Robert Zoellick Interview With Al Arabiya
Interview With Al Arabiya
Robert Zoellick, Deputy Secretary of State
July 10, 2005
QUESTION: First we'll ask about the aim of your visit here to Jordan.
DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: You want to start with that? OK, well, I have two purposes here. One is that I wanted to have the opportunity to meet His Majesty and with the Planning Minister, to talk about Jordan's efforts at economic and political reform. I was here not too long ago for the World Economic Forum in Jordan, and have always been impressed with the process of change and with the hard work of His Majesty and the government. So this gave me an opportunity to be updated on some of the work and some of the financial backing that we're providing for Jordan in this development process. I also had a chance to meet today with some members of the Iraqi business community. Tomorrow, we're having a Joint Commission on Reconstruction and Economic Development, which is an opportunity for the U.S. delegation covering a number of ministries to meet with a number of Iraqi ministries: Finance, Oil, Electricity, Agriculture, and that will give us an opportunity to learn more about some of the Iraqi development reconstruction plans, to make some suggestions on how we can work more closely together and help one another in that process. I also had a chance to meet today with Minister Barham Salah, the Planning Minister.
QUESTION: Sir, how do you see the picture now in Iraq, in general?
DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: Well, that's where this meeting - I think - actually has an important dimension, in that what I have always emphasized is that the success of building the new Iraq includes defeating the insurgency, one really needs to integrate three elements: the process of political change, which in Iraq is well on the way with the elections and inclusive government, and now a constitutional commission leading to the new constitution and referendum later in the year. But also an economic dimension, for reconstruction and creating opportunity and hope for the Iraqi people. And third, the military dimension. And so the purpose of this visit is really to focus most on the second point, in terms of trying to see how to improve the electricity, how to make sure that reconstruction monies are focused on trying to develop private-sector capacities. That's why it was useful to meet with some of the Iraqi private sector individuals today. And throughout, in my visits with Iraq or my meetings with Iraqi officials, I've always been impressed that they're individuals of substantial courage and conviction, and capability as well. It's a very impressive group.
QUESTION: How can you see the picture now in Iraqis, it is too bad?
DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: Well, I think you know on the political side there's been significant process made, but of course each step has to be followed by another. And the goal now is to complete the new constitution by August 15. Not surprisingly, as that political process proceeds, those that want to stop the process of course will try to increase division, they'll try to increase sectarian strife, or increasingly attack some of the foreign emissaries that come from Arab lands. It's a clear demonstration if one ever needed one that these terrorists are trying to kill innocent people, whether they are from the Coalition, or whether they're from Iraq, or whether they're Arabs from elsewhere around the world. And among the broader political aspect, I think it was a very good sign that some 80 countries came together recently in Brussels to support Iraq's political and economic development. The session that we are having in Jordan will be followed by another one in about a week of a donor's conference to support Iraq. Now on the economic side, again, I think the insurgency obviously makes it harder to move forward with reconstruction, but the electricity numbers are slowly creeping up in terms of some of the power generation. There's been a lot of work in the telecommunications sector, that's one that has been quite successful in terms of mobile or land lines. Building schools, health clinics. But there's still a lot of work to do, because the Iraqi people I think have enormous potential. It's a very rich agricultural country. You look at the history of the education of the people of Iraq and you see some of the most educated people in the Arab world. And so one needs to create a climate for that opportunity to be fulfilled. On the military side I think that there's significant progress being made against the insurgency. But as we've seen if people are willing to kill themselves, as suicide bombers are, it doesn't take many to frankly bring terrible tragedy to others. But that's where I think the political side ends up being so important. Because ultimately the story of Iraq has to be written by Iraqi people. And that is what is exactly happening this year, starting with the elections, the interim government, the constitution. And I think the signs have been that while the Sunnis did not participate in the elections in January, they are being more active and being brought into the political process. And that's the real purpose, is to bring all the groups of people of Iraq together as one.
QUESTION: You want to visit Iraq?
DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: Well, I've been to Iraq twice this year, and I'm sure that I'll be there again before long. And it gives me an opportunity there to again talk to some of the officials and to listen and learn from them. To thank the forces of the US and the Coalition that are playing an important role. I had a chance not only to visit Baghdad but I also went out to Fallujah on one of the first visits and met with some of the town council there. So it was an opportunity for me to get beyond the senior government officials and also see some of the people at the local level that will be determining Iraq's future.
QUESTION: Did you meet anybody here from Shia, Iraqi Shia?
DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: Oh yes, well as you know, the ministers represent all of the different groups and so I had a meeting actually with Minister Allawi, who's Shia, the Finance Minister. Barham Salih, who's a Kurd. And then of course tomorrow I'll have a chance to meet ministers from I think five or six different ministries and so it covers the full span of the Iraqi religious and political spectrum.
QUESTION: Not just official Shia, but anybody from the Shia from inside Iraq? You have any cooperation with them?
DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: Well, if you mean more generally, for example, when I was last in Iraq I met with Prime Minister Jaafari, I met with Deputy Prime Minister Chalabi, so although these are people of Shia faith but they're obviously on the political side. So I haven't met the religious leaders if that was the question.
QUESTION: And the people of Shia? You don't meet anybody unofficial, not Jaafari, not Barham Salih? Something like this?
DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: Well, I met Jaafari a number of times, and I met Barham Salih when we were here as well. And I had a chance to communicate with him by phone, and I think he's someone that's served his country very well. Obviously he's from the Kurdish area.
QUESTION: OK, can we speak about when the US Army forces leave Iraq?
DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: Well, as President Bush has said we have no set timeline because our purpose is to, I think the words he said, when the forces of Iraq stand up, we'll stand down. So the key on the military element that I emphasized is the close cooperation and training that we have with the Iraqi army and Iraqi police so that they will be able to defend the Iraqi people against the insurgency. And that's an ongoing process because in part it is training and then people go out in the field, and then again they return and learn from the field experience. And so I think you're seeing larger numbers that are being brought into the army, but that training continues. Our forces work closely with the Iraqi military as part of that process in the field and also in the training. So I think one has seen a transition to where Iraqis are playing a larger role in the defense of their own country, as they should. But the United States and the Coalition forces are there as partners to work with them as is necessary to accomplish the objective.
QUESTION: What can we say about what happened in London, this bombing?
DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: Well, it's a terrible tragedy, and I think in some ways when as the shock wears down, what people really see also is the inhumanity of people who will attack innocent people, whether they're in Iraq, the people who are victims of suicide bombers, or whether they're in London, whether they're in Indonesia, whether they're in New York. I was asked this question yesterday when I was in Sudan, and as you know Sudan in the 1990s hosted Osama bin Laden, but they've taken a different path now, they're cooperating against terrorism. And I think the message is for those who want to be part of a civilized society, regardless of faith, one has to share common values, and blowing up innocent people is certainly not part of that value system.
QUESTION: Why did you meet with Allawi to talk about the situation, why don't you meet somebody other than Allawi, somebody official?
DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: Well, I met the Finance Minister Allawi, so he's official, obviously. And I have met former Prime Minister Allawi as well. But I am meeting Ali Allawi in his Finance Minister capacity so he is part of the official, he's the head of the delegation on the Iraqi side.
QUESTION: Thank you, sir.
DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: My pleasure.
QUESTION: I'm sorry for my language.
DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: No, no it's better than my Arabic. I didn't quite get, I think you were saying something about the Shia. What were you trying to say?
TRANSLATOR: [Now that you're here?] Why haven't you met any non-political, non-official Shia?
MR. ERELI: Just from the Shia community like if we had gone to Basra.
DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: I had actually you see, on my last trip, I had planned to go to Basra as well as Baghdad but my plane had a hydraulic problem, so the first time I wanted to go to Baghdad and Fallujah, the second time I wanted to go frankly to a Shia area as well. And I'm sure when I am there again, I'll go to a Shia community.
Released on July 12, 2005