Today's date:





Colin Powell is the U.S. Secretary of State. He was interviewed for Global Viewpoint in his offices on June 22 by Paul Richter of the Los Angeles Times.

GLOBAL VIEWPOINT: Looking ahead, what are the priorities after the transition in Iraq?

COLIN POWELL: The security situation, working with the Iraqis, must be brought under control. There are going to be elections, but you've got to have a relatively safe environment. We want to restore power, bring it up to even higher levels than it is now. We're doing well, but we could do even better if we could bring the security under control. So the mission of securing the country will remain a top priority.

Since that increasingly is the responsibility of this new government, the second priority has to be to build up their forces as rapidly as feasible. I use "as feasible" because it's easy to put a uniform on someone, but that doesn't make a unit or a trained individual.

We have to give all the support we can to the Iraqi interim government to enhance its standing in the eyes of the Iraqi people as an able government. It is a new government. It's still staffing itself. It's still figuring out what its procedures are going to be.

That's why I felt it was important that we send as ambassador somebody who will not be commanding the forces but working with them, who is very, very skilled in the diplomatic craft, and who has had experience in a number of countries that were going through different phases of transformation: Honduras, Mexico and the Philippines.

John Negroponte has a lot of experience, as well, at the most senior levels. He was my deputy when I was National Security Advisor. He's uniquely qualified and he also has a good understanding of the political-military linkage. He has to work with our military commanders there.

Beyond this, there is the whole reconstruction effort and all that entails. That's what we're looking at.

GV: Looking back, what has been the problem and what will change now?

POWELL: Looking back, I would have hoped that we could have built up the Iraqi security forces faster. We built up large numbers, but they didn't get equipped fast enough, they didn't get trained up to standards fast enough. And I think there was always a weakness in what we were doing in that they were not yet connected to their own political structure. They were still essentially working for us -- for their country, but for the occupiers.

When the Iraqi forces really got tested in Fallujah a few months back, the performance was mixed. Hopefully, now that they realize they're fighting for their own future, their performance will be different. There will be a different incentive. And that's part of the security solution.

Once this political leadership is in charge of the country, then the disorder that is taking place in the country is no longer directed toward us. Even though our soldiers may be getting hurt, it's directed toward this new Iraqi government.

Then people will ask, "So what do they (the insurgents) want?" A Hussein Iraqi government instead of this Iraqi government? And therefore, it is in the vested interest of the security services that are going to be brought up and trained and equipped to help this new Iraqi government and to serve as units and agents of this Iraqi government. And that alone, just having their own leaders, in charge of them should boost their capability in the security field.

GV: You obviously had experience in the training area. People who have been in charge of training in other developing countries have said it may take a couple of years to get an effective trained force in Iraq. Are U.S. forecasts of how long this may take a little optimistic, perhaps?

POWELL: It is one thing to get 40 guys, give them uniforms and then teach them how to go left, right, left, right. But before that is a platoon that you're ready to say is a "band of brothers" takes time.

But it really takes motivation. People, troops have to want to serve their nation. And they have to want to serve their political leaders. They have to feel the cause. That's what made our army so great in the wars that we fought. They always thought we were fighting for a cause. And that's what we have to convey to these new units that are being created: You are fighting for a cause, you're not fighting for America. You're not fighting for the CPA (Coalition Provisional Authority); it's gone. You're fighting for your own country and for your own leaders and for your own future, your own personal future, as well. If you like getting paid regularly in the Iraqi army, maybe you better defend the new Iraqi government.

GV: If the new Iraqi president, Iyad Allawi, declares martial law, including banning demonstrations, wouldn't that put the United States in a bit of an awkward situation?

POWELL: It would make our job more complex because the imposition of martial law is more a police function than it is a military function, one hopes. But I'm pleased that even though they said that is always a possibility, they also clarified it within a few hours or a day that nobody is planning or thinking about this yet. It is something we can do if circumstances require. It is an act of any legitimate government. And we have had no conversation with them yet about what would be the linkage between our forces and their forces under a state of martial law.

GV: Before the Iraq war, some administration officials were saying they hoped that perhaps Iraq might be able to provide long-term bases for the United States and it would allow us to move out of some of the other countries in the region that may have mixed feelings about Americans. Is that still a hope?

POWELL: I don't ever recall that being a hope. We weren't looking to go into Iraq for the purpose of having bases in Mesopotamia or in the Gulf region. Frankly, with Iraq in the democratic column, the whole region changes in a way that probably reduces the requirement for bases. Remember why many of those bases were there: Iraq.

Now, that doesn't mean that as a friendly nation and a partner of ours it's inconceivable that we might find some interest in having some sort of facility or base there, but we weren't looking for bases like we had bases in Germany or bases in Korea or bases in Japan. But I wouldn't rule out there being some American presence in the country for a fairly long period of time, not at the size we are now, but, you know, we've had facilities in other countries that are friends and partners of ours for decades. But we certainly weren't looking for a new base structure.

GV: The South Korean government has said that it intends to go forward with sending troops, despite the killing there. Where does it stand with other countries continuing their commitments through January '05?

POWELL: Each country will have to make an individual judgment as to whether or not it can go beyond its current commitment. Hungary said that it's staying through its commitment. The South Koreans boldly stood up and said immediately upon receiving the news of the beheading that they won't be deterred.

That's the reaction I'm hearing from all of the countries who are with us. I'm more concerned about whether or not this changes behavior patterns on the part of those who are not soldiers but are like the Korean man who was killed, somebody over there doing reconstruction work or humanitarian work. Will that deter them? Or will the companies that provide these people and send them over there start saying, "We're not sure we can take the risk"? That's a greater concern to me.

The fact of the matter is the whole country is not aflame. There are some problems and people are being killed every day, but the whole country is not in flames and there is reconstruction work going on. People need to be fed. Food needs to be brought in. Petroleum needs to be brought out. And there are people who are willing to do those jobs. The power plants need to be rebuilt.

GV: At the United Nations, the United States is trying to get another waiver regarding U.S. troops and the ICC (International Criminal Court). Is the United States going to be able to pull that off?

POWELL: We are trying to show some flexibility in the language to see how that affects the vote count. And typically I have to wait 24 hours for people to call home for instructions and get instructions back, but by Thursday (June 24) we will make a decision as to whether we will go for a vote or not.

GV: So the language might be different than in previous years?

POWELL: Yes. We're looking to see if we can achieve what we want, which is another rollover, but perhaps make the language of the rollover or the terms of the rollover more acceptable to more members of the U.N. Security Council because a number of nations already said that they'd have to abstain on a rollover. And so I'm doing what I spend a lot of my time doing, and that's counting votes.

GV: Would this provide less coverage (from possible ICC prosecution) for U.S. troops then?

POWELL: No. We're not looking at any modification that would change the coverage that our troops currently enjoy. Remember our troops are not excused from anything; they're still subject to the ICC. It's just put in abeyance for a year. That's the nature of the resolution. And so we want that abeyance provision continued, so we wouldn't put our troops in any risk that they are not now in. But there are a number of abstentions already signaled to us. That means we have to take a look and see if we can do anything with the language without changing the purpose of the language to attract more votes. Abu Ghraib has affected the way people look at the ICC.

GV: You had asked a few weeks ago for the CIA to look into how they derived the information that you presented at the United Nations (on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction). Have they gotten back to you on that?

POWELL: No. I know they're looking into it. But the sources that they used, particularly for the mobile vans, have become very suspect, and I'm waiting for them to finish their inquiries to determine what they want to say about it. The CIA has never said it was not a biological mobile lab, but they have never said it was. And the sourcing that leaned us in the direction of saying it was has gotten very weak and soft. And we've got to find out why we didn't know it was weak and soft at the time.

And what are we doing to protect ourselves? Jami Miscik, the deputy director of intelligence) at the CIA, said she's putting in place new systems so that subsourcing of this kind would be double-examined by other people within the agency. So they've taken the corrective action. At least she says that's what they were going to do. I'm not sure she's finished it yet. But whether they'll ever be able to finish the autopsy, as I call it, or inquisition, on what happened on the original sourcing for the mobile vans, I'll have to just leave with them until they do it. I'm anxious to hear from them.

(c) 2004, Global Viewpoint. Distributed by Tribune Media Services International.
For immediate release (Distributed 6/23/04)