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Grossman IV by Lebanese Broadcasting / Al-Hayat

Interview by Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation/Al-Hayat

Marc Grossman, Under Secretary for Political Affairs Washington, DC April 2, 2003

(10:00 a.m. EST)

QUESTION: Well, any news from Syria after these warnings issued by the Secretary of Defense, and also by the Secretary of State?

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: No, we have not had any news from Syria. Our Ambassador is very closely connected there, and obviously in contact with our government. And so, no news in particular. But I think what the Secretary of Defense said and what the Secretary of State has said is very clear that Syria has a choice to make, and we hope they'll make the right one.

QUESTION: How would you characterize the relations now? Are they tense relations now? Is there an escalation, or do you think things are easing up?

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: I don't know about easing up. As I say, I think this is really a question for Syrians. Syria has lived next door to Iraq for so long. They know the facts about Saddam Hussein's regime. They know the facts about what we are trying to accomplish because they are on the Security Council. They voted for UN Security Council Resolution 1441. So I think the facts are in no doubt here. And the question now is what happens in terms of actions from the Syrians.

QUESTION: Do you expect a specific action from the Syrians?

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: We'd like the Syrians to live up to their vote for 1441. We'd like the Syrians to join the international condemnation of what is going on in Iraq by Saddam Hussein. We'd like the Syrians to make it impossible for people to come into Iraq and make it harder for us to --

QUESTION: But they already said that they are not going to do that. They already said that they're standing by Iraq.

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: As the Secretary said and as Secretary Rumsfeld said, they have a choice to make.

QUESTION: Is this -- was this a threat to the Syrians? Are you considering economic sanctions, something more even?

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: I don't want to speculate any further than what we said. But I think the Secretary was pretty clear, and that is that there is a choice to make here. Don't forget, the Syrians, as a member of the Security Council, voted for Resolution 1441. And what did that resolution say? That resolution said that if Saddam Hussein didn't disarm peacefully, there would be serious consequences. And what we have now is serious consequences. Syrians voted for that resolution, as did everyone else on the Security Council, 15 to nothing.

QUESTION: What about Iran? There has been some criticism of Iran as well, and warning to Iran as far as the weapons of mass destruction. Why the timing? Why would the U.S. Government want to escalate relations with Iran at a time when you need Iran's help?

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: We're not trying to escalate relations with anyone. What we're trying to do is carry out the international community's requirement that there be serious consequences for Resolution 1441. And we're trying to make the United Nations and the UN Security Council something real here. Saddam Hussein has looked at the Security Council for 11 years and said, "I'm not interested in you. I don't care about you. I don't care about what you say."

And now there is a military effort going on with us and our coalition partners to disarm Saddam Hussein and take him out of power. And that's what we're trying to accomplish. And those people who are going to make that more difficult, I think we have a right to say, "Step back. We have a job to do. And we're going to try to accomplish that job in the best way possible. Don't make it any more complicated."

QUESTION: But why the timing now for Iran? There hasn't been any development from the Iranian front has there? I mean did the Iranians really intervene in Iraq?

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: Again, I don't think we have to debate all the specifics here. What we are trying to do is accomplish the objectives of the coalition, accomplish the objectives of those parts of the international community who wish to be part of the coalition to disarm Saddam Hussein. That's our job. And we'd like those people who have a chance to make it more complicated to just stay back and not complicate this issue any farther.

QUESTION: Now, parallel to the military operations in Iraq, what are you doing politically?

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: There are a couple of things going on, and I think that are very important, I hope, for your viewers. First of all, politically, as you say, we're trying very hard to make sure that people in Iraq, people in the region, recognize what the political outcome here is for Iraq. And that's an Iraq that's multi-ethnic, that has its territorial integrity, that has no weapons of mass destruction, that believes in human rights and democracy, and also is at peace with its neighbors. And so, all of our political effort is moving forward in that area.

And then, the other very important thing I hope that your viewers and your readers would take into account is the very large effort that's going in now in the humanitarian area. When you think of what the Iraqi people have suffered these last 20 years under Saddam Hussein -- and little by little we are liberating areas, and where we are doing so there is a lot of humanitarian relief and humanitarian effort going in.

There is a water pipeline finally moving from Kuwait now into Basra, so people can have water. About a billion dollars in humanitarian assistance has been pledged; $500 million from the United States; $500 million from the rest of the world. And when you see them, pictures like this one of American troops giving Iraqi children humanitarian assistance, I hope that that's a message that will get out as well.

So there is a political aspect to this. There is a humanitarian aspect to this. And we're trying to pursue all of these areas.

QUESTION: But after liberation, what kind of government are we going to have? Is it going to be led by the U.S. military, or are we going to have a transition authority, a transition government?

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: I think we have been trying to be quite honest about that. And, as Secretary Powell has said, I don't think anybody should be in any doubt that for a period -- because there is going to need to be security, there is going to need to be stability, and because we have to seek out the weapons of mass destruction -- that the coalition military forces are going to be involved in this in some way.

But we want as quickly as possible to transition to Iraqis for an Iraqi government, and for Iraqi sovereignty. We are not there as occupiers. We are there as liberators, and we have to make that move as quickly as possible. So I believe that your readers and your viewers will see that American forces will pursue their objectives. But one of the things we want to do is get Iraq back into the hands of Iraqis as quickly as possible, and, as I say, a democratic Iraq, an Iraq with its territorial integrity.

QUESTION: Well, a British paper published yesterday that there is going to be 23 American ministers running the government, and basically with four consultants for each ministry. Is this accurate?

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: I don't know if that kind of specificity is accurate. But there is going to be a transition. And when you think about it in terms of ministries -- and I'm just guessing here, but, for example, let's say that you can go into the Ministry of Health. And once you take out the people at the top of it, who are working for Saddam, or who have always worked for Saddam Hussein, you might have a Ministry of Health that you could transit back to Iraqis very, very quickly and move to Iraqi sovereignty.

But at the Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of Intelligence, the Ministry of Weapons of Mass Destruction, if there is such a thing, that might take a little bit longer, and might take a little bit more effort. But I can tell you the principle that we're working on is liberation, not occupation, and moving back to Iraqi sovereignty as quickly as possible.

QUESTION: Was the Iraqi opposition -- they are not -- they don't seem to be involved in the military operations. Will they be involved in the transition?

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: With respect, there are some Iraqi oppositionists involved in the military operation. You know we trained some people, the "Free Iraqi Forces." And I think they have done some quite credible work so far. But yes, of course, they'll be involved in the future of Iraq. They have struggled for a free Iraq over these years. And the challenge now and the idea now will be to work with the people who have led this struggle outside of Iraq, and hook them up with the very important people inside of Iraq.

President Bush in his speech last month here in Washington said, "You have to take into account the feelings and the aspirations and the vision of the Iraqi people, who have not had a chance to express those in so many years." And so, we'll be looking for ways to bring together the external opposition and the people who are surely to come up internally, so that we can have a real democratic Iraq.

QUESTION: This would mean dissolving the Baath Party completely? Are we going to talk about just basically a government of technocrats? Are the positions going to be shadowing the American military rulers of Iraq for a while before the transition?

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: Again, with all due respect to your question, I don't think we are looking at American military rulers of Iraq. That's not our objective. Our objective is to have Iraqis be the rulers of Iraq, as they should have been for these so many years. And so, the way forward here is to bring internal oppositionists, real Iraqis who live inside, plus the people who have worked so hard outside of Iraq for this day, bring them together, and then proceed to have a democratic Iraq.

QUESTION: And where do you go next from there? I'm talking politically speaking. What's the priority? What's the pressing issue on the agenda in the Middle East when you are talking about are you going -- do you think the peace process, the Palestinian-Israeli peace process, takes precedence over dealing with other regional political problems?

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: With all due respect again to the premise of your question, I think we need to do so many of these things simultaneously. As President Bush and Secretary Powell have said, among the reasons to pursue this military objective in Iraq is so that we can have a more peaceful and democratic Middle East. And President Bush said the other week -- and I'm sure that you reported on it -- that we want to get the roadmap out now as quickly as possible, as soon as the Palestinian Prime Minister is confirmed. And we have done some very good work on the roadmap.

So I think we can work on peace; and we can work on security, and we can also work on questions of development and democracy very effectively all together. You know that we have proposed this Middle East Partnership Initiative, so that we can bring more democracy and more efforts of women, for example, and small business people in the Middle East because we think that's part of the future as well.

QUESTION: Do you believe it's possible to push countries in the Middle East towards democratization, at the same time pushing them towards peace with Israel, at least double pressure on these countries? Do you think they can withstand that kind of pressure?

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: I don't think these are double pressures. I think they're double opportunities, the opportunity to make peace with Israel, and to have a Palestinian state and an Israeli state living side-by-side together, as President Bush has proposed. The chance for development and democracy in the Middle East. We have referred a lot to the Arab Development Report by the United Nations, by Arab sociologists: the need for more freedom and more information, more participation by women in the Arab world.

So, with respect, sir, to you and to your viewers, I don't think you have to wait until one thing is accomplished to do another. Our world now is a simultaneous world. And I believe development and democracy and freedom and peace, all of these things have to be pursued together.

QUESTION: Relations with the UN, Europe, how do you see them playing a role in the transitional period in Iraq, as well as beyond?

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: First, to the United Nations, I see the United Nations playing a role. You know that a couple of Sundays ago, President Bush, President Aznar, the Prime Minister of Britain, the Prime Minister of Portugal were together in the Azores. And they issued a very good statement about what the United Nations will do in the future of Iraq in the Security Council resolution coordinating humanitarian efforts, endorsing a civilian administration.

So I believe the United Nations will have a role. And I would say that they have a role today. I have showed you a picture of an American military person giving out humanitarian assistance. But, of course, the United Nations is involved in that as well. And for Europeans, I hope they will also be involved in the future. And that's one of the reasons that Secretary Powell is moving from Turkey today up to Brussels. And tomorrow he'll have a chance to visit with people at NATO, people in the European Union.

QUESTION: How do you see Israel's contribution to this, the future developments in the region, in relationship to the post-Saddam era? Do you see this change in Iraq contributing to advancing the peace process? Do you see an Iraq friendly with Israel?

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: I don't know the answer to that question. I would hope so. I think in the context of change in the Middle East, in the context of change in Iraq, that there could be better relations not just with Israel, but with all of Iraq's neighbors. When we say that one of our objectives is to have an Iraq at peace with its neighbors, that's really what we mean.

And so, yes, I do. I think that we can, by this change, change many things in the area and for the better. But this is not about America saying you must do this and you must do that. This is about giving people in the Middle East, people in all countries, the opportunity to expand their own lives and expand their own vision. There is no American way to do this, but I believe there is a democratic and free way to do this that people in the Middle East will choose for themselves.

QUESTION: With increasing number of casualties, civilian casualties, in this war, don't you see that this might poison the atmosphere for America to play a role in the region in the future on the political level?

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: Obviously, we have made our military plan and tried to carry out our military plan to reduce the number of civilian casualties, but war is a terrible thing and the reason we're in this war is because Saddam Hussein refused to live up to his obligations to the UN -- to the United Nations and to the Security Council. So I think it's terrible that there are civilian casualties and we are doing all we can to minimize that number, and we hope that people will understand that this war was necessary. We're trying to do it in as a humane a way as possible, as I showed you. We are also working on the issues of humanitarian relief. And we would like there to be as few civilian casualties as possible.

I don't think, sir, that when it's all over people will find that we have done this in any way to promote this kind of suffering; in fact, people will find that we've done exactly the opposite, and that will open a door for the United States to be involved as it must be in the Middle East for the future.

QUESTION: Thank you, sir.

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: Thank you very much. I'm glad to do it. [End]

Released on April 8, 2003

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