Powell: We Need to See in Iraq an Authority that Enjoys the
Remnants of the old Iraqi regime and and terrorists who've
also come into Iraq are not interested in sovereignty that will lead to
democracy says U.S. Secretary Colin L. Powell in an exclusive interview
with Christian Malar, Senior Diplomatic Correspondent with French TV 3
Corporation. Le Meridien Hotel, Brussels, Belgium, November 18, 2003.
U.S. Department of State and France 3 TV.
Photos © by Tariq Nasri in Brussels.
Christian Malar: Mr. Secretary, thanks very much for
talking to us again. It's a pleasure to have you. What judgment do you bear upon
the fairly murderous attacks against American soldiers (inaudible) there in Iraq
and upon the recent terrorist attack against Arabic occidentals in Saudi Arabia
and I'm talking about the attacks on members of Jewish community in Turkey. What
is behind all that? What is your assessment of these ongoing tragic developments
Secretary Powell: Well, with respect to Iraq, we are
finding that remnants of the old regime, Hussein's old regime, that don't want
to see democracy. They are not just attacking the United States with the purpose
of getting us to leave the country, they're also attacking the International Committee of the Red Cross, they're attacking the United
Because the United Nations is doing anything or ICRC is doing
anything? No. Because they want to bring the old way back, they want to bring
the old regime back. And they will not be allowed to do that.
We have a military force that will deal with this challenge
and this strategy, but more than that we have a political process that we are
now following, that will return sovereignty to the Iraqi people, hopefully by
next June. And we have now shown the Iraqi people how they will regain their own
sovereignty in the process that will be followed by (inaudible) we'll encourage
them to turn against these remnants. These remnants of the old regime and
terrorists who've also come into Iraq are not interested in sovereignty that
will lead to democracy. They are only interested in going back to the past and
we're not going back to the past.
With respect to the other terrible tragedies that are talking
place in Saudi Arabia and in Turkey, it just shows us that terrorism is the
major threat facing the world right now and no one is immune. And it means we
all have to redouble our efforts, redouble our efforts to exchange law
enforcement information, to exchange intelligence information, and to use all
the resources at our disposal to go after these organizations, their financing,
their communications in any way that we can, and frankly there's been a great
deal of cooperation. It also shows in the case of the Turkish that anti-Semitism
is alive and well in the world and in Europe.
And we must redouble our efforts to attack it.
Christian Malar: Don't you think the United States,
the Israelis, the (inaudible) or allies are facing the beginning of a kind of
destabilization of the whole Middle East region, with the risks that it might go
further with the Muslim world who is not happy, the Al Qaida networks who are
rejecting the policy that the Occidentals would, and the United States would
like to have in this part of the world for democracy.
Secretary Powell: I think there are dangers, certainly,
but I would not go as far as to say the whole Middle East is becoming
destabilized. In fact, a number of the countries in the Middle East, that the
President noted when he spoke a week and a half ago to the National Endowment
for Democracy, are moving forward toward democracy, realize they have to make
changes in their society.
We see it in Morocco, we see it in Tunisia, we see it in
Algeria, we see it in Bahrain. Saudi Arabia is now starting to have town council
elections. So, I think these nations now realize they have to make adjustments
to the way in which they have been leading their people, to bring it into line
with the trends of the twenty-first century.
And so I think we have dangers facing us, but we also have
opportunity. One of the greatest opportunities we have is to make sure that we
do Iraq right. To make sure Iraq is a functioning democracy before we leave. And
I'm pleased, despite all the major disagreements we had earlier this year as to
whether or not we should have gone into Iraq to remove the regime.
That really is behind us. What we're talking about now is how
to pull the international community together to support the Iraqi people.
Christian Malar: Concerning Iraq, your administration
plans to transfer power to the Iraqis by June, by the end of June of 2004. I'm
tempted to ask you, isn't it too late and don't you run the risks to exacerbate
more and more hate ridden Iraqis and to have more American casualty on the Iraqi
soil with maybe a bad impact on US public opinion.
Secretary Powell: We don't like casualties, whether
they're U.S. casualties, Italian casualties, Polish casualties. We wish such
losses could be avoided but, war, conflict sometimes requires that kind of
sacrifice. And my heart goes out to all the families who have lost loved ones,
whether it's in Italy, or Poland or anywhere else, and especially in the United
States. But it's necessary for us to take this risk, because the stakes are so
high and the rewards are so high. A democratic nation in that part of the world
is worth the risks that we are taking and the sacrifices that we are making. I'm
confident that we will be successful.
Now there are some who say, "turn sovereignty over right away."
Well, to who? And what power? Who would I turn it over to if I was going to go
to Baghdad today saying, " I'm turning over your sovereignty." There really is
not yet a government that enjoys legitimacy of the people, to which one would
turn authority over to.
The second point that we must not lose sight of, and I
touched on it already, is that the remnants to the old regime and the terrorists
who were there are not fighting us just because we haven't turned over
sovereignty right away. They're fighting us because they don't want sovereignty
turned over to a responsible democratic government. They want sovereignty back
in the hands of the remnants of the old regime, back in the hands of all those
leftovers of Hussein. That's not going to happen.
So, we would like to do it as soon as possible. But it has to
be done in a realistic way and it has to be sovereignty that is given to a group
of leaders: effective, prominent leaders who enjoys solid legitimacy with the
people. And that is the plan we are now executing.
Christian Malar: French Minister of Foreign Affairs
Dominique de Villepin recently declared that the French, I'm quoting "the French
government stretches his hand to America, adding, he favors like the Bush
administration a rapid transfer of power to the Iraqis, but specifying that you
do it (inaudible) by the end of the year." Does that mean that the gap between
the United States and France is not bridged yet?
Secretary Powell:: As Minister de Villepin says,
"France has reached out its hand." We have worked very well together on the last
three UN resolutions: 1483, 1500, 1511. After a great deal of discussion, debate,
as these resolutions require, France voted along with the United
States--unanimous resolutions in all cases.
Where there is a disagreement is how quickly to turn the
sovereignty and to whom. And Minister de Villepin and the French government
believe that (inaudible) by the end of the year, that's only six weeks now, but
I do not see a group of individuals who would be enjoying the legitimacy from
the Iraqi people, who could pursue the responsibility for such sovereignty,
pursuing responsibility for security in the country, pursuing responsibility for
using all the international aid that is heading its way, especially $20 billion
from the United States government. We need to see an authority that enjoys the
legitimacy because there is a law that underpins their presence, that some
elections have been held of some kind to give them some legitimacy with the
people. And we believe that will take a little time and the plan we now have
calls for all of that to take place by early next (inaudible).
Now de Villepin, Dominique de Villepin, would say that's too
slow, others might say it's too fast. We think it is the reasonable approach to
a very difficult problem.
Christian Malar: When you read
the National Review writing, "the French were right on Iraq," how do you react
Secretary Powell: Well, the National Review is
entitled to their opinion. But my opinion, and my view is that the United States
and its coalition partners were right to execute the resolution of the United
Nations, were right to (inaudible) the regime for twelve years had said to the
United Nations 'we don't care what you say. We are going to continue to imprison
people, to put people in mass graves, we are going to continue to develop
weapons of mass destruction, we are going to retain the option to attacking our
neighbors, we are going to be just as bad as we ever were."
Every year the United Nations says, "Stop, tell us what
you're doing." They did not. But finally President Bush and Prime Minister
Blair, and Berlusconi, Mr.Aznar, many other leaders in the world said this has
to come to an end and to remove that regime. You'll get no apologies for that,
that was the right thing to do. Hussein is gone, the dictator is gone. Now, we
have to face the difficult challenge of putting in place a democracy. We will be
successful and so I think the history, the history of this whole era, will show
in due course that it was the right thing to do to get rid of a miserable,
horrible regime like Saddam Hussein. The world should be proud that it was done.
And I think history will also record that the United States stuck with it, did
not cut and run. We invested the lives of our young men and women and invested
our hard earned dollars as we have done in other parts of the world over the
past fifty years, to bring freedom and democracy to people who were desperately
in need. And I think history will judge us well.
Christian Malar: Last question, Mr. Secretary. The
U.S. congress decided recently to take sanctions against Syria, charging backing
terrorism. Iran, I happen to understand that, is far from having your trust. Are
these two countries backing terrorist groups against the United States,
potential targets for the Bush administration in its fight against global
Secretary Powell: Well, we disapprove of the policy of
both of those nations (inaudible) support of terrorism. They're not supporting
terrorism against the United States, they're supporting terrorism against their
own brothers and sisters in the Middle East. I mean, Iran and Syrian are
supporting, or allowing organizations to exist or are sustaining these
organizations in a way that allows these organizations to blow up innocent
people in Israel. And by so doing, denies the Palestinian people their dream and
their hopes for their own homeland, the Palestinian state.
So it seems to me the whole world should say to Syria and to
Iran, and to Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad: stop, it's time to stop this
kind of activity and support. Because you will not destroy Israel, what you're
really destroying is the Palestinian state for the rest of us that we're trying
to create. So, I think it is important for us to speak out freely about what
Syria and Iran are doing. But the United States has not moved in a way that
would suggest that we are looking for places to invade. The United States, first
and foremost, tries to solve these types of problems diplomatically, using the
political process, (inaudible) international community. We'll always reserve the
right to act with like-minded nations in our self-interest, in our self-defense
and in our interests and the interests of the like-minded nations when we are
faced by a serious threat that a united international community chooses not to
Christian Malar: Mr. Secretary, thank you very much
and I wish you all the best for the future. I'm sure it will be successful.
Secretary Powell: Thank you.