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Interview on Radio Sawa with Mouafac Harb

Secretary Colin L. Powell
Washington, DC
October 28, 2003

2003/1096

(2:15 p.m. EST)

MR. HARB: Hello, sir. How are you?

SECRETARY POWELL: Fine.

MR. HARB: This is Moufac Harb. Thank you for your time.

SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you.

MR. HARB: Let me, you know, every day we hear on the news more Iraqis are dying, more troops are dying in Iraq. How bad is it today in Iraq?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, I think it's a difficult situation. These remnants of the old regime and terrorists that have come into the country are distracting us from our work and making it harder for people to realize that the situation has gotten better in many ways.

As the President has said, as I have said, and my colleagues have said, there are so many good things happening: a new currency is in place; an economy is starting to pick up; the education system is functioning; the infrastructure is coming back up; investment is being made; the international community is pledging money to help the Iraqi people; a political process is in place and we're moving forward.

I was very pleased to have with us in Madrid at the donors conference last week, five members of the Governing Council, 15 cabinet ministry personnel, and a total delegation of 125 Iraqis. So a lot of good things are happening, and we must not let these terrorist acts convince anyone that we are not going to be successful. We are being successful now and we will achieve full success as long as we keep focused on the mission ahead of us and keep fighting these remnants and terrorist activities.

But we do have our work cut out for us in bringing the security situation under control, but we will succeed.

MR. HARB: Is there anything that you would have loved to do differently in the wake of the current events?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, I would have hoped that there would not be these kinds of remnants. But, you know, you don't get -- you don't get re-runs in life. You don't get the opportunity to say, "Well, I should have done it this way."

We did not know exactly what would happen once the invasion took place and the regime collapsed. It collapsed more thoroughly than we thought it would, showing how rotten it was, and all of the institutions collapsed -- the military-civil administration, the political party -- and all of that now has to be rebuilt. And, unfortunately, there are many of these remnants around that we will have to deal with.

But, in combat operations, you make adjustments and you make changes as circumstances change. And that's what we're doing now. You simply cannot plan for every contingency that might occur. If you could, war would be very simple; peacemaking would be very simple.

But these are complex matters, and we will adjust accordingly. Our military is adjusting and we are also adjusting by accelerating the development of an Iraqi police force and Iraqi military units, border patrol and paramilitary organizations, so that the face of security will increasingly be an Iraqi face, not an American face.

And it's also important to note, as you did at the beginning of your question, that more Iraqis are now being killed by other Iraqis, and I hope the Iraqi people will rise up and say, "Enough, stop. You are keeping us from having a new life, a peaceful life, and you are holding us back." And that's what we hope will happen as we develop Iraqi military and police units, and make the case that these are people who are destroying your dreams for a better future.

MR. HARB: A few hours ago, the President mentioned that we are working closely with Syria and Iran to prevent foreign terrorists from crossing the border. Can you give us more details on the working closely?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, we're working with them. We are in touch with the Syrians. Of course, we have diplomatic representation with Syria. I have an Ambassador there and I've been there several times, most recently last May, and we have contacts with them. Our contacts are a little more indirect with the Iranians, but we know we are expecting them to do more with respect to protecting the borders and we are working with them on that.

We have to keep in mind that these borders of all of the surrounding countries are very porous, and even the best efforts at trying to prevent infiltration cannot be totally successful because of the porous nature of these borders.

MR. HARB: If you take a look at the map in Iraq and if you look at Iraq in its regional context, we want to institute democracy in Iraq. Do you think friends and foes in the region would like us to fail in Iraq, and what are we doing to counter this environment that would not love to see the United States constituting democracy in Iraq?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, I'm not sure that everybody in the region wants us to fail. I don't think the Turks want us to fail. I don't think the Jordanians want us to fail. Certainly, the Saudis don't want us to fail. Neither do the Kuwaitis want us to fail. And even Syria and Iran, I'm not sure would see it in their interest for us to fail and to leave a destabilized country in Iraq that could, once again, rise up to be a threat to them.

And so even though people may not have approved of us going in and are somewhat disapproving of our continued occupation, at least some of them say so, it's not clear to me that they would like us to just leave right now. I think what everybody wants to see is to accelerate the process of transfer of power to the Iraqi people, something we are committed to and want to do, as fast as it is practicable and realistic to do it.

But failure is in no one's interest.

MR. HARB: But do you think the countries you mentioned would love to see democracy in Iraq?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, they're going to see it, and I think they will see that they are better off living with a democratic Iraq than Iraq under another form of governance, such as that which used to be there under Saddam Hussein. Now, whether it inspires them or provides an example to them as to the direction in which they should move, that remains to be seen.

But a democratic Iraq that is full of people who are faithful to their religion, but yet have a democratic nation that has a secular constitution, even though it may be a constitution that reflects their faith, but by and large it will be a constitution that respects democratic principles, I think that is good for that country and good for the region.

MR. HARB: If we can move to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, are you frustrated that nothing is working in this regard? Where are we today?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, we -- we all know where we are. We are on a roadmap, but the roadmap is not unfolding because we are in very desperate need of a Palestinian Government to work with. The Palestinians have been trying to form a new government for weeks now -- and they may be getting closer today, I don't know -- but what we need is a responsible Palestinian Government under a prime minister who has political authority and has control of all the security forces and is committed to go after terrorists.

And as the President noted, on the Israeli side, they have obligations under the roadmap, and their actions with respect to settlement activity and with respect to the fence are problems for us, and the President has made that clear.

MR. HARB: If we can move to Sudan, Mr. Secretary. Is it safe to say Sudan is a potential candidate to be removed from the State Department list of state sponsors of terrorism?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, what we have said to the Sudanese is that we are anxious to see a comprehensive peace agreement. I met with them in Kenya last week. They have committed themselves to come up with such an agreement by the end of the year. The President would welcome that agreement and welcome them in Washington, at which point we would be in a position to review all of our policies with respect to the Sudan; sanctions and the listing on terrorist lists and all of that will be up for review at that time, and I've made that clear to the Sudanese.

This is a moment of opportunity for them to end this terrible, tragic war, bring some stability to that part of Africa, and to get out from all of these restrictions they are currently under. And we will review all of those restrictions, but what we need is this comprehensive agreement.

MR. HARB: Are you aware of any country making an official request to Iran to extradite any of the nationals that are suspected of being al-Qaida members?

SECRETARY POWELL: That's a question you have to direct to the Iranians to see what they have heard. I wouldn't wish to speak for any other countries, and I have no, frankly, no, in-my-mind, firsthand knowledge.

MR. HARB: And my final question. In your confirmation hearing, you were the first to express concern about the rise of anti-Americanism, way before September 11th and the war on terror. Today, things continue to deteriorate. Do you think there is any chance something can be done on this front, in the face of the current policy?

SECRETARY POWELL: Yes, if we can demonstrate that our policies in Iraq are succeeding in forming the kind of government that everybody will be proud of, and if we can get progress on the Middle East situation, then I think we can quickly turn around what is seen as anti-American attitudes in that part of the world.

A lot of those attitudes stem from the conflict with Iraq, as well as the difficulties that the whole world has had with the Middle East peace process. I think that sometimes too great a burden is placed on America with respect to solving the problem in the Middle East. We will do our part, and we think we have a major part to play, but other nations, especially Arab nations, have a role to play.

And I think too often, Arab leaders, rather than dealing with the problems they have in their countries, simply avoid some of those problems by pointing to the problem of the Middle East and suggesting the United States ought to fix that, as opposed to Arab nations doing what they can to help fix problems with respect to the Palestinian and Israeli issue, as well as within their own countries.

MR. HARB: Thank you, Mr. Secretary.

SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you very much.

MR. HARB: Thank you.



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