Interview with Ghida Fakhry of Lebanese Broadcast Corporation/Al-HayatSecretary Colin L. Powell
July 23, 2003
QUESTION:Mr. Secretary, first of all, welcome. Thank you very much.
SECRETARY POWELL:Thank you very much.
QUESTION:Let's talk about Iraq. With the two main pillars, or two of the main pillars of the Saddam regime now eliminated, will that speed up the political process that will lead to the establishment of an independent Iraqi government and the swift withdrawal of the U.S. troops from Iraq?
SECRETARY POWELL:Well, with these two men, the sons of Saddam Hussein gone, I think the Iraqi people can see that there is a better road ahead because these two men were responsible for the death of so many innocent Iraqis, so many innocent Muslims who were murdered by whim, by will of these two men. I think as long as they were there, there was uncertainty as to what the future might hold. And we will not stop until all of these individuals are gone, to include Saddam Hussein himself.
The United States is committed to returning sovereignty to Iraq as quickly as possible. We don't want to stay any longer than necessary. But what we have been able to do in the short period of time that we have been the provisional authority is we've begun to restore services, schools are being built, an economy is being created, we're getting ready to introduce a new currency, we're working on infrastructure matters such as how to rebuild the oil industry, how to rebuilt all of those things that were destroyed, not by military force but were destroyed by Saddam Hussein and his two sons and the other leadership of the Iraqi regime for the last 30 years.
QUESTION:How essential, though, Mr. Secretary, is it to have the main players such as Saddam and his sons captured or killed in order to move ahead on the ground and reestablish all these things?
SECRETARY POWELL:We're moving ahead with or without their presence. I mean, they are gone. They are no longer in power. The two sons were hiding in the relative's house. They were no longer affecting things. But as long as they were out there somewhere they created a bit of uncertainty in the situation. Same thing with Saddam Hussein. But he's not in charge of anything, he's not coming back, and he is being hunted and he eventually will be found.
So with them out of the way, fine, they're out of the way. But we haven't been waiting for them to be out of the way. We are working hard to restore security, rebuilding infrastructure, open the schools and give the Iraqi people a better life so they can live in peace with their neighbors.
QUESTION:Would you have preferred to see them captured rather than killed, in the sense that a lot of the evidence might also have been killed along with their deaths?
SECRETARY POWELL:Well, it would have been -- you know, they might have had some intelligence that maybe would have been useful, but they resisted. When we tried to have them come out and we used megaphones and broadcast into the building, instead of them coming out, they fired out, and our troops did what they were supposed to do; they fired back.
QUESTION:And Saddam -- does this, the capture, the killing of his two sons, does it tighten the noose around Saddam even more? Are we any closer to capturing him?
SECRETARY POWELL:I can't answer that question. I don't know. I do know that more and more Iraqis are coming forward to give us information. More and more Iraqis understand that the difficulties they are having now might well have to do with these old Baath Party members or the remnants of the regime. I think more and more Iraqis understand that the coalition is not there to impose our will; we are there to create circumstances so that Iraqis can determine their own leadership.
The fact that we now have a governing council and that that governing council was representing the Iraqi people at the United Nations yesterday alongside the UN representative, this should be encouraging to the Iraqi people.
QUESTION:But this Iraqi council is still not recognized by the Arab countries, the regional countries. How much concern does that give you, and is there any political pressure being exerted on these countries in order to recognize this council?
SECRETARY POWELL:First -- no, first things first. Not only did the council yesterday, representatives of the council, speak to the UN, they met with the Arab League, and so they're reaching out to the Arab League as well. But we have to take this process in steps, and the first step was to create the council. Let the council now get about the work of creating a constitutional commission. We need a constitution for the Iraqi people so that we can then get to elections.
And I can assure you we want to move this as fast as we possibly can. There is no effort or no desire on the part of the United States to stay there for an extended period. But we have to stay there to make sure that the country is stable, the people are being taken care of, the infrastructure is being repaired, and a process is in place to allow them to select a form of government that will keep the country together and will show to the world that Iraq is now a responsible member of the international community and is prepared to live in peace -- without terrorism, without weapons of mass destruction, and will no longer have people like Uday and Qusay to terrorize Muslim citizens of Iraq.
QUESTION:One of the main criticisms leveraged at the U.S. in the Arab world is the fact that there doesn't seem to be a real plan put in place for postwar Iraq. Yes, militarily the U.S. was very quick in achieving what it wanted, but political to make sure that the security is in place, that there is stability, there doesn't seem to have been a real plan. What could have been done differently?
SECRETARY POWELL:What? I don't know how someone can say that when you can look at what's happening on the ground. In about three month's time we've created a governing council consisting of Iraqi citizens. We are making sure that people are fed. The hospitals are up and running. We have described the political process to move forward: governing council, constitution, and then a representative body will be elected. We have brought that governing council to the United Nations. We are starting to see oil flow.
Security is slowing being established throughout the country, in some places more rapidly than other places. We still continue to take some casualties, but when you look at the number of people who are being detained, people who are being arrested, former members of the regime who are being taken out of action, I think we are doing quite well. And whether or not it unfolded exactly the way it was designed before the war isn't as relevant as to how well it's unfolding now. A new currency will be in place later in the fall. Economic activity is starting up.
So I think the Arab world should be encouraged by what they see. They see the coalition working hard to bring more international players to Iraq to help the Iraqi people set up their government, and they should look at this as a positive development, not negative development.
QUESTION:Is the U.S. now willing to internationalize the occupation of Iraq?
SECRETARY POWELL:It is internationalized. We are there under 14 -- UN Resolution 1483. There are a number of countries who are there with us. We are considering whether it is necessary or appropriate or needed to go back to the UN for another resolution to give us a broader mandate, give the UN a broader mandate, so that more countries will feel comfortable in joining in the effort. But it is internationalized now. The UN -- some 12 different UN agencies are working in one way or another in Iraq, and so it is internationalized. The question is do we need a broader UN mandate, and that's what we're looking at. That's what I'll be talking to my Security Council colleagues about.
QUESTION:Much is always said about the differences in approach and vision between the State Department and Pentagon with regard to how to deal with things in Iraq. Whose vision is being implemented today in Iraq --
SECRETARY POWELL:The President's
QUESTION:-- yours or the Pentagon's?
SECRETARY POWELL:No, it's wrong. It's a wrong question. The President's vision is being implemented in Iraq today and the President's vision reflects the advice that he has received from both the Pentagon and State Department. The Pentagon and the State Department have been working very, very closely over the last eight months on this issue. I'm the one who went and presented the intelligence case to the United Nations on the 5th of February.
And so surely there will always be some differences of perspective from the diplomatic side and from the military side, but what we are all doing is executing the President's vision and his decisions. And what you've seen is that a very terrible regime that was responsible for the death of tens upon tens of thousands of Muslims has been removed from power, no longer have weapons of mass destruction. I think the Arab world should look carefully at all of these graves that are now being opened up, mass graves filled with the bodies of people, Muslims, who were killed, not by the United States and not by the United Kingdom, but by Saddam Hussein and his sons and that regime -- and it's gone.
QUESTION:I don't think anyone would argue the fact it was a terrible regime. We've seen all the evidence about it. But the war was fought on a different premise, on weapons of mass destruction being found. Now, with so many weeks and months having gone by without weapons of mass destruction being found, Saddam's still on the loose, rising toll of U.S. casualties, what situation does that put the U.S. in? Does that put you vis-à-vis the Europeans, who did not want this war to take place, in a position of we told you so?
SECRETARY POWELL:Some Europeans did not believe the war was appropriate. Most Europeans did believe it was an appropriate war and most Europeans did support the action of the coalition.
With respect to weapons of mass destruction, I am confident that as we develop information, as more informants come forward, informants of the kind that helped us find the two sons of Saddam Hussein, the evidence will be there for the world to see.
The world agreed that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. The world passed resolution after resolution in the Security Council saying that he had weapons of mass destruction and he had to do something about it, had to account for them, get rid of them, destroy them, and they didn't do it. And therefore I believe that the coalition was fully justified under UN Resolution 1441, which starts out with an indictment of the regime, we were fully justified in taking the action that was taken.
And one can debate the premise, one can argue about facts, one can argue about intelligence information and one can argue about perceived differences between the various departments of the U.S. Government, but the reality of the world today, on this day, is that this regime is gone, the people of Iraq are now looking to a better life. They are going to have an economy that functions, they're going to be respected on the world stage. And I think that is what we ought to be looking at.
QUESTION:On the Middle East, I can move on to that issue, Mr. Secretary, there will be quite a bit of activity in the next few days with both Mr. Abu Mazen and Mr. Sharon being in Washington. In your opinion, can the deadline to creating these two -- well, establishing the Palestinian state to make the President's vision come to fruition, can that still be done in the deadline set out for it in 2005?
SECRETARY POWELL:I think it would be difficult, but I think it's still possible. We have seen a great deal of progress in the last few month with the Sharm el-Sheikh summit where all the Arab leaders came together to give their support to the roadmap, and then the Aqaba summit where Prime Minister Abbas and Prime Minister Sharon, in the presence of King Abdullah and President Bush accepted the roadmap. And now both sides are moving forward. We have seen Palestinians take responsibility for security of Gaza and Bethlehem. I think other cities will follow. We have seen Israel start to take action in eliminating outposts and releasing some prisoners. I think more prisoners will be released.
And so both sides are taking steps to move forward. The violence, the level of terror, has gone down significantly. This is all encouraging. Everybody says, "But has there been a breakthrough this week?" Well, you don't get a breakthrough every week. Sometimes it's just steady forward progress. And if we continue to encourage both sides to move forward on their obligations and commitments under the roadmap, then I think it is still possible to keep going and then speed things up as more confidence is gained; it is still possible to achieve the vision that the President laid out of a Palestinian state in 2005.
QUESTION:We often hear of what is being asked of the Palestinian side by the U.S. administration to cut down violence. But on the Israeli side, is there a plan, is there some sort of specific demand that you will make of Mr. Sharon when he is next in Washington?
SECRETARY POWELL:We have made it clear what both sides should do. It's laid out in the roadmap. Terror has to end. Terror has to end. Settlement activity has to end. We are encouraging the Israelis to release prisoners, and that is an expectation of the Palestinians.
We want to see conditions created with the end of terror so that targeted assassinations are no longer necessary, so that commerce can start to take place in the occupied territories, so people can go from one city to the other city. And both sides have their obligations laid out clearly in the roadmap, and we will be holding both sides to account for their obligations.
QUESTION:In the last few weeks there has been relative calm, in big part due to the fact that the Palestinian militant groups have come to an agreement on a ceasefire. Will that make Washington reconsider the way it looks at these groups that it calls terrorist groups if they do pursue a political process rather than military means to achieve their goals?
SECRETARY POWELL:We have to keep in mind that even though there is a ceasefire, these organizations still have the capacity to conduct terror activities. They have not said yet that they would remove this capacity.
Prime Minister Abbas has said you cannot have in a government organizations that have power unto themselves that is not under the government. And so he has said that, not the United States, and we agree with him.
So organizations such as Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, if they think they have a role to play, the role has to begin with the elimination of all capability to conduct terrorists activity. They had to stop that, to give it up.
They have to end the Intifadah, otherwise we will never develop the kind of confidence needed between the two sides, so that they could go forward into the next stages of the roadmap. And so I think, ultimately, those organizations have to foreswear the use of terror and eliminate the capability to conduct terrorist activities.
QUESTION:Well, on the Israeli side, do you believe the President or the current Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, is convinced that there is no military solution to this conflict?
SECRETARY POWELL:I think both sides should realize now that there is ultimately no military solution unless one wants to simply remain outside of these cities forever and watch both economies be destroyed -- no tourism, no economic activity. It's not sustainable.
And so I think that's why both sides recognized that they had to take this opportunity provided by the end of the war in Iraq, where a strategic threat to Israel is removed and where now the President of the United States, with the appearance of Prime Minister Abbas, the new leader in the Palestinian people -- with the Palestinian -- of the Palestinian people, he took advantage of that opportunity, said to both sides, "Let's stop. Let's move forward. Let's -- let's create conditions so that we can give hope to people. Let's show the Palestinian people and the Israeli people that there is a better answer to the problem than just strike and counterstrike. Let's use the roadmap for this purpose."
QUESTION:But with the presidential elections looming in this country, does the U.S. administration have the real commitment to see this through, as opposed to just seeing it through the next -- you know, over the period of the elections?
SECRETARY POWELL:The elections will not affect this. My instructions from the President, Dr. Rice's instructions from the President, are to stick with this and make sure that we keep it as a top priority. And when we started this a few months ago, we knew when the elections were coming next year. And if we were worried about the election, we wouldn't have started this. But now that we have started it, I can assure you the President is committed to it totally, just as he said he would be on the 24th of June last year.
QUESTION:What's your personal assessment of the relationship of Abu Mazen and Mr. Arafat?
SECRETARY POWELL:Well, they have known each other for many, many years. We believe that President Arafat is a failed leader. He did not take advantage of the opportunity he had for leadership, and Prime Minister Abbas has been brought into power by the act -- an act of the Palestinian people. He was elected by their legislature, and we're going to work with him.
And so far, he has demonstrated that he is prepared to do the things necessary for peace, and he and Prime Minister Sharon have met several times now. And the relationship between Prime Minister Abbas and President Arafat, I don't think I even want to characterize it, other than they have known each other for many years. They know each other well; one is the President, and one is the Prime Minister.
The Prime Minister is the one who we are working with, and he has demonstrated results already. He has already improved the lives of the Palestinian people, moving in Gaza, quieting the situation, so that both sides can now see hope. And we must not let this hope be dashed by returning to terror, and terror begets response, and we're right back where we started. This is a moment that must not be lost. This is an opportunity that must not be lost.
QUESTION:And if you please, Mr. Secretary, in recent days, there has been a bit of stepped-up rhetoric from this administration towards Syria and Iran. Do you think that this administration can convince the world about -- to the issue of weapons of mass destruction, the threats of them, or lack thereof, in the light of its inability to present the evidence in the case on Iraq?
SECRETARY POWELL:The evidence of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction has been seen by the world for 14 years. Do not, do not suggest to your audience that Iraq did not have or has never had weapons of mass destruction. The evidence is there, and we have seen it.
QUESTION:We just haven't found the weapons.
SECRETARY POWELL:Yes, we have. We have pictures of all through the '90s, of weapons of mass destruction that they had. We had them throwing out the inspectors, making sure the inspectors had to leave. And I think the case I presented on the 5th of February, has yet to be undercut by what we have -- what we have seen.
Now, we have people searching all over Iraq now. And I am quite confident that when they finish their work, when they finish their report, there will be no question about it. But it should not be -- no impression should be left that somehow Iraq was innocent of possession of weapons of mass destruction being used against their own people and against the Iranians.
Now, with respect to Iran and Syria, the rhetoric hasn't been changed significantly. We have said to both of them that if they want to have a better relationship with the United States, and if they, frankly, want to contribute to the process of peace that is underway in the region, then they have to stop supporting terrorist organizations. They have to stop providing the wherewithal to Hezbollah to conduct terrorist acts.
And we also believe both of those nations should foreswear, not get involved in the development of weapons of mass destruction, on the Iranian side especially, programs that would lead to the development of a nuclear weapon. I don't think these are unreasonable demands to place on both Syria and Iran.
Do they want to see peace in the region? Do they want to see the roadmap executed, or do they want to continue to support organizations that are not for peace, that are not for a Palestinian state, are only for the destruction of Israel, which won't happen?
QUESTION:But some have criticized you for not cultivating the relationship with Syria specifically, which had cooperated in intelligence with al-Qaida.
SECRETARY POWELL:We have -- I have had many conversations with the President of Syria and the Foreign Minister of Syria. There has been some level of cooperation on a number of issues. But on some of the basic issues having to do with support for terrorist activities, we have not seen enough on the Syrian side.
It doesn't say that there aren't other areas where we have seen some level of cooperation, but this is a test. Syria has to decide whether it wishes to join this roadmap process that leads a solution of the problem between Israel and the Palestinians, and then also leads to a comprehensive settlement in the region that includes Syria and Lebanon.
Do they want to be part of that process, or do they want to continue to let organizations such as Hamas and PIJ conduct their terrorist activities from Damascus?
Now, they may have closed down an office, people may have moved around, but they are still in Damascus. These individuals still are in Damascus, and from Damascus they are creating conditions that make it hard for the Palestinian people to achieve their state. Thank you.
Released on July 23, 2003