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Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz Interview with NTV Mithat Bereket

Presenter: Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz
December 13, 2002

Wednesday, December 4, 2002

(Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz Interview with NTV Mithat Bereket)

Wolfowitz - ...working on right now, and what we have the concrete agreement now after yesterday, is to proceed with the level of military detail that's necessary to make those requests. The potential Turkish participation is probably broader than any other coalition partner. Were talking, for example, in the case of Turkish facilities, of possibly investing several hundred million dollars to upgrade them for Turkey's and U.S. forces. Now we've got to have a clear idea of which facilities we might use, which forces we might bring. And your government has to have a clear idea exactly the same issues. Once we have agreement on what we'd like to do, then I believe that some of these issues may require parliamentary approval. That's something your government has to (inaudible).

NTV - Is it really the use of bases and the ports, and putting American soldiers in Turkey and to use Turkey to go into Northern Iraq (inaudible). The Turkish army may go into northern Iraq (inaudible). But these are all under discussion in the press and in the public.

Wolfowitz - Right. And the discussion in the public is a little feverish at times, but military planners have to do things in very exact detail. And we have an agreement now to do that, to continue that planning, and the next steps (inaudible), which was a little bit in a holding pattern while the new government was getting its feet on the ground. But I'm impressed by the way -- one of the Turkish generals mentioned to us that in the last stage of our planning talks the U.S. side had, I believe it was, 1,900 specific questions for the Turkish side. This is a complicated business. People shouldn't underestimate how complicated it is. But I think what even ordinary people can grasp -- if you're talking about upgrading facilities with several hundred million dollars of investments, that's a big step. That's a big step on our side. It's a big step on the Turkish side. What we are going to be doing in the immediate coming days and weeks is to get clarity about which bases we would be interested in and which bases the Turkish Government would be willing to let us use.

NTV - (inaudible) in more detail (inaudible) can I ask (inaudible) finalized with Turkey? I mean and what sort of...

Wolfowitz - No. That's why we need to do this planning and preparatory work, because it's not finalized. I think it is important to say what is very clear. What we've heard, I think, if anything, even more clearly from this new government than from its predecessor is that Turkey will be with us, Turkey is with us, Turkey has been with us, and that the alliance between the U.S. and Turkey is fundamental to Turkey's strategic interests. That was said by the Defense Minister, by the Prime Minister, by Mr. Erdogan. It is a very clear piece of Turkish policy. Again, I didn't have any doubt about it, but it's nice to hear it coming so clearly.

NTV - Why even Mr. Yakis, the Foreign Minister, has said that in the case of necessity Turkish bases and Turkish airspace would be open (inaudible).

Wolfowitz - That's right. Exactly.

NTV - Were you happy with that?

Wolfowitz - I'm very happy. Not, as I say, not surprised. Turkey really has been a stalwart ally for the last 50 or 60 years, and Turkey's interest in engagement in the Iraq problem is deeper than any other ally. It can be affected in negative ways and positive ways probably more than any other country. It can also do more to shape the future than any other country. Turkish participation, which we are working hard to structure, can make a big difference in getting to a peaceful outcome if a peaceful outcome is possible. And if a peaceful outcome is not possible, making sure that the use of force is as quick and precise as possible, and that the aftermath is managed well. So, Turkey's role here is difficult to exaggerate.

NTV - But Turkey has also concerns about Northern Iraq, about the use of Turkish forces. What did you offer Turkey for compensation. There is said to be an economic aid is coming -- 3.4 billion dollars in three years. Is that right?

Wolfowitz - For many reasons, I'm not going to discuss numbers. But one of the basic reasons is that from our discussions yesterday, I think we've developed a much better understanding of what the real economic problem is, and the possibility if we could give some confidence to the private markets that there is a safety net there, that the consequences can be managed and will be relatively brief, then the consequences will in fact be smaller. Markets have a way of reacting psychologically, and I think there are measures that we can take to help to prevent those losses. But also, on the military side, the more cooperation we have, if it comes to the use of force, the more quickly we can bring about decisive results, the more quickly Turkey will get to the positive side of this. At the dinner with Mr. Erdogan last night, he was talking about how deeply the crisis of Iraq over the last years has affected southeastern Turkey, which is one of the poorest parts of the country to begin with. He mentioned the example of 50,000 tanker trucks that have been idled by that situation. Each of those trucks could be a livelihood for three families, so I suppose we're talking about half a million Turkish people. That's a livelihood that will open up, and in fact expand, when there's a government in Baghdad that focuses on the needs of its people, that opens up trade with its neighbors, and especially with Turkey. There's a really positive future here that people should also keep their eye on.

NTV - So are you also saying that the U.S. Administration is aware of the problems of the Turkish economy, and will be ready to do anything to compensate?

Wolfowitz - We are very aware of them. I think we have a better understanding in detail of what specific things are of concern here after yesterday's discussions. We want to work with Turkey to, above all, if we can, to prevent those losses from happening in the first place. Prevention is much, much better than dealing with problems after they happen.

NTV - Yesterday you mentioned a couple of times, I noticed, that you said exactly "we are not playing games." Now, what did you mean exactly by that? Comparing your last visit to Istanbul/Turkey, has the time come now? I mean is it time now in the operation of the agenda?

Wolfowitz - Well, one major difference since my last visit here is we now have a unanimous decision of the U.N. Security Council, that Saddam Hussein has got to stop playing games. When I said "stop playing games," I was referring to the games that they've played with the U.N. over the last 11 years of hiding things in the desert and each time they would be caught with something they shouldn't have, they would deny and pretend and then go back to hiding again. This is a very serious business for the United States. We believe that we are directly threatened by those weapons of mass destruction in the hands of a regime that openly uses terrorism within its policies. September 11 was a wake-up call for my country, -- that 3,000 Americans died in a single day. Terrorists have weapons of mass destruction that could be much worse than 3,000. We can't wait until that happens.

NTV - What do you want to see in Iraq in a year's time?

Wolfowitz - You know, I'd like to see an Iraq that begins to look to Turkey as its example. An Iraq that says: We are a Muslim country, but we can be democratic. We don't have to be like every other country in the Middle East. We can be like Turkey. We can focus on development for our people. We can focus on building a government that is broadly representative of all the people of Iraq. And I also want to see an Iraq that stays together as a single country. We don't want to see pieces breaking off in northern Iraq. We understand Turkey's concerns on that point, and we share them. On the Kurds and the discussions we've had with Kurdish leaders, that they are increasingly saying we are Iraqi. There's no reason one of us couldn't be the President of Iraq one day. That's the right kind of outlook. We would like all Iraqis to be looking at Baghdad not as a place from which they are oppressed and tyrannized, but as a place to which they are attracted, because it's a place where a government that represents the people resides. And let me say, if that happens, it would obviously be good for Turkey from a basic economic point of view, because you will then have an Iraq that is focused on trade and commerce, and on development. And Turkey is going to be a natural partner for that country.

NTV - How will this be achieved? Now is it really that what you think or what you plan is to establish a temporary military rule there in Baghdad after the operation?

Wolfowitz - You know, it depends on too many things that (inaudible) to speculate. You've asked me what I would like to see. I know what I'd like to see. Whether it will happen, our immediate goal, at a minimum, is I want an Iraq that doesn't have weapons of mass destruction. That has to happen one way or another. If it happens peacefully, then it may be a longer time before we see political change in Iraq. But the political change in Iraq has to come also. It's not tolerable that one of the most talented populations in the Arab world has one of the worst governments in the Arab world.

NTV - And lastly, how do you consider yourself? I've always wanted to ask this question. Because you've always been mentioned as the -- one of the -- hawks in the Washington establishment. How do you consider yourself? As a hawk or as a dove?

Wolfowitz - I consider myself as somebody who believes deeply in the democratic ideal, that I believe is embodied in this country, in Europe, and in the United States. I think that what I'd like to see is a world in which people are free to decide their own fates and their own governments. And once in a while, when you're up against a tyrannical dictator with terrible weapons, you have to be prepared to use force, but it's a last resort. I mean, I want to see a peaceful world. I think Turkey has set a model for a lot of countries in this part of the world as (inaudible) with a peaceful, democratic orientation, and that's what I believe in. So I feel very much at home in this country.

NTV - Thank you very much.

Wolfowitz - Thank you.