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Marc Grossman Interview by Al-Jazeera


Interview by Al-Jazeera

Marc Grossman, Under Secretary for Political Affairs Remarks to... Washington, DC March 25, 2003

A PARTICIPANT: It's Tuesday, March 25, 2003, and today's interview is between Under Secretary Marc Grossman and Al-Jazeera.

***

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: It's a pleasure to be here. Thank you very much.

(Pause.)

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: First of all, thank you very much for the chance to be here. It's a pleasure. I don't think it's a punishment at all.

Exactly as you said, the last time we spoke, one of the things we agreed on was that Turkey is a democracy, and the Turkish Parliament had a decision to make on the 1st of March. They made a decision. That was not to allow U.S. forces into Turkey. That was their decision.

We had created a package which we hoped might be of interest to Turkey and the Turkish Parliament at that time, but they chose not to make that decision; so we moved on, the Turkish Parliament moved on. When the Turkish Parliament voted a few days ago, it was to allow overflight rights for American planes through Turkey, and that's what we're doing.

You have very rightly said that, in the supplemental request that the President has made today to the Congress, there is $1 billion there for Turkey. That $1 billion could, if the Turks wish it, turn into more money for loans. We'll see what they wish to do.

But the reason that the President made this proposition was because Turkey is a friend, Turkey's economy may suffer from this challenge in Iraq, and we wanted to show our support for Turkey, for Turkey's economy, and for Turkish economic reform.

(Pause.)

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: Okay.

(Pause.)

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: Exactly as you say, we're trying very hard to work with all of the parties in the region -- Turkey, our Kurdish friends, the Turkmen, the Assyrians, everybody in the area, to try to make sure that what happens in Northern Iraq doesn't require a Turkish intervention.

President Bush was very clear the other day in saying that our policy is that we would oppose a unilateral Turkish move into Northern Iraq.

But the Turks tell us that the reason they would feel that they would need to do that is because there might be a refugee crisis; and so far, there is no refugee crisis in Northern Iraq.

Part of that is because American forces have come to the area. Part of it is because the Kurdish people have had a different style of life for so many years.

We have also told them that we would be on the lookout for the possibilities of a resurgence of terrorism in the area.

So our argument to Turks is, "We understand the challenge that you see, but there's no reason for Turkish forces to go across that border, because American forces are there working to do what they are supposed to do, which is to get the weapons of mass destruction and bring stability and change to Iraq."

(Pause.)

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: No, we have no guarantees. Turkey is an ally of the United States, Turkey is a NATO ally; and I believe, for all of the fuss that has come in the media over the past few days about Turkish forces having gone into Iraq, that has never turned out to be true. Turkish forces are on their side, and that's where we expect them to stay.

(Pause.)

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: First -- I don't mean to argue with you here -- but I think of the categories that you gave out, we need to highlight one very important category, and that is aid and humanitarian assistance and reconstruction for the Iraqi people.

I think that you will have seen from the President's announcement, that's a very important part of this package.

So yes, we've put in a package for the costs of our military operation, and it is substantial, but we've also put in a substantial amount of money for the future of Iraq. I hope that your viewers would consider that positively as well.

As far as the other numbers go, they all come with justification. What we've tried to do is look around the region, whether they are Gulf countries or not Gulf countries, and say, who can we help? What might be useful in these cases? Are there specific areas where we might be of assistance?

For example, a considerable amount of that money that's going to Pakistan is to pay for some of the assistance that Pakistan has given us in Operation Enduring Freedom in past months.

So I think, as we debate this supplemental and talk about it, the reasons that we have chosen all of these numbers and all of these reasons will become quite clear.

(Pause.)

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: I'm sorry, I missed that. I apologize.

(Pause.)

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: I'm glad that you asked that question, because your viewers -- like we are -- are very concerned about the state of the humanitarian activity in Southern Iraq. I would say a couple of things.

First, I think we shouldn't forget, and I hope your viewers won't forget, that the real humanitarian crisis has been going on there for 15 years, 10 years because of Saddam Hussein, who cut off people in that area. He cut them off from Oil for Food. He's tried to starve them.

So I think we ought to be clear about what the problem is here.

But second, the issues that are at work now in Southern Iraq are first, water. There is a huge effort going on to get the water back to people in Basra -- 40 percent yesterday, 60 percent today -- and the International Committee for the Red Cross is working very hard on that issue.

And second is the issue of food, and I think with the beginning now of Umm Qasr being open for food to come into Iraq, we'll see a lot more humanitarian issues being addressed.

So we're very concerned about this, we're working very hard on this; but let's not forget, the reason that there has not been humanitarian assistance for so many years is because of Saddam Hussein, and the reason it's been so hard over these past few days is because of the resistance from Iraqis and the Iraqi forces to what we're trying to accomplish.

(Pause.)

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: It's my pleasure. Any time.

(Pause.) [End]

Released on March 31, 2003


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