Today's date:





Colin Powell is the U.S. secretary of State. He was interviewed
for Global Viewpoint in Washington on April 9 by members of the Washington bureau of the Los Angeles Times (Doyle McManus, Robin Wright, Sonni Efron, Paul Richter).

GLOBAL VIEWPOINT: Looking back a year from now, does the United States need a complete recognizable democracy and all American troops out to declare the Iraq campaign a success?

COLIN POWELL: I can't put a calendar date on success, but President Bush made it clear from the very beginning what we wanted if we had to go down this route and use military force -- a nation that is free of weapons of mass destruction; a nation that has a representative form of government and is living in peace with its neighbors; a nation that is no longer abusing its own population and using the wealth of Iraq for the people of Iraq. And, finally, a nation that is still one nation that hasn't splintered into different parts.

That's a difficult task. But we are well on our way toward those goals.

Despite the euphoria at the moment, Operation Iraqi Freedom is not over. There are still some difficult days ahead militarily. There's a lot of humanitarian work that also has to be done. We have got to help the Iraqis reconstruct their society -- not because of the campaign but because of the destruction of this regime for the last several decades.

But obviously today was a rather historic day. Everybody was asking whether what we see today -- the people rejoicing -- would ever happen. No doubt, some will try to discount what you're seeing with your eyes, but there they are. They are showing a sign of relief about the end of this regime and expressing it in many ways, including joy.

GV: A year from the end of organized resistance, do you expect American troops will still be in Iraq?

POWELL: We will not stay a day longer than we have to. There's no desire on our part for there to be a long-term American presence in Iraq. We want to turn Iraq over to the Iraqi people, but we want to give the people of Iraq a government that they can trust.

We want Iraq to be an example for the region and to the rest of the world. One rogue state gone. One place that was a source of tension and instability no longer a place of tension and instability. That's what our goal is and we'll stay as long as it is necessary to accomplish that goal.

GV: Let's look at the next phase, the next immediate step in the government. Who picks the delegates? How long a process is this? And what role is there for the rest of the international community in this political process?

POWELL: Ambassador Zalmay Khalizad will be heading off in the next few days to get to work on this.

He will work with the coalition commander, Gen. Tommy Franks, who has responsibility for the country now that the regime is losing control. We will seek to find representatives of the different groups, and we'll start it on a regional basis in the region that we have the greatest control over, and the part of the country where people have now the greatest freedom to speak up and stand up.

I can't answer who the delegates will be because we don't know yet.

The international community will have a role to play. But we believe that the coalition, having invested our political capital and life and treasure into this enterprise, is going to have a leading role for some time as we shape this process. I think the people of Iraq will have confidence in us because of who we are and what we've done.

Now that they're seeing our young soldiers actually in their country and working, they realize we've come to help them, not to hurt them.

At the same time, we're not unmindful of the contribution that can be made by the international community for reconstruction and for humanitarian aid, and because, ultimately, if we're going to have the kind of government that I described earlier, it has to have international endorsement.

We've already started to work on what U.N. resolutions would be required -- maybe more than one. As you look at the complexity of this problem, I have to take a deep breath when I think about going to New York (to the United Nations) and trying to get it all in one bite. So it may be a number of resolutions. One of the early resolutions would be to give an endorsement of some kind to an authority, an interim authority representing the Iraqi people.

While we are in the country as a liberation force, all military, we very early on want the people to see that there is an Iraqi political process that is going to be raised up.

GV: What will the balance be between outsiders and insiders? How many will there be? How many Kurds and how many Sunnis? And how many Shias?

POWELL: All these are superb questions, but we don't have the answers yet because, ultimately, this will be determined by the Iraqis.

GV: The French, the Germans and the Russians are meeting this weekend, and all of them have said they believe the United Nations should have the central role, not just a "vital" role as Bush and (British Prime Minister Tony) Blair said in Belfast. What do you expect from them?

POWELL: I spent an enormous amount of time with them last Thursday. It was quite a day. I spoke to each and every one of the countries mentioned and some 17 or 18 others, and the word "central" kept coming up. They couldn't tell me exactly what it is they meant by a central role, particularly when it is Secretary-General Kofi Annan who said that he does not see that the United Nations is going to be the one to essentially take over this whole process. Right now his mandate is for humanitarian aid and other matters to be dealt with by WFP (World Food Program), UNICEF and other agencies.

So some of my colleagues prefer to use the word central, but I'm not quite sure what that means. They just say central, and then they go on to their next meeting.

"Vital" is a very carefully chosen word. It means the United Nations is very important to the process. We need an endorsement of the new Iraqi authority in order to begin selling oil in due course, and in order to make sure that the humanitarian supplies continue to flow in the Oil for Food program.

So there's a vital role for the United Nations to play. But the suggestion that now that the coalition has liberated Iraq, thank you very much, step aside and the Security Council is now going to become responsible for everything is incorrect. And they (the French, Germans and Russians) know it, and they were told it.

(They're all in St. Petersburg because Chancellor (Gerhard) Schroeder is receiving an honorary degree from a university there. I'm delighted that they all wish to share the moment with him.)

GV: Do you foresee another confrontation at the U.N. Security Council, over that issue of a U.N. mandate?

POWELL: Of course, there will be a debate at the Security Council. Different points of view will be brought in, and we'll have discussions and we'll have debates.

GV: French President (Jacques) Chirac has said he would never vote for a resolution that would legitimize military action.

POWELL: We don't need legitimacy.

GV: Have the French told you that they are ready to support a resolution to endorse the new Iraqi authority?

POWELL: I haven't asked them to support anything because there is not a resolution that we have put before the council. We have never asked President Chirac or anyone else to provide legitimacy for Operation Iraqi Freedom because they already did in (Resolutions) 678, 687 and 1441. We thought 1441 was enough. We didn't get a second resolution because of the threat of a French veto, but it was not a diplomatic failure. We essentially got what we needed.

GV: What's the right structure or the right authority to provide peacekeeping troops and then policing troops in Iraq?

POWELL: A number of countries have already offered to send troops there. In fact, being offloaded today is a Spanish hospital, and the Spanish provided bulk water and food. Other nations have actually started to come in and say "we're going to provide peacekeeping forces, constabulary forces, billeting forces" and so on.

I can't answer your specific question because it's so situational. What is it we're going to need? What will Gen. Franks need and (retired) Gen. (Jay) Garner, and what will the Iraqi interim authority need as we move forward? That analysis will have to be done.

I'm pleased that in my meetings with NATO last week we discussed this specific issue in considerable depth. In the North Atlantic Council meeting of the 19 NATO members when this was discussed and touched on by a number of individuals, there was not a single member who spoke out against a NATO role in principle.

It doesn't mean there will be a NATO role. A lot depends on what we decide is needed and what NATO is willing to do in that instance when they know what the request might be. But I found it most interesting -- voila -- that not one of the 19 members of the council said, "No, we don't see a role for NATO."

GV: And the CENTCOM role in all this?

POWELL: CENTCOM has the major role now. There's no other way. The military commander has to have full authority. Whom can he turn it over to right now? He has to stabilize the situation, secure the country, disarm the army, search for the weapons of mass destruction, start to take care of the people. You need military authority for that, and that's what's going on.

But then we have to start to raise up interim authority, start to involve international organizations, bring in Gen. Garner's group to begin putting a civilian face on these functions, to work with the ministries of the former Iraqi government, cleaning out those who cannot be part of a future Iraq, and finding -- there are lots of people running around the streets cheering right now who want to be part of that future Iraq -- the people who will take their country in the direction we think it ought to go.

So this will be a phased, sequential thing.

GV: But you have a vacuum that's developed in the south and increasingly in Baghdad. There's an enormous amount of pressure not to allow the looting and political chaos to develop.

How soon would you like to see an interim authority, a Baghdad conference, or a regional conference? Can you afford to wait a whole month?

POWELL: Look, if you were to have a conference tomorrow and you stood up an interim authority, what would it exercise authority over? Institutions have been broken. The Baath party has been shattered. So in the first instance it's going to be the responsibility of Gen. Franks working with military organizations, civil affairs organizations, with humanitarian organizations.

I've got AID (Agency for International Development) teams all over the place now. We've got tons of food, thousands of metric tons of food flowing out of Turkey as a result of the visit that I had there last week. Many assets are going to be available to Gen. Garner in this immediate aftermath of the collapse of the civil administration to start to rebuild things.

Our colonels are starting to identify who in a community are the leaders traditionally. Whom do people look to? They look to tribal leaders, they look to religious leaders.

In that way we will get civil disorder under control.

GV: But you suggested just now that the colonels are actually going to play a leading role in identifying the local leaders.

POWELL: The people on the ground who are part of Central Command are going to have responsibilities initially. The story that we're all fluttering about was the colonel, pointing his guns in the ground and showing respect for the mosque and for the the sheik of that mosque (in Najaf--editor). And people say, "Aha, these guys are not threatening us. They've come to help us."

GV: How would you describe your relationship with Secretary (of Defense Donald) Rumsfeld now?

POWELL: We see each other all the time. We get along fine. Are there disagreements and debates from time to time? Of course there are. I've never been in an administration where there wasn't, but we resolve them as two people who are serving one people and one president. I don't want to keep feeding these often quite silly stories.

GV: What is the situation now on the North Korean front?

POWELL: We want to enter into a multilateral dialogue with North Korea and with other interested nations. This is a matter that affects more than just the United States. South Korea, Japan and China are put at greater risk by North Korean nuclear developments. It is South Korea that has an agreement with North Korea for no nuclear developments on the peninsula. It is China who has a solid, strong policy of no nuclearization of the Korean peninsula. Japan feels the same way. So do we. So does Russia. So, therefore, Mr. Multilateral wishes to deal with this in a multilateral setting.

There are those who say, "Forget all of that. We're so concerned about North Korea and this situation that you should simply go into a discussion with them on a bilateral basis right away."

We're watching very carefully what the North Koreans have been doing. We've been in fairly regular contact with them through a number of channels. They know our views. We're going to stick with our policies.

GV: Were you surprised at the poor performance of the Iraqis? Didn't it look like their command and control was fundamentally broken?

POWELL: What struck me the most in the first several days as U.S. troops jumped off and started heading north was the rapidity of movement because there was no coherent defense. It was not contiguous, it was not coherent. The Iraqis were just having a series of "meeting engagements" and "strong point defense activity," but there was no front that was opposing the movement of either the British or the Americans. So they were moving as fast as they chose to. By the end of the first week, my judgment was that maybe victory was ordained.

GV: Has Iran -- the third axis of evil -- been helpful to the United States in any way during this campaign?

POWELL: Iran has been Iran. I wouldn't say that its behavior or attitude has changed significantly one way or the other in the last three weeks.

GV: Is it Iran next or Syria next in terms of pressure to change its behavior?

POWELL: All of these nations -- Syria, Iran, others -- should realize that pursuing weapons of mass destruction or supporting terrorist activities is not in their interest. That doesn't mean that war is coming to them. It just means if war is changing in a new century where we have to deal with these kinds of threats, particularly in a post-9/11 environment, then they have to realize there are consequences to this kind of behavior. But it doesn't mean that the only consequence the American president can think of is to reach in the tool box for the military. We have many ways of dealing with the challenges that we face.

(c) 2003, Los Angeles Times/Global Viewpoint. Distributed by Tribune Media Services International.
For immediate release (Distributed 4/9/03)