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What Does Defection of Saddam Hussein's Daughters Mean For Iraq?

Aired August 1, 2003 - 20:25   ET

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

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: So what does the defection of Saddam Hussein's daughters mean? Is it a sign, as some say it might be, that Saddam's inner circle has finally crumbled?
Earlier tonight, I spoke with the director of research at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution, CNN analyst Ken Pollack. I asked him which other members of Saddam's family are still at large.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Ken, one of the things that came out in the interview with Raghad today is that she essentially blamed the fall of Saddam on his being betrayed by close associates around him. Is that, other than just being an example that denial is not just a river, is there something to that argument?

KENNETH POLLACK, CNN ANALYST: Well, I don't think that there is.

I think it is very hard as a military analyst to look at the war that was fought in Iraq over the last few months and ascribe it in any way to traitors around Saddam causing their defeat. The simple fact of the matter is that the Iraqi armed forces had absolutely no capability to stand up to the U.S. and British forces and really didn't have much of an interest in doing so.

COOPER: I thought it was fascinating that both these daughters expressed, essentially, deep affection for their father, for Saddam Hussein, a man who killed their husbands. Does that surprise you?

POLLACK: Well, it is interesting, Anderson. There is no question about it.

Look, our information about the daughters is very slim. So I think we need to be careful there. But the information that we did have from a variety of sources was that the daughters actually were not terribly happy with their father and the way that he treated their husbands. And if your father is a homicidal maniac who just happens to be at large and still heavily armed and with a whole bunch of other people around him who are willing to go out and kill people on his behalf, maybe you would still want to express a great deal of affection for dear old dad.

COOPER: Right. Yes, I guess if your dad is a homicidal maniac and he is still at large, you might want to couch your words. But do you think -- well, I guess it is impossible to know whether they do have deep affection for him. How do you think these interviews are going to be seen and read in the Arab world, particularly in Iraq?

POLLACK: I think the most important thing about their defection is in fact the defection itself. The message really here is the meeting.

In the Arab world, the behavior of women, especially in the Arab tribal world, the behavior of women reflects very heavily on the honor of men. So a father's honor is affected by what his daughters do. Saddam's daughters have just defected to essentially one of Saddam's great enemies. The king of Jordan was one of the main supporters of the United States in the war that toppled him.

And I think that most Iraqis are going to see the defection of his daughters to Jordan as being another sign that his regime, the last vestiges of his regime, really are falling apart. Between the death of his sons and the defection of his daughters, his inner circle really is coming apart. And my guess is that they're going to look at this as just more evidence that his ability to come back is vanishing.

COOPER: What other member -- the family tree, it's like a bad episode from "Dynasty." Who else is still out there and who might be of interest from this family to U.S. authorities?

POLLACK: Well, certainly, there is Saddam's first wife, Sajida, who is also his cousin. And there is another daughter out there, Hala. Both of them are at large. It is unclear that they would be of real interest to the United States, but they are important figures. They've been important figures in Iraq for a very long time. And they may actually have a lot of cash and a lot of jewelry on them.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: And we should also point out the first wife who you were just talking is also his, Saddam's, cousin.

POLLACK: Right, which is typical in Arab tribal society, that you marry your first cousin.

In addition, Saddam's second wife is somewhere at large. His second wife was believed to be a little bit closer to Saddam. That was certainly a love match. And what is more, the second wife had a son with Saddam, we believe, whose name was Ali. Now, Ali was one you never saw. He was believed to be about 12, 13 years old. But he's also at large. And the assumption is that he's with his mother. But nobody knows where either of them are.

COOPER: Now, there is some mystery about Ali. There are some people out there who say he doesn't even exist. Have you ever seen a photo of him?

POLLACK: I've never seen a photo of him. And you're absolutely right, Anderson. There is a great deal of speculation about Ali. No one is certain that he does exist. Most people believe he does. And there is also a possibility that Ali actually is the son of Samira Shahbandar, Saddam's second wife, her first husband. She was married to the head of Iraqi Airlines. Saddam forced him to divorce her after he fell in love with Samira. It's possible that Ali is the natural son of that first husband. But the betting money is that Ali is Saddam's son.

COOPER: And this second wife who allegedly had Saddam's ear, I guess the U.S. authorities would want to try to talk to her, if they have any interest at all. Very briefly, any idea where she is?

POLLACK: None whatsoever.

COOPER: Fascinating.

All right, Ken Pollack, thanks very much.

POLLACK: Thank you, Anderson.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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