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Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz Interview with Wolf Blitzer, CNN

Presenter: Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz
December 06, 2002

Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2002

(Interview with Wolf Blitzer, CNN)

Blitzer: Welcome back.

Joining me now live from Ankara, Turkey, the Deputy Secretary of Defense. Paul Wolfowitz is on a mission to try to encourage support for the U.S. in the case of -- in case of war with Iraq.

Mr. Secretary, thanks for joining us.

Are the Turks on board in case the President gives that order to go to war against Iraq?

Wolfowitz: Wolf, we have a brand new government here in Turkey, but it's an old ally, a country that's been with us in many crises in the past. And our chances of achieving a peaceful outcome here, of achieving the peaceful disarmament of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction is greatly increased by U.S.-Turkish cooperation. It's important for Saddam Hussein to understand that he's surrounded by an international coalition. And that, I think, is our best chance of getting through to him and understanding that he's got to have a fundamental change -- Blitzer: The Turkish military has always been -

Wolfowitz: -- own problems that this country will face.

Blitzer: The Turkish military has always been a closed ally, a NATO ally of the United States. But this new government, which has a strong Islamic influence, obviously, are they going to be on board as well?

Wolfowitz: Well, you know, Wolf, they actually reject that label. They have a lot of religious roots, as do parties in other countries. One of the very striking things about this new party and this new government is how strongly they've made it clear that Turkey wants to be part of Europe, which means to be a part of the West, that they're committed to the values of separation of religion and government that underlie this modern, secular democracy.

Frankly, all the signs for this government continuing Turkey's strong traditions, democratic traditions, and even advancing them are very good.

Blitzer: And what about the U.S. and the Turks as far as the Kurds in northern Iraq are concerned, the opposition forces closely aligned with the U.S. But, of course, there's been some tensions with Turkey longstanding, tensions. Are you working that problem out with the Turkish government?

Wolfowitz: We've been working it with both the Turkish government and with opposition forces and Kurdish groups. I believe the Kurds of northern Iraq really do understand that their destiny is in Iraq and as Iraqis, not to have a separate state. And we've made it clear over and over again, publicly and privately, that we are opposed to a separate state in northern Iraq. It's important if it comes to removal of the Saddam Hussein regime that the territorial integrity of Iraq be maintained. In fact, it will be a lot better when there's a democratic government in Baghdad.

Blitzer: We heard earlier today from Kofi Annan, the U.N. Secretary-General, that things are moving along just fine as far as the U.N. inspections are concerned. It's been a week now. We heard the same line come from Mohamed al Baradei, the nuclear inspector, Hans Blix, the chief weapons inspector. But the President says he's not encouraged by what's happened so far.

Have you come up with any reason to be concerned about the inspections, at least of this first week?

Wolfowitz: Wolf, it's very early to make that kind of optimistic judgment. We certainly have to wait and see what the Iraqis come up with with this declaration that they're supposed to make on December 8th. But it's clear that if we want to have what has got to be a fundamental change of attitude on the part of the Iraqi regime, that they really do have to see themselves surrounded by a unified international coalition.

I think the people I've talked to in Turkey, from the Prime Minister on down, understand very clear that our real hope for a peaceful outcome to this crisis is to maintain the pressure on Saddam Hussein.

Blitzer: Yesterday, the President said he's not encouraged by what he's seen so far, and he specifically cited the Iraqis continuing to fire on those U.S. and British planes patrolling the no-fly zones in the north and the southern parts of Iraq. If there's a zero tolerance policy, why isn't that, in and of itself, a casus belli for the U.S. to go to war against Iraq?

Wolfowitz: There's no question that that pattern of behavior hardly counts as cooperation, and I believe one of the things that is very clear here in Turkey is a great deal of realism about what it's going to take to produce a real change in attitude on the part of the Iraqi regime. It's not going to happen simply because we passed a new resolution. But that is a much tougher resolution than any they've confronted before. It's essential that they face a unified coalition that is prepared and able to use force if necessary.

Blitzer: But does the Bush administration consider those fires -- the firing at the U.S. and British planes in the no-fly zones a material breach of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441, which was unanimously passed by the Security Council?

Wolfowitz: Wolf, you're getting into legal terms. I would just say it's certainly not a good sign of cooperation, and it's something that clearly we've got to take into account. We are looking for a fundamental change in attitude on the part of Iraq. Without that, there's no hope for peaceful disarmament. It's not something the inspectors can do on their own in the face of an Iraqi government that denies that it has these programs. So we're going to have to see. It's very important to see what they come forward with on December 8th, whether they admit what they have and open up and give us a chance to get rid of it. That will be a crucial test.

Blitzer: But if you don't like what you see in that document that's released this coming weekend, if the Iraqis, according to the U.S. interpretation, Mr. Secretary, are lying, not telling the whole truth about what their capabilities are in weapons of mass destruction, what happens next? Do you then go back for this meeting at the U.N. Security Council? And then what?

Wolfowitz: Wolf, we're talking about obviously very big decisions that in our system the President of the United States is the one who has to make. What the President has made absolutely clear is his determination that we will disarm Iraq of those weapons one way or another; as he put it, voluntarily if possible, by force if necessary.

Blitzer: And is regime change still the ultimate U.S. objective?

Wolfowitz: We've been -- it's been a policy of the United States going back to the last administration, and it established in actually a bipartisan act of Congress called the Iraq Liberation Act, that makes very clear what ought to be pretty obvious, which is that we would be better off, the Iraqi people would be better off, and the whole world would be better off with a different government in Baghdad. But what we're focused on right now and what we are doing military planning for and mobilizing forces for is to enforce U.N. Security Council resolution that requires Iraqi disarmament, if it's necessary, and also to put the pressure on Saddam Hussein to make those fundamental changes.

Our goal right now is disarmament. But that isn't our only concern in Iraq.

Blitzer: So, just to let -- I'm going to let you go in a second. But just to pinpoint this fine point, even if the Iraqis did fully -

Wolfowitz: This is going to have to be the last one, I'm sorry, because I am late.

Blitzer: Well, let me just ask you this. Even if the Iraqis fully comply with all of the U.N. resolutions, regime change still is the ultimate objective?

Wolfowitz: As I said, everyone would be better off with a representative government in Baghdad that treats its people decently, treats its neighbors properly and isn't hostile to the rest of the world. That would be a huge improvement. But our focus right now, the reason we're engaged in this kind of military planning, the reason we went to the United Nations for a strong resolution was to eliminate the single greatest danger, which is Saddam's weapons of mass destruction.

I'm going to have to sign off now, but thanks for the opportunity to speak to you.

Blitzer: Paul Wolfowitz, as usual, thanks for spending some time. I know this has been a hectic schedule for you. Good luck to you on your mission. We'll see you back here in Washington. Paul Wolfowitz, the number two official at the Department of Defense, the Deputy Secretary of Defense. Thank you very much.

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