12 September 2004
Powell Says Iran Nuclear Issue May Be Headed for U.N. Soon
Secretary also discusses homeland security, terrorism, Iraq
Iran's nuclear ambitions will have to be dealt with by the United Nations unless that country keeps its commitments and moves swiftly to satisfy the concerns of the international community, Secretary of State Colin Powell says.
Interviewed Sept. 10 on NBC television's "Weekend Today with Campbell Brown," Powell said the issue would be brought up in the following week at a meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
"And we believe that if they (the Iranians) have not satisfied our concerns, the matter should be referred by the IAEA to the Security Council," Powell said. "We don't want to see Iran become another nuclear power. We have enough," the secretary said.
Powell also dealt in the course of his interview with the issues of homeland security, terrorist activity abroad and democratic development in Iraq.
With respect to protecting the United States from terrorist attacks, Powell said U.S. citizens could feel safer because of the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, better intelligence coordination, better law enforcement activities and improvements in border security.
But he cautioned that, while there had been no major domestic terrorist attack in the three years since the assault of September 11, 2001, "It could happen.... We're not completely safe." Thus, he said, the nation remains "on the offensive with respect to terrorism," coordinating its efforts with other nations around the world.
"More and more nations in the civilized world are coming together, exchanging intelligence information, law enforcement cooperation, going after the financial systems that feed these people," Powell said. "Nations like Saudi Arabia realize they're under assault, and rather than perhaps sometimes giving rise to this kind of an activity, they're fighting with all of their energy."
Powell said the United States is adjusting its strategy in Iraq in light of the unanticipated level of insurgency mounted by "defeated elements of the former regime."
"Our real challenge here today and (in the) weeks ahead is to build up Iraqi security forces as fast as we can -- police forces, army units, national guard, border patrol, strike forces -- so that increasingly the Iraqis can take on responsibility for their own security," he said.
Asked to define the U.S. "exit strategy" in Iraq, the secretary responded, "The end is elections, the constitution is written, Iraqi security forces are built up so they can take care of their own security, and the coalition forces leave. That's the strategy to bring this to an end."
He acknowledged he could not put a firm timetable on the process, saying, "I'd like to see the job done in six months, but I don't think it can be done in six months. Will it be done next year? I don't know."
But whatever the timeframe, Powell argued, "We have to stay with it. This is not the time for us to get faint, to get weary, to say... this is too hard, let's walk away. We haven't done that in the past, and we're not going to do it now."
Following is the State Department transcript of the interview:
Interview on NBC's Weekend Today with Campbell Brown
Secretary Colin L. Powell
(4:00 p.m. EDT)
MS. BROWN: If I can begin on the issue of Iran and its nuclear ambitions, do you have any hope of getting this matter before the UN Security Council?
SECRETARY POWELL: I think eventually it has to go to the UN, as long as Iran keeps behaving the way it has been behaving. The international community has expectations of Iran. We don't want to see Iran become another nuclear power. We have enough. We're trying to get rid of nuclear weapons. And so, Iran has made a promises to the IAEA, it has obligations, and it also has made promises to the European Union through their three foreign ministers.
And we believe that if they have not satisfied our concerns, the matter should be referred by the IAEA to the Security Council. There is an IAEA meeting next week, where it will be brought up. We have seen some movement in the discussions that we've had with our European colleagues that would suggest everybody is now taking this perhaps a little more seriously.
MS. BROWN: I'm going to switch gears. You said in your speech today that Americans should feel safer. We're three years since the 9/11 attacks. What makes you so convinced of that?
SECRETARY POWELL: Well, we haven't had an attack in those three years. We have done a lot to protect the homeland: the creation of the Homeland Security Department; better intelligence coordination; better law enforcement activities. We have done a better job with securing our borders, so we know who is coming into the country. We're always at risk and we're very sensitive to that risk and that's why we're raising the alert levels from time to time.
And so, from that standpoint, the nation has not seen that kind of attack but it could happen. We worry about that. We are on the offensive with respect to terrorism. We have taken out this awful regime, the Taliban, and forced al-Qaida underground and have eliminated many of their top leaders, and so that makes it safer, but not safe. We're not completely safe. And we are working more and more with nations around the world who realize that they are as much a subject of a terrorist attack as we are. We saw it again, tragically, in Russia. We saw it in Jakarta, Indonesia, where the Australian Embassy was blown up.
And so, more and more nations in the civilized world are coming together, exchanging intelligence information, law enforcement cooperation, going after the financial systems that feed these people. Nations like Saudi Arabia realize they're under assault, and rather than perhaps sometimes giving rise to this kind of an activity, they're fighting with all of their energy.
MS. BROWN: Usama bin Laden now is still a fugitive, and the President almost never mentions his name, unless he is directly asked about it. Will Usama bin Laden, the man, ever be held accountable for what happened that day?
SECRETARY POWELL: Well, we hold him accountable now. And if we ever get our hands on him and he is alive, sure, he'll be held accountable. But most of his top leadership has been decimated. That can be reconstituted. What we're trying to do is to stop the reconstitution. You don't see him on television or issuing tapes anymore.
MS. BROWN: But you do see his number two, for example.
SECRETARY POWELL: You do see his number two, Zawahiri, and he managed to get a tape out that's been broadcast and we have all seen it. But he's not strolling down any streets anywhere. These people are in hiding and they're being pursued. They're being pursued by us, by other nations. The Pakistanis are going after these individuals who try to find some haven in the frontier regions of Pakistan.
And so, we're all on the chase. We're all after these folks. Yes, they're dangerous. Yes, they can still strike. They can hurt us again. And we're determined that we will make this nation safe, but more than make this nation safe, we're going to try to make the civilized world safe from this kind of danger, this kind of threat.
MS. BROWN: What resources were diverted from the hunt for bin Laden to the war in Iraq?
SECRETARY POWELL: I don't know that any were. We have quite a capability in our intelligence community and with our military forces. Certainly, we had enough military force to deal with the situation in Afghanistan and what we're doing in Iraq. It strained us, it's difficult, but nevertheless we had enough force to do it. Both of those regimes are gone.
MS. BROWN: With regard to Iraq being such a focus right now, what happened to the Powell Doctrine, go in with overwhelming force and an exit strategy?
SECRETARY POWELL: Well, the Powell Doctrine says have a political goal, use decisive force to get the job done. In the case of Iraq, we knew what we were going to do. We were going remove the regime. And that's what we did. And we put in the decisive force necessary to do that.
Now, the real challenge came in the aftermath. And we didn't anticipate we would see that kind of insurgency arise from the defeated elements of the former regime, but it did, and so now we are adjusting our strategy. We have got the Iraqi Interim Government in place and this is now a challenge for Iraq's own leaders and we're standing with them. And our real challenge here today and weeks ahead is to build up Iraqi security forces as fast as we can -- police forces, army units, national guard, border patrol, strike forces -- so that increasingly the Iraqis can take on responsibility for their own security.
And guess what? They want to. They want to see us gone just as much as we want to be gone. They don't want to have to rely on the coalition, but they need to be given the time and the resources to build up their own forces and they're doing it.
What's so interesting here is every day Iraqi leaders are waking up and facing assassination, and nevertheless they wake up and go to the job. They don't leave the country and go somewhere else. They're determined to make their country a democracy. They're determined to have elections. They're determined to reconstruct their country, and they're determined to do that by fighting this insurgency.
Every day, Iraqi young men stand in line to become policemen, to become members of their security forces. Even though they know that they may be attacked while standing in that line, they still come forward and they're getting better and better.
QUESTION: Is that what is creating the situation in the Sunni triangle is that we're waiting on the Iraqi security forces to get strong enough to be able to deal with the situation on the ground?
SECRETARY POWELL: Well, that's part of it. But it's also the case in the Sunni triangle that you can't just bluntly use force without considering the consequences of street fighting and the use of massive firepower and its impact on the population.
So we are trying to use all the tools available to us: political dialogue, diplomatic efforts, reconstruction efforts, showing the people there is a better life for them if they reject this kind of back-to-the-past activity. For example, in Samarra, in one of those hotspots in the Sunni triangle, we've had conversations over the last 24 hours with the political leaders, putting in place a new police officer, police chief, and convincing, and trying to convince the people that you really should stop supporting or allowing the insurgents to support, be supportive within your community because there is a better life available for your citizens if you will join the Iraqi Interim Government in moving forward to elections and to putting in place a democracy where you will be well represented. And the United States and the coalition is ready to provide all kinds of reconstruction money to rebuild your sewers, rebuild your schools, rebuild your hospitals, to fix your power system. Now, do you want that or do you want to be terrorized by these insurgents?
And we hope that, over time, with patience and with the use of force, like we did in Najaf, you know, it took force to bring that to a point where then Ayatollah Sistani and Prime Minister Allawi could go in and recapture or recover the shrine and put it under responsible leadership and marginalize and isolate Muqtada al-Sadr.
QUESTION: But going back to your doctrine that there must be a clear exit strategy, what is it --
SECRETARY POWELL: No, my doctrine has never -- people have put -- first of all, you'll never see anything I've written that says "The Powell Doctrine." It's a clever phrase.
QUESTION: No, it's a media creation.
SECRETARY POWELL: It's a media creation. But nevertheless it reflects my thinking. You should have a clear political goal that you're trying to achieve, put decisive force against that goal and be prepared to see it to the end. Now, you should have some idea what the end is. We do. The end is elections, the constitution is written, Iraqi security forces are built up so they can take care of their own security, and the coalition forces leave. That's the strategy to bring this to an end. What I can't tell you is exactly when that end date is.
QUESTION: Is it fair, as John Kerry has done, to put a goal on it, to say my goal is four years from now to have the troops out.
SECRETARY POWELL: Well, you can make any statements you like, but the reality is that the time we leave will be determined by getting the job done. And as the President has made clear, we will stay with it until the job is done. I'd like to see the job done in six months, but I don't think it can be done in six months.
Will it be done next year? I don't know. But I think with each passing month, as the Iraqi forces build themselves up and are able to take on a greater share of the burden of security, then there will be less demand for U.S. troops to do it and we can start to bring some of our troops out, hopefully, and change the manner of our operations so that the Iraqis are doing what the Iraqis want to do, and that's defend their own country.
QUESTION: Some critics of the war, especially over the last week when we hit the mark of going above 1,000 casualties, have done some comparisons to Vietnam. Do you ever see shades of Vietnam in what is happening in Iraq now?
SECRETARY POWELL: No, and everybody always tries to take some past experience and make a parallel with a current experience. Vietnam was 35 years ago, and I served two years in Vietnam, and I know a bit about it. And we also lost something like 58,000 troops in Vietnam, so this is not comparable to Vietnam.
We have lost 1,000 troops in the course of the year. I mourn for every one of them. I mourn for their families. I have lost men and women in combat myself. I know what it's like to send individuals into combat, knowing that some will be lost. The only comfort we can get from this is that they are fighting and giving up their lives or have been injured in a good cause, a cause of bringing peace and freedom to 55 million people in both Iraq and in Afghanistan. And that's noble work.
We have to stay with it. This is not the time for us to get faint, to get weary, to say, well, you know, this is too hard, let's walk away. We haven't done that in the past, and we're not going to do it now.
QUESTION: If we achieve the goals that you've pointed about, do you foresee American bases on the ground in Iraq?
SECRETARY POWELL: That would be something to be decided in the future and it will only be if the Iraqis felt that it was appropriate and necessary to have an American base there. We don't put bases in any sovereign country that does not wish us to be there.
QUESTION: Can I ask you about the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, as a military man? There has been a Pentagon investigation. Were you satisfied with what that investigation found, that the people responsible have been held accountable?
SECRETARY POWELL: Well, there are a number of investigations that have been conducted, I think some eight within the Pentagon, and I think work continues. Those investigations are leading to new avenues of inquiry and individuals have been charged as a result of those investigations. And so I think it would be out of place for me to comment on the investigations that are ongoing that may result in charges against individuals.
I do know that all of us were shocked and devastated by the scenes that came out of Abu Ghraib. And I know that the President is determined and Secretary Rumsfeld and all of us are determined to make sure that we find out what went wrong and who is responsible and who should be held accountable. And that's what these investigations will determine, and Congress is also taking a look at all this.
MS. BROWN: I know you don't want to talk about politics.
SECRETARY POWELL: Right.
MS. BROWN: You're the only one. Everyone else is talking about politics.
SECRETARY POWELL: Well, I'm precluded.
MS. BROWN: I know. And we didn't see you at the Republican National Convention.
SECRETARY POWELL: You didn't see me at the Republican National Convention. I went to the last two Republican National Conventions and spoke. I wasn't at this Republican National Convention because the President told me, Secretary Rumsfeld, Secretary Ridge and Attorney General Ashcroft not to come, which is the tradition with respect to the National Security cabinet members, not any desire or preference on the part of any one of us.
MS. BROWN: Well, let me ask you -- my question is, does it make it harder for you to do your job as Secretary of State when so much of this country and the rest of the world is focused on what's going to happen on November 2nd?
SECRETARY POWELL: No. It's just part of our every-four-year experience; the world is watching to see how it's going to turn out. It's democracy in action. It's a clash of ideas, a clash of personalities, and it is a fascinating process to watch. And the founding fathers who created it, I'm sure, are looking down saying, that's exactly the way we designed it to work, and we are glad that it's working.
I hope the rest of the world looks at it and says, gee, so that's what it's about: The clash of ideas and personalities, and who can capture the dreams and aspirations of the American people best. And as Secretary of State, I use our election campaigns to show nations around the world what democracies are all about. But other than that, by direction of the President and because of my position, I do not participate in the political campaign in any way or make any statements of a political nature.
MS. BROWN: The President, though, has said that if he has a second term, he would like you to stick around. Do you think you would?
SECRETARY POWELL: The President and I, I'm sure, will have lots of conversations about foreign policy and other matters in due course.
MS. BROWN: Have you enjoyed your time?
SECRETARY POWELL: Yes. It's been a challenging assignment. We've gotten a lot done. In particular, we'd like to focus on Iraq and Afghanistan. You don't get quite the same degree of attention on the fact that we've got great relations with the major countries of the world: Japan and China and Russia and India and Pakistan. We have solid relations with all of them, just to name a few, good relations with Europe, even though we've had some serious disagreements with some of our allies, but we're patching that up. The Millennium Challenge Account, which is providing massive new funding to undeveloped countries who need that funding to pursue a path toward democracy and hopefulness.
We've solved the problem of weapons of mass destruction in Libya. We're putting international pressure on the Iranians and the North Koreans. We are in the lead on getting multilateral response to the crisis in the Sudan. We helped with Liberia last year. We helped Haiti put itself back on a path to a brighter future. Open trade -- the World Trade Organization activities.
We've done an awful lot over the last four years and I'm proud to have been part of it. There are always difficult days in these kinds of jobs. I'm Secretary of State. I've been Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. I've been National Security Advisor and Deputy National Security Advisor. In all of those jobs I've had days that were very, very hard and dark and mornings that were very, very bright.
MS. BROWN: I'm going to ask you one more question, and I know you're going to hate it, but I want to read a quote to you that you wrote in your autobiography about Vietnam, where you said, "I'm angry that so many sons of the powerful and well-placed, many professional athletes managed to wangle slots in Reserve and National Guard units. Of the many tragedies of Vietnam, this raw class discrimination strikes me as the most damaging to the ideal that all Americans are created equal and owe equal allegiance to our country."
Do you still feel that way?
SECRETARY POWELL: Yeah, that's why I'm a great supporter of a volunteer army where people volunteer and if we ever have to go to something, and we'll see, if we ever have to go to conscription of some kind again, then I think it should be a form of service that applies equally to all.
MS. BROWN: Is that hard for you given the debate going on right now regarding the President's service?
SECRETARY POWELL: The debate is an issue that should all be in the past. This was 35 years ago. I think the American people are interested in today and in the future.
MS. BROWN: Secretary Powell, thank you very much for your time.
(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)