JIM LEHRER: The conventional wisdom of this day is, the next move is up to Saddam Hussein. Chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix fed that today, saying Iraq must change its behavior or face the consequences of another harsh report about its failure to cooperate, and thus military action.
We explore the possibilities for Iraq action and reaction now with, Khidir Hamza, the former director of the Iraqi nuclear weapons development program. He defected in 1994, and authored an autobiography, Saddam's Bomb Maker. Amatzia Baram, a professor of Middle East history at the University of Haifa in Israel, and a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington. He's written widely on Iraqi political and military affairs. And Joseph Wilson, who was the top U.S. diplomat in Iraq at the time it invaded Kuwait, he is now an adjunct scholar at the Middle East Institute in Washington.
Mr. Hamza what is the likelihood Saddam Hussein will do something decisive in the next, whenever, next few days or weeks, to avoid war?
KHIDIR HAMZA: There is really nothing he can do.
Look at the requirements. The U.S. warned the gaps in the Iraqi declaration be filled. Iraq declared that it has such and such but delivered much less. So now Iraq says we don't have any more to deliver and we have no more weapons. So the gap stayed open. There is a lot of warheads, chemical weapons, chemical poisons undelivered yet -- and biological material and biological poisons undelivered toxins. Now if they deliver some of them to show good faith, the U.S. will catch on it and the international community and all -that he's lying - that all the time he is saying he doesn't have any to give.
And now he's under pressure giving us some so we warned the rest. Now, he is going to go back in a cycle that he was in the 90's; he declared some of his weapons and then the inspectors poke holes in them and say, well he has more to give. Where is the rest?
And I think he's locked right now in the position he's taken he can't back out of it. He'll be lying then and unreliable and there is no sure way that he'll be disarmed.
JIM LEHRER: Do you agree Mr. Baram, there's no way he can say now, or is likely to say now if it in fact is true, I've been lying all of this time and yes, I have been moving all of these weapons around, and yes, what Colin Powell said the other day was true. Here it all is, I'll do anything to stop a war?
AMATZIA BARAM: I agree with Dr. Hamza that it isn't likely to happen, but I think he still has certain options.
He will ignore or his people already have denied everything Secretary Powell said. They accused him simply of lying through his teeth. In fact, Amir al-Saadi said last night that if Sec. Powell's account is a breach of Resolution 1441, never mind why, but they're on the offense. The best defense is an offense.
However, what they can do, and I believe they might do, is to ignore Powell, but to go back to [El]Baradei and Hans Blix and say wait a minute let's see what they demanded of us in their last report.
They wanted U-2 over flights -- it's not easy for us but we might agree to do that. They wanted us to allow our scientists to speak on a one-to-one basis to UNMOVIC people, that's difficult but we can do that, why…
JIM LEHRER: They even started that today?
AMATZIA BARAM: Why, because they can meet with these guys in private and tell them, look, guys if you divulge anything that affects Iraq's national security and everything, all the weapons of mass destruction, which are being taken away from Iraq will be, as they see it, as they define it, a risk in terms of Iraq in national defense.
If you affect Iraq's national security, you will be dead. At the same time by all means cooperate with these guys.
KHIDIR HAMZA: But, go out of the country…
AMATZIA BARAM: You know something, Dr. Hamza, maybe if the alternative is war and destruction, maybe they could accept that because they can be told, look yes if you go with the wife and children you and the wife and children may be safe -- but your cousin, you old mother, your old father, your second cousin, your tribe, your extended family -- we are going to eliminate them. So you better think what you say to the Americans or to the U.N. in Cyprus.
JIM LEHRER: But what you're talking about, are you talking about then full disclosure or are you talking about delay?
AMATZIA BARAM: Delay. Time is of the essence. Saddam believes and he said it actually, if they can get into the early summer the American offensive will be canceled and then we are getting to November, December, you know, by then things in the world may change so radically that war will no longer be possible and he will have succeeded to (a) retain his weapons of mass destruction, and (b), avert a war.
JIM LEHRER: Okay. Ambassador Wilson what do you see Saddam Hussein doing?
JOSEPH WILSON: Well, I think a couple of things. One is a Catch-22 for him. He heard from the president's speech nothing about I will survive if I disarm.
What he heard the president say was, I'm coming to get you and I'm going to kill you whether you disarm or not. As a consequence of that I think there is little incentive on his part to be any more forthcoming to delay the inevitable.
I think it is fair to say, as your other two participants have said, that he will try and drag this out as much as possible in hopes he can still try and drive a wedge between the United States and other members of the U.N. Security Council, other members of the coalition. But fundamentally it is a delaying tactic.
I would expect that he will be forthcoming on a couple of these issues as they arise: U-2's, as you saw today; I talked to a few scientists without 'minders', but on the core stuff it's hard for me to believe that he is going to give up significant amounts of his weapons of mass destruction when he fundamentally believes that's not going to make any difference at all to his chances of survival.
JIM LEHRER: What does... help us understand how he views the possibility of war with the United States. What does he think the outcome that have might be, what is he calculating?
JOSEPH WILSON: Well, I think first of all I think he's trying to calculate how he can keep his weapons of mass destruction and not have war, which is the diplomatic strategy he's trying to pursue -- seemed to be cooperating while not complying.
If there is war, think it's very clear and he'll try and make it a broader war he can then try and explain to the rest of the Arab world as an Arab war against the West.
And then finally if he can't survive, I think he's looking at his role in history, which is why I discount the possibility he would go into exile. I think he would see his role in history much like Nebakanezer in Saladin as being this great Arab hero -- which from our perspective he won't be and I suspect from the Arab perspective I wouldn't be either. But in his own warped view of the world he may see himself in these historic terms.
JIM LEHRER: Dr. Hamza, you know some of the people around Saddam Hussein. Who are these people who are closest to him and how are they likely to view what's going on right now -- as this thing continues to escalate toward a war?
KHIDIR HAMZA: He has a problem there. He says -- it's reported on him -- that people around him are either bright but cowards, or brave but brainless.
JIM LEHRER: Who says that?
KHIDIR HAMZA: Saddam Hussein says that -- about his coterie -- that they are either this or that. Which means he can't trust either, because the bright guy might present him with the possible alternatives but they will be the cowardly alternatives. And the brave guy might give him the brave alternatives you might expect but he will discount dangers, he will not see dangers.
That was his problem in Kuwait. He was given advice by Tariq Aziz this will be dangerous and the Americans won't take it, but others said, no, go ahead and Americans will accept.
JIM LEHRER: Do you think Tariq Aziz -- his number two essentially..he is his number two, right?
KHIDIR HAMZA: More or less.
JIM LEHRER: Do you think he'll go down with Saddam Hussein?
KHIDIR HAMZA: I don't think Saddam Hussein will go down either. I think Saddam will escape once the American troops get to Baghdad. I don't believe Saddam is a hero and I don't believe he'll view history to be the reason for his suicide.
I think he's not suicidal. I think he'll escape.
JIM LEHRER: Mr. Baram, what's your view on the people around Saddam Hussein, are there any vulnerabilities right there that might come to the fore here soon?
AMATZIA BARAM: At least in my experience, when he is in real trouble, deep trouble and when he's fully aware of it, he will allow people to tell him what they really think. He will really ask for advice.
But sometimes his mind is made up. When his mind is made up, right, then you cannot object to any of his ideas, because you risk your life. So we don't know what mood he'll be in.
But basically his dilemma is very simple: He needs those weapons. The way he sees it he must have them, at least a....
JIM LEHRER: Why does he need them? From his point of view?
AMATZIA BARAM: Okay, for three reasons. A, because if there is a major, major Shia uprising again, he needs to cow these people....
JIM LEHRER: That's within his own country?
AMATZIA BARAM: Yes. That's what he did to the Kurds, for the benefit of the Shia -- they're 60 percent of the population, he needs to cow them and the best way to do it is threaten enough, enough to threaten them with non-conventional weapons and if necessary... probably not even use it.
Two, he needs the weapons the way he looks at Iraq's national security. He believes he won the war against Iran because he used non-conventional weapons against the Iranians; he believes the Americans did not conquer Baghdad in 1991 because they were afraid of his chemical and biological weapons. That's two.
Three, and that's the third circle but it's very important -- he sees himself as a latter day Saladin and, as Ambassador Wilson said, a latter day Nebakanezer. He is the redeemer and the savior of the Arab and Islamic nation and he would like to bring them back to their rightful place under the sun. And he has to control the Gulf oil for that -- to do that you need non-conventional weapons.
JIM LEHRER: You agree Ambassador Wilson? From his point of view, what's the point of being there if you don't have your weapons of mass destruction?
JOSEPH WILSON: Well, again I think he also sees them as necessary to defending himself against what he believes will be an American assault on his government and his life. There is no incentive for him even to give up a little bit of them.
I agree that he is not suicidal, also. He is the consummate survivalist and we may get to Baghdad and not find him there. I find difficult to believe gel to someplace like Tripoli and end up being Qaddafi's trained lion to be brought out to impress the visitors.
JIM LEHRER: But, all three of you agree if anyone is sitting around expecting at the last minute Saddam Hussein is going to have some kind of revelation and pull back and say, okay, here are my weapons of mass destruction, let's have no war, forget it, right?
JOSEPH WILSON: Yeah. I think the chances are pretty good you'll get something of semblance of cooperation, but the core stuff we'll have to go find it.
JIM LEHRER: Do you agree, Mr. Hamza?
KHIDIR HAMZA: Yes, I agree.
JIM LEHRER: And you agree?
AMATZIA BARAM: Yes.
JIM LEHRER: On that pleasant note we will leave it. Thank you very much.