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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Chalabi: Death of Saddam's Sons Makes Iraq Safer

Aired July 22, 2003 - 20:50   ET

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

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: And welcome back.
Ahmed Chalabi is the leader of the Iraqi National Congress and a member of the new Iraqi governing counsel. He joins us tonight after spending the day at the U.N. watching these very important developments out of Iraq.

Good to see you in person for a change. How critical do you think it is that Uday and Qusay are dead tonight?

AHMED CHALABI, IRAQI NATIONAL CONGRESS: The death of Uday and Qusay is very critical. It is important Saddam lost his second in command and the chief of his operations, his son, Qusay. There are people who feel relieved. The fear factor is greatly diminished and Saddam is much more vulnerable now.

ZAHN: And yet there are those people who believe in the short term, as former Defense Secretary Bill Cohen said a little earlier tonight, in the short term it might lead to a spike in violence against American troops out of revenge.

CHALABI: This is fantasy, I believe. It's not -- nobody wants to revenge Qusay and Uday except their father and the clan.

But the point is that the Iraqi people now believe that they are dead, and Saddam is vulnerable and no one wants to risk his life for a dead -- the dead sons of Saddam.

ZAHN: You have talked publicly in a very -- what should I say -- judicious way about the amount of help you've been giving American officials with gathering information about Hussein and his family.

Did you have any involvement in what happened today? Did any of your people on the ground give information to the U.S. government that helped lead to what happened today?

CHALABI: What happened today was that the owner of a house, where those people were killed, Qusay and Uday, in fact, told the U.S. about their presence there. He's a member of their clan, and he was the person who sold them to the U.S.

ZAHN: So your people had nothing to do with this one?

CHALABI: No, not on this immediate capture of Qusay and Uday.

ZAHN: And yet you did say publicly at the U.N. today that you were in the process of gathering information that you think might ultimately lead to the capture and death of Saddam Hussein.

CHALABI: We are working. We have been working on Uday and Qusay and Saddam, tracking them, finding out where they've been, trying to find out where they will go, and we will continue to work on Saddam.

All of the factors for Qusay and Uday today were in Mosul is the result of the pressure that was put on them and closing on the noose around them that took place over the past several weeks. And we have prospects there.

ZAHN: You believe these two brothers were responsible for fomenting some of the violence against American troops. Have you ever seen any evidence of that? Because there are some folks tonight who said, if that were the case, they would have been guarded by a much larger group.

CHALABI: Those people who said this don't understand the nature of this situation in Iraq now.

Qusay ran a strong campaign to kill American troops, funded it and controlled it.

The fact that they were not with many people is clear why. Because if they were attacked, the more guards they'd have, they'd attract more attention. And since they were in hiding, it was intelligent of them, in that respect, not to have that many guards because that would have given them out sooner.

But any number of guards is useless against U.S. troops in Iraq because they were found out. Saddam's army could not prevent American troops from taking the city. So the number of guards with them is not material to the fact that they can survive.

The most important thing for them to survive is that there are hidden and they are not visible and they are not with many people who would -- with tell-tale signs that they are there. So it is irrelevant how many guards they have.

ZAHN: In closing, once again, you believe that U.S. soldiers are safer tonight, as a result of the deaths of these two brothers?

CHALABI: U.S. soldiers are safer. Iraqis are safer.

ZAHN: And you believe this also enhances the ability to create some kind of peace in this nation?

CHALABI: Yes.

ZAHN: How long is it going to take? I can only give you 10 seconds to answer that question.

CHALABI: We will have it sooner rather than later.

ZAHN: Well, that was a good answer. I was looking for a timeline, sir. Of course, no one can give us that. I fully appreciate that. Thank you for dropping by. CHALABI: OK.

ZAHN: Appreciate your spending a little time with us after having a very busy day at the U.N.

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