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Powell explains changes in Iraq sanctions policy


[begin text]

Office of the Spokesman
March 8, 2001
As Delivered 


March 8, 2001
Washington, D.C. 


And let me start with Iraq. Iraq and the situation in Iraq was the
principal purpose of my trip throughout the Persian Gulf and Middle East
area the week before last. When we took over on the 20th of January, I
discovered that we had an Iraq policy that was in disarray, and the
sanctions part of that policy was not just in disarray; it was falling
apart. We were losing support for the sanctions regime that had served so
well over the last ten years, with all of the ups and downs and with all
of the difficulties that are associated that regime, it was falling
apart. It had been successful. Saddam Hussein has not been able to rebuild
his army, notwithstanding claims that he has. He has fewer tanks in his
inventory today than he had 10 years ago. Even though we know he is
working on weapons of mass destruction, we know he has things squirreled
away, at the same time we have not seen that capacity emerge to present a
full-fledged threat to us. 

So I think credit has to be given to the United Nations and to the Perm 5
and to the nations in the region for putting in place a regime that has
kept him pretty much in check. What I found on the 20th of January,
however, was that regime was collapsing. More and more nations were saying
let's just get rid of the sanctions, let's not worry about inspectors,
let's just forget it. There was all kinds of leakage from the frontline
states, whether it was through Syria, through Jordan, through Turkey, or
down through the Persian Gulf with the smuggling of oil. 

And so what I felt we had to do was to start taking a look at these
sanctions, remember what they were oriented on in the first place, and
remember that with respect to the sanctions -- let's call that basket one
-- that's what the United Nations does. It has nothing to do with regime
change. That's U.S. policy. That's U.S. policy that let's put in basket
two, the no-fly zone, or in basket three Iraqi opposition activities. 

My immediate concern was basket one, the UN basket and how it was falling
apart. And it seemed to me the first thing we had to do was to change the
nature of the debate. We were being accused and we were taking on the
burden of hurting Iraqi people, hurting Iraqi children, and we needed to
turn that around. The purpose of these sanctions was to go after weapons
of mass destruction. That's what they were put in place for in the first
instance back at the end of the Gulf War. 

So let's start talking about how the Iraqi regime is threatening children,
their own children and the children of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait and Syria
and all over the region, how they were in danger (because) of what Saddam
Hussein was doing, and take away the argument he was using against us. 

In order to make sure that that carried forward, we then had to take a
look at the sanctions themselves. Were they being used to go after weapons
of mass destruction and was that the way they were connected to our
original goals, or, increasingly, were those sanctions starting to look as
if they were hurting the Iraqi people? And it seems to me one approach to
this was to go to those sanctions and eliminate those items in the
sanctions regime that really were of civilian use and benefited people,
and focus them exclusively on weapons of mass destruction and items that
could be directed toward the development of weapons of mass destruction. 

I carried that message around the region and I found that our Arab friends
in the region, as well as members of the Perm 5 in the United Nations, as
well as a number of my colleagues in NATO, found this to be a very
attractive approach and that we should continue down this line. And so we
are continuing down this line that says let's see if there is a better way
to use these sanctions to go after weapons of mass destruction and take
away the argument we have given him that we are somehow hurting the Iraqi
people. He is hurting the Iraqi people, not us. There is more than enough
money available to the regime now to take care of the needs they have. No
more money comes in as a result of a change to this new kind of sanctions
policy, but there is greater flexibility for the regime if they choose to
use that flexibility to take care of the needs of its people. 

How do we get out of this regime ultimately? The inspectors have to go
back in. If he wants to get out of this, if he wants to regain control of
the Oil-for-Food escrow accounts, the only way that can happen is for the
inspectors to go back in. But rather than us begging him to let the
inspectors in, the burden is now on him. We control the money; we will
continue to restrict weapons of mass destruction; you no longer have an
argument, Mr. Iraqi Regime, that we are hurting your people. You let the
inspectors in and we can start to get out of this. 

If the inspectors get in, do their job, we're satisfied with their first
look at things, maybe we can suspend the sanctions. And then at some point
way in the future, when we're absolutely satisfied there are no such
weapons around, then maybe we can consider lifting. But that is a long way
in the future. 

So this wasn't an effort to ease the sanctions; this was an effort to
rescue the sanctions policy that was collapsing. We discovered that we
were in an airplane that was heading to a crash, and what we have done and
what we are trying to do is to pull it out of that dive and put it on an
altitude that's sustainable, bring the coalition back together. 

As part of this approach to the problem, we would also make sure that the
Iraqi regime understood that we reserve the right to strike militarily any
activity out there, any facility we find that is inconsistent with their
obligations to get rid of such weapons of mass destruction. 

That takes care of the UN piece. On the no-fly zone, we're reviewing our
policies to see if we are operating those in the most effective way
possible. And with respect to the Iraqi opposition activities, we are
supporting those. Our principal avenue of support is with the Iraqi
National Congress, and last week I released more money, of the money that
had been made available to us by the Congress, released more of that money
for their activities. And we're looking at what more we can support and
what other opposition activities are available that we might bring into
this strategy of regime change. 

And so I think it is a comprehensive, full review to bring the coalition
back together, put the burden on the Iraqi regime, keep focused on what is
important -- weapons of mass destruction -- and keep him isolated and make
sure that he is contained. And hopefully, the day will come when
circumstances will allow, permit, or it will happen within Iraq, we see a
regime change that will be better for the world. 

And so I would hope that the Members of the committee will examine this
approach as we develop it further, and I hope that you will find a basis
upon which you can support it. 

[end text]

Per Klevnäs

Research Co-ordinator, Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq                         fax 0870 063 5022

Girton College,           
Cambridge CB3                     t: +44 (0)79 905 01 905
England                           f: +44 (0)87 016 96 390

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