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Powell on U.S. Policy toward Iraq

Powell on U.S. Policy toward Iraq


Thu, 8 Mar 2001 21:45:12 –0500

Transcript: Powell on U.S. Policy toward Iraq

U.N. sanctions, no-fly zone, support of Iraqi opposition

Secretary of State Colin Powell said the U.S. government is reviewing a three-point policy to deal with Iraq that involves applying modified U.N. sanctions, enforcing no-fly zones, and supporting Iraqi opposition groups.

He said the U.S. government is consulting with the United Nations, its NATO allies and Arab governments on dealing with Iraq.

Powell gave a detailed description of U.S. Iraq policy while testifying before the International Relations Committee of the House of Representatives March 7. Committee Chairman Henry Hyde asked Powell whether U.S. policy is designed to contain or to remove Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

Powell said the U.N. sanctions are designed solely to prevent Saddam from acquiring weapons of mass destruction, while the enforcement of no-fly zones in northern and southern Iraq is intended to protect Kurds in the north and provide warning and protection in the south.

He said the third part of the policy deals with regime change in that the U.S. government supports the Iraqi National Congress and other Iraqi groups seeking the overthrow of Saddam.

Powell said the U.N. sanctions are being revamped in a way to continue denying Saddam the ability to acquire weapons of mass destruction while avoiding harm to Iraqi civilians and children. Powell said Iraq's neighbors, moderate Arab governments and the NATO allies have made initial expressions of support for the modifications in the U.N. sanctions policy.

Following is an excerpt related to U.S. Iraq policy from the transcript of Powell's testimony:

(begin transcript excerpt)

REP. HYDE: I will ask just one rather short question. Mr. Secretary, regarding Iraq, what is our policy, to contain him or to remove him?

SEC. POWELL: There are several policies really. And let me answer your question by describing three baskets of things we do. First, we work within the UN system to make sure he has not developed and put into his inventory weapons of mass destruction. That is a result of the resolutions he agreed to at the end of the Gulf War. That has nothing to do with regime overthrow. That is not a UN objective, and it is not part of the oil-for-food program or the sanctions program.

The United States, working with some of its allies, principally the United Kingdom, also has a no-fly zone, which is used to protect the Kurds in the northern part of the country and also to provide warning and protection in the southern part of Iraq. Now we have been flying in those no-fly zones for some time.

The third part of U.S. policy does deal with regime change. It has been part of the government's policy for a number of years now to advocate that the country would be better off without this regime. And to that end and with the support of the Congress, we have been supporting organizations that are committed to that proposition. The principle one, known well to this committee, is the Iraqi National Congress.

As part of the new administration's look, we're reviewing all three of those baskets. When we took office on the 20th of January, and I stepped into the cockpit to see what was going on, especially with respect to the sanctions basket as it's called, the UN effort, what I found was a plane that was descending, and it was on the way to a crash. The sanctions were starting to fall apart. Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi regime had successfully put the burden on us as denying the wherewithal for civilians and children in Iraq to live and to get the nutrition and the health care they needed. That was not true, but we had gotten that burden. And I found that our allies wanted the sanctions to go off -- some of our allies did. I found weakening throughout the Gulf region with respect to the sanctions. I found the Russians wanting to make a serious change; the Syrians wanting to make a serious change; the UN wondering if this regime, this sanctions regime can continue.

So, Mr. Chairman, what I discovered was something that was collapsing. And what we've been trying to do for the last six weeks now is to see how we could stabilize this collapsing situation and find some basis of stabilization that would bring the coalition back together: the UN, our Permanent Five colleagues in the UN and the moderate Arab nations and all others who are concerned about the Iraqi regime.

And one model we are looking at, the model I am discussing with all of my colleagues and I discussed with in other lands and discuss with you today, begins with this proposition: First, let's stop talking about what we're doing to the Iraqi children. It's not us; it's him. Let's start talking about exactly what the sanctions exist for in the first place, and that's to keep him from developing weapons of mass destruction. It is not to hurt his civilian population. It was never the purpose of it.

The oil-for-food program was put in place to take care of his civilian needs, but to make sure he did not get weapons and he did not get materials that could develop weapons of mass destruction.

So if that was the goal, let's take a look at how we're applying the sanctions and make sure the sanctions apply to that goal, and take a hard look at any other things we are doing within the sanctions regime that might be denying civilian goods to his population, and get that off our shoulders as a burden. Everybody is pointing to us as being responsible for the problems of the civilian population. If we do that, then, we, I think, are in a much stronger position, with all of the coalition members together again, and making it clear in a way that it cannot be denied by Saddam Hussein or by any other Arab leaders, make it perfectly clear that the sanctions are directed at weapons of mass destruction.

I would not call it an easing of sanctions. What's been happening is not only an easing of sanctions, it's a verge of collapse of sanctions. This gives us a new floor that all can agree to. As I took this idea around the Gulf region, as I talked to my NATO and United Nations colleagues about it, I found pretty good support. And in fact, in Syria when I discussed it with President Assad, who has been calling for the end of sanctions, he saw some merit in this because he, too, is concerned about weapons of mass destruction, and even suggested that if we can move in this direction, he is willing to put the flow of oil through that pipeline under U.N. control, which it is now not under.

Another piece of this policy is to get those front-line states like Syria to get back under U.N. sanctions control. Another piece of this policy is to make sure that we understand that at the end of the day, the only way to get out of this regime of control of money is for us to be satisfied that no such weapons exist or are being developed. The inspectors have to go back in. But we're not going to -- my judgment is we should not plead with the Iraqi regime to let them in. We put these tougher sanctions in at a level we all can support. We start closing down some of the outlets that exist from the front-line states. And then we let him know this is the way it's going to be and we're going to keep control of your money until our inspectors have satisfied themselves. So you let us know when you're ready to let the inspectors in.

We also reserve the right under this policy that if and when we find facilities or other activities going on in Iraq that we believe are inconsistent with our obligations, we reserve the right to take military action against such facilities and will do so. That is the U.N. piece. On the no-fly zone piece, essentially between us and the United Kingdom. Secretary Rumsfeld and his associates in the United Kingdom are reviewing how we are conducting those no-fly-zone operations to see if we are doing them in the best possible way to achieve the objective.

With respect to the third basket, which is regime change and opposition activities, last week I released more money for the Iraqi National Congress so they can step up the level of their activity, and the administration is also undertaking a fuller review of other things that can be done to support opposition activities against the regime.

And so that's the approach we're taking, Mr. Chairman. And we're still in a consultative stage. It's something that the United Nations will have to consider. There's an Arab summit coming up, and we'll have to see what their judgment is. But I think the characterization that I have sometimes seen that we are easing up or giving up is quite incorrect. We discovered a collapsing situation; we're trying to fix that collapsing situation with respect to the sanctions.

ENDS

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