Powell Interview with Christiane Amanpour of CNN
U.S. Department of State
Interview with Christiane Amanpour of CNN
Secretary Colin L. Powell
Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt
November 23, 2004
QUESTION: Thank you for joining us.
SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you, Christiane.
QUESTION: Can I ask you about Iraqi elections first? If the idea is to create a democratic truly representative government that will also help quell the insurgency, and if the Sunni part of the country, for whatever reason, cannot participate, does that not defeat the purpose of the elections?
SECRETARY POWELL: We are working on the assumption that we can bring control to the Sunni parts of the country; that' s why we were determined to free Fallujah from the insurgency. And so there are still sixty plus days to go before we get to the election, and it is our intention to create conditions throughout the whole countryside so that all parts of Iraq can participate in the election. Fifteen of the eighteen provinces are OK now. And so we want to keep moving down that road to give everyone the opportunity to participate in the election. And that's the purpose of our military strategy as well as our political and diplomatic strategy.
QUESTION: What happens if they can' t? If despite your best efforts, the Sunni dominated areas can' t?
SECRETARY POWELL: Well, the Iraqi government and election commission will have to make a judgment at that point, but we' re going under the assumption that we' re going to be able to, and I think that that' s a safe assumption to go on right now. We have significant forces over there and the Iraqi forces are growing larger and stronger by the day and hopefully we' ll be able to impose order in the Sunni triangle so the Sunni people, the Sunni citizens, have the same opportunity as all the others.
QUESTION: Given the doctrine that bears your name of overwhelming strength, and given how difficult it' s been the postwar phase, to stabilize Iraq, how difficult that' s proven to be, would the US not have been better off to listen to the army chief of staff, General Shinseki who said that it needed hundreds of thousands of troops in the postwar phase.
SECRETARY POWELL: Well I don' t know the deliberations took place in the Pentagon. General Shinseki made his statement before a congressional committee in response to a question. I' m not sure what the actual process was within the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the office of the secretary of defense.
The issue right now though is to get more forces in places, and the best way to do that is to build up the Iraqi forces as quickly as possible. So once we realize that it' s going to take a higher density of troops to deal with the whole country, we put in General Petraeus, one of our best generals, to take sole charge of the build up of the Iraqi forces. And the Iraq battalions, who are the active army for the National Guard, they' re coming along at a much greater rate now, and you will see a significant increase in the Iraqi presence. The solution to the problem of security, ultimate, are the Iraqi forces, police forces, border patrol forces, the lines of communication protection forces, and the army imposing order on the country. Also, bringing down the insurgency: The insurgency I don' t think can afford many more battles like Fallujah. They lost a lot of people. They lost a lot of weapons. We' ve got into their command and control system; we know a lot more about this insurgency. So they' re paying a price for their activities.
QUESTION: And yet the insurgency is still active, Mosul, we' ve seen that it is active elsewhere, there' s still been violence. Also the Iraqi forces are no where near the forces that are required yet. Experts now are calling for more U.S. troops now. Since stabilizing Iraq for the elections and quelling the insurgency is obviously so important, is now not a good time, do you think, to add more U.S. troops right now?
SECRETARY POWELL: There are many experts who offer many expert opinions. I will leave it up to our commanders on the ground to make a judgment as to what they think they need in the way of forces. General Casey is over there. He' s a very skilled commander and I' m sure he is making his assessment on the ground, talking to the Iraqis, and talking to General Petraeus. He knows the rate at which those Iraqi battalions are coming out of training, and if he needs more forces then I' m sure he' ll communicate that to Secretary Rumsfeld, and Secretary Rumsfeld will take it to the president. At the moment, I think they believe that they have taken the right decisions with respect to force levels all the way through the election period.
QUESTION: So, I' m drawing on now your experiences as a general, as a commander, of the former Joint Chiefs, I know a lot gets put on the back of the commanders there. But looking back, do you think General Shinseki was right when he said it would be, from your perspective...
SECRETARY POWELL: From my perspective, the insurgency took on life faster than anyone had anticipated and it became more aggressive than we anticipated. The reasons for that I don' t know. But the fact of the matter is, once it became clear that was what was happening, then we started to adjust to it. Remember, we thought we' d be down to a hundred thousand by sometime in the Fall. But we didn' t go down to a hundred thousand, we stayed up at about a hundred and thirty-eight thousand. So in effect, we adjusted our plans last fall in light of the insurgency. We just didn' t keep marching out. We stopped and turned around and faced the insurgency. And then as you recall, we also added to our force strength, and then went about expediting the training of Iraqi forces.
So even though we all were taken aback by the extent of the insurgency last year, we have been adjusting to it ever since. But it is a difficult problem. Insurgencies are not easy to put down. But I' m confident that the gifted commanders we have over there, and the political strategy we have, and the determination of the Iraqi interim government to deal with it, will lead us to success in the end.
QUESTION: On the Middle East peace process, if the Palestinians take the steps that you and others say are vital for them to take, do you think it' s necessary for the Israelis to do things like free settlements, dismantle illegal outposts, release prisoners, in order for them to show that they' re serious for these upcoming elections.
SECRETARY POWELL: Yes. I think that both sides have obligations under the Road Map. I came away from my visits in Jerusalem and Jericho yesterday, with the Israelis and Palestinians, encouraged that both sides know that they will have to take steps. We want to make these modest steps initially. A lot of trust has to be rebuilt. But Chairman Arafat is not there any longer. He' s no longer an obstacle on either side.
And so the key is to focus on the election on nine January to make sure the Palestinian people and Palestinian candidates are able to move around in order to present their candidacy to the electorate and then to have an election on the ninth January where people are free to go vote and to deal with the problem of Palestinians in East Jerusalem.
So I sense that both sides want to move forward. And I' m confident that if they have good cooperation and a good election on the ninth of January, then conditions will be created- assuming that there' s also no increase in terrorism- conditions will be created that they can start to move more aggressively down the Road Map. Now down that Road Map, we' re talking about ending settlement activities, removal of the outposts, which, frankly, we would have hoped, would have been removed by now and the issue of prison releases I' m sure will be back on the table too. It's an important issue for the Palestinians.
QUESTION: So very briefly, because I know we don' t have too much time, but you don' t think that things like freezing settlements, prison release, have to be done as sort of confidence building measures before the elections.
SECRETARY POWELL: I would like to see this kind of activity take place, but I' m not sure we' ll get everything that people would like before the election. We' re just starting a new relationship between the Palestinians and the Israelis. They' re talking to one another. They' re coordinating. I was impressed by the way in which they handled the Arafat funeral, that they were able to come to agreement as to where he should be buried. They were able to put in place a security arrangement with the Israelis standing back and letting the Palestinians handle the security at Ramallah. This built up some trust between the two sides. We want to build that trust so that we have this election on the ninth of January in a successful manner, and from there many other things can happen. But we don' t want to rush the process or place too many demands on either side that can' t be met and we once again face total frustration and no progress.
QUESTION: On Iran, you said last week, I believe, that you had seen intelligence that showed you the Iranians were, quote, "working hard to achieve a nuclear tipped missile." We asked the Iranian foreign minister last night, and he said that America needs to be very sure of what its saying in terms of its intelligence, mindful of your presentation at the Security Council on Iraq WMD, which didn' t turn out to be the case. Are you any more confident about what you' ve just accused Iraq of than you were about what you accused- rather Iran.
SECRETARY POWELL: It' s not so much about a matter of an accusation. It' s a matter of fairly common knowledge that Iran has worked on long-range missiles for a long period of time. It is also a matter that I think is generally accepted that they have tried to improve the capability of their missiles to reach further and further away from Iran. Now, you don' t build an expensive missile with that kind of capability just to shoot a high explosive warhead, which has limited accuracy.
And so I think that over time the kinds of missile development that Iran has been involved in and some recent information that I have seen, suggest to me that it is part of a broader program that could lead to the development of a nuclear weapon. They don' t have it yet. But if, as we suspect, they have been working on nuclear weapons' development. And I mean the EU-3 is engaged with Iran because they had the same suspicion. The IAEA found out things that they didn' t know about and they had the same suspicion. That' s why such a spotlight is being put on Iran right now. But if it is the fact that they were working on this capability to have a warhead, then it seems to me quite logical to assume they were working on a means to deliver such a warhead. With respect to Iraq, the information that we presented with respect to missile developments, and what they were trying to do with missiles turns out have been accurate. It' s the stockpile presentation that we made that turned out not to be accurate.
QUESTION: Do you think that if this uranium suspension, do you think that if it turns out to work, the Iranian commitment right now to suspend enriching uranium, will the U.S. get fully behind the European effort?
SECRETARY POWELL: We' re fully behind the European effort now. I had...
QUESTION: Your spokesman said you were agnostic on it.
SECRETARY POWELL: I have been involved with it from the very beginning. I know every position they' ve taken. They' ve shared with me all of their presentations to the Iranians, and they' ve told me directly and my associates what they heard in return. So we followed it. But we thought it best to let the Europeans do it, and we stand back to see how the Iranians responded. I' m not sure the Iranians would have welcomed us to be a part of that anyway.
We also had to be somewhat agnostic because the Europeans got a similar deal, in the Fall of 2003, and got a suspension, only to see the Iranians back away from that when we got into 2004. So now the European Union has another arrangement with the Iranians, with tougher verification regime associated with it. The IAEA will be going in to monitor all of this. That' s good. We support it. But, keep in mind it's still just- in the eyes of the Iranians- a suspension. And a suspension means that they can turn it back on. We want it to be turned off permanently. And hopefully with more time and discussion we can come to that point.
QUESTION: Can I ask you one last question?
SECRETARY POWELL: Sure.
QUESTION: You are and have been one of the most popular figures in the United States. Certainly many leaders around the world are doing the diplomatic equivalent of wailing and gnashing of teeth right now at your departure, seeing you as the moderating voice in foreign policy over the last four years. If, even you couldn' t moderate the instincts of, lets say, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, who can do it?
SECRETARY POWELL: Well the only one I' ve tried to advise is the president of the United States, along with Secretary Rumsfeld and Vice President Cheney and Dr. Rice; we all have responsibility to advise the president. And the decisions that the president makes constitutes our foreign policy. And if you look at what he has done, it has been a foreign policy of reaching out to allies, it' s been a foreign policy of partnership- the expansion of NATO, the expansion of the European Union that we worked on. The multilateral approach we' re taking to Iran. We don' t want American armies marching on Tehran. We' re working with the EU-3, we' re working with the IAEA...
QUESTION: Will there be?
SECRETARY POWELL: The approach... of course not. The approach we took- we never take any option off of the table- but, you see, why would you suggest that? You don' t know of any... What we' re doing is, we' re multilateralizing this, the thing we' re often accused of not doing. And then when we work within a multilateral framework, we' re sometimes accused of not doing it unilaterally. Korea. President decided that he would engage all of Korea' s neighbors, North Korea' s neighbors, in this nuclear problem on the Korean peninsula. And that' s what we' ve done. China, South Korea, Japan, Russia the United States all working with North Korea. That' s the president' s approach: Try to find diplomatic solutions, political solutions.
The Iraq problem, we took to the United Nations and got a powerful resolution, 1441. Seven weeks of negotiations, seven weeks of my life, arguing over language. And unfortunately, the UN would not subsequently act on the consequences associated with that resolution so we took action with a coalition of the willing.
So the president really has reached out with his HIV/AIDS programs, with what he' s done on development assistance, with what he' s done with free trade agreements, and WTO activity. This has been an administration that has reached out to partners, allies, friends. We' ve gotten Libya to de-nuclearize itself. We have worked to get Charles Taylor out of Liberia. We are helping with the UN effort in Haiti. And I could go on and on, but you don' t want me to go on and on...
QUESTION: I could to. I could ask you many many more follow up questions...
SECRETARY POWELL:...We could go on and on. But the fact of the matter is, when people talk about American unilateralism or the unilateralism of this administration, there' s only one real good example of that, in the eyes of these people, as they would define it and that is, Iraq. But Iraq was a case where there was U.N. instructions with respect to behavior of Iraq, and we did go in with a coalition of like-minded nations. But in all of the other challenges that we have faced, the president has tried to reach out to friends and allies, and I think he has done that rather successfully and he hasn' t gotten enough credit for it. And he does that as a person in charge of our foreign policy with a broad range of advice that he receives from all of us. And I' m confident that when Dr. Rice becomes secretary of state and works with all of our friends and allies and other institutions around the world, she' ll be giving her advice to him from that perspective, and the president will continue to be served by a broad range of advice from people who have strong opinions.
QUESTION: Thank you for joining us.
SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you, Christiane.