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Grossman Interview on CNN International

Interview on CNN International with Zain Verjee and Jim Clancy

Marc Grossman, Under Secretary for Political Affairs

Washington, DC March 13, 2003

CLANCY: Now reports on what the United States intends to do if and when it ousts Saddam Hussein are many.

There's talk of a temporary military governor. There's talk of transitional handovers, of maintaining some parts at least of the Iraqi army, the police and other law enforcement agencies.

VERJEE: With these questions and issues in mind, we talked to Marc Grossman, the U.S. undersecretary for state for political affairs, and we asked him, what is the plan.


UNDERSECRETARY GROSSMAN: I think it's important to step back for a minute and recognize that what you're going to have here is some phases.

There will be, if it has to be, a military phase, and at that point people will be focusing mostly on the humanitarian issues: getting people fed, getting people medicine, getting people who are away from their homes back to their homes.

And then there would be a reconstruction phase. And you can't really predict how all that is going to turn out, because we don't know the outcome of the war yet. But there is absolutely a series of plans to go forward here so that we can show the benefits to the Iraqi people if there has to be a conflict.

CLANCY: What people really want to know -- Iraqis and people in the international community -- is whether this administration, that seems so committed to taking military action to depose President Saddam Hussein, is equally or, if necessary, more committed, to the people of Iraq and their lives, their future? UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: Yes, I think the administration is committed to making progress here and committed to an Iraq that Iraqis can be proud of, that Iraqis will run, and that will be a good member of the international community.

I think, Jim, it's worth stepping back though, to recognize that the United States has not been committed from the very beginning to go to war.

VERJEE: Can you appreciate, though, how the idea of a military government, American's administering Iraq from Baghdad, is actually abhorrent to a number of Iraqis, and also it's an idea that has angered the Iraqi opposition?

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: Again, I think, as Secretary Powell has said, we should be honest here.

If there has to be military action, there would be a phase, a short phase, where the military commander of the coalition would be responsible for security in Iraq. I think that's perfectly normal. But the President has said, and Secretary Powell has said, that as quickly as possible we need to move to an administration that is based on Iraqis, that is civil in some fashion. And so that as quickly as possible Iraqis can run their own society.

CLANCY: Let's go down through the details of that idea, because I think some -- a lot of people want to know the information and the specifics. Is this going to be an elected administration or an appointed one?

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: The Iraqis obviously have to decide their own form of government. We've been working with the Iraqi opposition for a long time now, and as the president has said, we want to hear the views of Iraqis inside of Iraq.

They have to decide what kind of constitution they want. They have to decide how to have elections. They need to decide their form of government. That's not something for the United States to impose, sir.

CLANCY: All right, and I understand that, but like myself, I think many Iraqis are wondering, well, when is that decision going to come. How is the United States going to help implement it. Can you give us an idea of what the goals are? I know that you don't know if there is a conflict yet, so no one can really tell, but a timeframe here -- one year?

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: Well, I don't know. Again, as our president said on the 26th of February, we would be there as long as it takes and not a day longer.

I think if you think of it in phases, that there's a phase in the beginning, as Secretary Powell has said, where security really is the most important thing, and we have to stabilize Iraq and, very importantly as well, get at the weapons of mass destruction.

There is then a second phase, a transition, in which we're moving as quickly as possible to Iraqi control of Iraq.

And then a third phase, in which Iraqi sovereignty and Iraqis really are in control of their whole society. We'd like that to be as quickly as possible, but we'd also like that the Iraq that comes out is an Iraq that's democratic, is multiethnic, has no weapons of mass destruction, and is at peace with its neighbors.

So there's a job to do here, but we want to get this to Iraqis as quickly as possible.

CLANCY: In your vision, sir, will there be a Baath Party?

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: I don't know the answer to that question. That's up to the Iraqis.

CLANCY: In your -- in your vision, in the U.S. vision, will there be the current officers within the Iraqi military, soldiers within the Iraqi military, maintaining security in Iraq?

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: I don't know how to look forward on that. I mean surely, as Secretary Powell has said and others have said, you need to have some Iraqis help you.

For example, think of it in a couple of ways. There could be ministries in the Iraqi government where once you got rid of Saddam Hussein's cronies at the top, you might be able to transit them back to Iraqi control quite quickly.

There might be other ministries, like the Ministry of Defense or the intelligence agencies or those people responsible for weapons of mass destruction, where it might take a little bit longer.

So, I apologize, but I don't think these are the kinds of questions that can be answered on March 12.

VERJEE: But nonetheless, these are critical questions that need to be answered, because a lot of people are saying, what is the United States going to do the day after Saddam Hussein is gone. And, quite honestly, they also argue that the United States doesn't really have a very good track record in reconstruction.

You can change the regime, but the day after that, the track record is bad. They point to Afghanistan, for example.

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: With respect, I think if you look back over the last few years and look at what was done, first of all, to liberate Kuwait, in Bosnia, in Kosovo, and I'm sorry -- if people believe that Afghans are not better off today than they were before the 7th of October 2001, I think that's just a mistake.

There's always a way to look at these things as failures. Always a way to look at these things as glasses half empty. But my goodness, millions of refugees have returned to Afghanistan. People are back in school. The economy is coming back into functioning.

Is there a lot more work to do? Absolutely. But I think Afghans would choose their lives today than before the 7th of October of last year.

The other thing that I would say is that the best you can do right now is have a plan and have a philosophy. And that philosophy is the liberation of Iraq, not the occupation of Iraq.

The more I give you this detailed question, the more you would rightly say: but what is the role for Iraqis? We believe the role for Iraqis is the primary role here, and that's what we're trying to protect.

CLANCY: OK. I see the philosophy and I heard you repeat the philosophy, but I think both of us have to agree, I haven't heard the plan here today.

I know that it's very difficult to do, but people in Baghdad are watching. A lot of the stability in any post-war Iraq is going to depend on having a plan there, and my question to you, sir, is do you really think you're ready?

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: Oh, absolutely. If there has to be military action, there's a military plan. Then there's a plan, a very good plan, about humanitarian requirements in the immediate aftermath of conflict. As I say, food, medicine, shelter. We've been stockpiling food all around the area. We are working with nongovernmental organizations, with the United Nations.

There's been a lot of thinking been done about this transition as quickly as possible to Iraq, and I think we have a very clear vision of the kind of Iraq we would like to see in the future; yes, sir.

VERJEE: But if the United States goes into Iraq, attacks Iraq without the support of the United Nations, there's an argument being put forth at the United Nations saying well, then, the United States is on its own.

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: I believe that whatever happens at the United Nations, if we have to -- and we will not be alone -- have military action in Iraq, and take away these weapons of mass destruction from Saddam Hussein, my wager is that quite a number of countries will want to participate in the reconstruction phase. I don't think we'll be alone here at all.

CLANCY: Who's going to pay for it? The United States taxpayers, at first, or is it going to be -- are you going to try to fund these with oil money from Iraq itself? And who decides that?

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: Well, again -- a fair question. Because we don't know what the cost will be, I'd be speculating, but I think that there will be United States government resources in there, absolutely.

We hope that there'll be resources from other countries and, of course, as Secretary Powell has said the other day, there's an advantage here in Iraq. Iraq has oil. Iraq is a sophisticated country. And so Iraqis, once liberated, I think will be able to do a lot for themselves.

VERJEE: Who is being viewed by the administration as a potential successor to Saddam Hussein? The name of Adnan Pachachi has been floated around a lot, both at the State Dept. and the Pentagon. Who do you envision to take control that would be an acceptable leader in Iraq?

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: I have no idea. That's not for us to say.

CLANCY: There is no loya jirga in Iraq, as there was in Afghanistan. There are, however, well-armed, well-organized and very much competing factions in Iraq, as there were in Mogadishu, Somalia. We saw the very different outcomes in both scenarios here.

I think a lot of people are nervous. How do you allay their fears?

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN:: Again, we have been working with groups inside and outside of Iraq. Again, I refer to Ambassador Khalilzad s visit to Salahidin and the whole idea here is, if there has to be military action -- IF there has to be military action -- that the vision for the future of Iraq would be what draws all these people together.

And Kurds, Shia, Sunni, people in northern Iraq, central Iraq and southern Iraq will see that their life is going to change and that they will have the possibility to participate in the governance of Iraq, and that ought to bring people together.

That's our objective and we hope that that's their objective as well.



Released on March 20, 2003

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