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Interview by The Washington Post

Secretary Colin L. Powell
Washington, DC
October 3, 2003


(3:30 p.m. EDT)

QUESTION: On the roadmap, which is kind of at a stalemate now, there's an analysis out there that the Administration, in terms of its Middle East policy, goes through periods of engagement and disengagement. And that, as one person put it to me, that when the going -- when it starts getting tough, the Administration flinches. How would you respond to that?

SECRETARY POWELL: I don't think it's accurate. The roadmap is still out there. It's at a pause right now.

We had progress when we were at Aqaba and were able to put our support behind Abu Mazen. And we made it clear to both sides what had to happen. Abu Mazen and Mohammed Dahlan had to get going on terrorism, had to get going on security. And we had expectations for Israel with respect to prisoner releases; with respect to openings of checkpoints; with respect to turning cities and areas back over; with respect to unauthorized outposts; and with respect to settlement activity and a number of other issues.

We got going down that road. Hamas, in a pitch, declared a ceasefire. We made it clear to the Palestinians, declaring a ceasefire is not the same as removing the as removing the capability for terror. So we wouldn't stand on that, wouldn't sit on that, it wouldn't work. Hudna would not work. Ultimately, they'd have to go after terrorists, but we realized we didn't want to start a civil war, either.

And so we got Gaza and Bethlehem turned over. We got some prisoners turned over. We started to have progress turning over some other cities and towns. It was slower than I would have like to have seen it happen, but it was, nevertheless, progress. Some outposts were taken down, but others were put back up right away. That's okay.

We had a concept, and the Israelis knew we were looking for all of them, to include the numbers we had identified to them and any others that came in to replace them; and they knew that.

Unfortunately, we couldn't stay with it because terror broke out again. One could say, "Well, it's because the Israelis started with targeted assassinations beyond that which they said they would do, which were smoking guns coming in -- bomb -- ticking bombs coming in." And the Palestinians would say, "That was the problem." The Israelis would say, "No, terror has started again." But what really brought it to a head was the bus bomb, which was "so much for Hudna so much for ceasefire. We've got a major problem."

We pressed the Palestinians. They tried to make a play for control of all the security forces and Abu Mazen couldn't pull it off, and he felt he had to resign. And so that put a pause in it. But it is not as if with that pause we have disengaged. We stayed in close touch with both sides. Bill Burns talks to Abu Alaa on a regular basis. I have talked to Nabil Shaath on a regular basis. I stay in touch with all my Arab colleagues, Israeli colleagues. And so I view it as a pause.

The reason why the pause can't come off at the moment is we're waiting for a new Palestinian Government to be identified and sworn in and for us to take a measure of it. And the cabinet has been selected. We'll see what authority that cabinet and that prime minister actually come away with after the PLC takes its action next week, and we'll have to make a judgment.

Is a new prime minister sufficiently committed to go after terror? Is he sufficiently -- does he have sufficient political power so it just doesn't look like an extension of Arafat's right arm? And will he have all the security forces under his authority? And how does he plan to use those security forces?

We're pleased that Mr. Fayyad, the finance minister, is still in the cabinet. Nabil Shaath is still in the cabinet. Dahlan is not and we'll see how that plays out. And once we have a chance to measure that cabinet, then the possibility exists, if it meets minimum performance standards, initial performance standards that I've just described, then we'll be prepared to engage.

We've kept the Quartet occupied and involved. I met with them last Friday, I guess it was, in New York, and we put out a statement, so we have not stepped back or stepped away. We're following it very closely. We've had intense discussions about the fence, intense discussions about settlement actually that has continued, and we're examining the loan guarantees with respect to these activities, relative to the fence and to settlements.

QUESTION: Now on the fence, have you told the Israelis that they would face some sort of action or punishment if they were to close the gaps in the fence that are now envisioned around the area of Ariel.

SECRETARY POWELL: We've made it clear that the fence, as the President has made clear, the fence is a problem. If you want to put a fence on something that is a recognized border of a Green Line, then put a fence on your property line. But the more you intrude into Palestinian areas, and the more it looks like it could be a contiguous intrusion around large sections of Palestinian land that would prejudge subsequent negotiations as to what a Palestinian State may look like, that's a problem.

QUESTION: And those gaps --

SECRETARY POWELL: And these gaps are noted, and the construction really hasn't gone on yet in the Phase Two, but the gaps, in and of themselves, do not satisfy me. And **we have to have discussion. The question is, what becomes of the gap in due course?
And we are examining what our obligations are under the relevant legislation that set up the loan guarantees. But we have not yet come to a conclusion as to what to do and what our actions should be, and we are in discussions with the Israelis about it.

But the President is as committed today as he was at Aqaba to the roadmap. I had a long conversation with the President about it yesterday. And Dr. Rice and I had a long meeting yesterday with Ambassador Wolf, who's back from consultations, and with Bill Burns and Elliot Abrams, to get ourselves all knitted up. And we are examining the fence, where it's going, how it's going, the settlements, and what our obligations are under the law with respect to these matters.

And the President was briefed fully after our meetings with the group I just described. Condi and I had only spent time with the President and Vice President.

QUESTION: On Iraq. You -- Jerry Bremer testified last week about a six-month deadline, more or less. You also talked about a six-month deadline. Since then, members of the Governing Council have said, "We can't do it in six months. That's just not enough time for this to happen." What would you say is the right way to proceed now? Will you press them to finish by a certain deadline?

SECRETARY POWELL: Deadline is a word I used with The New York Times, but there are deadlines and there are deadlines. We think it is an achievable goal, but we're not the ones writing it. They're the ones writing it. And some of them have expressed the view that we really can't get it done in six months. But our response to that is, "Let's get going. Let's get started. Let's get the work going and see where you are and how fast you think you can move."

And so, we're going to continue to press them to move as quickly as possible. Because the sooner we have that constitution, the sooner we can then take it to ratification, the sooner we can schedule elections. And so Ambassador Bremer and I have both been talking about six months. It's not something we pulled out of thin air. He and I spoke about it extensively when I visited two - three weeks ago, I guess it was now, and it's a timeframe that he had been using, and that I picked up and have been using.

QUESTION: And do you imagine keeping, setting a certain deadline, and keeping them to it, or will you allow them to determine when and how?

SECRETARY POWELL: We're waiting for them to tell us what their plan is. And we're pressing them to do it as quickly as possible. We said to them --

QUESTION: And if they said one year?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, I think we would press back because we don't know that it will take one year and frankly, we'd like to see it finished long before one year. We need to get on with this. We need to get on with completion of the constitution, ratification, and elections, because the sooner that happens, the sooner we can do what everybody wants us to do, and that's transfer full authority back to an Iraqi Government.

But we believe Ambassador Bremer's seven-step plan to get there is the best way to go about it. People have different ideas on the subject. I'm sure you'll want to get to that next. Some people say, "No, you really don't want to go that way. You want to create a government right away, or as quickly as you can -- in the next couple of months, and vest it with authority. Ready or not, you've got it."

That is not realistic in our judgment, and may not be the right way to go about it. It isn't "Ready or not." It's, "Ready, and then we will vest the authority in you." Ready or not means you may not be ready, and if you're not ready, it would not be responsible of the United States or the Coalition partners to say you are when you aren't and set you up for failure.

A lot of things have to happen while the constitution is being written, and the period leading to elections. Ministries have to be up and functioning. You have to have a government there. You have to have a civil administration in place. You have to have police trained.

We're now moving rapidly to set up the police-training facility in Jordan, and I thank the Jordanians for that. There are a number of countries who have offered to help us there, and we're looking into those offers. We've got to get the military up and running, and I think I read this morning where one of the first graduating classes has come out. And all of those other things have to be taken care of. And at the same time, you've got to provide some security in the countryside while these institutions are coming up. And that's what our troops are doing.

QUESTION: And on the political side, you've got Kofi Annan saying that he believes that there should be a provisional government first, and then a constitution can unfold over time. Do you envision any changes to the current structure of the Iraqi Governing Council itself or its role before you have elections, or is this it now?

SECRETARY POWELL: I think the plan Jerry put out, the seven-point plan -- which anticipates the Governing Council, ministries, constitution, election -- to be a sound plan and the plan we're executing.

QUESTION: So you'll stick with the current 24 members of the Governing Council, then?

SECRETARY POWELL: I have heard -- I've made no suggestion to increase it, and I haven't heard one from Jerry, whether in due course the Governing Council itself, or Jerry working with the Governing Council, thinks it should be expanded. That's really a judgment for them to make. But I haven't heard anything from Ambassador Bremer to suggest that's something he's planning to do or the Council is planning to do. Maybe there are such ideas.

I talked to Kofi this morning. He gave a press conference yesterday, which caused a bit of coverage. (Laughter.) And I was trying to, you know, understand exactly what he was saying. So we had a good conversation this morning and his concern really is that, in light of the security situation and what happened on the 19th August and his concerns, he is unable to send in a large number of people to take on major responsibilities. He is able to provide humanitarian support through his relevant agencies -- World Food Program, and the like. And we are working to give them much security as we can.

But as I understood him and his position as he expressed it yesterday and again to me today, is that there is a limit to what he is able to do now because of that security situation. So don't ask him to take on something that he isn't capable of taking on. And therefore, the authority must necessarily rest in the CPA. He also is encouraging us to look at a way of finding a transitional arrangement that could assume some authority, or all authority, until you can then go through the constitutional process -- in other words, move it in another direction, which is also what the French are suggesting.

And these are interesting ideas. They're well meaning ideas. I had good conversations with Dominique de Villepin, and Kofi, and with Luis Derbez of Mexico. I expect to be talking to Joschka over the weekend. He's in a conference. I've just talked to Jack Straw a few moments ago. We'll reflect on all of this over the weekend and into early next week.

QUESTION: On Iran, the Iranians seem to be all but begging to restart the talks that have been going on in Geneva so that they can be brought in on the discussion of Iran -- I mean, Iraq. Why has the Administration not taken them up on that -- all these open suggestions -- and restarted those talks?

SECRETARY POWELL: We have heard all these suggestions, and we have received a number of indications from Iran. And we are responding to those indications. And I won't get into the details of it, but there are some outstanding issues that have to be resolved. But I think it's encouraging that they are sending out these signals and we are responding to the signals. It's something that may well come together.

QUESTION: I see. When you say "responding," do you mean in terms of --

SECRETARY POWELL: They know -- they are getting a response. Their signals are not simply going into the ether. They're hitting a reflector and going back, and a signal's going back.

QUESTION: And if they were to sign the Advance -- they say they will sign the Advance Protocol if they're assured --

SECRETARY POWELL: There were saying it. Additional Protocol.

QUESTION: -- Additional Protocol -- if they were sure that that would be the end of the --

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, the end of it is when they have assured the international community that they are not doing anything that could lead to a nuclear weapons development program or a nuclear weapon.

The Additional Protocol certainly moves you in the right direction, but I think the international community through the IAEA will be seeking additional assurances and all of the questions answered. And that's why we're taking the next several weeks to see what answers the IAEA does receive from Iran. And there'll be, you know, an opportunity for the IAEA to speak again at the end of them, and then for the Security Council to decide whether it's appropriate for it to take any action.

But what we're looking for is not a confrontation or crisis with Iran. We're looking for Iran to demonstrate to the world, to the international community, that it is not intending to develop a nuclear weapon. And it's the United States that first called attention to this problem at the beginning of this Administration, and then ever since then.

In recent months, more and more people have come to the realization that there is a problem. The IAEA has come to that realization with a strong vote recently, and my European colleagues have found it sufficiently persuasive that they sent a letter -- France, Germany and the United Kingdom -- to Iran, laying out concerns; and even Russia has expressed concerns.

As President Putin said the other day, he wants answers, and he's concerned. But at the same time, he doesn't see any reason not to provide support to Bushehr, and to complete Bushehr, but I think he's recognizes it's really not Bushehr so much as it is the fuel cycle that will cause Bushehr to operate. And that's where we all have a concern to make sure that fuel cycle -- if the plant is continued -- that the fuel cycle is provided in a way that we have absolute assurance that the fuel is not being diverted or used in any way, and being reprocessed in any way, into material that can be used for nuclear weapons.

QUESTION: On the civilian side of post-war Iraq and reconstruction, when you were in New York, while you were in New York, John Hamre testified to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. And he told them that the Defense Department is managing tasks for which it has no background or competence. And Hamre, and Jim Dobbins, and Brian Atwood all said that the time has come for the Bush Administration to take the civilian side of the reconstruction process away from DoD, and give it to other agencies -- notably, this one. There are a lot of people in this building who would agree with that. Do you agree with that?

SECRETARY POWELL: The Defense Department has the mission, after a considered analysis and judgment and decision made earlier this year. It's a very difficult mission. And it is a combination of a military mission, continuing to provide security and running a large military force, and it is a mission that involves a large investment of people and capacity and institutions that the State Department does not have but the Defense Department does have, and the resources that Defense Department has that State Department does not have. I do not have Civil Affairs Battalions in the State Department. I do not have Civil Affairs Groups. I do not have medical brigades and battalions.

And so for unity of effort, both on the military side and on the civil side, the decision, correctly, was made to leave it within the Department of Defense. This is not unprecedented and not shocking.

MacArthur, last I heard, was not an FSO, nor was Lucius Clay. He acted like -- but let's not get into that (laughter)! But I mean it is not unprecedented for the military force that goes in and defeats an enemy and takes over a country, they just don't turn it over to the first ambassador who comes along. It takes time.

There will be a time in the future when this government is up and running, and authority is passed back to the Iraqis, and there may be a need, then, for some continuing U.S. military presence, just as there was in Korea and Japan and Germany, because we're invited to be there for some purpose, and that's something in the future to be determined and at which point an embassy comes up full-fledged, with a full-fledged ambassador, and it becomes principally a State Department function.

QUESTION: But you see this structure until the Iraqis have their own sovereignty, then?

SECRETARY POWELL: I see this structure because it is a very large, complex organization. We are sending lots of people over to help Ambassador Bremer. Ambassador Bremer is a retired Foreign Service Officer. And we're sending a number of people over in -- within the next two weeks. Our presence in Baghdad will make it our largest presence in the Middle East -- State Department presence in the Middle East; bigger than our mission in Egypt.

And so we are moving in to work with Ambassador Bremer. But as an old soldier, you've got to have unity of command and centrality of command. And what we're going to be doing here in the weeks ahead is using the structure that's been created and work with Ambassador Bremer.

I think we'll work harder to provide day-to-day supervision of the many agencies that are now involved. In the beginning, it was principally all Defense, now it is increasingly more State coming in, Justice Department, and other people that are going in, which puts a greater burden on the National Security Council system to manage it.

But I think the lines of communication are open. Ambassador Bremer reports to the President through Don Rumsfeld, but I am able to communicate openly and readily with both Don and with Jerry. I've done it several times today.

QUESTION: How often does --

QUESTION: How often would you say you talk with Jerry, either by the phone or by e-mail?

SECRETARY POWELL: Oh, I don't want to start doing body counts, but let's just say frequently.

QUESTION: You said several times today already?

SECRETARY POWELL: Electronically -- yeah, we pop e-mails back and forth.

QUESTION: You said several times a day with Rumsfeld?

SECRETARY POWELL: Both of them. Today. I was talking about today. Today I've talk to Don three times about various issues, including Iraq, and -- by telephone. And Jerry is an e-mailer, and so am I.

QUESTION: Are you satisfied with the influence that you and your deputies have over Iraq policy?


QUESTION: Are you satisfied with the influence that you and your deputies have over Iraq policy, as it's carried out?

SECRETARY POWELL: Yeah, we meet in principals. And you know, at principals --

QUESTION: I meant you, here at the State Department.

SECRETARY POWELL: Yeah, but we don't do it outside of the principals group.

I mean what we do is, we get together and we debate issues within the principal's group, and we take it to the President. And the President usually has an NSC meeting on this, oh, an average of once a week all schedules permitting.

Jerry joins in those meetings. When Jerry was back here last week, he had consultations with everybody. I talked to him and saw him, I think. He was here and I was in New York, so it was a bit of a disconnect. But I have all the entree and influence that I need. And I talk regularly to the President about it, both in meetings and privately.

QUESTION: On India. It's my understanding that last week, President Bush presented Vajpayee with what was called, like, a "glide path" towards better relations with India and with three-phase plan that would -- I guess, for starters, India would take some nonproliferation steps such as strengthening domestic export laws, and the United States would respond with its own steps.

Can you just kind of expand on what's behind that proposal?

SECRETARY POWELL: Yeah. We have really restructured a new relationship with the Indians and it's a quite, quite strong and satisfactory relationship. And there was a basket of issues that they were always asking us about called, well, we called it -- we nicknamed it, "The Trinity." How could you help us? How can we expand our trade in high tech areas, in areas having to do with space launch activities, and with our nuclear industry?

We have been trying to be as forthcoming as we can because it's in our interest to be forthcoming, but we also have to protect certain redlines that we have with respect to proliferation, because it's sometimes hard to separate within space launch activities and industries and nuclear programs, that which could go to weapons, and that which could be solely for peaceful purposes.

And so we've had a very productive set of discussions with the Indians over the last, almost two years now, about these issues and how close we could get to satisfying their interests without crossing our redlines. And the "glide path" was a way of bringing to closure to this debate.

The President didn't have any in-depth discussions with Prime Minister Vajpayee on it, but we have discussed it with the Indians at diplomatic levels. Our Ambassador, our charge there has discussed it, and we sent out people to discuss it with the Indians. It hasn't been announced yet, and it hasn't been consummate yet, but it's gotten a good reception in India, and at an appropriate time in the future, it will be announced.

QUESTION: And I guess Secretary Armitage is actually going to talk to the Pakistanis about it on his trip?

SECRETARY POWELL: Armitage is going to talk to the Pakistanis about lots of things. It's not a -- the "glide path" is not exactly a secret. It's been well discussed in various media. I think the Indian media has covered it as well. But it's an important role that we play right now in the subcontinent, and that, for the first time in many, many years, we have good, strong relations with both of them -- strong U.S.-India relations, strong U.S.-Pakistan relations.

And we are doing everything we can to show both of them that they are a partner, a friend of the United States, and we don't view them through the India-Pakistan relationship. And because we are working with both of them and trying to help both of them, we think we can play an effective role in resolving outstanding problems between the two countries. And that's what we've tried to do, and I think the record of the past -- let's say, 15 months is pretty good. Both, Peter and Glenn, both of you will remember last June. Everybody said, "Nuclear war is going to break out this weekend." I was a very busy fellow, as was Rich, and Jack Straw, and all of my other colleagues. We were circling, in fact, Islamabad -- and we went on a couple of them, I think -- circling Islamabad and Delhi on a regular basis to send in another foreign minister.

And the highlight of my career would be speaking to President Musharraf about this matter and about a lot of talk that was out there -- talking to both sides about a lot of chatter that was out there about, "Well, this might go nuke." That was last June. This June, and now into September, High Commissioners have been exchanged, bus routes are open and people run back and forth. There is a possibility of air traffic starting up again.

We still have a lot to do. There is still problem in the Line Of Control, and we're not anywhere near the kind of dialogue I'd like to see take place between the two parties, but we certainly aren't on the edge of war, as everybody thought we were last year. And we probably -- and we may well have been. Remember, there were armies massing.

That's been dealt with, and I think, to some extent, and I won't take the whole credit for it because there a lot of people were involved, to some extent, it reflected the new relationship that we have with both India and Pakistan. We could talk to both sides and counsel them about the consequences of the actions they might have been thinking of taking. So I think we can keep moving in this direction and work hard to see if we can't get a dialogue started.

QUESTION: Let's do the last one.

QUESTION: In a number of parts of the world, you face this issue of how much to engage, what to give up, what to get back, how to negotiate. If we could talk about Cuba as the last question. You're familiar with, very well, with Central Europe and the Soviet Union and the arguments that openness to those societies ultimately created hopes, which led to expectations, which led to new governments.

Interestingly enough, Gorbachev is going to be giving a speech in Miami tomorrow where, presumably, he will talk about some of these themes on the subject.

SECRETARY POWELL: An old friend.

QUESTION: Exactly. And on the subject --

QUESTION: I wonder if he's being on Radio Marti, if the Cubans will jam it?


QUESTION: That would be (inaudible).

SECRETARY POWELL: How do you say "perestroika" in Spanish?


QUESTION: Well, that's probably one of the challenges he will face. But that's one of the things he's going to --

SECRETARY POWELL: Quick! What's the other word?

QUESTION: Glasnost.

SECRETARY POWELL: Okay. I usually can trap people.


QUESTION: And so he will -- presumably and someone will be talking about openness. You're well aware of what's going on on the Hill where there is great debate about whether there should be more openness. And a lot of people think the travel ban should be listed -- lifted; that the embargo after 40 years maybe doesn't deserve that much more time to see if it's going to work. What do you believe is the right way to approach?

SECRETARY POWELL: I think the approach we're taking is the correct one. This isn't the Soviet Union in 1987 and '88.

QUESTION: Because?

SECRETARY POWELL: Because there is still absolutely no realization of the problems that Cuba is facing with respect to its political system and its economic system, and the need to start changing the political and economic systems, and to start realizing that there is a better way.

Castro of 1959 is the same Castro in 2003. And Gorbachev was not Stalin, Khrushchev, Andropov or any of the others. He realized that change had to come and he was willing to lead that change. Castro is quite the contrary. He has used openings not to benefit his people, and he has used openings to enhance his power. "Pay me in dollars, and I'll pay the people in pesos."

And we just don't find that to be the kind of system that should be rewarded with the sorts of openness and encouragement that we provided to other states of similar political and economic views, as they -- you know, and then they started to realize change was appropriate and necessary.

QUESTION: And you just don't feel it's a tool that would work either, whether or not it's a reward for Castro to own it?

SECRETARY POWELL: No. You know, we've seen some countries try it. I mean, and some of our friends in the hemisphere may -- said we were wrong, and "Let's make major investments in Cuba, and let's help them."

Well, guess what? They not only pulled back from those investments, they didn't help anybody, they helped the regime. And we think there is a body of evidence that suggests this is not the way to deal with Castro.

And even the European Union and other nations have been kind of shocked that this fellow they were trying to bring out in the open would, essentially, lock up people who dare to say anything against him for 15, 20, 25 years, or would shoot people who tried to get in a ferry boat and escape his little island of paradise.



Released on October 11, 2003

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