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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Washington File

27 June 2003

Iraqi Political Committee To Be in Place in July, Powell Says

(Tells NPR he has confidence in new CENTCOM head) (2770)
Secretary of State Colin Powell said that Ambassador Paul Bremer, the
U.S. Special Envoy to Iraq, hopes to put in place a political
committee of Iraqi leaders by the middle of July to take
responsibility for Iraqi ministries.
Powell, speaking on National Public Radio (NPR) June 27, said the 25-
to 30-person committee would also create a committee to draw up an
Iraqi constitution in anticipation of new elections.
The secretary said establishing security, and bringing political and
economic development were all priorities for the Coalition Provisional
Authority (CPA) in Iraq, but emphasized that "security has to be the
underlying bedrock element here ... [w]ithout security, you can't get
the economy going."
Despite attacks by Ba'ath party loyalists against U.S. troops,
"[w]e're not going to be pushed out, " said Powell. "We have the
ability ... to get on top of the security situation."
Powell commended Lieutenant General John Abizaid, who is replacing
General Tommy Franks as the new head of Central Command (CENTCOM).
Abizaid, he said, "is a very skilled soldier I've known for almost all
of his career. He speaks Arabic. He knows the area very, very well.
And I think he will be able to use the assets that he has under him to
get on top of the security situation."
Powell was asked if he felt, in retrospect, that Iraq presented an
"imminent threat" to the United States, justifying a military
response. He replied that there was no doubt among U.N. Security
Council members that Saddam Hussein's regime possessed or was trying
to develop weapons of mass destruction. "That's why the Security
Council unanimously passed the first resolution, called 1441," he
said.
"[S]hould we wait until we see a chemical device exploded or turned
loose or some toxin released in London or Paris or Frankfurt or New
York or Los Angeles and then decide we have an imminent threat? Or
should we act when we know that there is a regime that has said, 'We
are not going to tell you what we have been doing for 12 years. We are
not going to turn over our programs. We are simply going to ignore 12
years' worth of U.N. resolutions, and we are going to do what we want
to do, and we don't care what the international community thinks;
we're going to develop these evil weapons,'" said Powell.
As for Hussein himself, Powell said that although his whereabouts or
fate was currently unknown, "he has been removed from any future role
in Iraq."
"He may be alive, but he is not going to be marching down Main Street
in Baghdad trying to get back to his palace," said Powell.
Following is a transcript of Secretary Powell's interview on NPR:
(begin transcript)
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE 
Office of the Spokesman 
June 27, 2003 
Interview
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell On NPR's All Things Considered
June 27, 2003
MS. BLOCK: Mr. Secretary, welcome back to the program.
SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you very much.
MS. BLOCK: This week, Lieutenant General John Abizaid, the next head,
nominated head of Central Command, told Congress that the foreseeable
future will require a large number of troops for Iraq, and even more
in the foreseeable future.
SECRETARY POWELL: I think for months we are going to need a large
presence of troops, as General Abizaid said, in order to make sure
that we stabilize the country and gain the necessary level of security
to get rid of these Ba'athist Party elements and the remnants of the
Saddam Hussein regime.
I can't be more precise than that because we don't know. And I think
that's why General Abizaid couldn't be more precise, because we can't.
But what the President said is that we will do what is necessary. And
that means keeping a significant presence there, not only of U.S.
troops getting in, non-U.S. troops to assist us. I'm pleased that a
number of countries have expressed a willingness to contribute troops,
and we are now finalizing those arrangements for other nations' troops
to arrive.
MS. BLOCK: You say months. Others have said this could be five years,
possibly even a decade.
SECRETARY POWELL: No. Everybody is speculating on years and months,
but that's not helpful. We don't know. We want to get the situation
stabilized and secured as quickly as possible. We want to put in place
an Iraqi government, a government of Iraqi leaders selected by the
Iraqi people as quickly as we can.
Ambassador Bremer, head of the provisional authority in Iraq, hopes
to, by the middle of July, put in place a political committee of 25 to
30 Iraqi leaders that would begin to take over responsibility for the
ministries, and at the same time create a constitutional committee
that would draw up a constitution for the country so that that can
lead to elections.
So we're moving as quickly as we can, but security is the first
priority. But political development is a priority, and perhaps even
more important than either one of those is economic development, so
people can start to see that the economy is reviving and that there is
hope for them to get jobs, to get an income, to take advantage of the
wealth of the country in an organized way. And security has to be the
underlying bedrock element here, however. Without security, you can't
get the economy going. And that's what General Abizaid will be
focusing on. That's what Ambassador Bremer is focusing on.
MS. BLOCK: You mentioned security. We've seen in recent days, at the
very least, a spike in attacks against U.S. Forces, possibly what some
consider an escalating campaign. You've said before that you consider
yourself a soldier. And I wonder, as a soldier, how do you explain
these attacks on U.S. forces, the loss of life on both the American
side and on the side of Iraqi soldiers? Do you have any (inaudible)?
SECRETARY POWELL: It -- I would say to the American people that we
always recognized this would be a dangerous operation, and even though
major combat action is over -- we're not fighting Iraqi army units --
we always expected there would be this residual problem of Fedayeen,
of the Ba'ath Party members, of old Saddam cronies and others who are
coming in to make mischief, and they would have to be dealt with. And
I hope the American people will demonstrate the patience and the
understanding of the situation.
My experience with the American people is when they know it's going to
be tough and it's going to take a while, they will give us that
patience and give us that understanding as we work our way through
this. We hate losing any young American's life, but sometimes that is
what is necessary for the cause of freedom.
MS. BLOCK: As the casualty numbers mount, does that increase the
pressure on U.S. Forces to get out more quickly?
SECRETARY POWELL: I hope it does not. I hope it increases the pressure
on us to get the security situation under control more quickly. What
we have to do is get the security situation under control more
quickly, and not even contemplate being pushed out. We're not going to
be pushed out. We have the ability. And I met with Ambassador Bremer
for a considerable period of time this past weekend. And we have the
ability, also, to get on top of the security situation. You know, I
would say going in as a new CENTCOM Command replacement for Franks is
a very skilled soldier I've known for almost all of his career. He
speaks Arabic. He knows the area very, very well. And I think he will
be able to use the assets that he has under him to get on top of the
security situation.
MS. BLOCK: I'd like to turn to the mobile trailers that have been
found in Iraq. You, back in your speech in February before the U.N.,
called the possibility of these mobile labs one of the most worrisome
things that you saw in the Saddam Hussein regime. And the CIA and the
Defense analysts have concluded that these were mobile weapons labs.
But your own State Department intelligence analysts disagreed. They're
not convinced.
So who's right?  Is it your own analysts or is it the CIA?
SECRETARY POWELL: My analysts do not disagree. They do not say that
they are not mobile vans. What my analysts said to me about, oh,
almost a month ago now, was that they were not at the same confidence
level as the CIA and the DIA. And when they said to me, "Boss, you
know, we are not entirely sure yet, and therefore we would like to see
more analysis done," we passed that on to the CIA to let them know
that there was this opinion. A month has now passed since that memo.
My guys would still like to see more data.
The CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency, the DIA, are the ones who
were on the scene exploiting the van and looking at all of it. And
they are confident of their judgment. And their judgment, as validated
by the Director of Central Intelligence, is that's what they are. They
are mobile biological warfare facilities. And there will always be,
you know, different judgments and opinions in this business, and you
essentially have to have somebody who makes the decision. And the
person is the Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet. And that
is his opinion right now.
Will we continue to look for more information to reinforce our
opinion? Sure, we will. But I am confident with the judgment made by
the CIA, and the reason I'm confident of that judgment is, we got this
information through defectors and others. And when I presented it to
the U.N. on the 5th of February, all I could show was a cartoon
picture of what we thought it looked like based on what people said to
us. And guess what? We found something that looked just like that. And
nobody has been able to come up with an alternative use for this. But
we're still looking at it, but I'm fairly confident of the Director of
Central Intelligence's judgment.
MS. BLOCK: There were no toxins found in those trailers.
SECRETARY POWELL: Which could mean one of several things: one, they
hadn't been used yet to develop toxins; or, secondly, they had been
sterilized so thoroughly that there is no residual left. It may well
be that they hadn't been used yet.
Our concern was that Iraq was keeping in place this capability,
waiting for the day when they were free of sanctions and could go
about putting all of their programs back in place. This particularly
applies to the nuclear program. What I said in February when I spoke
to the U.N., was that they had the brainpower, they had the plans, and
they were working on acquiring the capability, and whenever they were
free of U.N. constraints or other constraints -- nobody was breathing
down their neck -- there was no doubt in my mind Saddam Hussein still
had the intention of developing such a capability.
And as we have seen from material that's come forward in the last
couple of days, and we've seen on television and in papers, we now
have seen the plans, we have seen the scientists who said this is what
he was supposed to be working on, and he was told to hide this
material until times were better to get the program up and running
again. That was the concern we had with Saddam Hussein. Not only did
he have weapons -- and we'll uncover not only his weapons but all of
his weapons programs -- he never lost the intent to have these kinds
of weapons.
MS. BLOCK: Was he an imminent threat?
SECRETARY POWELL: The imminent threat is we don't know. The imminent
threat is that suddenly, this biological warfare lab, for example,
could have been put into use. And the possibility that anything that
came out of that lab or any of the chemical capability he had could
have been given to terrorist organizations. And the point well, should
we wait until we see a chemical device exploded or turned loose or
some toxin released in London or Paris or Frankfurt or New York or Los
Angeles and then decide we have an imminent threat? Or should we act
when we know that there is a regime that has said, "We are not going
to tell you what we have been doing for 12 years. We are not going to
turn over our programs. We are simply going to ignore 12 years' worth
of U.N. resolutions, and we are going to do what we want to do, and we
don't care what the international community thinks; we're going to
develop these evil weapons."
In this case, the international community spoke. Now, there was a
great deal of debate toward the end as to what one should do about
this. And we decided that military action was appropriate. Others in
the Security Council thought military action was premature or wasn't
appropriate at all. But nevertheless, nobody in the Security Council
thought that Saddam Hussein was not developing these weapons or did
not have these weapons. That's why the Security Council unanimously
passed the first resolution, called 1441. There was no disagreement
with France or Britain or Spain or Russia or China that Iraq had this
kind of capability, and they did. And it's now coming forward, and I
think it will be even more people as we exploit documents that we have
in our possession, and more are coming forward. The case will be
obvious to all once again.
MS. BLOCK: In your speech to the U.N. in February, you also talked
about a sinister nexus between the Iraqi regime and al-Qaida. The U.N.
group that's tracking al-Qaida has seen no evidence of such a link.
How do you explain that?
SECRETARY POWELL: I made a presentation that talked about a specific
link between the man by the name of Al-Zakari, who was in Baghdad, and
I think that link is solid. It was solid at the time that I presented
it, and it is still of concern to us. In my presentation, I did not
stretch the intelligence to suggest that we knew about all linkages
between al-Qaida and Iran#. I think there's still a lot we don't know,
but I did take note at the U.N., of the U.N. presentation this week
that they have not found a concrete link. But I think the information
I provided them in terms of in February was relevant, was accurate,
and did suggest there should be concerns about such links and
identifying most of them.
MS. BLOCK: How troublesome is it for U.S. Forces in Iraq that there is
no information on the whereabouts of Saddam Hussein?
SECRETARY POWELL: We'd like to know where he is. We don't know whether
he is alive or dead, and as long as that is unknown, there is a degree
of uncertainty in the country. Is he organizing elements that are
resisting us? Is he going to come back, some people think. Well, he's
not coming back. He may be alive, but he is not going to be marching
down Main Street in Baghdad trying to get back to his palace.
And so he has been removed from any future role in Iraq, either
through his death or the fact that he can't show his face. But sooner
or later, his fate will be known one way or the other. But because it
is, at the moment, unknown, it does introduce a bit of uncertainty
into the situation, more on the part of the Iraqi people, "Where is he
and what's happened?" More on the part of the Iraqi people than on the
part of the U.S. soldiers. They're going about their jobs in the
magnificent way they do. Soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines, always
go about their jobs focusing on the mission at hand, which is security
and to help the Iraqi people build a better life for themselves.
MS. BLOCK: Mr. Secretary, thanks for talking with us.
SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you very much. '
(end transcript)
(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S.
Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)



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