis. We just have to set the conditions so that they can have long-term security and peace.

SASSAMAN: Yes, I know. There's too much war here. No one wants to be a soldier.

ROBERTSON: When we return, making that security work. Iraq's thin blue, the new police, are under attack.

BASSIM AL ANI, IRAQI POLICEMAN: I'm not afraid from the thieves or the terrorists. I'm afraid from my friends who think that I'm a traitor.


ROBERTSON (voice-over): Iraqi police are under attack, and with them, the U.S. plan to hand over security. Insurgents see the police as collaborators. Six hundred have been killed since the war.

Defenses are going up around police stations, but assassinations and attacks continue.

Major Bassim Al Ani is one of the brightest prospects in the new IP, as the police force is called. Black humor helps bolster morale.

MAJ. BASSIM AL ANI, IRAQI POLICEMAN: Most dangerous IPs. Be careful.

ROBERTSON: Most dangerous IPs? Hi.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): But Major Bassim is under pressure, caught between twin loyalties. To the Iraqis and to the U.S.-led occupation, or CPA, a difficult balancing act.

BASSIM: The Americans want to build American democracy in Iraq. It will be a big mistake. They have to build Iraqi democracy in Iraq.

ROBERTSON: Bassim is angry. Colleagues have been killed and injured for lack of proper gear, while the U.S. military police, or MPs, have everything they need.

He takes me to visit an injured colleague, wounded as he tried to defuse a roadside bomb without a protective flack vest.

BASSIM: After that incident, the MPs and the CPA, they distribute hundreds of vests.


BASSIM: After that, because, yes, I took them to the hospital to see his colleagues who had lost his arm.

ROBERTSON: He isn't bitter, just wiser.

BASSIM: They have priorities. Priority for themselves, then the IPs, then the citizens.

ROBERTSON: At coalition headquarters, we're allowed a rare behind-the-scenes glimpse at the scramble to recruit and equip IPs.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... recognizes that belief and the civilian security structure is what's really going to make or break our deal here, for safety on the streets of this country.

ROBERTSON: Key advisors implore FBI and State Department representatives for help. The judge running the anti-corruption drive rails against Washington for wasted time.

Bassim looks on. No one in this room expects the police to be ready for the handover of sovereignty in June.

But outside, Bassim's frustration boils over.

BASSIM: They just came to take notes and take reports, and then they leave.

ROBERTSON: So you've had people come like this before, and take notes ...


ROBERTSON: ... and leave. And what happens?

BASSIM: Nothing. This is the problem.

ROBERTSON: Days later, a massive car bomb explodes outside the coalition's main gates.

Twenty-four Iraqis die.

When Major Bassim and the Baghdad police chief show up, ...

BASSIM: Major General Hassan, the Chief of Baghdad Police.

ROBERTSON: ... the much wanted cooperation seems in short supply.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have our orders, ...

ROBERTSON: It takes several minutes for them to gain access to the site.

On his way out, Bassim is visibly shaken.

BASSIM: The worst scene I ever seen in my life.

ROBERTSON: We ride with him back to police headquarters. In his despondency, a blunt assessment of the bombers.

BASSIM: Animals is a good word - or monsters.

ROBERTSON: But as we talk, a frank confession. Part of him supports the resistance.

BASSIM: Maybe me and them have the same goal. All the Iraqis want the Americans to leave. So we have the same goal.

ROBERTSON: Bassim himself is an obvious target. His house is inside this super-secure coalition green zone.

BASSIM: This is four (ph) marks (ph).

ROBERTSON (voice-over): A joke, but he takes no chances on his family's security.

BASSIM: This is Mithal (ph), my wife.

ROBERTSON: OK. Hello, Mithal (ph). How are you?

ROBERTSON (voice-over): We meet his wife, Mithal (ph), a rare privilege in this culture.

And we talk about his children.

BASSIM: They were very afraid. Thank you.

ROBERTSON: Another power cut. In the lamplight, Bassim begins to talk openly about the risks he runs as a police major.

BASSIM: It's just too dangerous. I'm not afraid from the thieves or the terrorists. I'm afraid from my friends who think that I'm a traitor.

ROBERTSON: He's a patriot, and wants me to know it.

He relives a critical confrontation several months ago between U.S. troops and Iraqi protestors.

BASSIM: Then one of the soldiers tried to hit one of the civilians. So I prevent him.

BASSIM: You didn't understand what those people said. He is Iraqi. Why he is holding that stick? Why he is trying to ...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It doesn't matter. It doesn't matter.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Forget about the guy with the stick. That's not what we're dealing with. We're dealing with 7,000 people on the streets. We need to get them off.

BASSIM: We need to tell the Iraqi people that we are with them, we are not against them.

We lost hundreds of police officers for their sake, not for the Americans' sakes.

ROBERTSON: Even he and his daughter are wary of American intentions.

BASSIM: I ask her why they do come here to Iraq. I ask, what do you think, why they came here? She said, because of the oil.


BASSIM: Yes. She thinks like her father.

ROBERTSON: She thinks like her father.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): But Major Bassim has grown close to his coalition counterparts.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It says, friends forever. Major Bassim, Hajji (ph) and trouble.


ROBERTSON: Bassim organizes a farewell dinner for his friends in the 18th Military Police Brigade.

BASSIM: I hope that I'm not going to lose, but I will miss very dear friends.

ROBERTSON: And the feeling seems mutual.


ROBERTSON: It's a celebration of what's been achieved and of friendships made. But for everyone here, the knowledge there's still a lot more to be done.

No laughter here. Anger erupts at an awards ceremony for injured cops. A woman rises to challenge the interior minister.

Eight Fedayeen came and killed my husband in front of me, she cries.

When we come back, a widow's story of loss and courage.



NOOR (ph): Hello.

ROBERTSON: Salaam a lakum. ROBERTSON (voice-over): It's early and I'm calling on Suad Abdullah. Noor (ph), her eldest daughter, lets us in.

Already the day is a rush for Suad - six kids to get ready for school.

And all not going well.

SUAD ABDULLAH, IRAQ WIDOW: They will push the car.

ROBERTSON: I decide to help. This time, more luck. The children, all six, pile in. And it's off to school.

This could be the morning of a million mothers around the world. But it's not.

In the last year, Suad's husband has been killed, her house bombed, her livelihood destroyed. She still wears the widow's veil.

SUAD: This is my house. It was there and it's all damaged.

ROBERTSON: She drives me to the place we first met, what used to be her home and veterinary clinic. I first came here in May last year. Tahar (ph), her husband, was the first to spot me.

TAHAR (ph): For my house, ...

ROBERTSON: Coalition bombs had destroyed their house, and I was doing a story about unexploded ordnance.

TAHAR (ph): I told the American Army to remove this.

SUAD: We want help to take all this trash (ph) and build another house.

ROBERTSON: Back then they were optimistic about the U.S.-led occupation.

ROBERTSON: Nothing had changed at all.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): But by late July, they were making little progress in their efforts to get compensation from the coalition.

Five days later, Tahar (ph) was dead, gunned down in cold blood in front of Suad and their children. He told me he was helping U.S. troops root out bad cops.

For months, Suad was grief-stricken. Only now is she picking up the threads of her middle class life, resuming her battle for compensation.

But this professional, whom Iraq can ill afford to lose, is also thinking of emigrating.

SUAD: Any road, any street is unsafe now, because maybe here or there, may be bombs.

ROBERTSON: But Suad is making one last bid for help from the U.S. military.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the letter is not a problem, for us to write a letter confirming that her house and the clinic were damaged during the war. That's easy.

ROBERTSON: It's the word she's been waiting to hear.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We thought you had become angry with us, and had found some other avenue to get your house replaced.

SUAD: No, I never give up. I never - I'm a good patient.

ROBERTSON: Some good news at last.

SUAD: I wish my husband was here in this moment, to rebuild back again our life.

ROBERTSON: But when it comes to making plans to realize Tahar's (ph) dreams and rebuild the house, it all becomes too much for Suad.

SUAD: I just want the first step. I feel, look like a tree without any roots. If I get the roots, maybe I can grow up again.

ROBERTSON: Now, what are these plants here?

ROBERTSON (voice-over): In the farm her family owns next to the ruined clinic, she is putting down roots.

SUAD: My husband said to his children, if anything happens to me or to your mother, don't let down your farm. This is your future.

ROBERTSON: But suddenly the present intrudes.

ROBERTSON: There's an explosion over here. Look. Do you see it?

SUAD: Yes.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): Someone in the fields nearby fires a missile at a U.S. helicopter.

It's a tough decision now for Suad. She can turn all this chaos with the money the military are going to give her into a new home for her children.

But what she's really got to decide is whether Iraq is the right place for them to rebuild their lives.

Besides insecurity, the Shia mother of five girls has other worries - Iranians pilgrims flooding into Iraq.

SUAD: Look. They are all Iran, from Iran. They make me mad. They destroyed our country. And they're trying to destroy it more and more.

ROBERTSON: In what way?

SUAD: They are planning to get Iraq to look like copy of Iran.

ROBERTSON: Back at her temporary house, Suad's children are pleased to have her home. But despite a promising day, Suad seems subdued and unsure.

Not for the first time, a power cut, despite assurances from the coalition life is getting better.

SUAD: They must do something for the families. We receive from them just promises. Nothing yet. And this is the result of their promises.

ROBERTSON: Determination is what got her this far. Self- reliance, a quality much in need here, is all that she's counting on now.

SUAD: I can't depend upon anyone but the God. With the helping of my God, and depend upon myself to draw small future.

ROBERTSON: But whether Suad will stay or go depends on much that's beyond her control.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We don't say like they do in the West, that there should be absolute equality between men and women.

ROBERTSON: When we return, the rise of the Shia clerics.


ROBERTSON (voice-over): When Saddam fell, Iraq Shiite Muslims celebrated long and hard. Saddam's dictatorship had brutally repressed the majority Shiite community. Hundreds of thousands were killed.

The regime banned acts of faith like this, driving Shiite clerics underground. Now, these clerics are back brimming with confidence and determination.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): The important thing is that we won with our efforts and America's. The important thing is victory, victory over injustice.

ROBERTSON: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) is a young ambitious cleric. A foot soldier in a spiritual reawakening.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): As men of religion, we must play a role in advising, guiding, and putting the rest of the people in the way of religion.

ROBERTSON: Shiite paid 20 percent of their income to the mosque. It's what gives the clerics real power. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) makes a pointed comparison.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): And with all due respect to our brothers, the Sunnis (ph), where do they get their paychecks from? From the government.


ROBERTSON (on-camera): How long did he say before it should be finished? How many years?

(voice-over): A towering mosque in Baghdad, commissioned by Saddam, and half built. Now, grabbed by the Shiite (ph) community.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now when you are getting close, you realize how big it is.

ROBERTSON: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) buses the faithful in from poorer parts of Baghdad. So strong is the devotion, that no one seems to care the temperature is close to freezing, and the building has no doors or windows.

For more than an hour they pray. But also listen to guidance on how to lead their lives. Devout Shiite Muslims like these follow their clerics with unswerving obedience. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) in turn is a devotee of (UNINTELLIGIBLE), a powerful figure in Iraq Shiite hierarchy.

(on-camera): While we have been here, we have been given this book, "We in the West," written by (UNINTELLIGIBLE). And it outlines how Muslims feel mistreated by the west. And I quote: "The most common title they have used in the anti-Islam campaigns has been terrorism. Though they have not identified it as clearly as required, making it an obscure and open term, so as to include anyone who stops against them, or tries to challenge them."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is a misunderstanding (UNINTELLIGIBLE) thinks we need to correct.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Don't think that the religion of Islam is a terrorist one, or that Iraqi people are trying to stand against the people of America.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): In his cold spot in office, there is hospitality. But also, a thinly veiled warning.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): America doesn't need to import a political system or mechanism to place in Iraq. Democracy is not about interfering or taking control.

ROBERTSON: By bringing tens of thousands onto the streets, the clerics have shown they are a force to be reckoned with. Shiites make up nearly two thirds of Iraq's population.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): If elections are allowed, yes, then the Iraqis will be friends of the American government and their people. But if in the future, the rights of the Iraqi people were lost, of course the American Army would become the enemy of the Iraqi people.

ROBERTSON: As we leave, I mention the well-armed guards around the mosque.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): Is security a problem at the moment?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): There are terrorist operations at the moment. So protection must be provided.

ROBERTSON: After a high-speed car drive to another mosque, we begin to understand why the Shiite have their own security force.

ROBERTSON: (on-camera): This building used to be a Baath Party headquarters. Now it's a Shiite mosque. Part of their determination to expand. There is resistance of that expansion however. Just a few weeks ago, the Shakier was shot dead.

ROBERTSON: (voice-over): (UNINTELLIGIBLE) blames terrorists, but most here think Sunni extremists are responsible. Recent suicide bombings of Shiite holy sites killed dozens, further raising the specter of a sectarian war. And stoking sheer resentments that U.S. occupying forces give them no protection.

It's a theme that (UNINTELLIGIBLE) picks up as we visit his modest house for lunch.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): There became a lack of trust a result of some of the methods used by the American forces for protecting Baghdad and other districts in Iraq. So the Iraqi people began to be dissatisfied.

ROBERTSON: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) is very much the family man. I meet his children, but his wife never appears. I ask about women's rights.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We don't say like we do in the west, that there should be absolute equality between men and women. This is under God's divine law.

ROBERTSON: Some women have already protested against changes proposed by the Shiite clergy that would make it easier for a man to get a divorce, but much more difficult for a woman.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): The concept of divorce for example, the marriage contract cannot be in the hands of the woman. God says it should be in the hands of the man.

ROBERTSON: Iraq Shiite majority are growing impatient. They want elections soon. And they want the United States out of Iraq.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Unless America sticks to it's promises, the situation will blow up to an extent no one expects. And I strongly believe there will not only be repercussions in Iraq if things blow up, but in the whole area.

ROBERTSON: In the last week, Shiite resentment in some communities is reaching boiling point. U.S. troops have been killed in violent clashes, hinting time is running out. A warning that echoes across Iraq.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are insisting to keep (UNINTELLIGIBLE) what we have, and to gain more even.

ROBERTSON: When we come back, how the Kurds in the north are forging a better life on their own.


ROBERTSON (on-camera): We've come a long way north of Baghdad and the Sunni triangle. We are in the Kurdish north of Iraq. This area looks different. It is mountainous. It feels different. I don't need this heavy flak jacket anymore. It's also open for business.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): (UNINTELLIGIBLE) is returning to his roots. Each turn in the Kurdish mountain road halting a memory.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This area is classic guerilla country. I mean easy to make an attack.

GASSO (ph): Exactly. Especially here on this road. I mean, so many attacks were happening in the past.

ROBERTSON: Life back then was a constant battle with Saddam. Tens of thousands of Kurds were killed.

GASSO (ph): They attacked our area with chemicals. They killed everything that was moving. Everything that was moving.

ROBERTSON: He stops so I can better understand.

GASSO (ph): All the villages which are behind this mountain, and all this huge area, behind this mountain it was cleared of (UNINTELLIGIBLE) which is Chemical Ali.

ROBERTSON: When Gasso's (ph) best friend was shot in front of him, he fled the country. But for the last 13 years, the Kurds have enjoyed virtual self-rule under American protection. Now that Saddam is gone, Gasso (ph) is coming home to kick-start the Kurdish economy.

Already he is under pressure.

GASSO (ph): Hi, how are you Sir?

ROBERTSON: His tiny satellite phone keeping him connected.

GASSO (ph): I have to build a warehouse within the next two weeks, because our containers will arrive maybe within three or four weeks.

ROBERTSON: Not only a warehouse, a brick factory. Even an airline. Gasso (ph) is ambitious for himself and the Kurdish people.

GASSO (ph): Because we have everything. We have good oil. We have good resources. We have good people educated.

ROBERTSON: On the hillside, he wants to develop (UNINTELLIGIBLE), his dream to the local mayor.

GASSO (ph): What I am trying to explain to him, if you want people to remember you, you have to do some projects that the people can benefit from, and they can remember you with.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (on-camera): Yes, it is beautiful. It's beautiful.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): Gasso (ph) is returning to the town where he was born, (UNINTELLIGIBLE). And I am seeing optimism, and good spirits like nowhere else in Iraq.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our town was ignored by the regime, so there was no industry, there was no factories, there was no investment. So it is important that people like me (UNINTELLIGIBLE) because otherwise, the city will remain the same.

ROBERTSON: Later that day in the Kurdish capital Erbil, Gasso (ph) calls his ailing father in London.


ROBERTSON: It's a reunion of sorts. Gasso (ph) hands the phone to a man his father taught a generation ago. Ties of blood and clan run deep here. But optimism among the Kurds is tempered with apprehension.

At the law (ph) courts (ph) where he once trained as a lawyer, Gasso (ph) finds his old friends, and new problems. The judges in this room are angry; Iraq's U.S. administrator is cutting their salaries. Gasso (ph) voices the chief judges concerns.

GASSO (ph): He's suspecting that America, or Mr. (UNINTELLIGIBLE), he's doing this just to put (UNINTELLIGIBLE) on hold so that the rest of Iraq, they will do a catch up.

ROBERTSON: The judge's complaint echoes a broader anxiety, that the U.S. will sell the Kurds short for the sake of a united Iraq.

GASSO (ph): We have our own political parties. We have good the mentality. We have good the intellectual. We have good the resources. The only thing which is the obstacle to be a free country and to be established (ph) is America.

ROBERTSON: Everywhere I look, the message is the same. We are Kurds before we are Iraqis.

Gasso (ph): As you see, the buildings are too old.

ROBERTSON: On our return to (UNINTELLIGIBLE), Gasso (ph) leads me down the ancient alleyways where he grew up.

Gasso (ph): I slept on this roof.

ROBERTSON (on-camera): You slept on this roof here as a child?

GASSO (ph): Yes.

ROBERTSON: (on-camera): On the medieval rooftops he knew so well, little has changed, barring the satellite dishes.

ROBERTSON: (voice-over): His uncle, once a celebrated guerrilla fighter still wears traditional Kurdish clothing. Together, they visit the grave of Gasso's (ph) grandfather.

GASSO (ph): I saw him in 1986 the last time. And I said good- bye. And I told him I might not ever see him again.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): Almost two decades later, a new era could be within reach.

GASSO (ph): I think (UNINTELLIGIBLE) will never be the same again. It will be heading for a better life. That's what I am expecting and hoping for.

ROBERTSON: The life you can bring your family back to?

GASSO (ph): Yes, of course.

ROBERTSON: Determined to build a future, but also not to give up the gains from the past.

GASSO (ph): We are not ready to accept the rule of the censored government in Iraq. We are not ready to compromise on what we have now. So, but if they ignore all that, there will be chaos.

ROBERTSON: Chaos seems far from this tranquil graveyard. But where the mountains and Kurdish land end, tensions are growing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Iraq never had these ethnic and religious divisions.

ROBERTSON: When we come back, how the man who would be king wants to put his country back together again.


ROBERTSON: (on-camera): To get a broader view of Iraq's future, I've come to the Baghdad villa of Sheriff (ph) Ali (ph), descendent from Iraq's royal family who today attracts delegations from all over Iraq.

ROBERTSON: (voice-over): Exiled since childhood, has done little to dull Sheriff (ph) Ali's (ph) memory of what it takes to be King.


ROBERTSON: Arguably not the first in line to Iraq's throne, Sheriff Ali (ph) is the first to come back to claim it. No shortage of praise. But as he receives visitors, he hears many grievances.

And not just from Sunnis. These Kurds come to complain about Kurdish leaders who want to divide Iraq. They want his help. Sheriff Ali's (ph) royal lineage gives him cross-community appeal, making him a lightening rod for discontent.

ALI (ph): Iraq never had these ethnic and religious divisions within it's society. They had problems with their relationships with central government, not between each other. And unfortunately, and in particularly, the United States came and divided power among ethnic and religious lines.

ROBERTSON: And he says brought in trouble form outside.

ALI (ph): The situation in Iraq has expanded the potential of international terrorism ten-fold. Because they see Iraq as a battlefield against the United States.

ROBERTSON: Before the war, Sheriff Ali (ph) helped fashion plans in London and Washington for a new Iraq. Now he feels let down by the way the occupation has been run.

ALI (ph): And they were good plans, and they would have enabled a peaceful transition. But none of the plans were ever applied.

ROBERTSON: While we are with him, the stream of guests and their problems seems endless.

(on-camera): Do you keep track? I mean do you keep track of the number of people?

ALI (ph): Sometimes. The ones that come up and I begin to recognize their faces. It's very important to show that.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): Sheriff Ali (ph) came home last year to an enthusiastic reception. Especially from the older generation. Since then, he has criss-crossed Iraq, meeting different ethnic and tribal groups. And trying to build support for the return of the monarchy (ph).

This day, laying on lunch for followers. Sheriff Ali (ph) sees a parallel in Iraq with the way the British pulled out of India.

ALI (ph): They didn't (UNINTELLIGIBLE), they didn't have the proper handover, they just pulled out. And I fear that -- well the coalition is trying to avoid that. But that may well be the result.

ROBERTSON: As we admire family photos, Sheriff Ali (ph) makes his pitch for the Iraqi throne.

ALI (ph): And the constitutional (ph) monarchy (ph) will be the umbrella under which all different groups could feel that they were going to get a fair share of power and a level playing field.

ROBERTSON: And that's what Sunnis, so long Iraq's (ph) ruling elite feel they no longer have.

ALI (ph): They are not only on their throat (ph) politically, but actually physically in terms of there is an assassination campaign against them. That's the first founder of modern Iraq. There is strong risk that we are approaching that situation. That the fight between the political parties will be taken to the streets, rather to the ballot box.

ROBERTSON: He counts himself among those under threat. His own security always on guard.

As we go to the roof, Sheriff Ali (ph) points out Saddam's old palace just across the river, now coalition headquarters, or the green zone. A favorite target of Sunni insurgents.

ALI (ph): We hear sometimes at night the mortars going off. They go over us we hear, and then a few seconds later we hear the impact in the green zone.

ROBERTSON: (on-camera): What's it going to take to stop the resistance, do you think?

ALI (ph): Politics. The whole thing. That's all it is. You cannot have win. The other day, we had this explosion in the (UNINTELLIGIBLE); man straps himself with syntax (ph), goes in and blows himself up. There is no way you can stop that. The only way you can stop that is a political solution.

ROBERTSON: (voice-over): I recall the words of American Lieutenant Colonel Nate Sassiman (ph); "Meet aggression with controlled violence."

ALI (ph): I think it will have the opposite effect. What we are taught is to fight back from Saddam's regime.

ROBERTSON: His outlook is accordingly bleak.

ALI (ph): So far the coalition hasn't set Iraq on the right track; on the contrary, it's setting on the wrong track. It's creating (UNINTELLIGIBLE) in Iraq. And I think the coalition really needs to take a long hard look at what they are doing in Iraq, and decide whether they are going to continue this, which will lead to greater (UNINTELLIGIBLE) violence, or will they recharter the Iraqis, and give them a chance to run their own affairs?

ROBERTSON: The view, we've heard frequently on our journey. That the coalition is failing to understand the country. And that occupation only deepens divisions.

Our guides on this journey all talk of their hopes. Of dreams for a better Iraq. Their visions may differ, but all want security to lead more normal lives. All to often, they find reality intrudes. Random violence and brunthood (ph) corruption shake their expectations.

And most remain weary of American motives. When it came, the demolition of Saddam's Iraq took just days. Building a peaceful and democratic Iraq is proving a much tougher proposition.

ROBERTSON: (on-camera): While we've been here in Iraq, two close CNN colleagues have been killed. Shot dead in an ambush. It's a harsh reminder of just how dangerous life can be here. My moments of optimism are tempered by acts of violence. And I'm reminded that good will alone will not help Iraq. Understanding is required if it is to emerge from a state of fear.


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