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"Hope Versus Fear" In Saddam’s Iraq

(Washington, DC--March 15, 2002) An expert on Iraq told an RFE/RL audience this week that a post-Saddam Hussein Iraq need not fracture if civil society is empowered now through successful local civic projects.

Laith Kubba, Senior Program Officer for the Middle East and North Africa at the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), suggested that the experience of the Iraqi Diaspora, some two million people living throughout the Middle East and Europe, and the three million who live in the Kurdish area of northern Iraq, could serve as a model for civil society within Iraq. Kubba described NED-funded civic projects in northern Iraq that have empowered local Iraqis and given them confidence to begin building a national civic movement. The projects have ranged from human rights education for teachers and imams, to the training of judges and journalists.

Kubba, a native Iraqi, said that the Iraqi people need to hear "messages of hope," via the open airways "not about Big Heroes, but about the small successes" of civic groups. Kubba believes that "hope, which is as infectious as fear," could help end the dictatorship and would form a firm foundation for a future Iraq. Saddam Hussein's power is now widespread, but "thin and brittle", Kubba said, and he rules in part because the self-promoted "myth" of Saddam has "paralyzed" the minds of the Iraqi people.

In response to a question on whether a massive U.S. military strike would be necessary to topple the regime, Kubba said that while "projecting U.S. might is important, projecting credibility is critical," since the U.S. suffers a "big credibility problem" in that country. Kubba also counseled that Iraq needed opposition leaders who were motivated by the needs of the country rather than a desire for power.