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Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz Interview with Sky TV

Presenter: Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz
February 25, 2003

Q: [Inaudible] issue. You have a military problem, it seems, with Turkey. Do you believe that's now resolved? And how important is it?

Wolfowitz: It's not quite resolved. It's at a very critical point. It's important. It will make the whole operation go faster and better for everybody including the Turks, including the Iraqis if Turkey is fully supporting us. But we can accomplish our objectives with or without Turkey.

Q: Is it a case that you would perhaps save British and American troops' lives by having a second front, given that you would then split the Iraqi defense in two?

Wolfowitz: It could save a lot of lives for a lot of people because the shorter the war, the better it is. It's better for Iraqis, it's obviously better for our troops and your troops, it's better for the Turks. And that's a point we've tried to press home with the Turks, that they may not be enthusiastic about a war but if one is going to happen it's much better for Turkey that Turkey participate because it will go more quickly and the end will be a better one.

Q: There's a way out to prevent all this, and your position is that if Iraq disarmed 100 percent under the WMD, that's their way out.

The last test, possibly, will be these Al Samoud 2 missiles. If Iraq began on Saturday with something that looked meaningful, how seriously would the United States take that?

Wolfowitz: I'm sorry, it's not a matter of Iraq dribbling out one by one the weapons they do not --

Q: If they made a start.

Wolfowitz: That's not a start. A start is coming clean with everything they have that they're not supposed to have.

Q: How long would that take?

Wolfowitz: They could have done it on, I guess it was December 7th when they produced 12,000 pages of lies. They are not cooperating. You can't say they're cooperating a little bit more. They are just flatly, blatantly lying and obstructing and dragging their feet. It's the old game of cheat and retreat. So you get caught, so you offer a little bit. That's not a fundamental change.

Q: A lot of people in the United Kingdom are particularly worried --

Wolfowitz: By the way, there is another way to avoid a war and that is for Saddam Hussein or if the people in the inner circle around Saddam Hussein decide it's better to go into exile than to go down with the lost and evil cause. I think if there's a chance of avoiding a war that's probably our better chance, and if we're going to get to that chance these people have got to understand that the alternative is certain and inevitable. In that respect I believe the demonstrators and everyone else who want to avoid a war should be sending their message to Baghdad.

Q: On the question of the demonstrators, the majority opinion in the United Kingdom is very concerned about what is called here the day after. The day after the war ends, assuming a U.S.-U.K. victory, what happens to Iraq? What's to stop it descending into chaos because you know the ethnic makeup. What's to stop the knock-on effects of actually destabilizing the Middle East? Because you're on record in the past I think of saying that this actually could be a positive thing for the Middle East. So what's to stop it actually destabilizing the region?

Wolfowitz: Let's take the ethnic makeup business first. I know the ethnic makeup but I also know these ethnic groups have not had decades of slaughtering one another as happened in the Balkans. The problem in Iraq is that the regime has slaughtered everybody. It's equal opportunity oppression.

I had a powerful experience on Sunday. I went to Dearborn, Michigan which is the center of the Iraqi-American community, several hundred thousand that live in that area. And I met with a group of several hundred in the Dearborn town hall on Sunday. I raised this issue with them. I said there are people who say you've got Kurds and Arabs and Shia and Suni and Turkamen and Assyrians and as soon as Saddam is gone they'll be fighting with one another. Someone shouted out, "Never", and the whole crowd erupted in agreement.

These people want to be liberated from Saddam, and that was another thing about that group. There was one wrenching story after another. One man who's actually the Imam of the largest mosque in the United States got up and said half, roughly half of his family of 30 had been slaughtered by the regime. A man came up with his I think eight or nine year old son who had been kicked in the head as an infant by an Iraqi soldier in order to try to get the kid's mother to tell where the father was. Somebody else came up with a handmade picture of his five family members who had been killed in 1991. It was one terrible story after another, a pleading for liberation.

And you know the most amazing thing about it all was after the TV cameras were gone, I was down circulating in the crowd. What came clear is they didn't tell the worst stories and many of them didn't talk at all. Why? First of all, many of them were afraid to be seen on a camera because they thought even in the United States Saddam could come and kill them. And secondly, and this is the most chilling thing, one of them said to me, no one will really tell you openly how extensive rape is as an instrument of terror and oppression because it's such a humiliating thing to talk about. And then proceeded to tell me one of these horrible stories.

I think those people demonstrating do not understand what Iraqis live through. Those people are unanimously in favor of President Bush and his policy. This is a hand-made sign one of them made, it's just wonderful from my point of view. To go in a totally Arab crowd that is so totally pro-American, it's a great experience.

Q: You didn't deal with the secondary issue which is the destabilization of the region argument. You believe, you appear to believe, your theory is that the democratization or at least the liberation of Iraq in your words, and then the opening up of Iraqi society will have a bleed-on effect through the region. But what's the evidence of that? The argument against that is that no, a war in Iraq will destabilize the countries around it.

Wolfowitz: We could get into a philosophical discussion about what destabilization means in a region that's governed by people like Qadafi and Assad, and I could go on with a longer list. It's a region that desperately needs change and I believe what Iraq can stimulate is evolutionary change. Not that things can or should change overnight.

I had the experience 20 years ago of being involved, actually Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian Affairs and being heavily involved in supporting the Philippine people in the transition to democracy there. Marcos' departure became the kind of turning point for East Asia that led to quite a bit of democratic development elsewhere in the region, in Korea and Taiwan and Thailand. I think the same thing can happen in the Middle East.

The idea that it's going to be destabilizing is bizarre, frankly. The only people I believe who have some legitimate concern are the Turks because they've got this fear that somehow it will lead to exacerbating their Kurdish problem.

But we've been very clear, and now even the Iraqis Kurds have been increasingly clear that there can't be an independent Kurdish state. That the Iraqi Kurds are part of Iraq. The Turkish Kurds are part of Turkey. What you need is to have democratic countries where people are comfortable being members of those countries.

Q: Okay. There used to be an argument that the road to Baghdad leads through Jerusalem, that you've got to sort that problem out, and Mr. Blair especially is so, so taken of that situation in Israel. You've got to sort Israel out before you move to Baghdad. Do you think it's the other way around? That you sort this problem out, spread a bit of what you hope is peace in the region, and then move quickly to the Jerusalem problem?

Wolfowitz: I've always believed that progress on either of these problems can help on the other. I think it was dramatic in 1991 after Saddam Hussein's very substantial defeat, that it was only then that we finally got the Madrid Conference. Remember what a breakthrough that was? It was the first time any Arab country except Egypt had sat down face to face with Israel. Hardly a surprise. Saddam Hussein is the man who led the opposition to peace with Israel in 1979. He's the man who is leading, not leading but very very actively supporting terrorism in Israel and the territories today.

Of all the leaders in the Middle East he is adamantly opposed to peace. His departure, his replacement by a democratic secular government in Iraq will be a great boost for the peace process, but it's very important to make progress there.

Believe me, we in the Bush Administration understand I think as well as anyone the price that is paid by the continuing violence between Israelis and Palestinians and the continuing tragedy of innocent Israelis and innocent Palestinians dying almost every day. It's something that we really need to stop. But I believe it will be a better atmosphere to work in with Saddam Hussein gone.

Q: And the matter of the UN? You understand how important it is for several leaders, not just Mr. Blair, to get a second resolution. What's your take? What's your guess on the matter of the UN?

Wolfowitz: Secretary Powell has the challenge of doing the math, but what I think, I'm hopeful, not because I know the what individual countries are doing, but this really is a test of the United Nations. If the United Nations can't call the facts as they are and if the United Nations can't stand up in a credible way when it passes a resolution like 1441, then it's going to be permanently weakened as an instrument for dealing with anything else.

Just think about this. We have the problem of North Korea which everyone agrees is of major importance. If the problem in Iraq is solved, North Korea is going to be the next issue. North Korea is just starting to get onto the agenda of the United Nations.

We would dearly hope the United Nations could be a key instrument in a diplomatic resolution of this North Korean problem.

If the United Nations blows its credibility now by saying well, we said it's the last resolution but we didn't really mean it. It said you have to cooperate but we'll pretend you are when you're not. It's going to be a sad, sad day for the UN and I hope there are enough members of the Security Council who recognize the importance of that.

Q: Great.

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