February 23, 1998
In Baghdad this morning, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan and Iraq Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz signed an agreement which will allow U.N. weapons inspectors unrestricted access to sites throughout Iraq. Jim Lehrer talks with Secretary of State Albright about the deal.
A RealAudio version of this segment is available.
Has diplomacy succeeded in the Iraq crisis?
February 23, 1998
A panel of experts discuss the U.N. brokered deal with Iraq.
February 23, 1998
A report from Amman on the impact of the deal on Jordan.
February 20, 1998
A panel of experts examine the crisis from the Iraqi perspective.
February 19, 1998
An exploration of public support for the use of force in Iraq as compared to past conflicts.
February 18, 1998
Four diplomatic veterans discuss the possibility of an attack on Iraq.
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Analysis of the U.S. military arsenal in the Middle East.
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How significant a threat does Saddam Hussein's country really pose?
February 11, 1998
Ambassador Richardson discusses the ongoing crisis with Iraq.
February 10, 1998
Members of Congress discuss the U.S. government's support of military action against Iraq.
February 9, 1998
Regional commentators give local perspectives on the growing crisis with Iraq.
February 4, 1998
Secretary of State Madeleine Albright tries to marshal support for a possible attack on Iraq.
January 30, 1998
The U.S. tries rallying support for military action against Iraq.
January 14, 1998
Iraq's U.N. Ambassador, Nizar Hamdoon, defends his country's actions.
January 13, 1998
Amb. Butler discusses the latest disagreement with Iraq.
December 18, 1997
Amb. Butler discusses Iraq's continued defiance of U.N. inspections.
December 1, 1997
Margaret Warner leads a discussion on the proposals to ease the impact of international sanctions on Iraq.
November 25, 1997
Is Saddam Hussein illegally hiding weapons throughout Iraq?
What's the best way to deal with Iraq?
November 20, 1997
U.N. Ambassador Richardson on the possible resolution of the Iraq crisis.
November 17, 1997
Arab perspectives on the Iraqi crisis.
November 14, 1997
Sandy Berger the National Security Adviser, discusses the Iraqi crisis.
November 13, 1997
Newsmaker interview with Deputy PM Aziz who defends his country's expulsion of U.N. weapons inspectors.
November 12, 1997
U.N. Ambassador Bill Richardson discusses the Security Council's vote to impose stricter sanctions on Iraq.
November 11, 1997
Four foreign policy experts debate how best to deal with Saddam Hussein.
November 10, 1997
Defense Sec. Cohen discusses the situation with Iraq.
November 3, 1997
U.N. Ambassador Richardson discusses tensions between the U.S. and Iraq.
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JIM LEHRER: Now, to Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who joins us for a Newsmaker interview from the State Department. Madam Secretary, welcome.
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT, Secretary of State: Hello, Jim.
JIM LEHRER: So, it does appear the United States will accept this deal?
Sec. Albright: "...this is a first step in seeing how Saddam Hussein is reversing course...."
SEC. MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Well, as the President said, this is a first step in seeing how Saddam Hussein is reversing course here and allowing there to be unfettered, unconditional inspections of all the sites that had been prohibited before to the UNSCOM inspectors. But, again, as the President said, we have to clarify the details of what the Secretary General agreed to. He's coming to the council tomorrow, so there has to be clarification, and then there has to be testing, and then we have to verify and to make sure that Iraq really is complying.
JIM LEHRER: Well, clarification, is there anything that you know that's in that deal as has been explained to you thus far that gives you and the United States a problem?
SEC. MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Well, we have to look at, you know, the clarification of some details, but there are things, for instance, like how the diplomats accompanying UNSCOM will be chosen. It's that kind of thing. And the Secretary General is going to come back tomorrow and meet with the Security Council in the morning and provide answers to those kinds of questions. We want to make sure that this is an agreement that covers all the issues that are of interest to us, but I do think we see it as a very important first step. And, as the President said, we welcome the Secretary General's work in this.
JIM LEHRER: Do you have a feeling of relief tonight, or how would you explain your feelings at this moment?
SEC. MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Well, I think basically I see it as a first step, but this isn't over, Jim. We have to make sure that, as I said, that after these clarifications that there will be a time of testing as the inspectors go out, verifying that this--that the various aspects of this are in place, and then making sure that Iraq stays in compliance, and also as the President said, we're keeping our forces out there, so I think I'm seeing it as an important first step.
JIM LEHRER: And the clarification on the diplomats, is the--these diplomats, would they have power, or they would just be kind of escorts, who would choose them and what countries would they come from, is that the kind of thing you want clarified?
SEC. MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: That's exactly right, Jim, because all we know is that there will be diplomats chosen, but that's exactly the kind of question that needs to be clarified. What we see and what we've seen so far is that UNSCOM will continue to have operational control. That's the thing that we have asked for or made very clear before the Secretary General left. You know, he had--the permanent members of the Security Council met with him and provided certain guidelines that we had a major input into, and part of that was to make sure that they were unfettered, unconditional access, and that the inspectors would really have operational control.
JIM LEHRER: What about the issue of Americans, the number of Americans on these inspection teams? That's what started this--in one way that's what started all this, their protests--there were too many Americans--particularly one man named Scott Ridder, was a former Marine, and the Iraqis said he was a spy. Is that all part of this agreement as well?
Sec. Albright: "We want to make sure that UNSCOM is able to carry out its operational duties and that the chairman will be able to have the unfettered access."
SEC. MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Well, the agreement, as we've seen it, is not that specific. Those are the kinds of clarifications. I think that the chairman of UNSCOM will continue to have the ability to choose the experts that will be part of these missions. But those are the kinds of things. We want to make sure that UNSCOM is able to carry out its operational duties and that the chairman will be able to have the unfettered access. But I think what's really quite good about this--and I need to come back to this--there are unfettered, unconditional inspections of all sites, which is something that Saddam Hussein has never allowed before. So that's where we see him reversing course.
JIM LEHRER: And you do see this as a back down by him, is that correct?
SEC. MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Well, certainly he's never allowed inspections into all these places, so, yes, we do. And I think that's a good example of how diplomacy worked when it's backed up with the use of force.
JIM LEHRER: So this is a victory for the United States?
SEC. MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Well, we feel okay as a first step. I don't want to--to overdo this. I mean, this is a first step, and it's an important one, but, as I said, we have to clarify various parts and then, as the President said, and it was a big "if," if there were - if compliance really was carried out.
JIM LEHRER: Mr. Annan said in an interview before he left Iraq that there was also something in this agreement about the sanctions, the economic sanctions that are on Iraq. What is your understanding about what's in this paper about that?
SEC. MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Well, I think there's some--the Secretary General--and I think he said that in his press conference too--believes that the issue of sanctions should be brought up again to the Security Council. The truth is that somebody brings the issue of sanctions to the Security Council every time that there is a review, and we believe that Iraq has to--Saddam Hussein has to comply with all the relevant resolutions, so I'm sure there will be such a discussion; there always is.
JIM LEHRER: As you know, Madam Secretary, the Iraqi leadership has long been annoyed by comments that have been attributed to you sometime ago, that as long as Saddam Hussein was president of Iraq, those sanctions were never going to come off. Is that your position now?
SEC. MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Well, first of all, you know, I have said many times that it's hard to imagine that he could live up to all the sanctions resolutions. But, if he can, that's fine. I mean, our point here is that he needs to live up to his obligations under the sanctions resolutions, but I've also said that we look forward to dealing with a post-Saddam regime.
JIM LEHRER: So, do you foresee an Iraq still led by Saddam Hussein, with no economic sanctions on them?
SEC. MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: I think that is a really big "if," Jim. I think that he has not had a good record. We are now going to see whether an agreement that he has signed with the Secretary General in full view of the entire world, whether he will live up to that. And I think those are the ifs, and we will see how he--whether he complies with what he said he would do. Otherwise, he's reneging in front of the entire world.
JIM LEHRER: You basically don't trust him, right?
SEC. MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Well, I think we're definitely into--this is not an issue of trust. This is an issue of test and verify and see if he complies.
JIM LEHRER: What do you think the connection was between the signing of that paper this morning in Baghdad and the thirty some thousand U.S. troops or military personnel, planes, and ships that are out in the Gulf?
Sec. Albright: "I think there's a very direct connection that when diplomacy is backed up by the threat of the use of force, there is an extra bite to it."
SEC. MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: I think there's a very close connection. I think that we should all be very proud of the American men and women and all the members of the coalition that gave us the support and the British who are out there with us. I think there's a very direct connection that when diplomacy is backed up by the threat of the use of force, there is an extra bite to it. And I think that it made a big difference, and, as the President said, they're going to stay there while we figure out the testing and compliance period.
JIM LEHRER: On the diplomacy involved in this, Madam Secretary, many people have suggested that when the United States said, okay, Mr. Annan, go to Baghdad, you essentially were trapped into accepting pretty much whatever he came up with, if he said, in fact, this was a good deal, is that right?
SEC. MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: No, absolutely not. I think that first of all, as I said, we had quite a lot to do with what he took with him in terms of guidelines. And if we did not think this was in the U.S. national interest, we have no obligation to take this, and we are--this will be discussed in the Security Council, where we obviously a veto. And this is one of those examples, Jim, where we think that the United Nations can serve a very important purpose. As you know, President Bush believed that during the Gulf War, and these are the toughest sanctions in the history of the world. They're multilateral sanctions. The U.N. plays a very important role, but if we don't like it, we always have the option of following our own national security interest, which I assure you we will do if we don't like what's going on.
JIM LEHRER: But, Secretary Albright, the wires today--the wire service reports are what goes all over the world, every country of the world has endorsed this--this is a wonderful thing--every Arab nation--the prime minister of Israeli, Tony Blair, and Robin Cook, the folks who run Great Britain, have said, yes, this looks good; you just go through the list of the world, and for the United States, are you--do you honestly believe that the United States could now veto this deal?
SEC. MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Well, I'm not saying--I haven't even said that. I'm saying that if we didn't like it--
JIM LEHRER: Right.
SEC. MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: You asked me if we didn't like something--
JIM LEHRER: Right. Sure.
Sec. Albright: "There's a certain sense of exasperation with Saddam Hussein's recalcitrance, and if he doesn't follow through this time, I think that it's very clear there will be very serious consequences."
SEC. MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: --that the U.N. did, how would we behave. That's the answer. Now, as the President said, we are looking at this. He has welcomed this as a first step, and we have to clarify it, but I--we'll see, you know, the proof of this will be in how it works out, but we are--along with the others--very pleased with Kofi Annan's mission, and we have to look at it. But I can also tell you this: I've had many, many conversations in the last 48 hours with various foreign ministers, and everybody would like this to work out. But if it does not, I have to tell you, there's a certain sense of exasperation with Saddam Hussein's recalcitrance, and if he doesn't follow through this time, I think that it's very clear there will be very serious consequences. So I think we're just where we need to be, which is with the international community behind Kofi Annan in an action where we see Saddam Hussein reversing course, and we have made very clear that we're going to clarify and test. I think that's the main thing is we're going to test to see if this agreement is a good one.
JIM LEHRER: Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott said today that this amounted to subcontracting out U.S. foreign policy to Kofi Annan of the United Nations. Do you see it that way?
SEC. MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: No. You know, I think that Sen. Lott has many wise things to say, but on this one he is dead wrong.
JIM LEHRER: Did you consider going to Baghdad with Kofi Annan?
SEC. MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: No. I think that that was not part of our plan ever.
JIM LEHRER: Did you consider trying to negotiate this on the part of the United States, or did you always see this as a U.N. deal?
SEC. MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Well, this was not the U.S. versus Saddam Hussein. It was Saddam Hussein versus the world. And this was not a U.S./Iraqi issue. It is basically Saddam Hussein breaking the rules that were set for him by the international community as represented by the United Nations. So we think this has been handled very well. But as I've said many times, we will consider our national interest, and we at this stage see our national interest served by a United Nations approach to this, and it's the United Nations that has maintained the toughest sanctions regime in the history of the world, and we know that the multilateral sanctions--sanctions by many nations works often better than we do it alone. But if we have to go alone, we will, but that's not the issue right now. We want to clarify and test.
JIM LEHRER: And you feel good about this?
SEC. MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Well, as I said, I'm fairly level-headed and realistic about things. I take one step at a time, and this is a good step.
JIM LEHRER: All right. Madam Secretary, thank you very much for being with us.
SEC. MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Thank you.