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Roundtable Newspaper Interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, Al-Quds Al-Arabi and Al-Hayat

Marc Grossman, Under Secretary for Political Affairs
via DVC with Embassy London
Washington, DC
November 18, 2002

QUESTION: May I ask you about the Resolution 1441? We heard from the Syrians that you have given them guarantees that this Resolution is not going to be used to launch automatic war against Iraq. How accurate is this to start with?

GROSSMAN: Well let me step back first of all and say that the whole purpose of UN Security Resolution 1441 is to find a peaceful resolution to Iraq's non-compliance with UN Security Council resolutions. You will remember that when President Bush went to the United Nations Security Council on the 12th of September, he did not go there to declare war, he went there to declare a purpose and that purpose was to have Iraq comply with its Security Council obligations, and so the entire seven weeks that we spent negotiating a Security Council Resolution was a negotiation to try and do this peacefully. And, of course, we speak on the very day that UN Inspectors are back in Iraq. And we expect that Saddam Hussein will now meet his obligations. So to the point that you make about the Syrians, our whole purpose in this endeavor is to accomplish disarmament peacefully. Our purpose was not to launch an attack against Iraq, our purpose is to have Iraq disarm and meet its obligations under the Security Council Resolution. If Iraq does not comply with that then the Resolution says the Security Council will need immediately to take this up and Syria is a member of that Security Council.

QUESTION: Hans Blix actually said that he would report factually what's happening in Iraq. If you interpret whatever happens in Iraq as a material breach you will launch attack no matter what other members of the Security Council think?

GROSSMAN: With respect, sir, you are jumping ahead. What the Security Council Resolution says is that Hans Blix should go and do his work and the Iraqis should comply and allow, not just allow, but facilitate the Inspector's work. The inspectors are to report back to the Security Council anything that they thinks should be reported back to the Security Council.

I would also note, as Secretary Powell has over the past few days, that any member of the Security Council also has the possibility to report what they consider to be violations and then the Security Council will take this up, that's how the United Nations works, that's how the Security Council works and that's what the Resolution is about. So, somehow this idea that we are constantly looking for a way just to attack Iraq, with all due respect to that line of opinion, I just don't think that's correct.

QUESTION: So you are not launching attack if other members think that it was not a material breach?

GROSSMAN: Our President and our Secretary have said on a number of occasions that the United States reserves the right to defend itself and we do reserve that right. We've gone to the United Nations, we have what we consider to be an excellent Security Council Resolution, but in the end if our nation believes that there's going to be no activity from the Security Council we have the possibility of doing this ourselves or with some others. As you can imagine, we would much prefer that this be done peacefully, we would much prefer that Saddam Hussein meets his obligations, and we would much prefer if he does not meet his obligations that the Security Council remains unified.

QUESTION: I would like to ask just in case if the Iraq doesn't comply with the Inspectors now, would the United States go back through the Security Council or go back and declare war on Iraq? In other words, does the Resolution 1441 give the right to the United States to launch war against Iraq without going back to the United Nations?

GROSSMAN: Again, everyone is jumping ahead here about war, and as Secretary Powell has said over the past few days, this constant focus on war is the opposite of what we should be focusing on. I would hope that you and your readers would be focusing right now on Saddam Hussein's compliance with the Inspectors. I think we are missing the main story here. The main story is that Inspectors have returned to Iraq today for the first time in four years. They have returned today with a substantially more powerful inspections regime than they had in the past. They returned with a totally unified Security Council. Don't forget that for the past few years the Security Council has been split on these issues. They return to Iraq with what we hope will be the entire international community, very much including Syria, focused in on the need for Iraqis to comply. The focus here should be on inspections, disarmament and compliance.

QUESTION: In that case, would the United States go back to the United Nations or it may declare war without that?

GROSSMAN: Well I think the operative paragraphs in the resolution gives everyone the opportunity to refer violations of the resolution to the Security Council, so I would assume that's what we would do.

QUESTION: Mr. Grossman, I'm from Al Hayat newspaper, actually what I wanted to ask is that the Americans have been saying for some time that they want regime change in Iraq and now you say that what you want is that Iraq complies with the UN Resolution. Do you want a regime change or Iraq complying with the UN Resolutions?

GROSSMAN: The policy that Iraq would be better off if Saddam Hussein was not its leader and the regime was changed is a policy of the previous administration, a policy of our Congress, and is very much the policy of our administration.

We are focused on Resolution 1441, on the need for Iraq to comply with the Security Council obligations and specifically its obligation to UN Security Resolution 687. Secretary Powell told a number of your colleagues just after the Security Council Resolution passed, if you look forward and think about an Iraq that is complying, that is disarmed, that is allowing inspectors to meet their obligations, it would really be a changed regime. So our focus right now is on this question of making sure that the UN Security Council resolution is obeyed.

QUESTION: Do you believe that Iraq and Saddam Hussein can be a different regime if he complies with the UN Resolution? Would you allow him the same power?

GROSSMAN: I won't speculate on that. As President Bush, in Cincinnati on the 7th of October, listed a whole number of ways that Saddam Hussein needs to change. He needs to change on 687. He needs to change the way he treats his own people. He needs to change his relationships with his neighbors. So, in all of these areas, as the President enumerated, Saddam Hussein needs to change. I think if you look forward here some months, if Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi regime are disarming, not allowing inspections, but disarming as they are required to do under 687 as Secretary Powell has said that it would be essentially a changed regime.

QUESTION: So to follow up on the same subject, if the United States launched an attack on Iraq would it target disarmament or change of regime?

GROSSMAN: Again, the idea that we are sitting here in Washington trying to figure out a way to attack Iraq is, with all due respect, not correct. We are trying our best to support a UN Security Council Resolution which puts Inspectors back in under a much stricter regime to disarm Iraq. That's what we want. And we expect and demand, and the Security Council demands, that Saddam Hussein and his regime comply. That's the job they have.

QUESTION: So your target will be disarmament, not the change of regime?

GROSSMAN: With all due respect, you keep trying to put me into a position of saying we're going to war. What we're trying to do is support UN Security Council Resolution 1441 and disarm Iraq peacefully. And as I say, that may not be the most interesting story to write, but that is the story today. The story today is UN Inspectors are back in Iraq for the first time in four years, under a much stricter regime and we want them to succeed.

QUESTION: Will you accept that the American policy of change of regime in Baghdad is quite isolated? Even the British don't agree with that and they think it is a violation of international law to go and change a regime in an independent country?

GROSSMAN: Everybody can have their own views. Our view is that the Iraqi people and the neighbors would be much, much better off with different leadership in Baghdad. I think that's a fact, but everyone can have their own opinion.

QUESTION: Well Ambassador, if America doesn't want to go to war with Iraq what has America given as guarantees to your allies like Turkey and Jordan? As we all know, these neighbors of Iraq they are going to lose lots?

GROSSMAN: I think that the way you have framed that question is the right one. Which is to say, our object is not to go to war, our object is to disarm Iraq. As you say, we are concerned about the neighbors of Iraq, Turkey and Jordan. We believe that Saddam Hussein needs to be convinced that the international community, not just the United States but the international community, will be prepared to enforce the Security Council Resolution by force if necessary if he does not comply. Yes, we are going to continue with the planning that we have for the use of force, and yes, we are going to continue to have conversations with Jordan and Turkey and many, many other countries in the region, not just about their potential losses, but what people can do to keep Saddam Hussein focused on his task which is to disarm. So we have been in close consultation not just Jordan and Turkey but all our friends and allies in the region. Again, the purpose is not to go to war it's to get Iraq disarmed.

QUESTION: Well, you use the words "use of force." If the international community uses force against Iraq, do you think that Iraq might be unified as it is now?

GROSSMAN: That's a very important question. Let me talk a little bit about our vision for this future of Iraq. We believe that an Iraq should emerge in the future that's democratic, that's multi-ethnic, that is territorially unified. We believe in the territorial integrity of Iraq. We believe that this Iraq should be at peace with its neighbors and we believe that this Iraq should forever be out of the business of weapons of mass destruction. So, yes, we believe that Iraq should be a unified whole. Territorial integrity of Iraq is an absolute key to our policy.

QUESTION: There has been a mixed signal out of Saudi Arabia recently, regarding cooperation with the United Sates, regarding the use of air bases there. Will American troops and airplanes be able to use the Saudi air space or not?

GROSSMAN: The Saudis will have to speak for themselves in this regard. I think that one of the very good things about having a UN Security Council Resolution is that in many countries around the world that gives to the policy a legitimacy of international law. The Saudis are a sovereign country they can decide to do what they wish. One of the reasons we worked so hard to get a Security Council Resolution was so that other countries could see that this was not just a policy of the United States, this isn't just about Iraq and America. It's about Iraq and the international community and that's why it was so important that that vote was 15-0.

QUESTION: How concerned are you regarding the unpopularity right now of the American policies in the Arab world. Particularly regarding Iraq and Palestine?

GROSSMAN: We are very concerned obviously, with public opinion not just in the Arab world but all around the world. One of the things that I know Secretary Powell did just after the Resolution passed, was to reach out to a lot of media around the world including media in the Arab world. One of the reasons why I am so glad to have this conversation today, is that we would like to do as good a job as we can of putting out our point of view, of explaining to people what we think, people have to make up their own minds about whether we are popular or unpopular. But I think the key thing here again is the important news in Resolution 1441. This is no longer an American policy, this is a United Nations policy. This is a policy of the Security Council of the United Nations. People in Arab countries and all around the world have to make up their own minds about what they think. It's very important that we got this vote 15-0 including Syria.


QUESTION: The United States is prepared to go to war to force Iraq to implement UN Resolutions but you are not prepared to do much to force Israel to implement any of the UN Resolutions?

GROSSMAN: With all due respect, these are completely different situations. United Nations Resolutions that have to do with Israel and the Palestinians and other countries in the region 242, 338, other resolutions, are resolutions that are designed to support or start, or encourage a process of negotiation between parties, between the Israelis and the Palestinians, between Israelis and Egyptians, Israelis and Jordanians. There have been some success there, the Israel-Jordan peace treaty, Israel-Egypt peace treaty. Those resolutions are about encouraging people to come to a settlement. The resolutions that deal with Iraq for these past eleven years are not about negotiations. They are about the Security Council speaking again and again to the Iraqis, not two parties, to have them meet their obligations to the international community. So with respect , these are two separate situations, two separate conversations.

QUESTION: Regarding weapons of mass destruction, a few days ago President Mubarak, whose one of your closest allies, asked the Americans to do something about the Israeli arsenal weapons of mass destruction. We have we not heard a reply from Washington?

GROSSMAN: We've spoken on this issue on a number of occasions and we certainly always respect the views of people like President Mubarak. Again, you've got two very different situations here. For eleven years since the end of the Gulf War Iraq has not complied with its obligations under the Security Council. The Israeli-Palestinian situation, with respect, is a different one.

QUESTION: If we go back to Iraq, does the U.S. have an alternative to the regime of Mr. Saddam Hussein? What is the alternative that the U.S. can provide for the Iraqi people?

GROSSMAN: It's not for the United States to provide an alternative regime, it's for the Iraqi people to provide a different regime. We would be making a mistake if people think that the United States had in a pocket somewhere a substitute regime for Iraq and all that we had to do was place it in there like it was some model. That's not what we're about. As I said to your colleague, we want an Iraq that's democratic and multi-ethnic and with territorial integrity - that is something that Iraqis will have to do. I thought it was very right the other day when Secretary Rumsfeld said that a new Iraqi government has to arise from inside, from the Iraqi people, and has to work with the people who are outside of Iraq. So this is a job for Iraqis not Americans.

QUESTION: What do you think of the Iraqi opposition and it's infighting amongst each other?

GROSSMAN: As you know, I've worked closely with the Iraqi opposition, I've had the good fortune on a number of occasions to meet their leaders over the past years and certainly in the past year. Our message to the Iraqi opposition is that we want them to succeed and we want them to be unified and I think that the meetings that were held in London over the past few days have gone a considerable distance to bringing that situation about. We were glad to send some people over to London to participate in these conversations, but I think the agreements that the leaders have reached in London, to have a conference over the next couple of weeks, in London, we hope if that's acceptable to everybody, is a very good one and so we are pleased with that.

QUESTION: Well, Ambassador, you are saying that Iraq didn't comply with the resolutions and also Iraq is saying that the United States and the international community did not comply about lifting the sanctions, so what about this circle? Is there any hope that the sanctions could be lifted at any time in the future?

GROSSMAN: It's important to remember that the last paragraph of Security Council Resolution 1284 talks about the lifting of sanctions. But you will recall 1284 was never implemented; it was never implemented because the Security Council was divided. Look at the difference in the vote between 1284, when a number of people abstained and the vote for 1284 when every single country in the Security Council voted yes. So, when Saddam Hussein took a look at 1373 he just threw it in the trash. And so, the reason it has never been implemented is because UNMOVIC hasn't been there in four years. Iraq has not disarmed and if you look at the last paragraph of 1373 the conditions for lifting the sanctions have not been met. So, we have a different situation here this time. The different situation is that 1441 went 15-0; ifSaddam disarms then maybe we can go back to the last paragraph of 1284. Look at 1284 and see who abstained, and look at 1441 which went 15-0.

QUESTION: There have been some reports that it's going to be American ruler that's going to be in charge of Iraq after Saddam goes, can you comment on this by any means?

GROSSMAN: I really can't. Again, there's the assumption implicit in your question that there has to be some war. I don't think that has to be true. We want Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi regime to disarm. If there has to be a use of force, then we will see what the best arrangements are for after. We've done a lot of thinking about "the day after" if there had to a use of force. e do have a vision for the future of Iraq and part of that is a government arranged, by the Iraqi people.

QUESTION: Ambassador, you said now that you wish there won't be use of force against Iraq, do you think that this assumption is based on the disagreement within the administration between Mr. Powell on one side and the other side The Pentagon and Dick Cheney?

GROSSMAN: No, sir. The question about whether we use force in Iraq or not is now up to Saddam Hussein. Lets see how he will treat the Inspectors today and tomorrow and the next day. Let's see what he will say on the 8th of December when he owes the United Nations a declaration. The challenge right now is to Saddam Hussein. Is he going to comply with a 15-0 vote on the Security Council or not? We're ready to do this peacefully, but Saddam Hussein now needs to meet his obligations. It's not us now, this is Baghdad.

QUESTION: What do you think would be a breach by Iraq to the latest Security Resolution? Do you think firing at the West and British planes over the North Line Zone in the North and South of the country, would this be considered a breach?

GROSSMAN: As the White House spokespeople and others have said over the weekend, you have to go back to paragraph 8 of Resolution 1441 and it does say that Iraq shouldn't take or threaten hostile actions. And so, from my perspective, I would say yes this is a material breach. Now the question is what to do about it? The Security Council in its Resolution says in paragraph 4, that people have the option of referring these violations to the Security Council. So, we will see what we want to do. Once again, this is about Iraqi compliance now with the Security Council Resolution and I think as he said we'll know this when we see it and the important thing is what is Saddam Hussein going to do? That's the question today.

QUESTION: How confident are you that Iraq is storing weapons of mass destruction?

GROSSMAN: We're very confident that they are producing and storing weapons of mass destruction and we are also very confident that since there have been no inspectors there in four years that they have pursued this program. I'll leave to you and your leaders to judge the intentions behind keeping inspectors away for four years. We have full confidence in Dr. Blix, we have full confidence in Dr. el-Baradei, we think that they are going do a great job. But this now is a question for Iraqis and for Saddam Hussein. No more going up to presidential sites and being turned away. No more having Iraqis in a helicopter with inspectors and turning the steering wheel away from sites. The inspectors should be provided access to any place, any time and be permitted to talk to anybody.

QUESTION: So, given the Iraqis will maintain their current position, which is they don't possess any weapons of mass destruction, will this be a material breach, as far as you can see?

GROSSMAN: Well Sir, lets let the Inspectors do their work.

QUESTION: Ambassador, do you think that this change of language, from focusing on the use of force to focusing on the inspections, has occurred because of the disagreement, as I asked before, within the Administration and because of the isolation of the United States within the International Community?

GROSSMAN: No, sir. First of all our focus is not on inspections it's on disarmament, and with respect I think that's a very important distinction. Second, the person who makes decisions in our country for our foreign policy is the President and the President listened to all the advice he got, and on the 12th September he went to the United Nations General Assembly and I believe gave a very far sighted and courageous speech. I hope you will agree with me that the speech completely changed the conversation about Iraq. You will remember you all were writing in June, July and August of this year all about America, America, America - what was America going to do? Our President went to the United Nations General Assembly on 12th of September, and he said this is not about America, this is about the international community and we want the Security Council to be involved in this. The three objectives that the President laid out on the 12th of September - strength in the Security Council, Iraq disarmed, and that it be done peacefully - can be achieved if we keep focused on the goal and if we keep Saddam Hussein recognizing that we are serious, and by we I mean the Security Council. I'll take one more?

QUESTION: Can you tell us about your visit to North Africa, your latest visit to North Africa and how would you describe your relations with Syria now?

GROSSMAN: Well our relations with Syria, as you can imagine, are complicated. We appreciate what the Syrians have done in the area of anti-terrorism. Very obviously we remain concerned about their other support for terrorism. I don't know if you saw but Secretary of Powell issued a statement on 16th November about these terrible killings in Hebron and Palestinian Islamic Jihad had taken credit for this attack, they are based in Damascus. As the Secretary said in his statement, it's hard to understand how any country that claims a genuine commitment to peace can harbor such groups and so we think people ought to stand up to their responsibilities against terrorism. But as I say, Syria has been involved in the war on terrorism, we appreciated their vote in the Security Council and we hope that their policy now will be consistent across the board. Finally, to the question of North Africa, I did have the good fortune to visit three North African countries last week. I visited Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco. I will say that two themes emerged from that visit, the first theme was the great, great interest in these North African countries in doing more trade with the United States and having more investment from the United States. As you know, in both Tunisia and Algeria we signed trade investment framework agreements, and with Morocco we are working on a free trade agreement. And so in all places the prime ministers, the foreign ministers, people I was honored to meet, talked about the need for more trade and investment. Second, they talked also about the need to do more to integrate the three countries in terms of their economies so that they could attract more investment. I was very interested to be there. It was just before the Security Council vote, so I took the opportunity to brief them about that and we talked about many other issues. It was a very useful trip, and I was glad to have been in all of those countries.

Thank you very much, I appreciate your time.

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