‘A Lot of Work to Be Done’
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell held a question-and-answer session Wednesday with Times reporters in Washington. Here are
Question: What’s your definition of success? A year from now do we need a complete recognizable democracy and all American troops out of Iraq?
Answer: I can’t put a calendar date on success, but the president made it clear from the very beginning what we wanted if we had to go down this route and use military force. That was a nation that is free of weapons of mass destruction; a nation that has a representative form of government that is living in peace with its neighbors, no longer abusing its own population, using the wealth of Iraq for the people of Iraq; [and] a nation that is still one nation [and] hasn’t splintered into different parts. That’s a difficult task but this campaign ... isn’t over. The people of Baghdad ... are showing a sign of relief about the end of this regime and expressing it in many ways, including joy.
That doesn’t mean there are not some who will continue to put up resistance and it doesn’t mean it will be this way a week, two weeks, a month from now. There’s a lot of work to be done so we don’t want to get carried away by today.
Q: Do you expect American troops will still be in Iraq a year from now?
A: I can’t answer that question. 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.
Q: Can we look at the next phase in the government? Who will pick the delegates and how long might this process take? Also, what role is there for the rest of the international community in the political process?
A: ... Ambassador [Zalmay Khalilzad] will be heading off in the next few days to get to work on it. ... What [Khalilzad] will do is work with the coalition commander Gen. [Tommy] Franks, who has responsibility for the country now that the regime is losing control.
Q: What about the role for the rest of the world?
A: The international community will have a role to play. ... But as you’ve heard us all say, we believe that the coalition, having invested this political capital and life and treasure into this enterprise, we are going to have a leading role for some time as we shape this process. 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. ... But we’re not unmindful of the contribution that can be made by the international community for reconstruction for humanitarian aid.... We’ve already started to work, as you know, on what U.N. resolutions would be required. Maybe more than one. ... One of the early resolutions ... would be to give an endorsement of some kind [of] an interim authority representing the Iraqi people.
As to what will the balance be between outsiders and insiders, and how many will there be and how many Kurds and how many Sunnis and how many Shia ... we don’t have the answers yet because ultimately this will be determined by the Iraqis.
Q: The French, the Germans and the Russians are meeting this weekend and have said that they believe the United Nations should have the “central” role, not just a “vital” role.
A: We believe the U.N. has a “vital” role to play and that [was] a very carefully chosen word. It means the U.N. is very important to the process. We need an endorsement of the authority and an endorsement of what we’re doing 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. ...
The suggestion ... that now that the coalition has done all of this and liberated Iraq, thank you very much, step aside and the Security Council is now going to become responsible for everything, is incorrect. And they know it. And they were told it.
Q: You don’t foresee another confrontation at the Security Council over that issue?
A: 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.
Q: Earlier, French President Jacques Chirac said he would never vote for a resolution that would legitimize military action.
A: We don’t need legitimacy.
Q: Have the French told you that they are ready to support a resolution to endorse an Iraqi interim authority?
A: I haven’t asked them to support anything because there is not a resolution that we have put before the [Security] Council. We have never asked President Chirac or anyone else to provide legitimacy for Operation Iraqi Freedom because they already did in [U.N. Resolutions] 678, 687, and 1441.
Q: What’s the right structure or the right authority to provide peacekeeping troops and then policing troops?
A: A number of countries have already offered to send troops there. In fact, I think today being offloaded is a Spanish hospital and the Spanish provided bulk water and food and other things. Other nations have actually started to come in and say, “We’re going to provide peacekeeping forces, constabulary forces, billeting forces, different names.”
Q: In light of the looting and political chaos in Baghdad and in southern Iraq, 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?
A: Look, if you were to have a conference tomorrow and you stood up an interim authority, what authority would it have to exercise over? Institutions that 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 military organizations, with humanitarian organizations. I’ve got my AID teams all over the place now. We’ve got tons of food, thousands of metric tons of food flowing out of Turkey.... So there are lots of assets that are going to be available to [retired Army Lt. Gen. Jay Garner, who will oversee reconstruction and humanitarian efforts in Iraq].... This is the time you just turn your soldiers loose. They’re starting to identify who in a community
So a huge truck convoy came in to one of the cities yesterday and it was not distributed. They didn’t stop in the middle of the town square and start throwing out [food] and water. Humanitarian aid and distribution of food is not GIs handing candy bars to kids. So they have brought all of that subsistence, all that food and water to a central location in this town, a city, and it’s all sitting there waiting to see who’s in need, who says they’re in need, and ... who are the natural leaders within the community, and how do we start distributing it in a sensible way through them.
Q: You suggested just now that the colonels are going to play a leading role in identifying the local leaders.
A: The colonels are the ones who are in charge right now. But that’s why I said, I didn’t mean Tommy Franks was going to be doing it. ... People on the ground. The people on the ground who are part of Central Command are going to have responsibilities initially.... Yes, there will be chaos, there will be confusion, there will be celebrations, there will be disorder for a while, and we have to be on the lookout for reprisals or for any sort of warfare to begin.... Once you undertake an operation like this, we’ve known from the very beginning you assume responsibility for the area that you are liberating.
It’s going to take time. The battle, the campaign is not over. We have liberated what, half a dozen cities.... There are other cities that are fully under the control of this now-dying or soon-to-die or dead regime.... So it will take time for the campaign to proceed.... But I would say that it’s not going to be a matter of years. [before security is restored]. We’re going to approach this with determination, with a sense of urgency, but not with a sense of impatience.
Q: How would you describe your relationship with Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld?
A: I talk to Don constantly. ... 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.
Q: What is the administration doing with regard to North Korea?
A: Our position is clear. 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. It is South Korea, Japan and China who 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. ... We are working closely with our friends and allies in the region who have a like mind on this matter.
Q: Were you surprised at the poor performance of the Iraqi military?
A: What struck me the most in the first several days as [the allied troops] jumped off and started heading north was first the rapidity of movement.... There was no coherent defense. ... 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, frankly, stopping only when they had to protect their supply lines ... and notwithstanding some of the ugly scenes for a few days, it was not a sustained assault against the trains, the lines of communication. It was some random stuff.
Q: Is it Iran next or Syria next?
A: For what?
Q: For pressure to change its behavior.
A: We believe that all of these nations -- Syria, Iran, others -- should realize that pursuing weapons of mass destruction, supporting terrorist activities, is not in their interest. ... The world is changing in a new century where we have to deal with these kinds of threats, particularly in a post-9/11 environment, and as the president has said ... you 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 toolbox for the military. We have many ways of dealing with the challenges that we face.
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