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Powell: We Need to See in Iraq an Authority that Enjoys the Legitimacy

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. Source: 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 to security?

U.S. Secretary of State, General Colin L. Powell, interviewed by Christian Malar, Editor in Chief with France 3 TV Corporation in Brussels, November 18, 2003. tariq Nasri photo

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 Nations. Why?

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 to that?

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 terrorism?

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 face.

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.


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Directeur de la publication : Joël-François Dumont
Comité de rédaction : Jacques de Lestapis, Hugues Dumont, François de Vries (Bruxelles), Hans-Ulrich Helfer (Suisse), Michael Hellerforth (Allemagne).
Comité militaire : VAE Guy Labouérie (†), GAA François Mermet (2S), CF Patrice Théry (Asie).