Former Baghdad Chief Tells ASNE About War Fears

By: Joe Strupp

A veteran Baghdad bureau chief said that if the U.S. were to pull out of Iraq too quickly it would spark ?an undeniable civil war? and the possibility of a ?nightmare scenario that affects the U.S.?

Nancy Youssef, who led McClatchy?s Baghdad bureau for nearly a year and a half before being reassigned in January, made the comments before the American Society of Newspaper Editors conference in Washington, D.C. on Friday. ?Some believe there is a civil war now,? she told a room full of top editors. ?But if [a pullout] were to happen, it would break into a widespread, undeniable civil war.? She added that such a situation could create ?a regional war that can hit us in a very direct way.?

Youssef, now covering the Pentagon for McClatchy, made the comments during a panel on the Iraq War that included Hisham Melham, the Washington bureau chief for Al-Arabiya News Channel; and Karim Sadjadpour, an associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Youssef said the impact of a regional war without the U.S. in Iraq could affect oil prices, noting the worst scenario might have them reaching ?up to $150 per barrel…We are trying to answer what sort of influence does the U.S. have in Baghdad. It is a very muddled area.?

Commenting on the atmosphere among Iraqis about U.S. involvement, she said most agreed that a pullout now would be disastrous, but added that ?people in Baghdad say, ?if we had known what liberation would mean, we would never have let U.S. forces in?.?

Youssef also said that the ongoing violence and uncertainty has affected McClatchy?s Baghdad bureau, especially local Iraqis who work for the chain there. ?They take great risks to do their jobs and most of them don?t tell their families what they do,? she said. ?None of them started out as journalists, but they have become journalists and are really the backbone of our coverage.?

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