Interview by the Washington Post Editorial BoardSecretary Colin L. Powell
February 3, 2004
QUESTION:Thank you, again. Iíll start by asking you -- the terrible bombings in Kurdistan yesterday. It seems like every day there is something. Do you still feel confident that the military invasion was the right thing to do?
SECRETARY POWELL: Yes. I think it was the right thing to do, and I think history will demonstrate that. It's still a difficult environment when you see bombings of the kind we had yesterday, and we still lose the lives of brave coalition soldiers who are going in harm's way for their nation, as well as for the people of Iraq. But nevertheless, we have to, on the other side of that ledger, look at -- a terrible dictator is gone, the possibility of a democracy, which I think we will realize, and we can debate weapons of mass destruction. I'll get to that in a minute, but we don't have to worry about them any more. We won't have to worry about graves being filled. We won't have to worry about the treasure of a nation being wasted on weapons and palaces. I think we had an opportunity over time to build a more stable region, with the example of Iraq.
This afternoon I'll be welcoming 25 young people from Iraq who will be Fulbright scholars here. We're doing a lot of other things that will demonstrate our commitment to Iraq. We're building up their police, building up their armed forces, put a new currency in place that is doing rather well, which reflects some confidence in what we're doing for the Iraqi people. The economy will start to rebound as the $18 billion of supplemental money starts to flow through the system. But I don't want to minimize the difficulties ahead, both in terms of security, as well as the challenging political process that we have to go through.
The nation has little to none, little to no experience with respect to democracy, and so we'll have to start from the ground floor up, and that's what we're doing.
Ambassador Bremer is doing a terrific job, and I'm now starting to organize the Department to put in place an embassy upon termination of the CPA's responsibilities when sovereignty is transferred over.
So I still absolutely am convinced that this was the right thing to do, and I think history will be the judge of that.
Let me just go right in to the, kind of the issue of the day, which is weapons of mass destruction. As you may have heard the President at the Cabinet meeting a few moments ago saying he will be announcing a Commission to look into this question; but not just look into the question of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, but more broadly, how one goes after proliferation targets in countries around the world. Do we need to do things differently? How does one look into a closed society of this nature that is doing everything it can to keep you from finding out what they're doing? What did we learn from our experiences in Iraq, what we learned from our experiences with Libya and with Iran, with North Korea -- review of all of that. So the President will formally announce this Commission -- I can't say when. We're still doing some discussions with candidates. That's why you haven't seen it formally announced. We pretty much announced it at the Cabinet meeting this morning.
But what was the threat that we were worried about? What was the threat that precipitated it? Not just the human rights abuses, which were certainly awful, and what he had done to his people, awful; but what was the threat that we talked about with respect to weapons of mass destruction? And to talk about a threat, you have to look at intent, and then you have to look at capabilities, and the two of them together equal a threat.
With respect to intent, Saddam Hussein and his regime clearly had the intent. They never lost it. It's an intent that manifested itself many years ago when they actually used such horrible weapons against their enemies in Iran, and against their own people. It's a fact. And that's a statement of his intent, his desire to have the capability and use the capability.
Nothing in the history of Saddam Hussein's regime, or the history of him as an individual suggested that he had ever abandoned that intent. It manifested itself by him deceiving and denying access to inspectors for information concerning his programs for years. You'll recall that from '91 to '95, he kept denying they had a bioweapons program until there was a defector who pointed it out, and then he couldn't deny it any longer. But the denial continued up until the last day of that regime, and so the intent was clear.
The intent was manifested by him keeping in place certain capabilities. Let me shift to capabilities. There are different levels of capability. One level is, do you have the intellectual ability? Do you have people who know how to develop such weapons, and do you keep training such people, and do you keep them in place, and do you keep them working together?
He did, and there is no question about that, and there is nobody debating that part of intelligence.
Do you also then keep in place the kind of technical infrastructure, labs and facilities, that will lend themselves to the production of weapons of mass destruction, and did he do that? Yes, he did that.
Do you then start to put in place, if you want to have the capability, the actual facilities that could produce such weapons in a moment in time, now, or some future moment in time? And I think there is evidence to suggest that he was keeping a warm base, that there was an intent on his part to have that capability.
Do you then take it to the next level of capability, create delivery systems? And I think, based on what we saw with his efforts to develop longer-range missiles. -- and your story yesterday only dealt with one part of the UAV program, the other parts of the UAV program, which at least demonstrated to us anyway, that this was an area where they were trying to retain a capability.
And then the final level of capability is the one that's getting all the attention now is, did it all come together and produce for everybody to see and be afraid of, an actual stockpile that was there? And that is what is at question, and that is what we have not found, and that is what the various committees will be looking at, and that is what Dr. Kay testified to. Dr. Kay's assessment was that it was not there, the stockpile was not there. We believe it's prudent to let the ISG continue its work.
Everybody believed that there was this level of capability, in terms of stockpiles. Our intelligence community believed it; the United Kingdom's intelligence community believed it; other intelligence communities and other Western nations with that kind of capability believed it was correct.
The UN accepted it as something that was fact for a period of many years and had no reason to believe after the inspectors came out that there might not still be stockpiles that were within the country; and it was certainly the basis upon which the UN passed 1441, with the belief from the intelligence community that these weapons were there, that fifth level of capability, as I described it, was there. But we haven't found it. So let's keep looking. Let Charlie Duelfer do his work -- he's as good and as gifted as Dr. Kay, with respect to these matters -- and let him examine it, and let the various committees -- George Tenet has a committee working under Dick Kerr, there are two Congressional committees at work. Carnegie Endowment has written a report. The British will be launching their own commission today or tomorrow. And now the President has introduced a new commission.
A lot has been said about Dr. Kay, but I spent a good part of the weekend going over what he said to the Senate Armed Services Committee. And he did say with respect to stockpiles, we were wrong, terribly wrong, and he believed there were stockpiles when he went out there. But he came to a different conclusion after he was out there. But he also came to other conclusions that deal, I think, with intent and with capability, which results in a threat the President felt he had to respond to.
From the same testimony where he said we were wrong with respect to the existence of stockpiles, he also said that -- and I'll just quote a few for you because I'm sure you've all had a chance to read this -- "Iraq was in clear violation of the terms of Resolution 1441. We have discovered hundreds of cases based on documents, physical evidence and the testimony of Iraqis that they were violating 1441. Not only did they not tell the UN about this; they were instructed not to do it, and they hid material." That's Dr. Kay. So he is once again demonstrating the intent of Saddam Hussein to retain this capability and that there was capability.
Some suggestion that that analysts were under pressure, and Kay, who spent more time with analysts than I think anyone else over the last eight months, thinks that this is clearly a wrong, wrong explanation. And I think I can say from my own time spent with analysts, especially on the famous four days before last February 5, that there was no pressure. They were asked for the best advice, they gave their best advice, and it was that best advice that caused me, the President, the Vice President, Don Rumsfeld and others to act.
Once again, when asked by Warner, Dr. Kay says, "Iraq was in clear and material violation. They maintained programs and activities, and they certainly had the intentions, at a point, to resume their program." So there was a lot they wanted to hide because it showed that what they were doing was illegal. I hope we find more evidence of that, and we have to keep looking.
QUESTION: Can I ask you something?
SECRETARY POWELL: Yes.
QUESTION: Many people would take that and say, "Okay, he had the intention, but for now, the inspections were working, the sanctions were working, his capability was weak. Why not just keep doing what we were doing?"
SECRETARY POWELL: Because --
A PARTICIPANT: They said, excuse me, that the regime is incapable of doing what they wanted to do, it had consistently broken down and they couldnít pull it off. That's an important part of the case.
SECRETARY POWELL: Yes, but it wasn't the information that we had at the time that the President made his decision.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) you say that as though it should be reassuring? Everybody was dead wrong, so the fact that one of us was dead wrong isn't more than the serious than the others. That's not reassuring, is it, to the voters of the United States?
SECRETARY POWELL: Yes, I think it should be reassuring to the voters of the United States that when we found a regime that's clearly demonstrated intent and clearly had the capability, and that the President had information from the intelligence community, the considered view of the intelligence community, unified, with exceptions, little footnotes and exceptions. But for the most part, the National Intelligence Estimate that was given to the Congress in the fall of 2002, and which formed the basis for the information that the President had, led us all to the conclusion and many other government agencies --
QUESTION: It was downright -- (inaudible) that it was dead wrong.
SECRETARY POWELL: But it was easy to say it's dead wrong now, and I'm not clear it's dead wrong now. I'm not accepting the premise that it's dead wrong now. Dr. Kay says the presence of the stockpiles was wrong. Let's wait and see what Charlie Duelfer says when he finishes his inquiry, and let's let the ISG finish its work
But Dr. Kay went into the work thinking that the information that the intelligence community had given and upon which we based our decisions was dead right. That's what Dr. Kay went into.
QUESTION: Can I -- can I -- wait -- can I restate my question?
SECRETARY POWELL: Yes.
QUESTION: Because it was slightly different than what Bob asked. Kay says they continue to have the intent and there's a good chance they would have resumed once we were gone, but they had been constrained. So why wouldn't it have been a better option to keep constraining him?
SECRETARY POWELL: Because I think that the international community wouldn't have kept constraining him. I think that the inspectors were being deceived. They weren't getting to the heart of the issue and our intelligence community was of the strong belief that the weapons were there, there were stockpiles there. I think what Saddam Hussein was trying to do was to break free of any sensitive sanctions.
The first task I faced when I became Secretary of State was to save the sanctions regime, which had almost fallen apart at that point because of pressure from some members of the Security Council to relieve Iraq from sanctions. And there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that if Iraq had gotten free of the constraints, and if we had gone through another year of desultory action on the part of the United Nations, and when they were free without threat, without worry about force being used against them, there is no doubt in my mind that intention and capability would be married up again and they would have gone to the next level and reproduced these weapons. Why wouldn't they? That was always his intention.
QUESTION: How did you come to that conclusion?
SECRETARY POWELL: How did I come to that conclusion?
QUESTION: Yes, that if sanctions were lifted, that there's no doubt that they would have pursued this rather than (inaudible).
SECRETARY POWELL: For the reasons I gave, because he kept the capability; he kept the dual-use facilities; he kept intact nuclear scientists who had knowledge of this matter. As Dr. Kay said in this thing I was -- I'm taking pieces out of the SAS testimony, Dr. Kay said they had started to rebuild buildings and their nuclear system. They hadn't reconstituted their nuclear program. But why should we go on the assumption that they would have no intention to do so, and they would not use the capability they had once they got free of the kind of pressure that the United States, the United Kingdom and others were putting on them because of our concern over the threat that they were presenting?
QUESTION: If George Tenet had said a year ago today what Dr. Kay has said, in other words that there are no stockpiles, would you still have recommended the invasion?
SECRETARY POWELL: I don't know. I don't know because it was the stockpiles that presented the final little piece that made it more of a real and present danger and threat to the region and to the world. The fact of the matter is the considered judgment of the intelligence community, as represented by George Tenet and also independently by the United Kingdom and other intelligence agencies, suggested that the stockpiles were there.
QUESTION: But the --
SECRETARY POWELL: I can't go back and give you the hypothetical as to what I might have done hypothetically.
QUESTION: The absence of the stockpiles removes the real and present danger?
SECRETARY POWELL: The absence of a stockpile changes the political calculus. It changes the answer you get with the little formula I laid out. But the fact of the matter is that we went into this with the understanding that there was a stockpile and there were weapons. From my own personal perspective, it was -- you know, I was the Chairman for the first Gulf War when we went in expecting to be hit with chemical weapons. We weren't hit with chemical weapons, but we found chemical weapons.
And so it wasn't as if this was a figment of someone's imagination. I had to face the reality of chemical weapons on the battlefield, and after the first Gulf War we found these weapons; they existed. They were not imaginary. And so what assumption would one make some nine years later after inspectors had been moved out, had been gone for four years? I think the assumption to make, and the assumption that we came to, based on what the intelligence community gave to us, was that there were stockpiles present.
QUESTION: So just to understand. In the case of deciding whether to launch a preemptive war, are capabilities and intent together enough for that principally going forward? Or do you -- or should there be more of assurance that there are stockpiles in there? Or were the capabilities enough -- be enough (inaudible)?
SECRETARY POWELL: The President is not looking to go around launching preemptive wars if there are other ways to solve the problem.
QUESTION: No, I realize that. But just from this experience we've learned from Iraq.
SECRETARY POWELL: In this experience, you have to have a fairly high level of assurance of what the threat actually is. I think, with respect to Iraq, we had 12 years of disobedience. We had 12 years of resolutions. We had a guy who is filling graves, who was misusing the treasure of this country, who was still acting that Kuwait was a province of Iraq, and then some days saying it wasn't, some days saying it was.
He was the same threat that he had been to the region for some time. The President decided that with the intent that he continued to show, with the capabilities that he had -- and another intelligence agency, if you would call it that, that believed he had these kinds of capabilities or they couldn't be sure of it, was UNSCOM. There were a lot of unanswered questions.
And if you'll look at my presentation from last year, I talk about intent, I talk about the capability I think is there, stockpiles, but through a large part of that presentation is also what happened, answer the questions. He got a chance to answer the questions, then he didn't answer the questions.
QUESTION: But you also said --
SECRETARY POWELL: He didn't answer the questions with respect to the opportunities given in a declaration and what happened to certain things that we knew were there. They weren't answered.
QUESTION: You also said this isn't just talk, this isn't just an occasional report; this is absolutely confirmed intelligence. And I would submit, as a voter myself, that for Americans to hear that their government will go to war absolutely convinced, as you obviously were that on February 4 you had hard, usable information that this was happening; and then to discover that it was wrong is not reassuring at all, especially under an Administration that has announced it is going to suggest a preemptive war strategy that we will preempt when we see a danger. And now it turns out we can't see a danger straight. We do not have the capability to see those dangers as we thought we did. And your testimony is that is, is it not, there is evidence that we don't have that capability?
SECRETARY POWELL: Well, first of all, let's wait until the ISG has finished its work totally to determine what was wrong and not wrong. The thing that is at question is whether or not there were stockpiles. I think there was capability manifested in other ways. As Kay said, clearly, that if released from the pressure of sanction of the international community, he has no doubt that because of that intention and because of the capability that was there, it was a safe bet that Saddam Hussein would be right back to doing this.
And so what the American people heard the President say was this guy had a clear intent, he demonstrated it over years, he demonstrated by action, demonstrated by his history, he has capability and it was the best judgment of our intelligence community at the time the President was analyzing this and making his decision. It was the best judgment of our intelligence community that he had weapons, that he had stockpiles. It was that judgment that I presented to the UN and that the Director of Central Intelligence presented to the Congress when he presented the NIE and briefed the Congress on what he thought.
Now, I think the American people will understand, and so far I think they do understand, that with that body of evidence -- that information and intelligence -- that was available to the President at that time, the President made a prudent decision.
The President has also made it clear that he'll explore political solutions. It's not just a strategy of prevention. It's a strategy of partnership, it's a strategy of alliance, it's a strategy of trying to solve problems diplomatically.
In this case, you had 12 years of disobedience, as you've heard us say on many occasions, and what we believed to be a threat as presented to us by the intelligence community in its considered views.
QUESTION: Secretary Powell, when you went over to the Agency to get more information about the things you were going to say at the UN, did you, as we have heard, push them to tell you what their sources for the conclusions were?
We've already heard that the committees on the Hill are very disappointed in the sort of sourcing that was used to come up to the conclusion that there were stockpiles. And when you look back on that experience, did you push hard enough? Did you get, do you think, forthright answers? Would you have done something differently?
SECRETARY POWELL: Yes. I went over there -- Richard, correct me if I get this wrong -- I think I started going over there on Thursday evening. My staff started working this on Thursday morning. The presentation was the following Tuesday.
And for Thursday night, Friday night, through Saturday, Sunday, and into Monday, I sat in a room perhaps twice the size of this, two-and-a-half times the size of this, with Director Tenet, with John McLaughlin, with their principal analysts, with analysts brought in from other agencies, and knowing that I couldn't give a five-day presentation on everything they had, but that it was going to be about an hour and 15 minutes, and part of that would cover some aspects of terrorism and some aspects of human rights.
What I wanted to know is, what information could I present that you guys, one, feel comfortable declassifying and that you will give me sources and methods on, and that you are absolutely sure was multi-sourced because I didn't want to put something out that would be shot down later that same afternoon by some other intelligence agency or by the Iraqis.
And so we really went through it. I only used that information that I was confident that the Agency stood behind. Where there was some question, for example, on the aluminum tubes, I qualified that. To this day, there is still a question on the aluminum tubes. The Agency continues to believe they were for centrifuges. My shop, INR, and Department of Energy thinks not; but it is still an open question.
And when people say, "well, the consensus view is, well, it isn't voted on. You examine it all. Then the Director of Central Intelligence makes a judgment as to what he believes it is with necessary qualifications as to the views of others; same thing with some of the other programs that were discussed.
But it was multi-sourced, and it reflected the best judgments of all of the intelligence agencies that spent that four days out there with me. There wasn't a word that was in that presentation that was put in that was not totally cleared by the intelligence community. It wasn't shaped, it wasn't added to by anyone else in the government, and it was essentially something I presented and I presented totally coordinated, reflecting the views of the intelligence community. They cleared every single word.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary.
MR. BOUCHER: Just one note on logistics. Your presentation was Wednesday --
SECRETARY POWELL: Are you sure?
MR. BOUCHER: and you were out there --
SECRETARY POWELL: No.
SECRETARY POWELL: Tuesday, because we went up on Monday afternoon.
QUESTION: We can find out. We can find that out.
SECRETARY POWELL: Trust me, Richard. (Laughter.) Why don't you pull out your palm pilot? I''m pretty sure it's Tuesday.
QUESTION: Wednesday Tokyo time.
SECRETARY POWELL: No, because we went up on Monday night, Monday afternoon, for one last rehearsal. Let's see who's more senile than the other.
MR. BOUCHER: What can I say? February 5, 2003, was a Wednesday.
SECRETARY POWELL: Was it?
MR. BOUCHER: According to this.
SECRETARY POWELL: Robin. Never mind. We'll figure it out.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, how vulnerable was US intelligence because we relied so heavily on defectors, multiple defectors, but the fact that they were loyal to or brought to us by groups that had a vested interest in having us intervene in Iraq?
SECRETARY POWELL: I really can't answer that. I really have to yield to the intelligence community, because I don't know enough about all the sources that they used. I don't think they were relying solely on defectors, but how much that factored into and how reliable some of them were or some of them weren't, I just can't answer that.
QUESTION: One of the things we reported in the Saturday paper was that --
SECRETARY POWELL: Still one thing?
QUESTION: -- in the preparation of your testimony, the White House had been provided a draft, Scooter Libby and Condi Rice had produced a draft, that you essentially rejected because it made lots of assertions that you didnít think you wanted to make. (Inaudible)
SECRETARY POWELL: I was provided with three working drafts: one on terrorism, one on human rights and one on weapons of mass destruction. It was far more material than I could possibly have used in my presentation. As my staff initially went through it, it was written in a way that we couldn't source statements with the sources for those statements. And as you got deeper into it, and realizing that time was going to be a factor, we essentially took what we could out of it and set it aside and started writing it fresh.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, is the commission that you spoke about at the beginning of this, is that only going to look at the flaws of the intelligence community, or is it also going to look at the way the intelligence was used by senior policymakers, including yourself, Dr. Rice, the Vice President, and the President in terms of the statements that were made? Because clearly, those statements, in retrospect, were wrong, some of them are wrong.
SECRETARY POWELL: I haven't seen the final charter of the commission. I think it's going to focus on intelligence, but I am quite sure the use of intelligence goes from the analysts at the bottom all the way up to the policymaker who uses intelligence. The kind of folks I know who will asked to be on this commission, I think, would do the whole food chain.
QUESTION: Do you think it would be important that we understand what George Tenet was telling George Bush in order to get the fullest picture of --
SECRETARY POWELL: I would assume that the commission would look into this as I believe the two Congressional commissions are looking at it, as well.
QUESTION: They've been denied access to information on that one.
SECRETARY POWELL: Oh, you mean the (inaudible)?
QUESTION: Well, or some form --
SECRETARY POWELL: I don't know. I just don't know, one, what the commission will ask for, and I will have to yield to the President as to what he will let them do. I will be fully cooperative. There may be some presidential privileges that have to be maintained, so I don't -- I just don't know if I can.
QUESTION: But isn't it important though what kind of access they get that's been such a constraint in other areas
SECRETARY POWELL: I think --
QUESTION: What would be your recommendations at the moment?
SECRETARY POWELL: Well, my recommendation would be to give them as much access as you can, but I have to hold a little hook here because there may be some presidential privileges or executive privilege issues that I'm not aware of that the White House may have.
QUESTION: There's always been allegations that there was, in fact, a second analytical stream that came out of the Defense Department, out of Doug Fife's office, that they took a lot of the same intelligence --
QUESTION: And the Vice President's.
QUESTION: -- and that they took a lot of the same intelligence and analyzed it themselves. Was that a stream that you saw or that your --
SECRETARY POWELL: Never saw it. I only dealt with my INR, which is quite a good organization, and with what the DCI put out.
QUESTION: Are you aware that it influenced anyone else's position?
SECRETARY POWELL: You'll have to ask anyone else. It didn't influence me, because I was not the recipient of whatever it was that they were doing.
QUESTION: You mentioned that the new --
SECRETARY POWELL: I'm not sure about the Vice President's office. I'm aware of the office that you're referring to.
QUESTION: Did it come up in your discussions in the principals' meetings?
SECRETARY POWELL: No. I dealt with the Agency and I dealt with INR and donít recall any discussion of alternative points of view that came out of the office youíre talking about.
QUESTION: You mentioned that the commission will also look at the way intelligence has been done, but in addition, the way it's going to be done in the future, and whether some changes need to be made in terms of looking into countries that don't want to have inspections and so on.
One of the interesting things about the last weeks has been how much has changed in Libya, how much is now being known about the second-tier proliferation, A. Q. Khan, the conversations, of course, you know a lot about with your conversations that you mentioned with Musharraf. How do you see this commission looking at that, and how well prepared -- what kinds of changes do you think are going to have to be made to prevent this from happening again?
SECRETARY POWELL: You're asking me what the results of the commission might be, so I'm not sure.
QUESTION: What you think is needed based on what you know about these countries and with the experience in Iraq.
SECRETARY POWELL: When people are doing things that are condemnable in a country, and want to hide it, they will go to extreme lengths to hide it. You can't always find out what they are doing by overhead pictures or SIGINT or COMINT or even HUMINT. You can have the best of everything, and people are still able to hide or deceive or set you off on the wrong trail.
And so what I hope this commission will do, will examine all that we are doing and all we have, and see whether or not there are gaps in the kinds of things we are doing, and are there things we have overlooked in terms of how to cover these kinds of situations, whether it's North Korea or Libya or Iran.
But intelligence -- and I have been a consumer and user of intelligence in many, many ways and over many, many years -- it is never perfect because you are essentially trying to look into a situation or into a place where the people that own the place are doing everything they can to keep you from knowing what's going on. And so there will always be that gap, until you finally get in and look at the reality on the ground.
In this case, however, I think that the body of information that had been collected over the years, the intention of the Iraqi regime, and what we now know about the capabilities being retained, it was not unreasonable for the intelligence community -- in fact, it was supported by all the analysis they did -- to present to the policymakers -- and to the policymakers in Britain and Italy and elsewhere, and to the UN Security Council, which voted a resolution saying that Iraq was in material breach -- that Iraq had these weapons.
QUESTION: But with proliferation taking center stage, how well equipped is the intelligence community to deal with these new threats, these broader threats? How confident are you now?
SECRETARY POWELL: I have confidence in the intelligence community. I've seen them do many things that were absolutely brilliant in their concept and their execution, many things they will never be able to discuss and will never get a headline. Very recently, as a matter of fact -- and you can go search that if you wish, but recently.
QUESTION: Which country?
SECRETARY POWELL: Never mind, Robin. Never mind, Robin.
QUESTION: Just give us a first letter.
SECRETARY POWELL: No. And I have confidence, and these are quality people, these are dedicated people. They're not looking for ways to cook the books. They are looking for ways to serve their country and to put their best analytical tools and their minds to work to serve their country. In this instance, they did that. This was the result they came up with.
They gave me -- and, you know, I came into this with some experience and some history with respect to Iraq, a country that had done far more with its nuclear weapons capability than anybody knew in 1991, and wasn't discovered until after the war and a couple of years into, a country that denied its bio-capability. If we didn't have a defector, they may have hidden that for years more. A lot of things came out because we had a good defector, not a bad defector, the son-in-law, who paid, stupidly on his part, with his life later.
But this is a country that, for all these years, did everything it could to deceive, to deny, to hide. Finally it was President Bush who took it to the international community and gave him one last chance to meet the demands of the international community. We didn't just go preempt and race in. We took it to the UN.
President Bush stood up there on September 11 and said, 12 years of this, 12 years of this, resolution after resolution after resolution.
We all agreed on the intelligence at that point. I mean, the UN is the one that declared Iraq in material breach repeatedly. The resolution declares them in material breach and says get out of material breach by giving an honest declaration and stop deceiving and denying and keeping the inspectors from doing their work. I think history will support the decision made.
QUESTION: I'd like to ask you about the future a little bit. You talked about the difficulty of building democracy from the ground up. Secretary Rumsfeld has said, you know, we won't tolerate a theocracy. The country has to stay together. Minority rights have to be respected.
But June 30, I guess, your embassy takes over as -- but they're advisors, they're no longer running the company. What -- how much leverage do you have? What's the source of it? How confident can you be that we get the outcome that people have talked about?
SECRETARY POWELL: Well, we hope by June 30 that there will be a transitional assembly and a transitional executive, and a judiciary, the other institutions of government, a cabinet , the ministry that will be running, that will be representative of the views of the people.
We have to take it another step and have a full debate on a constitution, and then full elections in 2005. But we hope that with the work we are doing, what Jerry Bremer is doing, and with what I hope the UN will be doing in the very near future, that we'll be able to demonstrate to the world, but more importantly, demonstrate to the Iraqi people that they will be taking responsibility for their own destiny.
It will be difficult. It will be challenging, but it's not out of the realm of the possible. The leverage that we have, we will still have a lot of money that's coming from the United States Congress to help rebuild the country. That gives us some leverage. And we'll still have the presence of 100,000 troops there to provide security for the new regime.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, on the issue of the United Nations, tomorrow you begin negotiations with Kofi Annan.
SECRETARY POWELL: Begin negotiation?
QUESTION: Well, talks.
SECRETARY POWELL: I talk to him every day.
QUESTION: Yes. What role do you envision for the United Nations in specific terms? Is this, as the Vice President said in Davos, going to be a role as advisor, or is this one where the United Nations will actually have authority on the ground to help make decisions and not have to run everything by the Coalition and the United States?
SECRETARY POWELL: That's something that we really have to keep talking to Kofi about. It's what the Secretary General wants to be able to do, and we are in a continuing discussion with him. He will send a team in to make an assessment of the possibility of holding elections or refinements to the caucus system that we put down. When that team reports back, then I'm sure we will be in conversation with the Secretary General as to whether or not the UN believes that between now and let's say 30 June it needs to play more than an advising and consulting role. And I'm not going to prejudge what the Secretary General's thinking will be.
QUESTION: But if Kofi Annan says, or if the election commission comes back and says, this is what's workable, and Kofi Annan says, "For us to be players in this process, we need to have authority on the ground," are you confident that this Administration will stand together and give that authority to the United Nations?
SECRETARY POWELL: It depends on what -- you know, it's a hypothetical. It depends on what Kofi asks for. We can't --
SECRETARY POWELL: No, no, I'm sorry, Robin. The CPA is the government and remains the government until the government is transferred to another entity, and that will be the transitional government next June.
And so we want to work with the UN. I want them to play a vital role, have from the very beginning, so has the President. What we have to do is shape that role because the UN has expressed reluctance with respect to assuming authority that it can't exercise. And so what we have to do is have open conversations with Kofi. But I can't prejudge the results of his group going in or prejudge what his recommendations might be, and speculate on what our response might be to his recommendations, which we have not yet received.
QUESTION: Well, I'm just curious, because the Vice President seemed to outline a very specific role when he was at Davos in talking about the UN as an advisor.
SECRETARY POWELL: Right now, the team is going in to speak to Shia leaders, to examine the situation, and at the moment, it is in an advisory capacity. Secretary General Annan put somebody on his staff who is called a senior advisor for these matters, and so, at the moment, is going in on that basis.
Now, when the team comes out and reports to the Secretary General, then I'm sure we'll have conversations with the Secretary General if there is any need for modifying. But I don't want to say now that we would say yes or no, until we had such a recommendation from the Secretary General.
QUESTION: Can I just ask you, do you -- is Jerry Bremer trying to see Ayatollah Sistani?
SECRETARY POWELL: I can't answer that without -- you mean right now is he trying, or did he try in the past, or is he going to try in the future? I'd have to ask Jerry. I don't know.
QUESTION: And the United States --
SECRETARY POWELL: He hasn't seen him so far.
QUESTION: Right. But is there US support for trying to see? Is there -- would the Administration like Jerry Bremer to see Sistani?
SECRETARY POWELL: I would like him to, but apparently it's not something that's going to happen, so we are using others to communicate with the Ayatollah, and we'll wait to see how the UN makes out.
QUESTION: That was my --
QUESTION: I would just ask, do you think Ayatollah Sistani's demands are unreasonable?
SECRETARY POWELL: What the Ayatollah is asking for, as I understand it, is to have a selection for the transitional assembly that is more representative, in his view, than he believes the caucus system that is in the 15 November plan is. We understand that, talking about it, can't be against representational activity, you can't be against elections. But whether you could actually have such elections in the time that's available to us is the question.
And so what we want to do is have the Secretary General send a team in to see whether or not we can make refinements to the current plan that would be satisfactory to the Ayatollah, or if he could find -- meet his desires.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, some of us sit here and wonder, what do we have on our hands? You say the CPA is the government, and yet there's a man sitting in an alley somewhere in Iraq who is calling the shots and we can't even talk to him. He doesn't want to see us. Heís made us backtrack from all of the grand plans we've put forward What do we have on our hands there?
SECRETARY POWELL: We have a complex situation where there are three major groups and a lot of other groups, and we are trying to find something that would allow each of them to participate fully in the work of the government.
Now, the Ayatollah's views are known. He makes them well known to everyone. We're trying to accommodate the views of the Ayatollah because we believe they represent not totally the views of all Shias, but he is certainly a leading figure among the Shias.
So what we're trying to do is use the Governing Council and the UN and other intermediaries to see how we can bridge these different points of view that exist between Ayatollah Sistani and the 15 November plan.
There are other issues that will have to be bridged as we work on the fundamental law, you know, what will be the status of the three northern governates that are now part of the Kurdish area. And so there are a lot of difficult issues, as we try to create something that has not been there before, and that is a representative government that will reflect the views of all. And so that's essentially what we're trying to do.
QUESTION: But if we go back to what you started out, Dr. Kay said we were wrong, talking about the assessment of the stockpiles. But the consequence of that is that we went into Iraq on the basis of something that turned out not to be true but the consequence is we have lost -- you really know this better than I do, the casualties and the deaths and the treasury that we put into that -- and now we're in a country where you have one individual -- and (inaudible) Secretary Rumsfeld the other day, talking about the same thing -- one individual who is really jerking your chain around, and you can't even get your Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary there up to see him. He won't even see you. He won't even see an American.
Why do we try to give the impression that we're in charge over there? I mean, we're being jerked around over there, aren't we?
SECRETARY POWELL: I think we are the government, whether it's liked or not by some (inaudible), but we have sovereign status in Iraq as a result of the war.
Now, there are individuals in Iraq with strong views: Ayatollah Sistani, Mr. Talibani, Mr. Rabbani, members of the Governing Council. What Ambassador Bremer is trying to do is to reconcile these different points of view in a way that allows us to get to a transitional government, where they can take over sovereignty again, and then work these things out amongst themselves.
Now, why Ayatollah Sistani does not want to meet with Ambassador Bremer directly, that's, you know, an interesting question; but the fact of the matter is that they have not met directly. So rather than create a crisis over it, we have been using others to talk to the Ayatollah. It's not as if we don't know what his views are. We've been able to get a pretty good picture of his views. And with the help of the UN, we're looking for a way to accommodate his views as well as the views of others.
The UN will not just be talking to Ayatollah Sistani, they'll be talking to other leaders in Iraq, in the Sunni community, in the Kurdish community.
QUESTION: Do you think that --
QUESTION: Could we live with a theocracy?
SECRETARY POWELL: What is a theocracy?
QUESTION: Oh, an Islamic state governed by the Sharia. Would that be satisfactory to the United States?
SECRETARY POWELL: We're looking for a state that will be a state, an Islamic state, just like others in Pakistan and Turkey, but we're looking for a state that has a representative form of government.
QUESTION: Turkey an Islamic state?
SECRETARY POWELL: I'm sorry. Excuse me. Pakistan. To the extent that it is -- it has faith, but is secular. Okay?
QUESTION: Proud but secular?
SECRETARY POWELL: Very proud, extremely so, but nevertheless, if there is a faith that is held by most of the people, just as, you know, somebody might say the same thing about the United States, but there would be a much longer hyphenated phrase to do it with.
But we're looking for a state that would be representative of its people, that would accommodate the views and interests and positions of minorities within the state, that would have elections and a constitution upon which the state rests, and it might be a state that would identify itself as an Islamic state, but we would not be looking for a state that, on the basis of its faith, would have non-democratic and unrepresentative policies.
QUESTION: Should there be any give in the date?
(End of side 1)
SECRETARY POWELL: -- and to get the work done on refinement of the caucuses, that's what it takes. But of course, we have to wait for the UN Secretary General to come back and give us his assessment, or his team to give him the assessment and then give us his recommendation and judgment.
QUESTION: On Pakistan, you've leaned pretty hard on Musharraf to crack down on A.Q. Khan and his friends. What will satisfy you in terms of a result there? Are you looking for A.Q.K. to be isolated? Are you looking for criminal charges, or are you simply looking for information? And is there information that you have that shows complicity on the part of the military or the Pakistani Government --
SECRETARY POWELL: I'm very pleased that President Musharraf, in response to information he's gotten from us and others and IAEA, really a lot that he's gotten from IAEA, has decided that he has to look at this, and is taking steps to investigate the activities of these individuals and organizations, that what we want to see is the end to any kind of proliferation of these kinds of technologies to anywhere in the world, and he's --
QUESTION: But following up just that one issue, do you have information or evidence that the Pakistani military has been -- that these are not rogue scientists, but in fact the Pakistani military has been either aware of it, has sponsored it, or that either ISI or the government has?
SECRETARY POWELL: If I had it, I would not share it in this setting.
QUESTION: Is there any concern based on evidence that he has sold nuclear materials
SECRETARY POWELL: He?
QUESTION: Khan -- to al-Qaida?
QUESTION: Or anybody else?
SECRETARY POWELL: Yes.
QUESTION: Close affiliates of al-Qaida?
SECRETARY POWELL: I haven't seen anything, but you know, I don't have all the intelligence holdings in my brain at any one time.
QUESTION: Can you talk about Saddam Hussein, what is he telling us, when is he going to go on trial, what kind of a trial, who will the judge be?
SECRETARY POWELL: Yes. I think it's -- I've read some summaries of interrogation reports which suggest that he's talking to us, but he's being quite guarded. He realizes the situation he's in, but he has not shut down Ė "my serial number is" and that's all.
With respect to the justice that he will be put before, my Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes, Pierre Prosper, is working with the Iraqis to help them organize themselves. And we're also looking at other help that we might provide the Iraqis so that they can put him before judicial proceedings when they become sovereign and have all of the evidence they need and a basis for an open and fair trial, and what international -- we're also looking at what international assistance they might need for that.
QUESTION: So this will be after June 30 and all Iraqis --
SECRETARY POWELL: I would expect. I don't want to -- I think it would be after sovereignty, is the thinking right now, and it will take that long, I think, to examine a case of this complexity.
QUESTION: On North Korea, it's been about six months since the last time there were six-party talks held. And as I understand it, the last message the Chinese got from the North Koreans was that they didn't really want to meet until the United States dropped its hostile attitude.
At what point do you say that -- does the Administration say that this process isn't really that effective and going anywhere that fast, and it's time to take this to the Security Council and try to use other levers of pressure to deal with North Korea?
SECRETARY POWELL: I think the process is working, and watch this space carefully in the next couple of days.
QUESTION: Watch this space carefully?
QUESTION: The space in the Washington Post --
QUESTION: Well, then again, if (inaudible) --
QUESTION: No, the six-party process, you said that it's not working, do we conclude it's not working. I said it is working. We have brought all of North Korea's neighbors into the process, and we have had a number of conversations and meetings in recent days that suggest to me that we will be moving forward with the six-party process, and we had to sort of get over the visit of the two groups that went and came back, and the North Koreans had, I guess, some expectations from those visits. I don't know whether their expectations were met or not, but the message they should have gotten back was that, "Fine, you showed these two groups what you showed them. It didn't add, it seemed to us, anyway, to the body of information known about your activities. Now, let's get on with it, and let's find a diplomatic solution."
And I'm pleased that all of our friends in the region continue to believe that a diplomatic solution is possible and are working with us toward that end.
QUESTION: So when you do have this meeting, say later this month, then what would you hope to accomplish at those talks? What is the position the United States will be presenting at those talks?
SECRETARY POWELL: We want to move beyond where we were in the last two talks, and I think we can do that. But exactly what we are prepared to do and what they might be prepared to do, I'll have to let that wait for the actual meeting to take place, but I just don't want it to be another exchange of talking points.
QUESTION: Right. Well, that's what you had for the last two meetings, so how do you advance that?
SECRETARY POWELL: Well, we'll see whether we do or we don't, if there is a meeting or not, whether it's this month or not.
I donít want to put you down on the wrong trail, though.
QUESTION: Well, I know that you have the spring holiday for the Chinese and you have the group celebration of Dear Leaderís anointment --
SECRETARY POWELL: Right.
QUESTION: -- and then Bright Leaderís.
SECRETARY POWELL: I'm familiar with all those holidays.
QUESTION: So are we leapfrogging those holidays or doing it before those holidays?
SECRETARY POWELL: Watch this space.
QUESTION: Has Mr. Putin sent any signals in response to your journalism in Izvestiya?
SECRETARY POWELL: He had read it by the time I saw him last Monday. We had -- it was a good visit, I thought. We had straightforward conversations. I did a lot of outreach things for the -- who was there? -- did a lot of outreach things with civil society and radio talk shows and the usual with Mr. Putin.
I had spent hours before with Foreign Minister Ivanov, so they always run ahead to let President Putin know what the subjects were and what was on my mind. And President Putin and I had good discussions. I laid out the areas where I thought we were doing very well, and said that we were pleased that we had such a strong partnership but that there were areas of concern. And these are not just things that the State Department came up with, but that the international community has been looking at some of the aspects of election procedures, media and selective prosecution, and to make sure that the prosecutions of that nature are full and open and transparent, and based on the rule of law.
And as I said at the press conference afterwards, this was a friend giving advice to a friend. I've gotten to know President Putin rather well over the last three years. We've been through a few tough things together. It was in the same room that I told him a year-and-a-half earlier that we were getting out of the ABM treaty, which was not an easy conversation, either.
And he responded, and said he understood this, but that he would be prepared to discuss each and every one of these items. I said, "Igor Ivanov and I can do that. It wasn't the individual items I came to discuss with you, Mr. Putin. It was just the sense in the international community that we wanted to call to your attention." And Izvestiya did that in my article, and then conversations I had with him and with business leaders and other civil society members.
QUESTION: Does the notion of the G-8 continue to make sense in your mind?
SECRETARY POWELL: Yes. We're the host this year.
SECRETARY POWELL: We are the host this year.
QUESTION: I understand.
QUESTION: We meant Russian membership.
QUESTION: I meant Russian membership.
SECRETARY POWELL: Oh. Oh, Yes.
QUESTION: Why are they part of the G-8 --
SECRETARY POWELL: I'm sorry.
QUESTION: -- when they're not quite a democracy and barely an industrial power?
SECRETARY POWELL: They are an industrial power, and I think they are moving very firmly in a democratic direction. What we don't want to see is for them to slide off that direction.
I mean, when I consider where they were 12 years ago, when I still wore green suits and black ties every day, a lot has happened. It is a democracy that's finding its way and it's developing institutions. They went through a rocky period during the Yeltsin years. President Putin came in and established order. He's very popular. He's running a high popularity rating, and notwithstanding media -- even notwithstanding media -- the average Russian citizen believes that he's got the country moving in the right direction. That was also part of my calculus when I spoke to him. He is not an unpopular figure, not strictly as a result of controls that might be imposed upon the media.
And so I think that they are moving in the right direction, and membership in the G-8 gives us an opportunity to keep them moving in the right direction. Also G-8 membership gives his fellow leaders an opportunity to point out where improvements might be appropriate.
QUESTION: (Inaudible), but at least John Edwards has proposed that if they don't show greater improvements in moving towards democracy, that they should be told to leave the G-8.
SECRETARY POWELL: Well, we're not considering telling them that.
QUESTION: Would you say over the last three years they are moving in the right direction?
SECRETARY POWELL: Over the last three years, I think they have been moving in the right direction, but I think there have been certain elements of their performance that we believe needed calling to their attention, and that were laid out in my Izvestiya article, and laid it out more directly to both Ivanov and Putin.
QUESTION: I'm sort of curious about something that came up also in Moscow. After your meeting at the Kremlin, Igor Ivanov said that the President, President Putin had conveyed to you his response to your Izvestiya article and that Igor Ivanov said you would be conveying that to President Bush, and I wonder if you did so and how the President reacted?
SECRETARY POWELL: I did convey it to the President, of course. The President thought that the article, as well as the position I took, was certainly appropriate. He knew I was going to do it, and he believed it was a good message to convey to President Putin, and it represented his viewpoint.
QUESTION: But how did he react to what President Putin conveyed to you? Was he mollified?
SECRETARY POWELL: I think that's a personal matter between President Putin and President Bush.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, are there any countries that will be removed from the state sponsorship list of terrorism?
SECRETARY POWELL: When?
QUESTION: This year.
SECRETARY POWELL: It's possible.
QUESTION: Which ones?
SECRETARY POWELL: Let me answer it this way. There are a number of changes in the international environment that I think are for the better. I hope that later this month we will be able to engage again in the Sudanese negotiations. There is one outstanding issue, and you guys know it well Ė Abyei. If we can solve Abyei, then it all comes together. It's a tough issue for both the north and the south, very tough; and we are going to be working with them to see if we cannot find a compromise solution. That would change the situation with respect to Sudan, of course.
And then, of course, we've seen a fascinating, significant change in Libyan attitudes, and later this week representatives of the Department will be talking to Libyan officials about the politics of the situation as well as the verification of the material.
QUESTION: In London?
SECRETARY POWELL: Yes. London, yes.
And so we are constantly reviewing the various lists and the various sanctions that we have in place against countries, and measuring it against the performance of these countries. But I'm not identifying any particular country we've taken off the list yet.
QUESTION: What about the travel ban that comes up this month?
SECRETARY POWELL: All of these things get considered, and I have to -- in the course of my day, I go over travel bans, I go over trafficking in persons bans, human rights bans, economic sanctions, who is on the terrorist list, and they are constantly being reviewed, but I'm not making any announcements today.
QUESTION: On this Libya issue, you said there are talks this week on the political side. Did that mean the kind of ties that may be discussed?
SECRETARY POWELL: The President said when he and Prime Minister Blair made that joint announcement several Fridays ago --
SECRETARY POWELL: Several Fridays ago, that it was good that they were doing this and it would lead to political openings and developments. We have now had a couple weeks, I guess is the best way to put it, of action on removal and verification. We've learned a lot, and it was appropriate at this point that we begin a political dialogue with them to see what lies ahead.
We're still removing material and we're still verifying, but it is a fundamentally changed situation with respect to Libya.
QUESTION: How about Syria?
SECRETARY POWELL: Libya -- discussions with North Korea, I think will be held. I can't say when, but I still believe that the six-nation process is alive and well.
Iran has made some shifts in its positions with respect to the additional protocol, and the three FMs of Europe are pressing them on the other conditions they agreed to accept.
And so there are a few things going on, and I don't think it's a stretch to say that perhaps what happened in Iraq, in removing this one proliferator and a nation that was in the weapons of mass destruction business, did help with the efforts that are being made in these other countries now.
QUESTION: Would you put Syria in the making-progress category yet?
SECRETARY POWELL: Not quite. We have a new ambassador who's just gone in, Margaret Scobie, and hopefully she will get the access needed to start serious conversations with them, They've got to do a lot more.
We laid out a list of things for them to do when I was there last year. They've started doing a few things, but it wasn't adequate. I told them the consequences would be the Syria Accountability Act, and that's what's happened. So they need to take a hard look at what's happening in their neighborhood and see whether or not they want to modify some of their policies.
QUESTION: We have to let you go. Can I ask -- can I get one last, if I may?
SECRETARY POWELL: Yes.
QUESTION: Another piece of journalism you committed was an op-ed piece on Burma. Since then, the situation hasn't improved much.
SECRETARY POWELL: No.
QUESTION: Maybe because you published it in the wrong newspaper.
SECRETARY POWELL: I'll have to have a duty roster, which paper to use next.
QUESTION: Are Thailand and China helping, not helping, and do you have any thoughts on how to push forward the agenda you laid out there?
SECRETARY POWELL: No. We're intending to press it at every opportunity. It's frustrating that we haven't been able to make more progress. It's sad that this country continues to live in this despotic past, and we'll continue to press. The next opportunity I really have to press the whole community is when I go out to the ARC meetings later in the year, but weíll continue to press bilaterally.
QUESTION: Do you think you did enough at the last ARC meetings?
SECRETARY POWELL: I think we did a lot, pressed hard. I think we pretty much isolated them, but they are used to being isolated, and we could always do more.
QUESTION: Has anything good happened between the Israelis and the Palestinians?
SECRETARY POWELL: There are some conversations taking place. We've been pressing hard for the two leaders to speak to one another. There are some suggestions of a Palestinian security plan that's being worked on, but it's slow, and I don't want to convey a false sense of optimism, but we're working hard.
I spoke to both Silvan Shalom and Nabil Shaath last week, and I'll be in touch with them. John Wolf just came back, and I haven't had a chance to see him. He just got back last night, so I'll spend time with him this afternoon and see if there's anything else we could be doing right now.
But until the Palestinian side really comes to grips with terrorist activity and does something about it, then it's hard to see how we're going to make much progress. The roadmap is there, the Quartet supports it. It's still a way forward. We've got to get started. And there's been a little movement lately on the part of seconds of the two leaders to see whether or not they can get a basis together of talking to each other and trying to have both sides stop putting conditions down for talking.
QUESTION: Thank you very much.
SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you.
Released on February 3, 2004