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Panel II of a Hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee - U.S. Policy Toward Iraq

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Location: Washington, DC


Panel II of a Hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee - U.S. Policy Toward Iraq

SEN. BIDEN: (Sounds gavel.) The hearing will please come to order.
Good afternoon. It's a pleasure to welcome the secretary of State, Secretary Powell, back to this committee.

Mr. Secretary, as you know, in late July this committee began hearings on U.S. policy toward Iraq. And our purpose -- and it's no surprise to anyone because we've both said it. We -- you and I had discussions back then about those hearings and whether they should take place, and so on and so forth. And we've cooperated in this all along, as has the administration generally. Our purpose was to start a national discussion on Iraqi policy and to raise the difficult questions that surround it, any consideration of what -- how that policy should move and in what direction.

We've heard from a broad range of experts and expert witnesses. Elsewhere prominent Americans with decades of experience in foreign and national security policy have spoken out. And the Bush administration has begun to do so as well, in public statements and hearings before the Congress, in President Bush's important speech to the United Nations General Assembly. And I would note that in your testimony before our counterparts in the House.

As a result, I believe there is an emerging bipartisan consensus on some basic principles for moving forward for Iraq. I want to make it clear I speak for no one but me here. I am not speaking for the committee, for the Democratic Party, or for anyone. I'm just saying what I think is emerging here. And I think the emerging consensus on some basic principles is in no small part due to your leadership.

First, Iraq is the world's concern, not just a concern of the United States. Mr. Secretary, I know that you were instrumental -- I believe; I don't know -- you were instrumental in shaping the president's speech to the United Nations. I thought it was a devastating indictment by the U.N.'s own standards of Iraq's defiance of the international community. For more than a decade Saddam has flaunted solemn obligations, obligations made not to the United States alone, but to the United Nations. And the president was right to take the issue to the U.N. and right to make it clear that the legitimacy of that institution and its efficacy depends in no small part on how it responds.

Second, we should -- it seems to me there's a consensus that we should pursue a policy toward Iraq that has broad international support. To put it in colloquial terms, it's obviously better if we move with the world behind us than if we move with the world against us. I applaud your effort to build that support. And we're going to -- hopefully you'll talk about that today. I applaud your efforts, and our allies around the world and in the region have important contributions, and in some cases, necessary contributions to make if we are to succeed. And we -- I think all of us on this committee -- support and encourage and hope for the best in your unfinished business before the Security Council as you pursue gaining this support.

The third general principle I think that has emerged here is that many of us share the conviction that Saddam Hussein's relentless pursuit of weapons of mass destruction, and his possession of some already, especially his pursuit of nuclear weapons, which I do not believe he possesses, pose a significant threat to Iraq's people, its region, and to the world. Ultimately, in my view, either he must be dislodged from his weapons or dislodged from power.

I believe there's a broad consensus on these principles, but important, indeed, fundamental questions remain about the administration's Iraqi policy and about the consequences of the various courses of action under consideration. And that puts us in an extraordinary situation at an extraordinary moment.

The president has asked Congress for an expansive grant of authority to wage war before he himself has decided to go to war or addressed some of the unanswered questions. Now, I have no doubt that part of the reason you're here is to be able to answer those questions. And in fairness to the president, he has just begun to do that.

I would note, as I did with Secretary Kissinger -- it just seems a moment ago, an hour ago -- that to make the case before the United Nations as to how Saddam has violated the United Nation's commitments is a different case than making the case to the American people as to what we're about to ask of them, if in fact we are in a position, as the president has indicated he might end up in, if we end up in the position where we're asked to do this ourselves. He made, as I said, a powerful case that Saddam is the world's problem. But he has yet, I believe, to make the case to the American people that the United States must solve the problem alone, if necessary.

The threat posed by Iraq is real and escalating, in my view. And the singular capacity of the United States to deal with this threat alone is equally as real. We have the capacity to do that. But so are the potential costs -- they are real. Indeed, I believe the degree to which we act alone correlates with the price we'll have to pay in lives, dollars and influence around the world. That is the burden we may have to bear, but one I know you do not wish to bear, nor does the president wish to bear alone. But before we bear that burden, the American people have to know what is being asked of them, what they're being asked to sign up to.

And so, Mr. Secretary, I hope that here today you will address some of these questions, and that in the days and weeks to come, we will hear the president, either before a Joint Session or on national television, laying out what it is we're going to ask of the American people.

What is the likelihood that Iraq would use weapons of mass destruction against us to blackmail us or to supply terrorists? What is our objective?

Is it to compel Iraq to destroy its illegal weapons of mass destruction or to liberate Kuwaiti prisoners or to end Saddam Hussein's regime?

What is the rationale for our action? To enforce the U.N. Security Council resolution that Saddam has flaunted for more than a decade or to preempt that possibility that he'll us those weapons? And what is the rationale we are going to use?

Some are confused -- we discussed this at length today -- about whether or not we would proceed based on a doctrine of preemption or based on the doctrine that this is a fellow who lost a war, essentially signed an armistice, the conditions of which were contained in U.N. resolutions, he now has violated those, and therefore we have reason to proceed.

Would attacking Iraq risk precipitating the very thing we're trying to prevent -- the use of those weapons?

I know we have no absolute answers for these, but I think, in fairness to the American people, we should discuss them.

There are many more questions which -- I will not take the time now, because my colleagues will pursue them as we go around this table.

But ultimately, Mr. Secretary, your appearance here today is part of a singularly important process that must culminate with the president securing the informed consent of the American people for our policy toward Iraq. I'm confident he can do that. I'm confident that can be done. But I'm also absolutely confident it can only be done with some significant change in the resolution that has been sent to us and some clear specification as to what we're asking of the president -- what the president will be asking of us.

Mr. Secretary, when the president had the congressional leadership down to the Cabinet Room about two weeks ago, he asked a number of us questions. And when he turned and asked me my view, I indicated to him that I was prepared to be with him, assuming several things: one, that he continue to pursue the course he was pursuing at the United Nations and use -- exhaust those possible avenues, as well as state clearly to the American people, once we succeeded in dethroning, removing Saddam -- and I have no doubt we will if we undertake that -- what we are going to have to do, what we may have to do in terms of staying in Iraq, and what the cost may be without any clear definition of how many troops or how long. And the president said to me, as you'll recall, he would do that. We have yet to do that. I'm confident he will do that. And only then, I think, can we be -- have some certainty that once we undertake this, we will have the American people with us, committed to do the whole job.

Senator Brownback, I think, was the only person left in the room when the two former secretaries were leaving, and I indicated that I hope to God we don't do -- not you, we, the Congress, giving the president the authority -- I hope we don't say to the American people what was said to them by previous Congresses when -- just before I arrived here in the '60s: that we can have guns and butter, we can have everything we want; the costs will be able to be borne, no matter what they are, without us making any sacrifices. It may be everything works out like clockwork and there's no problem.

But I do not want to be part of a Senate that gives the president the authority where we move and it ends up that we are required to commit billions of dollars a year to sustain a unified Iraq after we defeat the president and not be able to get the money and the commitment up here to do it. I will not be part of that personally. And I think everyone should know what we're in for and what the possible costs are, even though we can't say for certain.

So Mr. Secretary, I'm delighted you're here. I mean this sincerely. I am thankful you are here and I'm thankful you're the secretary of State at this moment. And I look forward to hearing what you have to say.

But I will now yield, if I may, to Senator Helms.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

SEN. BIDEN: Thank you. I thank you for that explanation. And it's something that I think, as your two predecessors earlier this morning said, warrants some legitimate discussion and debate internationally. And I know you too well. I know you don't want to set a precedent that allows India to say, By the way, Pakistan has done the following; we reserve the right to preemptively --

So I understand that. I've had lengthy discussions with Dr. Rice on this. I think this is not so much a departure, although there are some who wish to make it sound like a gigantic departure. But we'll leave that for another day. I just want to make sure that anything I vote for is not premised upon the notion that this is a preemptive doctrine. This is premised on the notion that a bad guy invaded another country; he lost the way; he had to settle; certain terms were agreed to with the world at the U.N.; he's violated that; that's all we need. We are not invoking a new rationale to move against Iraq.

But let me suggest -- and I've already -- we should start the clock. I apologize. We'll stick to seven minutes, if we can, so we -- because obviously there's many people here. Anytime you need a little bit of a break, you just raise that pencil and we'll recess for a minute. We're probably going to have to recess at some point for vote.

And when we do break, because this is so important, I'm not going to do the usual practice of letting us continue. We'll break, everybody breaks, we go vote, and everybody comes back, because this is too important -- what the secretary has to say.

Let me begin -- and there's a lot of questions. My colleagues, I'm sure, will cover many that I want to speak to, as well.

Mr. Secretary, there is a sound rationale, in my view, to your statement on page 6, which says, "Mr. Chairman, our diplomatic efforts at the United Nations would be helped by a strong congressional resolution authorizing President Bush to take action." Part of our dilemma here is that, as I said at the outset, we're being asked to pass a resolution that is brought before the president has made a decision whether or not he's going to go to war. So we're going to give, in effect, under constitutional theory, the equivalent of a declaration of war before the president's decided whether to go to war. I don't know of any time in American history that's ever been done. That doesn't mean it shouldn't be done, but it is a bit unusual.

One of the things I raised earlier today: Would not your purposes be met if we gave the president authority to use whatever force is necessary in conjunction with a Security Council resolution, if one is acquired? And if one is not acquired -- or if one's acquired, and we are, to use the vernacular, "stiffed" by Saddam Hussein, the president would be authorized to use force. And if one is not acquired, the president would be authorized to use force. It would seem to me that gives you every tool, but it satisfies the skepticism on the part of many of my colleagues that, notwithstanding their knowledge of your intense desire to make this a world problem, that it will not be short-circuited.

In The New York Times today -- and again, I know it calls itself the paper of record; I'm not suggesting everything in the paper is accurate. What I am suggesting is, there is a reference that all we need from, quote, "unidentified administration officials" -- all we need is a congressional declaration, and we don't have to worry about anything else. That worries some people up here, because we know -- and I know you'll say no; I don't -- I understand -- but I know for a fact there are serious people in your administration -- didn't want to go to the U.N., think it's a mistake to have gone to the U.N. -- not the president -- thinks it's a mistake to have gone to the U.N. and are very disappointed we went to the U.N.

And so my question is, why would it not make sense? I'm not asking you to rewrite -- resolution, but why would it not make sense to have a resolution that says "We authorize the president to conform with any U.N. resolution. If he doesn't get one that has a follow- through to it, we authorize him to follow through and use force"? But it sequences them -- doesn't condition them; it sequences them. Doesn't that make sense? Doesn't that give you all the authority you need to make it clear to your colleagues we're for real?

SEC. POWELL: It's an interesting formulation, Mr. Chairman, and I'd like to see it in writing and discuss it with the president, because the way you have laid it out -- he gets the authority with a U.N. Security Council resolution; he gets the authority without -- or in the absence, I should say, but it (seeks/ sequences ?) some Security Council resolution. I'd have to see the language and then have to talk to the president. I don't --

SEN. BIDEN: I'm not asking you to -- (inaudible) --

SEC. POWELL: What we don't want to do, through, is to in any way suggest that we are not united as a nation behind our efforts to find a diplomatic solution.

SEN. BIDEN: Well, quite frankly, one of the reasons why I suggest we're going to have to have a different kind of resolution -- and I don't want to -- I've been discussing this with my good friend from Indiana -- a different resolution -- is that the last thing I think we need, as I said earlier this morning, is, "The board voted 5- to-4 for your speedy recovery."

We want to be united here. We want whatever we do to get as many votes as possible. And I fear that the present resolution -- it's being negotiated, there's still good -- there's good-faith negotiation going on -- is pretty far from that point right now.

Let me move to a second question in the time that I have, and probably the only other question that I'll be able to ask you.

You state at the end of your statement and you indicated in your formal statement that -- and let me find the exact quote -- "the U.S. will commit wholeheartedly to the reconstruction of Iraq as a democratic state within its territorial boundaries."

Now, if I can ask you the question this way. Scenario: We go in, with or without the U.N. I'm confident we won't go in alone, because you'll get some folks to go with us, even if it's not the U.N. Maybe a Kosovo model. I have great faith in -- (inaudible word). We take down Saddam Hussein. We begin the commitment, which is the U.S. commits wholeheartedly to the reconstruction of Iraq as a democratic state within its territorial boundaries. Whether or not we get others to help us, implicit is that for -- at least for a while, some U.S. presence will be required, hopefully in conjunction with others, and some financial assistance will be required, hopefully with others.

When do you as secretary of State or the secretary of Defense in that circumstance feel confident to be able to say to the president not how long it will take, but at what point do we have to get before, consistent with this commitment, you're able to turn to the president and say, "Mr. President, we can now leave. We can now leave. We can now disengage." Is that at the point where there is a democratic government in place or is it at a point prior to that?

In other words, what is the endgame here? I'm not looking for an exit strategy in timing, but what is the endgame? Because with some in the State Department as it related to Afghanistan, there was at the outset a very different view of what our role in Afghanistan was going to be, more consistent with mine, which we were going to be even -- have a greater presence. The international security force was going to be expanded beyond Kabul. The president sat with me and you and others and talked about a mini-Marshall Plan. And we're a long way from there.

So that I'm trying to get at is, what are we signing the folks on for? Not in terms of hours, days or dollars. What is the point at which we can in good faith say we can now leave? Is it when there is a democratic government, or what is it? That's my question.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

SEN. BIDEN: But one thing is clear. When we succeed militarily, if we decide we have to go, it will not be like the Gulf War, where Johnny comes marching home within three to five days or several weeks or a month. Some Johnnies are going to stay there.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

SEN. BIDEN: Mr. Secretary, you know better than I do that when -- I guess it was -- I know Senator Lugar and Senator Hagel were talking about the -- sort of the artificial construct of this country named Iraq after 1921. This country -- I know you know this, but -- make sure I get it right -- divided Arab, Indo-European -- that is, Kurds -- and the rest of the population is Arab. Arab population is split -- Sunni, Shi'ia. Kurds -- non-Arabs -- are Sunnis. Sixty percent of the population is essentially in the southeastern part, between the Tigris and Euphrates generally -- is Shi'ia. There are 600- to 700,000, based on, I think, your department's estimates, Shi'ia in Iran right now as displaced refugees.

Do we have any sense -- I'm not suggesting you should know -- do we have any sense whether or not, if Saddam were gone, they'd come back? Do we have the problem and opportunity of 600-, 700,000 people moving back across the border, and all that that entails, good and bad? And do we have any sense of whether or not they'll come back looking to settle scores with the roughly 20 percent of the -- 17 to 20 percent of the Arab Shi'a (sic) population, which is the Ba'ath -- the essence of the Ba'ath Party, who have basically --

SEC. POWELL: Sunni?

SEN. BIDEN: They are -- did I say Sunni? I said Sunni, didn't I? I meant to -- the Arab Sunni --

SEC. POWELL: Right. You said Shi'a.

SEN. BIDEN: I said Shi'a? I beg your pardon. Which has essentially been the controlling, dominant portion of the population. In my discussions -- and we've all had them over the years -- with the Iraqi Liberation Congress, or the -- I think that's what it's called -- and there are real, deep disagreements. Do we have any sense of what this diaspora of Shi'a in Iran particularly are likely to -- anything about their attitudes about democracy or their attitudes about a united Iran (sic) -- I mean Iraq? I mean, do we have any -- can you talk to us about that at all?

SEC. POWELL: I don't know, Senator. I haven't seen any data on attitudes or whether we have done any analysis of that or polling of that population. And I'll have to look at that. If we have, I'll provide it for the record.

SEN. BIDEN: Now, you may not be able to answer the question in public, but we all know from our individual interfacing with foreign leaders that the Turks are very concerned about the Kurds. We also know that the Kurds, some Kurds, kind of like it just the way it is. This is as close to an autonomous republic that they have had in -- since 1921. And we know that not all Kurds but a number of Kurds still harbor a desire for a Kurdistan, which -- I know you know this, the map is very small, but which goes well into Turkey and into Iran. Have -- are we going to have to make any commitments to the Turks that the Kurds aren't going to know about? (Laughs.) Or are we going to have to make any commitments or lay down the law to the Kurds before we enlist the Turks? In other words, everybody we've spoken to, military and non-military, says this operation -- and you are one of the most well known military men, you like to -- you don't think that way any more, I know.

But you are. Everybody tells us that without Turkey's participation or accommodation, militarily this is a very difficult undertaking for us. So, how are you all playing this per Turkey?

SEC. POWELL: We've made it clear that in any future Iraq we are interested in retaining the country as it currently exists within those borders and would not be supporting an independent Kurdistan.

SEN. BIDEN: And the Kurds know that.

SEC. POWELL: It's been our declared policy.

SEN. BIDEN: Yeah. Do you have a sense -- how great is your concern -- I'm not suggesting it's not manageable, but how great is your concern that Saddam lashes out against Israel to try to make this a larger war? What is your sense of his capacity to do that?

SEC. POWELL: He does have some capacity to do that. We believe he holds some SCUD missiles still that the inspectors did not destroy during their period of activity inside Iraq. And we have to assume he has that capability. But it is far less than he did in 1990, but it is nevertheless something we are concerned about.

SEN. BIDEN: Now, have you -- I'm sure you have -- have you calculated what the response, reaction in Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iran, the gulf states if -- if -- Israel were to respond in kind or beyond what they were -- what came their way? Because it seems to me -- and again, this is just, you know, student of the region. I -- part of Sharon's doctrine -- I'm making it up. There's no Sharon doctrine. But part of Sharon's doctrine is the absolute demonstration that Israel is prepared to respond to anything, and respond beyond what was delivered to them. Assume that were to occur. Do you -- have you factored in what happens in the Arab states from the gulf to Jordan, and Egypt?

SEC. POWELL: We have factored both alternatives into our thinking. And we will stay in the closest consultation with our Israeli friends as to the nature of any threat they might be facing.

SEN. BIDEN: I'm going to -- since we only have a few left, I'm going to yield now. But I'm going to, before I let you go, with your permission, is I want to ask you about one other aspect of the resolution. But my time's up.

Senator Lugar.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

SEN. BIDEN: I'm not looking for percentages, but do you -- can you tell us what the next stages in your negotiations are, in your attempt to get a resolution through the Security Council that has teeth in it, a different -- in a different regime of inspection? And ancillary to that, are you unalterably opposed -- is the president unalterably opposed to a two-step process, or need it be one step?

SEC. POWELL: On the first question, within the last 24 hours, we came into agreement with the United Kingdom on what we thought a good resolution looked like and should contain. And as I mentioned earlier, we are now -- both the United States and the United Kingdom have begun consultations with the other permanent members of the Security Council on our idea. And we expect that there will be agreement on a number of elements and there will be disagreement on a number of elements. That's what a negotiation is a all about. The press likes to portray this as being in disarray, but most negotiations are in disarray until you have an agreement, and we're working on that.

With respect to one resolution or two resolutions, and the distinction being that the second resolution has the trigger, we believe one resolution is a better solution, a better outcome.

But we are mindful that our colleagues in the Security Council have other ideas. And so we have sent our representatives out to hear those other ideas and to begin a discussion. And I would not prejudge what the president might do after he has received the result of that consultation.

SEN. BIDEN: All right, thank you very much, Mr. Secretary. I wish you luck in the effort. And we are adjourned.


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