Britain’s View on Iraq
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JIM LEHRER: And, now, to the United Kingdom’s ambassador to the United Nations, Sir Jeremy Greenstock. Mr. Ambassador, welcome.
SIR JEREMY GREENSTOCK: Thank you.
JIM LEHRER: First your general action to the French position as just outlined by Ambassador Levitte.
SIR JEREMY GREENSTOCK: Well, I hope Americans are listening very carefully to what my friend and diplomatic brother Jean-David Levitte has been saying. I think he set out very clearly why France does not like the idea of war on this timing.
And I listened with great care to what he has been saying. And if you analyze that and the position of the United States and the United Kingdom, I think will you see there is a lot of agreement about where we need to go, which is the complete disarmament of Iraq. And the area of disagreement boils down really to one thing, which is timing — and timing about what?
It’s about the time it’s taking individual nations to come to the conclusion that trying disarm Saddam Hussein, through the normal inspection process has proved fruitless. Now the United States and the United Kingdom have got there perhaps sooner than most other countries. Because we’ve invested, over the past 12 years, in finding out what’s going on inside Iraq.
No other members of the Security Council have done that. We’ve invested in intelligence and in supporting the inspection regimes in a very careful way and in calculating how the Iraqis are responding to that. And I think we are ahead of the curve in understanding how deep the degree of deceit and concealment that is being practiced by Saddam Hussein and how fruitless it is to go on this way when he can go on playing, as Hans Blix has called it, “catch as, catch can” with the inspectors. It is a question of timing as to when you reach that point of last resort.
We’ve reached it. You can always put off war in these circumstances by a week or a month or two or three months. But it’s 600 weeks since we started the business of asking Iraq to disarm. And now it’s time to cut the knot and take action. That’s the only thing that Iraq will pay attention to when they see it coming.
JIM LEHRER: But as Ambassador Levitte says, he puts a lot of emphasis, as others have, on what is happening this weekend with Mr. Blix and Mr. El Baradei in Iraq and then their report back to you all, to the U.N. Security Council a week from today. Do you see that as a critical time, a critical move, a critical event?
SIR JEREMY GREENSTOCK: Well, the next stage is always critical. Remember on the 25th of January, we were all waiting for the 27th of January.
JIM LEHRER: Right.
SIR JEREMY GREENSTOCK: And on the third of February, we were all waiting for Sec. Powell on the 5th of February. And now we’re waiting for Baghdad on the 8th of February and the report on the 14th of February. It is like stepping stones through the mist for some, perhaps. You can only see the next one.
I think this visit is important. The United Kingdom is waiting for it as well. The United Kingdom is waiting for the report on the 14th of February to the Security Council. And it’s very likely that it is only after that point that we will begin to discuss the language of a second resolution in the Security Council. We’re not rushing to get to that point in the next few days.
JIM LEHRER: What about Ambassador Levitte’s point that well, Iraq looks like it has agreed to U-2 flights and more Iraqi scientists have now been interviewed in private, do you put a lot of emphasis and see a lot of good news there in those developments?
SIR JEREMY GREENSTOCK: I think there we’ll get probably a third cookie from the Iraqis, which is the passing of legislation to say that nuclear activity, military nuclear activity is forbidden, which we’ve been asking for, for 12 years.
These are all points of process, what Hans Blix and Mohammed El Baradei have been saying is that we have been getting partial cooperation on process; we have had no cooperation on substance. Substance means WMD — weapons of mass destruction — being handed over and destroyed.
It means taking the inspectors by the hand and showing them where these things are hidden and giving them up. And until we reach that point, cooperation on substance, I think we have to conclude that we are still being messed around with.
JIM LEHRER: And if I hear you correctly, you’re not very optimistic that that’s going to happen between now and next Friday.
SIR JEREMY GREENSTOCK: No, I don’t think that is going to happen. I think the inspectors are going to have to say that that is not happening. They know a lot more than they’re saying in public about the frustrations of doing the inspections. They know from their long experience of what it means when there is proactive cooperation.
Hans Blix often refers to South Africa, which gave up its nuclear program by guiding the inspectors to every point and dismantling everything. We talked, you talked, just now about the interviewees. Yes, I think one has been allowed to come without a minder — but he knows, because we know that they have been told that he and his family will be tortured and killed if they give away information that leads to some of the concealed weapons.
And you can have a thousand inspectors on the ground, but you can’t get at the intellectual information and evidence that we need if they’ve been terrorized into silence. And these things have to be weighed and considered against the background of the 12 years of no performance of Iraq.
JIM LEHRER: Well, it sounds to me then, from your point of view, it’s pretty much over.
SIR JEREMY GREENSTOCK: It is over. There is only one way out for this. And I think that Jean-David Levitte referred to it and that is for Iraq finally to change its mind and to give up these weapons actively and positively.
And if it’s not possible for this leadership to this that, then I think Iraqis must decide that it must be done some other way. But without that, I cannot see any other recourse except military action of enforcement of the U.N.’s resolutions. This isn’t war.
It’s enforcement with military force because we shall not allow Iraq to keep these weapons which could leak out of the box that Ambassador Levitte described, into terrorist hands, into launch pads when we’re not looking, and be a danger to the region and the world.
JIM LEHRER: Are there reports today…in fact we had it in our News Summary that you, the United Kingdom, is already working on the wording of a new resolution that would come to the Security Council after next Friday, is that correct?
SIR JEREMY GREENSTOCK: We had worked on wording of a second stage resolution last October when we were still negotiating Resolution 1441. We do our homework well in advance in the United Kingdom. So, of course we’ve got language that we have been working on. The point is when do you start discussing it with others? I have no instructions to bring this language to other members of the Security Council at this point.
JIM LEHRER: Based on what you’ve just heard from Ambassador Levitte and based on what you already know, which is probably a lot more than that about the French position and the position of others, do you think a resolution along the lines that might be presented by the United Kingdom after next Friday, would in fact, pass the U.N. Security Council?
SIR JEREMY GREENSTOCK: I think it’s perfectly possible. But in my position as representative of the U.K., that’s not enough. I want the Security Council to be as united as possible on this and, therefore, if there are other things we can do to persuade those members of the Council who have difficulty over reaching that final point of decision, then I think we must look for ways of doing that.
We were united over Resolution 1441. Nine votes is enough legally to move on to the next stage now, but politically I would like to see the U.N. and the Security Council with a high degree of consensus, not just because that is politically comfortable, but, and I think Americans must appreciate this point more carefully, but because the action we take will be more effective if it is more widely supported.
It will have fewer of the lateral implications of which Jean-David was talking. And the post-conflict administration of Iraq and returning it to the Iraqi people will be quicker and more trouble free if you have broad international support. And I think the U.S. needs to give that serious consideration.
JIM LEHRER: Now he said just now that his reading is that the majority of the Security Council is opposed to a new resolution authorizing force, now as we speak. Is he right?
SIR JEREMY GREENSTOCK: The majority, I would agree the majority of the Security Council is extremely uncomfortable about the thought of the use of force. And they’re right to be. Their business is peace and security.
Kofi Annan, the secretary-general, is very worried about the thought of the use of force. But they are also worried, and they all say this, about Security Council resolutions not being implemented, about the collapse of non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction in the world, about the implications that other rogue states will draw if they see the Security Council weak on this issue.
So it is not just a one way thought, war is horrible. Sometimes strength is necessary or the evil will win. And that, I think, is very much in the mind of Washington and London.
JIM LEHRER: Do you and your colleagues in the British government have the same public opinion problem that Ambassador Levitte pointed out that he and his colleagues have in France and the rest of Europe on the idea of going to war?
SIR JEREMY GREENSTOCK: In the U.K., there is a much clearer acceptance of the unhappy necessity of going to war if the U.N. is behind it. So most people do not like any thought of the U.K. going, what we say unilaterally, but bilaterally with the United States.
They’re more prepared to contemplate it if the U.N. is behind it. And I think we have a higher score on that front whereas France has a high score on both those two items. But there is still a great distaste in the United Kingdom for the use of force which might harm the Iraqi people.
JIM LEHRER: All right. Mr. Ambassador, thank you very much.
SIR JEREMY GREENSTOCK: Thank you very much.