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VOA Interview with Rob Sobhani - 2002-11-21

David Borgida interviews Rob Sobhani, Adjunct Professor of the Government Department at Georgetown University.

MR. BORGIDA: Now joining us, Rob Sobhani, Adjunct Professor of Government at Georgetown University here in Washington. Professor Sobhani, thanks for joining us. Some rapid-fire interviews today on Newsline.

Iraq is, as we have noted in the program, high on the international agenda, both at the NATO Summit in Prague and all around the world. It is also obviously a top-of-the-agenda item in the capitals of the region there all over the Gulf area. What countries are in a bind philosophically and what countries do you think will be supportive of the United States and the West in this conflict with Iraq?

PROF. SOBHANI: The conflict with Iraq really has enormous political, social and economic implications for the entire region. And so if you look at the broad brush of the Persian Gulf, for example, you start off with a country like Iran, which the President of the United States has put into the axis of evil, they are very concerned about an advance into Baghdad of American troops. The last thing that the Iranian Government would like to see is the images of American soldiers marching in the streets of Baghdad.

However, at the same time, I think the Iranian Government may view this as an opportunity to show its goodwill towards the U.S. Government by possibly not interfering. So, on Iran, I think there is a neutrality position that they are probably going to be adopting.

If you go down south into the Persian Gulf, and you look at countries like Qatar and Bahrain, there we have two very, very close allies. I think both countries are extremely nervous about the possibility of Iraq developing weapons of mass destruction. The last thing they need is a blackmail. And so Qatar, Bahrain, and I would include Oman in this category as well, will be supportive of our efforts in any eventual conflict with Saddam Hussein.

MR. BORGIDA: Let's talk about two others, too, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, the latter of which has had its share of public relations problems in the aftermath of 9/11.

PROF. SOBHANI: Absolutely. Saudi Arabia is probably the one country that is going to be very nervous about any effort that we conduct against Saddam Hussein, simply because if the effort against Saddam is swift, with minimal civilian casualties and the Iraqi people come out and welcome American soldiers, it will have an enormous impact on Saudi Arabia, and therefore isolate Saudi Arabia. Because the dawn of a new Iraq could be putting pressure on Saudi Arabia both internally, but also from a foreign policy standpoint.

MR. BORGIDA: Professor Sobhani, you have touched on something that a number of our guests have mentioned, and I would like to follow-up with you on it. You talk about the Iraqi people, and some analysts have said that is so critical to what possibly could happen there. Give us your assessment of the state of mind of the Iraqi people. I know that is an awfully broad, general question, but for our viewers and listeners, what would you expect should there be some U.S.-led attack on Iraq? How might the Iraqi people respond?

PROF. SOBHANI: It would seem to me that if you look at this question from the broad brush of history, dictatorships are stifling. Dictatorships are ruthless. And any people living under a dictatorship would welcome a liberator. So, I think at the end, the people of Iraq would welcome the removal of Saddam Hussein.

At the end of the day, however, it really depends on how the military campaign goes. If we conduct this military campaign with minimal civilian casualties, I think we will see sweets passed out on the streets of Baghdad to American soldiers. But if there are large civilian casualties, then I think the dynamic within the Arab world will shift against us.

MR. BORGIDA: Well, of course we are not there yet, so let's talk for a moment about what you might expect in the weeks or so ahead. There is still more to be done in terms of the inspections. Do you expect that Saddam Hussein will comply with the Security Council resolution, unfettered access to all these possible chemical and biological weapon sites? What is your expectation?

PROF. SOBHANI: Saddam Hussein is a survivor. Saddam Hussein is a dictator who wants to hold on to power. So, I believe that Saddam Hussein will do whatever it takes to drag out this U.N. inspections team to the extent possible, but also try to find a weak link between the United States, France and Russia on the Security Council, and try to divide the United States from our allies. And I think that is what Saddam is now thinking -- what country can I go to on the Security Council that can vote against America?

MR. BORGIDA: Well, there is a thought. The views of Professor Rob Sobhani of Georgetown University. Professor Sobhani, enlightening. Thanks so much for joining us today. We appreciate it.

PROF. SOBHANI: Thank you.