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Discussions on Shades of Gray on Iraq Issue

Aired February 1, 2003 - 04:00:00   ET


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can accuse as much as you like, but you cannot provide one piece of evidence.



GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want the United Nations to be something other than an empty debating society.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The media are on a feeding frenzy on Iraq.


RICHARD ROTH, HOST: Like my suit, there are shades of gray in this latest Iraq U.N. crisis. Welcome to DIPLOMATIC LICENSE. I'm Richard Roth.

Until there was a war or diplomatic solution, words and statements are jumped on by diplomats in the media and spun into the universe. There's a lot of nuance and understanding lost in the rush to scream breaking news. So where do we stand now?

Well, in a few days Secretary of State Colin Powell comes to the U.N. Security Council. Ambassadors are still phoning home, following last week's big council meeting. These are scenes on Friday. The briefing by inspectors Blix and ElBaradei have produced different styles and shades of disarmament results.


HANS BLIX, CHIEF U.N. WEAPONS INSPECTOR: Iraq appears not to have come to a genuine acceptance, not even today, of the disarmament which was demanded of it and which it needs to carry out to win the confidence of the world and to live in peace.



MOHAMED ELBARADEI, IAEA: We have to date found no evidence that Iraq has revived its nuclear weapons program since the elimination of the program in the 1990s. However, our work is steadily progressing and should be allowed to run its natural course.


ROTH: Both inspection agencies do agree on the need for more Iraqi cooperation in order to close up shop. Though still lots of open questions. A majority of Security Council countries say, make inspections not war.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... that the inspections should be given a chance.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The inspectors, they have to go ahead with their job to finish their job.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The process of inspections has proved its usefulness and must therefore continue.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We share the view of many that this process needs to continue and more time is needed for the inspectors.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The inspections are useful, they're efficient effective, and they should certainly continue.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have just sharpened the tool of inspections. Never before have the inspectors been so powerful.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The majority of the Council thinks that we should continue the inspections. The inspectors should have some time, more time.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In order for the inspectors to be successful, they need the full cooperation of Iraq, which is not the case for the time being. We are very disappointed by the Iraqis' cooperation so far.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a matter of whether Iraq realizes that the game is up, or whether it is continuing to try to keep the inspectors at bay.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Iraq is back to business as usual. The danger is that the Council may return to business as usual as well.


ROTH: Iraq says it's the U.S. that's the one conducting "business as usual" by making up stories about weapons of mass destruction. Iraqi Ambassador Mohammed Aldouri came to the U.N. Thursday evening bearing an invitation for the inspectors to return to Iraq for disarmament discussions. We have issued invitations to two U.N.-based correspondents and they've accepted.

We welcome back the "Times of London's" James Bone. And from Abu Dhabi television, Talal al-Haj. James, the floor is yours. What is the state of the Security Council unity or non-unity on Iraq right now, despite all those public statements about keep the inspectors at work?

JAMES BONE, "TIMES OF LONDON": Well Richard, I think the thing that the press has missed over the last week is that there's been a constant dribble of new information to the Security Council since Mr. Blix's Monday public declaration about Iraq. And one of the things that people are not focusing on is the Blix investigation of Iraq's medium-range missile program.

Mr. Blix has told the Security Council in private this week that he's convening a meeting of outside experts to determine whether these medium- termed (ph) missiles are actually prescribed weapons systems; namely, that they can fly over 150 kilometers. And he's revealed in private in the Security Council that in 13 out of 40 tests, the (UNINTELLIGIBLE), which is one of the weapons systems, has exceed the U.N. limit. And it's very likely, it seems to me, that he will, after this outside meeting on February 14, report that Iraq actually possesses the prescribed weapons.

It's not only that, Richard. It possesses it; it's deployed it to the army. And the army will be required to give up those missiles so the U.N. can destroy them.

ROTH: Talal, James has chosen to point out one of the significant points in the report. Take guns or butter. Choose your diplomacy angle or something in the report.

TALAL AL-HAJ, ABU DHABI TV: Well I think if the evidence was so clear and so convincing, and Mr. Hans Blix was so convincing to the Security Council members during his briefing on the 27 of January, we wouldn't have 11 countries opposing or asking for the continuation of the inspections in Iraq and thinking that the inspectors are better than ever, they have more equipment, and they're more prepared to the job. And they are doing a good job, and that's really what leads us to this situation, because they are doing a good job.

ROTH: James, do you agree with that? Should the inspectors be given more time...

BONE: Well I mean there's a catch-22 argument, Richard, which is that if the inspectors don't find anything, then the Iraqis can argue there isn't anything to find. And if they do find something, than Iraq's allies on the Security Council can argue the inspections are working. That's what -- that's the view of people who don't want to go to enforcement of the resolutions, is that inspections are a method of containment.

AL-HAJ: But James, how can they prove the negative? If Iraq does not have weapons of mass destruction...

BONE: It's not a question of proving the negative, Talal. Iraq has admitted many times publicly and to the U.N. that it's made large quantities of weapons and it's provided no evidence that it's destroyed them.

AL-HAJ: Well they say now they don't have them.

BONE: Well, what did they do if they lost 8,500 liters of anthrax? They just lost it? I mean, come on. That's a strange (UNINTELLIGIBLE) that they don't have eyewitnesses of destruction, they don't have any record of destruction.

This is a totalitarian country where they keep records of everything. Every time the Iraqi ambassador opens his mouth he cites statistics.

AL-HAJ: It's a third world country, and sometimes records are not kept...


BONE: It's a third world country perhaps; it's a dictatorship certainly, and very good at record keeping. They even videotape torture sessions.

ROTH: James, the last time I think we saw you before 2003 came upon us, you said that January 27, we may not get there, hinting that war would happen. What do you think is a likely timeline now? President Bush says weeks, not months. We've heard this before.

BONE: Yes. I think we're talking, you know, the second half of March, basically. I think we'll see Colin Powell on Monday with his evidence.

ROTH: Wednesday.

BONE: Sorry, Wednesday. We'll see on the 14th of February Mr. Blix coming back with another broadly negative report. These will have accumulative effect. At the same time, we'll see an effort to get a second resolution through, authorizing military force in some way or other. We can talk about that...

AL-HAJ: James, I don't think it will last to the middle of March. I think that these are decisive days ahead of us. And I think the administration has made up its mind.

BONE: There aren't very many days until the middle March, Talal.

AL-HAJ: I understand, but...

ROTH: You think February, Talal?

AL-HAJ: I think February. I think sooner than later. I think the administration wants to surprise the Iraqis this time. All the other attacks have been signaled and telegraphed months in advance.

BONE: Well the British timetable for the military to get there is the middle, end of March.

AL-HAJ: I think the American...

BONE: And the British aren't going to be late for the dance. So if the British aren't going to get there by then, I'm sure the Americans aren't going to be ready by then.

AL-HAJ: I think the 14th of February meeting might not even happen.

ROTH: Oh no, come on. Don't you believe in Valentine's Day?

AL-HAJ: I do.

BONE: The Germans (ph) picked that for Valentine's Day, of course.

AL-HAJ: The administration, I think it made up its mind. I think Powell is coming on Wednesday not to give more evidence to the inspectors to find weapons of mass destruction. He's coming to seal the case against Iraq and maybe facilitate...

ROTH: Iraq is asking the inspectors to come back. There's talk that Tariq Aziz may come here. Are these concessions or compromises or offers, Talal, going to be enough? They haven't had...

AL-HAJ: (UNINTELLIGIBLE). I mean the Iraqis always said to the Americans, if you have evidence, give it to the inspectors. Let them (UNINTELLIGIBLE) weapons of mass destruction. Now (UNINTELLIGIBLE), the Iraqi foreign minister, has written a letter to Kofi Annan demanding and challenging the Americans to give the evidence that they have to the inspectors who are in Iraq in force to find these weapons of mass destruction. So what's unreasonable about that?

ROTH: Why don't they cooperate, in your opinion, with the inspectors who want U-2 flights and want to have private interviews...

AL-HAJ: OK. I just spoke to Hans Blix last night, as you know.

ROTH: Thursday evening.

AL-HAJ: Thursday evening. And he said to me that the U-2 flights, they don't want Iraq to ask for any conditions. There must not be any condition. They've used these U-2 flights and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) flights during UNSCOM, and they want the same status quo. The Iraqis are saying -- and many Arabs in the Middle East -- finally this is reasonable.

If you forces massed outside Iraq and surrounding Iraq, they would like (UNINTELLIGIBLE) these planes when they fly the no-fly zone attack planes to be grounded, so to guarantee the safety of the U-2 flights. The Russians have offered the planes to UNMOVIC. UNMOVIC didn't even reply to them yet.

The Germans have offered them a (UNINTELLIGIBLE). If you want to solve a problem, why can't you use the Russian planes, why can't you use the German drone (ph)? And about the inspectors interviewing the scientists, Iraqi scientists, they say we must not have any minders, we want...

ROTH: And you say why not tape (ph) it?

AL-HAJ: Why not tape (ph) it? And Hans Blix is saying.

ROTH: James, final word.

BONE: Well I just think one other point your viewers should think about is the difference of emphasis, a split really, between Hans Blix, the Swedish head who is in charge of the chemical and biological and ballistic missiles files, and Mohamed ElBaradei, the Egyptian who is running the nuclear search. Major split between those two in their approach.

AL-HAJ: What about they wanted to give a "B" grade to the Iraqis? Everybody went crazy in that administration who was told in (UNINTELLIGIBLE) manners that he must not give grades. He should mention the facts. And the grading of the cooperation is up to the Security Council. When Hans Blix stood there and he said Iraqi cooperation is not genuine, they haven't accepted (UNINTELLIGIBLE), this goes to the heart of the Iraqis. That was accepted...

BONE: But Talal, do you really think that the Iraqi cooperation is genuine? I mean do you think that?

AL-HAJ: Look, I'm not here to read minds or to read hearts.

BONE: No, but you're an analyst. What do you think?

AL-HAJ: I'm into facts. And Hans Blix should be into facts.

BONE: Well what's the facts? What do you think?

ROTH: All right, I've got to -- listen, I'll give you a grade after the show. Talal al-Haj, Abu Dhabi television, thank you very much. James will stick around for some historical points in a moment.

Mr. Negroponte went to Washington Thursday. The U.S. ambassador to the U.N. appearing at the Senate's Foreign Relations Committee. Nothing like a good old-fashioned grilling, in this case from Nebraska Senator Republican Chuck Hagel, on just what is the U.S. position on continuing inspections after the less than rosy U.N. report.


SEN. CHUCK HAGEL (R), NEBRASKA: With that very bleak assessment, which I read into that the United States government thinks essentially they're worthless and they have not produced anything except buying time for Saddam, then why or are we supporting continued inspections?

JOHN NEGROPONTE, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: The problem isn't the inspections. It's the attitude...

HAGEL: Are we supporting continued time for inspections?

NEGROPONTE: Well at the present time we have not taken any decision to discontinue our support.

HAGEL: So essentially the government's position is we continue to support inspections?

NEGROPONTE: At the moment we do.



ROTH: That's the U.S. Congressman Jim McDermott at the U.N., recalling some super power showdown U.N. moments. The congressman was at the U.N. to plead for peace with Iraq in a meeting with Kofi Annan, the secretary general. When Colin Powell arrives with photos and perhaps intercept phone calls at the U.N. Wednesday, to reuse a phrase, the whole world will be watching.

We have seen this super showdown and show and tell before. Forty years ago, U.S. Ambassador Adlai Stevenson displayed aerial photography to accuse the Soviets of installing missiles in Cuba aimed at the U.S.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The exhibit on this type of missile shows a launching area being constructed near the city of Havana.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right, sir. Let me ask you one simple question. Do you, Ambassador Zorin (ph), deny that the USSR has placed and is placing medium and intermediate range missiles at sites in Cuba, yes or no? Don't wait for the translation. Yes or no? I am prepared to wait for my answer until hell freezes over, if that's your decision.


ROTH: Well hell didn't come. The Soviets withdrew their missiles after a U.S. ship blockade. The episode became know as The Missiles of October. Are we headed for the anthrax of February?

To assess the big Security Council war or peace moments here, today and in the past, here is James Sutterlin. He spent 13 years at the U.N. and served under former Secretary General Javier Perez De Cuellar. He is now a Yale University fellow. Can you prepare the Powell moments to come, Professor Sutterlin? The Powell appearance with the Stevenson moment with the photos?

JAMES SUTTERLIN, FMR. DIRECTOR, U.N. SECRETARY GENERAL OFFICE: Yes. It's very interesting. I think there's less drama, probably, and more importance with the Powell appearance. For one thing, the Stevenson show was really a show. The Security Council actually could not adopt a resolution because this was during the Cold War and it would have been vetoed by the Soviet Union.

ROTH: But I think I read that some delegations -- I mean people were panicking in '62, fleeing the country. And that was nuclear missiles.

SUTTERLIN: That is absolutely true. In that sense, the situation was much more dangerous because there was the danger of a nuclear war.

ROTH: So isn't that more dangerous than now?

SUTTERLIN: Yes. I didn't use the word "dangerous." I said dramatic.


SUTTERLIN: Because it was very dramatic then. Very dramatic because of the photos that Stevenson can show and so forth. I suspect that Powell will be more low key, but the potential action of the Security Council is, in fact, perhaps more important, because the Security Council is able to take decisions now, which it couldn't do then.

ROTH: James, Colin Powell, I mean how does he show intelligence information, yet do it in an open session? I mean I can't believe they're not going to go behind closed doors if he really has something.

BONE: Well, Richard, I think what he's going to show is evidence of what's called the concealment, which is the way that Iraq tries to hide things. He's going to produce intercepts of radio traffic between Iraqi officials notifying each other that the inspectors are coming this way or that way, they have to move stuff. He's going to show satellite pictures of trucks leaving sites before inspectors get there.

This (UNINTELLIGIBLE) of possibly Iraqi intelligence agents posing as scientists that the inspectors want to interview. Possibly evidence that scientists are being sent abroad, to be out of the country so the inspectors can't interview them. Possibly evidence that materials are being sent abroad, documents are being sent abroad.

ROTH: Well it was always U.S. versus Soviet Union in (ph) the super power, showdowns in the Security Council, until we got to Iraq in the U.N. Besides Stevenson versus Zorin (ph), two years earlier Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge played show and tell with the seal of the American embassy in Moscow.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You will note how it opens up into two pieces.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go ahead. Open it up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And here is the clandestine listening device. You can see the antenna in the area, and it was right under the beak of the eagle.


ROTH: That was in 1960 in May. That was two years before the Stevenson moment. And the U.S. ambassador produced the seal, trying to counteract a lot of anti-U.S. publicity, Professor Sutterlin, after President Eisenhower really got tripped up because he said there was no U-2 over-flight and no pilot, though the Soviets produced (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and the U.S. was caught red-handed.


ROTH: What does all of this do -- the Powell moment -- for the United Nations and the Security Council? The fact that the U.S. and critics blast the U.N. but then end up running to it?

SUTTERLIN: Well I think it increases the relevance of the Security Council, actually. I mean it's often said, yes, that if the United States acts without the endorsement of the Security Council that it will make it tangential. The president has more or less said that. But I don't think that's true, because, in fact, they are all coming to the Security Council. All of the foreign ministers, which illustrates how important it is for the Security Council to take a position.

ROTH: Now this won't be the first Iraq-U.N. showdown. James Bone, in 1990, after Iraqi troops had stormed into Kuwait, the drama played out in the Security Council, didn't it?

BONE: Well, that's right, Richard. When I was just a boy I was there, and the Kuwaitis put on a show and tell in the Security Council with five refugees after the Iraqi invasion. And the main story to come out there was this allegation by a man from the Red Crescent Society (ph) that the Iraqis had been tearing babies from incubators in Kuwait when they occupied the hospital. A similar accusation was made before Congress by a Kuwaiti woman who was caught in Kuwait during the invasion.

A lot of questions were raised afterwards about those allegations. Investigations were done, nobody could confirm that babies had been removed from incubators. The woman who spoke to Congress would later reveal to being the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador to the United States. The people who spoke to the Security Council used false names when they spoke, although they did indicate that they wanted to use false names for their own protection and were later unable to confirm their stories. So there are so many sketches that are built in to this type of drama.

ROTH: You were probably at the U.N. at that time, right? Serving under Perez De Cuellar?

SUTTERLIN: Yes, that's right.

ROTH: What do you remember from that time? There were some gruesome photos displayed in the Security Council chambers.

SUTTERLIN: There were indeed. And I don't think there was very much skepticism within the U.N. itself as to the validity of the charges even if they couldn't be totally confirmed, because actually the U.N. itself had sent delegations to the area and come back with horrendous stories of what had taken place in Kuwait and actually also in the area of Iraq, where the battles had taken place.

ROTH: At the time, Javier Perez De Cuellar made a last-ditch trip to Baghdad. Were you in the planning on that? Was that a worthwhile effort? And how could you compare it to Annan -- Kofi Annan -- sort of staying out of this one after he kind of got burned in '98?

SUTTERLIN: He kind of got burned already. I don't think it was as dramatic -- Perez De Cuellar visited the first President Bush first before going off to Baghdad for a last-ditch effort for peace. But in fact, he was totally bound by the Security Council resolution and was unable to negotiate, in a sense, because he had nothing to negotiate.

BONE: Jim, can I ask you, what do you think about Kofi Annan? Whether there is any possibility at all he'll do the last-minute trip to Baghdad thing before this war begins.

SUTTERLIN: My guess is not. I think he has probably had his fill of that trip.

ROTH: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) in 1962 or'60, I think, during the height of the crisis, went to Cuba in '62 and came back with missiles. He was the former secretary general at that point. Did I say missiles? He came back with cigars probably in the shape of missiles.


ROTH: All right. Let's thank everybody here. It's been quite a show, and we still have more to go.

James Sutterlin, Yale University fellow, you worked at the United Nations under Javier Perez De Cuellar. Thank you very much. And it's good to see James Bone of the "Times of London" back again here on DIPLOMATIC LICENSE.

In 1983, Kirkpatrick (ph) versus Troyonovsky (ph). The U.S. plays dramatic tape recordings of a Soviet fighter pilot who shot down a Korean passenger jet. After the tape was played, the Soviets for the first time admitted it had shot down the plane, claiming the pilot was unaware of his targets.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): The target is at 10,000 meters. I see both. Distance 10 and 15 kilometers. What are the instructions? Roger.

The target is decreasing speed. I'm going around it. I'm already moving in front of the target.




BUSH: It should be clear to you now, though, that in my judgment you don't contain Saddam Hussein. You don't hope that therapy will somehow change his evil mind.


ROTH: Sorry. After 45 minutes on the couch, Mr. Hussein, we have to stop. Anyway, Freud once said weapons of mass destruction have caused men to blame their mothers for the Yankees losing the seventh game of the 2000 World Series to Arizona. For another view, we give you Spain's U.N. Ambassador, Inocencio Arias, following the inspectors' briefing on Iraq.


INOCENCIO ARIAS, SPANISH AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: The United Nations, not the United States, not Tom Cruise, the United Nations told him, you must cooperate actively and seriously.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Has there been one material breach among those 20 occasions? And what do you mean by short time -- more short time?

ARIAS: I say short time because I have been instructed to say so. I cannot go farther. I cannot go farther. In this occasion, most ambassadors, we are parrots, you know? In Espanol? Why not. It's a very good -- nice language, Spanish. Very nice language.


ARIAS: I will say something especially for you later on. But I have to defend Spanish, right? If I don't defend Spanish, who can do it?


ROTH: Tom Cruise, parrots, he also talked about Richard Gere. We need more characters like that at the U.N. The ambassador, a formal general manager of the Real Madrid (ph) soccer team. Spain sides with the U.S. in the Security Council, though you may have to concentrate to understand how that support is expressed.

That's DIPLOMATIC LICENSE. E-mail us at Thanks to all the loyal U.N. viewers and those around the world. I'm Richard Roth. The Powell story next week.



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