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Special Report: Thousands Demonstrate in Iraq - 2003-04-22

Yesterday, a group of scholars from ten Arab countries converged at Kuwait University to discuss the future of post-war Iraq. Most believe that the future of Iraq can only be positive. Yet, last Friday, after prayers ended in most major Baghdad mosques, tens of thousands of Muslims poured into the streets and held the largest anti-American demonstration since the U.S. occupied the city. Dr. Ali Tarah of the Department of International Politics, in Kuwait University addresses the recent protest and its significance in Iraq.

Dr. Tarah: Well, I think you should …what happened yesterday, the Friday prayers, the mullah, his name is Akhmad Kobasi…this guy is living in the Emirates, in Abu Dabi, and during the Saddam days, he used to go in and about Iraq all the time, and it was no problem for him to get into Iraq when Saddam was in power," said It was very clear, it was political and not religious play, as we used to have it on a Friday, but was mobilized by neighboring countries, but certainly it is a political message…he belonged to Saddam Hussein….belonged to Ba'ath Party, it is very well-known, when you check the history…just recently, before the war started, he wrote an article in one of these papers, accusing the allies the war in Iraq, trying to lobby for Saddam Hussein, so I think we should understand it from this perspective.

The scholars in the meeting believe that Iraq will continue to develop under the direction of the U.S. and that changes in Iraq will restructure alliances in the Middle East. A scholar from Egypt believes that the fall of Saddam not only brings freedom to the Iraqi people, but also brings about change in politics throughout the entire Middle East. He also says that because the U.S. and British forces destroyed the Iraqi war machine in such a short period of time and without a great number of civilian casualties, the Iraqi people are confident. On the basis of this confidence, the international society will be able to build a democracy in Iraq.

Dr. Tarah comments that the greatest obstacle to Iraqi establishing a free and equal society comes from the surrounding conservative, autocratic countries, and not from the remaining influence of Saddam.

Dr. Tarah: Well, the biggest threat to democracy is the neighboring countries. My understanding that the Americans discuss…the neighboring countries…UAE, Turkey, Syria, all of them, they have the ability to make it very hard for the allies or the Americans to have a successful Iraq. That is Iraq is overcoming its problems. So, I think the neighboring countries are a major problem for democracy in Iraq.

Dr. Tarah says that if the Iraqi people must find a way to counter negative foreign influence they must establish their own intelligence agencies.

Dr. Tarah: Well, eh, my expectation will…probably what we need at this stage is the intelligence services led by the Americans to be very careful that I don't think this is a democracy to give someone like yesterday, Kobasi, to mobilize the people, I don't think this is a democracy at this stage of the war. We still..the Allies should go behind the Ba'ath party. And it was very clear in Nassariyah to…the Ba'ath party. So, I think that we need some kind of intelligence work.

A professor from Kuwait University who doesn't want to be identified says that major global powers and global organizations will play a major role defining Iraq's future. These major powers and organizations will make it much more difficult for weapons of mass destruction to appear in the Middle East or other unstable regions of the world. This professor also thinks that powerful countries and global organizations can alert other rogue states that they face similar changes in the future. Because Kuwait wholeheartedly supported the coalition's liberation of Iraq, this professor predicts that post-war Iraq will have close ties with Kuwait. He also believes that those neighboring countries strongly against the war must establish friendly relations with Iraq.