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Henry Kissinger and Madeleine Albright: What Next?

December 19, 2002 at 12:00 AM EDT


RAY SUAREZ: And Margaret Warner takes it from there.

MARGARET WARNER: Joining us are two former Secretaries of State: Madeleine Albright, who served with President Clinton; and Henry Kissinger, who held that job in the Nixon and Ford administrations.

Welcome to you both.

Pretty tough words from Secretary Powell, Madam Secretary, saying if Iraq continues this way, “we’re not going to find a peaceful solution to this problem.” What do you see as the significance of today’s events, both the Hans Blix assessment and the response from Secretary Powell?

MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Well, I think it was obviously a very important day because Hans Blix provided what seems to be a pretty clear and tough report of the fact that Iraq is not complying and not fulfilling what it is supposed to do under 1441.

I also think that Secretary Powell’s statement was very carefully put together in terms of laying down a very tough line and explaining what still had to happen — but at the same time, allowing a little bit of wiggle room. It’s a little bit like saying, “I’m going to do something by 3:00 and then saying, “two, two and a half, two and three quarters, “so allowing a little bit of wiggle room in there. But he was pretty tough.

And I also think that what is important is what has been shown is that the route of going to the United Nations is the correct route, as some of us have been advocating from the beginning because it is providing more of the international support that will be necessary if we move to force.

MARGARET WARNER: And Secretary Kissinger, how do you assess today’s events?

HENRY KISSINGER: I essentially agree with Madeline. It’s a statement by Blix of the shortcomings of the Iraqi reporting and a statement by Secretary Powell that there is still some time to comply with the U.N. Resolution, but time is getting shorter — and that the United States is determined to enforce it.

MARGARET WARNER: What do you… explain for us why… you know, there was this big debate about whether he used the term “material breach.” Why would the United States have used the term today and accused Iraq of a material breach and yet said it’s not yet an immediate trigger for war, Mr. Secretary?

HENRY KISSINGER: I think that the administration wants one more Security Council debate on that issue. They want to marshal some more evidence. They’re very pessimistic that Iraq will comply, but they want to give it at least one more appearance of giving it a chance. And so this looks to me like the beginning of the last diplomatic effort before military action is taken.

MARGARET WARNER: So Madam Secretary, being tough but also showing some forbearance?

MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Well, I think what is very interesting is if you heard Sergei Lavarov, the Russian ambassador, because that is what the discussion is going to be, who has the burden of proof. And there’s no question that the burden of proof is on Iraq. I mean we’ve all said that; everybody believes that.

But in the end, it may be necessary for the United States to come forward with what it is we know while maintaining that the burden of proof is on Iraq. If you listen to what Lavrov had to say, why don’t those who know something tell us?

And I thought it was very interesting when Secretary Powell said that he thought there needed to be more cooperation, that the United States and other countries would give to the inspectors. I think that’s an important step. But I hope very much, if push comes to shove, that we will in fact provide more of the proof while still maintaining that it is Saddam Hussein upon whom the burden really falls.

MARGARET WARNER: Mr. Secretary, there did seem to be a huge disagreement, Secretary Powell saying it’s up to Iraq to prove it’s not doing this any longer, the Russian ambassador saying, “oh, no, it’s up to the U.S. or the inspectors to prove it is.” Do you agree with Secretary Albright that ultimately the U.S. may have to come out publicly and show what it’s got?

HENRY KISSINGER: I suspect that the administration will at some point, put forward its conclusions and will make it part of the debate. And the United States is not obliged by the U.N. resolution to wait until there is a Security Council resolution. It’s obliged to have a consultation, and it probably hopes to be able to get a vote. But we acted in Kosovo before there was a vote and without a vote.

MARGARET WARNER: But you’re talking now about going back and getting a second U.N. Security Council vote essentially authorizing force. Do you think that would be a wise idea? Mr. Secretary?

HENRY KISSINGER: I think that we should initiate a debate in the Security Council and see how the debate goes before we make a decision on whether to ask for a vote.

MARGARET WARNER: Do you see the administration moving that way?

MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Well, I think that they act as if they would go back to the Security Council for consultations, as Henry has said. And it is true, it is not necessary to get a second vote. I think it probably would help because part of what is going on here is to try to get support of the international community. Now, Henry mentioned what we did in Kosovo. There we in fact were working with a multilateral organization NATO, so it isn’t as if we did not have help and support of other countries.

But I do think that what is also evident from the discussion today is that there’s still an awful lot of diplomatic work to be done. And I didn’t hear the comments of other ambassadors, but I think you can tell that that kind of discussion is going on. Hans Blix’s role is key, and I remember from when I was U.N. Ambassador, when somebody comes in of Hans Blix’s authoritative message and voice and Dr. al-Baradei, also, that it makes a big difference. And so their role in this continues to be very important.

MARGARET WARNER: Yes, Secretary Kissinger, didn’t it seem to you as if Hans Blix also had a tougher tone, particularly in his interview with Ray just now, than he has had earlier in terms of vis-à-vis Iraq, and do you find that significant?

HENRY KISSINGER: I thought that he had a tougher tone, and that will influence the debate. I would like to stress that the debate will not take place only at the United Nations, and in some respects not even primarily at the United Nations. Some of the discussions will take place in capitals, so what U.N. ambassadors say immediately after a report will not be the only element to be considered. But Blix’s attitude in the next weeks will be of crucial importance. He has been tougher than before.

MARGARET WARNER: And Madam Secretary, he did just say to Ray, he said, “what we need is evidence.” I mean he wasn’t I think making a political comment. But how did you read what he said?

MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Well, I think that it plays into what I had said earlier, which is that ultimately, there is the sense, if the United States has something or the United Kingdom has something, that while the burden of proof is still on Saddam, that it would help a lot if we provided that. Now, I think the problem will be is whether it compromises sources and methods and whether it would in fact complicate any military activity. But I just have a feeling that ultimately, because it’s… Saddam has to prove a negative, that ultimately we will have to prove the positive. And I thought it was interesting that Hans Blix said that.

MARGARET WARNER: Secretary Kissinger, one of the sticking points between the U.S. and Hans Blix is clearly over this interviewing of the Iraqi scientists. And you could see it on display again today between what Secretary Powell said and what Blix just said to Ray.

How important do you think that is in creating the proof necessary? If you are both agreed that positive proof will be necessary, how important is it for the U.S. to really push Blix to come up with some procedures for getting these scientists and their families out of Iraq and to be really be able to interview them?

HENRY KISSINGER: Well, most of the information that has proved valuable in the past has come from interviews and from interviews from defectors. The problem is: How do you find the people who are willing to be interviewed, since if they are going to… abroad, since in order to make it effective, they really have to leave with their families, otherwise the families will be held as hostage? I can understand that Blix does not want to use the United Nations organization to bring about the emigration of Iraqis, but some solution to this problem has to be found, especially if we could identify somebody who is willing to testify, then we must find a way to get him out of the country and get assurances for his family to complete the process.

MARGARET WARNER: What do you say?

MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: I think it will be very difficult. But as Henry says, I think the best information we’ve had is from defectors, although then when somebody tries to return, they get shot. So it is a pretty…

MARGARET WARNER: But the resolution provides, one that Iraq has to produce… unlike the past, when they could ask to see a scientist and they could say, oh, they’re now working at a university somewhere, they’re supposed to provide the scientist and they’re supposed to allow the scientist and his family to leave.

MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Well, I think we should press on that and Hans Blix should press on that, — without – what I’d heard him say sometime before that he wasn’t into kidnapping — but I think this is part of the “cooperative attitude” that the Iraqis have to show. And I think that is where it is important to get other countries to make the same comments and to put on the some kind of pressure. And that’s why I think, you know a statement like Secretary Powell’s today is obviously – is ahead of and is kind of the whole superstructure for what has to be done — an incredible amount of diplomatic work that still goes on.

And we have been so focused on troops being moved and military plans, that I think people forget about the important role of diplomacy here. And Henry’s absolutely right, a lot of the work will take place in the capitals, and those phone calls and those meetings and that discussion is something that is under Secretary Powell’s aegis, and he’s got a lot of work ahead of him.

MARGARET WARNER: Very briefly from you both, beginning with Mr. Kissinger, do you believe we are ultimately going to war?

HENRY KISSINGER: I believe it is extremely probable that we will go to war, and I find it hard to describe how Saddam will comply, so I think that the high probability is that there will be a war.

MARGARET WARNER: And Madam Secretary?

MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: I think there will be a war, but I don’t think we should do it just to prove a point. I think that we have to be sure about what will happen after the day of the war.

MARGARET WARNER: Madam Secretary, Mr. Secretary, thank you both.