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Interview on CNN with Andrea Koppel

Secretary Colin L. Powell
New York, New York
February 14, 2003

MS. KOPPEL: Thank you for joining us.

SECRETARY POWELL: You're very welcome, Andrea.

MS. KOPPEL: Considering what you heard both in the public session that we were all listening to and then behind closed doors, under the present circumstances, would you recommend to President Bush to go for a second resolution?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, I've got to get back to Washington and talk to my colleagues in the administration and speak to the President, so I think I will withhold my recommendation to the President and give it to him, but it was a very good debate, both in the open session and in the private session and it comes down to the following issue when you shred out all of the different points of view. Robust inspections have to be something that goes hand in hand with cooperation and compliance on the part of the Iraqi regime. No matter how robust the inspection regime -- you make the inspection regime, if Iraq is not cooperating, if Iraq is not complying with the resolution, you're not going to get to the right answer which is the disarmament of Iraq.

And that's the point I tried to make: Let's not lose sight of the issue. The issue is disarmament and compliance and cooperation, not the inspection regime. And what I heard today from the inspectors and what I heard from the Iraqi Permanent Representative was that they have done some things with respect to process. Suddenly, Saddam Hussein issues a decree today, suddenly the legislature finally takes action -- a new law, but these are just process items. We still don't have a substantive change in thinking on the part of the Iraqi regime. They haven't made a strategic decision yet to cooperate. And so robust inspections or more inspectors or more technical features to the inspection won't compensate, in my judgment, for a lack of cooperation and a failure of Iraq to understand they must comply.

MS. KOPPEL: U.S. officials have been sitting down with their British counterparts this week trying to figure out what kind of language could be in a second UN resolution. Why is this? We know why it's important to the UK. Why would this be important to the U.S.?

SECRETARY POWELL: We believe that a second resolution, if we go for one and if one is passed, would once again express the intent of the Security Council that Iraq come into compliance and if it hasn't come into compliance at this point then serious consequences should follow. That was the whole logic behind 1441. So it would be consistent with 1441 to go for such a resolution, but the President's made it clear all along that in the absence of a second resolution, if Iraq still has not disarmed, then the United States is willing to lead a coalition of nations that would be willing to join the United States in the disarmament.

And obviously a second resolution would provide political support to all the many heads of state and government, all those countries who think as we do, that Iraq must be disarmed one way or the other.

MS. KOPPEL: We heard all of the statements made by the foreign ministers in public, the French, the Germans, the Russians, the Chinese -- all in opposition to moving ahead with a second resolution or war. Did they match those words privately, or did you hear something different?

SECRETARY POWELL: We had a number of conversations over a brief lunch period and in the private session we had with all of the same ministers, lots of questions were directed to Dr. Blix and to Dr. ElBaradei, and we had a good, healthy discussion that expanded on the morning discussion. I also heard Bulgaria, Spain and the United Kingdom speak strongly in support of the need for Iraq to comply.

And so even though there are a lot of different opinions expressed, and they were strong opinions, it comes down to what judgment do you make with respect to Iraq's understanding of the nature of 1441. Are they complying? Are they disarming? And I think, in my judgment anyway, the answer to that question still remains no, they don't understand, they are not taking it seriously. We see a lot of process. We see people showing up for interviews who have tape recorders. Guess where a copy of that tape is going. Do you think anybody is going to honestly answer questions with a tape recorder that they have to come out of that building and give the tape to who -- their minder?

And so we still need a lot more work to be done. And, frankly, one of the major items of discussions in the private session --

MS. KOPPEL: I'm sorry --

SECRETARY POWELL: -- were interviews, interviews. We need to do a better job of getting people into an environment where they can speak honestly and truthfully, without minders, without tape recorders, without bugged rooms. Both of the inspectors focused on this in our private session.

MS. KOPPEL: You said we need a lot more work to be done. I mean, that really is the point that the French, the Chinese and the others are saying with inspections. You don't mean in that regard, do you?

SECRETARY POWELL: No, no. We need a lot more work to be done. The inspectors are doing their work. We didn't say stop the inspections. What we said is no matter what you do with the inspections, in the absence of compliance we need a lot more work to be done with respect to compliance. Iraq needs to do a lot more work to convince us that it is complying. It has not provided any real evidence that it is complying with the demand of the United Nations.

MS. KOPPEL: Not that long ago, you were saying inspections will not work. Are you saying that maybe they will?

SECRETARY POWELL: No, I'm saying the only thing that counts is compliance. If Iraq starts to comply and cooperates, and starts turning over all documents, not forming commissions to go look for documents. I mean, just consider --

MS. KOPPEL: How much more time? How much more time, Mr. Secretary?

SECRETARY POWELL: Just consider what the Iraqi Permanent Representative said after we all have said the declaration they submitted in December was inadequate, it was not full, it was not complete. And I hit it again today. I hit it last week. What was his answer today? Read it again, it's all in there. It isn't all in there. The chief inspectors know that. We all know it.

And so this is further evidence of Iraq just trying to rope-a-dope this along, to keep it going until people lose interest and walk away.

MS. KOPPEL: So how much more time? The President has said weeks. Are we still talking weeks or are we talking days?

SECRETARY POWELL: We're talking weeks.

MS. KOPPEL: The French and others have made clear that they think the inspections should go on longer. Why do you think they're pushing that line?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, I don't know. You'll have to ask them. My own judgment is that there are some members of the Council who don't want to face up to the obligations that we undertook when that resolution was passed, and that was, in the presence of a bad declaration, which we had, in the presence of noncompliance, which we have, lack of cooperation, which we have, we are obliged to look at serious consequences. Serious consequences could mean the use of armed force.

One member of the Council has made it clear that war is not a last resort; war is no resort, according to Germany. Germany has said so. And so there are some nations that will try to do everything to avoid the consequences required of the Council to impose its will upon Iraq. And that mean the use of armed force.

MS. KOPPEL: One of the things the French and others have said who are opposed to war is that they are concerned about the consequences and what will happen the day after, the months after, the years after. How can the U.S. be sure that the region will not suffer the consequences of a post-Saddam Iraq?

SECRETARY POWELL: The United States has one terrific record over the last almost 100 years of leaving places better off after we have conducted a military operation. I can make that case with respect in just the last ten or twelve years to Kuwait, Kosovo and to Afghanistan.

People are worried about consequences, and I understand that anxiety. But there are also going to be positive consequences. This regime, if we have to go in and use military force, will no longer be there threatening the world. Those weapons of mass destruction will be gone. The neighbors will not have to worry about this any more, nor will the rest of the world. And we can then re-adjust our military footprint, which is a source of some concern in the region.

And I think one of the consequences of a military operation, if it comes to that -- and we're trying to avoid it -- was that the people of Iraq will start to benefit from the oil of Iraq; the wealth of the nation will now go to benefit the people of the nation, and not to weapons of mass destruction, not to threatening your neighbors. That's one of the consequences that could also come out of such a conflict, if it comes to a conflict.

MS. KOPPEL: When you say adjust the footprint, you mean withdrawing troops, withdrawing American troops from Saudi Arabia, from Kuwait?

SECRETARY POWELL: A lot of our presence, a lot of our presence in the region -- we didn't have a large presence in the region before the Gulf War. One of the reasons that our presence increased significantly after the Gulf War was because of Iraq. And so, in the absence of that kind of regime that we've seen for all these years in Iraq, a new regime that is responsible to its people, has been put in place by its people and is reflective of its people and is living in peace with its neighbors and is trying to build up schools and hospitals and not chemical and biological weapons, you change the entire situation in the region for the better, and obviously the kind of presence that we have there now would be changed accordingly.

MS. KOPPEL: One presence that would be there, some of your colleagues on the Hill this week said that there would be an American general who would likely be in place there for about two years. Why --

SECRETARY POWELL: Nobody said that. What we said was that obviously, if you have a military operation and the military operation is successful, the commander of that operation would initially be in charge, and that would be --

MS. KOPPEL: But we don't know for how long?

SECRETARY POWELL: We don't know for how long, but it would be for the shortest possible period of time until it can be transitioned over to a civilian administrator and then any international body that has a role to play and rapidly transition into the hands of the Iraqi people, as fast as we can make that happen.

We have no desire to have an American general running a country, or running, especially, a Muslim country. The two-year comment came in response to a question to one of my associates in the State Department about how long does an AID program usually last, and the answer was, a program like that usually takes two years for an AID program and that got mixed up with another comment about generals into we plan to have a general there for two years. We've never said any such thing.

MS. KOPPEL: Before we end, I just have to ask you, from what you have heard so far today, is it your sense as a former military man that war with Iraq is more inevitable than it was going into today's session.

SECRETARY POWELL: No, I wouldn't say that. I would say there's still a chance for peace. But, you know, we will not -- we will not realize that peace if we ever back off on the pressure, if we ever make it look like we do not have the will to take this to conflict if necessary to disarm Iraq.

But the question of war and peace is up to Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi regime. The Council has spoken. The Council spoke clearly in 1441. We had a good, spirited debate today after hearing from the two chief inspectors. The burden now is on Saddam Hussein with respect to the question of whether there will be war or peace.

MS. KOPPEL: Secretary Powell, thank you so much for joining us.

SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you, Andrea. Happy Valentine's Day.

MS. KOPPEL: And the same to you.


Released on February 14, 2003

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