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Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz Interview with WJW-TV

Presenter: Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz
February 06, 2003

(Interview with WJW-TV, Cleveland, Ohio)

Q: Can you characterize how dangerous Saddam Hussein is and Iraq to the United States on a scale of one to 10, 10 being the worst, most dangerous?

Wolfowitz: Oh, I think very dangerous. It's right up there as a nine or a 10. I think Secretary Powell made that very clear in the very powerful presentation he gave the U.N. Security Council yesterday.

Q: In the intelligence that was released by the secretary yesterday, can you characterize how much was released? Is that 20 percent of what we know or, I guess, a broad spectrum of what we know?

Wolfowitz: I think it gives a very good sense of what we know. We know a lot more in almost every category the secretary discussed. But I think, for the first time, the American people got a very clear sense of the range of issues that have caused the president so much concern and caused him to treat this as a case of very serious danger to the United States.

Q: I was amazed at the phone intercepts and some other things, the personal intelligence. How dangerous is it for the people inside giving us that information?

Wolfowitz: Well, you're talking about different things. It can be dangerous to us if the Iraqis figure out how we're picking up some of those intercepts. We hope that maybe they can't, but that's a risk you take. There's no question there were some risks taken with that presentation.

And if they can figure out the identities of some of our sources, obviously that's extremely dangerous. And I think we went to very great lengths to try to make sure that we hadn't tipped them off to who's telling us things. There are some good sources that couldn't be used for that reason.

Q: Mr. Secretary, you're the expert on Iraq. You're the guy the president calls for information here. What is the strongest case the secretary made yesterday in front of the United Nations, do you believe?

Wolfowitz: Well, I think he -- it was really three parts. He made it very clear that Saddam Hussein is actively working to deceive the inspectors and to defy the Security Council resolution; that secondly, he has the most dangerous chemical and biological weapons known to man and that he is working on developing nuclear weapons; and, third, that he has, and has had for a long time, very dangerous connections to terrorist groups, including al Qaeda and including, as Secretary Powell pointed out, one very active al Qaeda cell run by this man Zarqawi, who appears to have close ties to Baghdad.

Q: I want to talk about that for just a minute. How close is the tie that people need to see between al Qaeda and Iraq? And what specifically is Saddam Hussein and Iraq doing to support al Qaeda?

Wolfowitz: I think it's important to understand that when we talk about terrorist networks, we probably see the tip of the iceberg. I suspect we know 10 percent of what there is to know. And if you just sort of think retrospectively how relatively little we knew before September 11th of what those terrorists were doing, and even if we had known that some of them were taking flight lessons, it wouldn't have told us what they had in mind.

So we're talking about people who hide their plans very carefully, and the connection to a government like that would be hidden even more carefully. And yet, in spite of that, we see, for example, close connections between Iraqi intelligence, and even the Iraqi leadership, and this network that is actively working to do attacks with ricin and other deadly toxins. Some of them have been arrested in London. Some have been arrested in Spain and elsewhere in Europe. We're working on finding as many of them as we can. The problem is, some of them are hiding, probably effectively.

Q: It's well known that Saddam Hussein supports terrorist organizations in Palestine -- Hamas, Islamic Jihad, other groups like that. Do you think a result of Saddam being overthrown could be peace in the Middle East much quicker than we might believe?

Wolfowitz: Well, it wouldn't -- it certainly isn't going to hurt the cause of peace in the Middle East if one of the major extremists is removed from the scene. Clearly there are many, many other issues. I wouldn't suggest for a minute that he's the main obstacle.

But I think it's not an accident that we made some of the greatest progress we've made in promoting peace between the Arabs and the Israelis in the early '90s, right after the defeat of Saddam Hussein in the Gulf War. That's when the Madrid conference was convened. That's when the Oslo agreement was concluded. It's very important to get back to an effective peace process. And certainly it would help if he weren't out there inciting terrorism.

Q: One last question for you, Mr. Secretary. How long do you believe or how long is the Pentagon planning for a war with Iraq if we go in? His military has been depleted since the Gulf War. What are planners telling you right now how long this might last?

Wolfowitz: Well, the truth is we plan for a wide range of possibilities. Plans are always guesses, and you need to be able to cover the enormous range of uncertainty that can happen in a war.

Q: Best-case scenario, I heard six weeks. Is that accurate?

Wolfowitz: You know, the best-case scenario could be much faster than that and the worst-case scenario could be worse. And we are really covering all possibilities. We have enormous capability, and I have no question whatsoever that we're going to win if we have to use force.

Q: Mr. Secretary, thank you very much for your time.

Wolfowitz: Thank you.

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