NEWSMAKER: DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER AZIZ -- CONGRESSIONAL RESPONSE
November 13, 1997
In response to the U.N. Security Council's decision to punish Iraq for refusing to comply with arms inspections, the Iraqi administration has expelled Americans working for the U.N. Special Commission, UNSCOM. Now, the U.N. has decided to remove all arms inspectors from Iraq. After Margaret Warner speaks with Iraqi deputy prime minister Tariq Aziz about his country's actions, two members of Congress provide their perspectives.
MARGARET WARNER: Joining us now are the chairman of the House International Affairs Committee, Republican Benjamin Gilman of New York, and the committee's senior Democrat, Lee Hamilton of Indiana. Congressman Gilman, your reaction to what you just heard from Mr. Aziz.
A RealAudio version of this segment is available.
November 13, 1997
Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz defends his country's actions.
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 7, 1997
The chief U.N. arms inspector discusses Saddam's latest moves.
November 3, 1997
Sec. Cohen issues a stern warning to Saddam Hussein.
October 9, 1997
U.N. Ambassador Richardson discusses tensions between the U.S. and Iraq.
September 10, 1996
A discussion with two Iraq experts in the U.S..
September 4, 1996
A group of experts discuss Saddam Hussein's decision to send troops in the Kurdish Safe Haven.
Online Forum: 1996:
The plight of the Kurds in Northern Iraq.
Browse the NewsHour's coverage of the Middle East.
International Atmoic Energy Agency
Congress ready to back military action.
REP. BENJAMIN GILMAN, Chairman, International Relations Committee: Well, it just doesn't make sense. He talked about the pretext of the Persian Gulf invasion, and certainly there's no pretext. Our committee today adopted a resolution trying to help resolve the crisis. We urged peaceful and diplomatic negotiations, but if all else fails, then we recommended that there be either multilateral or unilateral military action. I think that Iraq is thumbing its nose at the international community and saying that we don't give a darn what the U.N. says or what the United States says, and we just don't want them in our country, and if they fly over, we're going to shoot them down. I think that's enough of a violation of the U.N. to give serious consideration to the President for the next step. And the President says he's determined to make certain that we're not going to allow this violation to continue.
MARGARET WARNER: Congressman Hamilton, your reaction to what you just heard from Mr. Aziz?
REP. LEE HAMILTON: Well, my reaction is that the deputy prime minister showed no give at all, showed no willingness to compromise, and so I think that leaves us with very little choice but to continue to ratchet up the pressure -- ratchet up the pressure in all ways with the threat of the use of force, of course, but also diplomatic pressure with solid support in the United Nations. This crisis is not over. It's still building. The deputy prime minister showed no give in his conversation just a moment ago. And we have to push ahead with the consequences.
How long before the U.S. moves?
MARGARET WARNER: Congressman Gilman, how long--absent a military provocation by Iraq--how long do you think the administration should give this diplomatic ratcheting up trying to work before pushing for something else?
REP. BENJAMIN GILMAN: I think the President is using as much diplomacy as possible, and I think the time is coming for Mr. Hussein to make up his mind whether he's going to live peacefully with the international community or going to tweak his nose--tweak our noses about this and continue to exacerbate the situation to the point where we may have to engage with him militarily.
MARGARET WARNER: But, I mean, do you have an internal timetable yourself? Are you talking about days, weeks, months?
REP. BENJAMIN GILMAN: I don't think we have any timetable, but I think it has to be a reasonable opportunity to resolve it, and if it can't be resolved, then we have to consider our other alternatives, and those would be military alternatives.
MARGARET WARNER: Congressman Hamilton.
REP. LEE HAMILTON: Well, you heard the U.N. official say just a moment ago that every day that you don't carry out the inspections we lose important information and lose important opportunities to destroy these weapons of mass destruction. That's a very compelling statement to me. We cannot tarry too long. I don't think we're right at the force as of tonight that we're going--right at the place where we're going to use force tonight. But we can't let this drag on much longer. The diplomatic option is still the priority at this point. We must exhaust the diplomatic opportunities before we turn to force. Otherwise, we will not have the support of many of our partners in the coalition. So push ahead with the diplomatic options; we can still ratchet that pressure up some more, but we cannot tarry for a period of months. We have to look at this on a day-by-day, even an hour-by-hour basis.
Should America respond to threats to shoot down U-2 flights?
MARGARET WARNER: Well, now you just heard Tariq Aziz tell Jim that--I mean, essentially he was repeating his threat to--that Iraq would try to shoot down this U-2 surveillance plane this weekend. Now, how should the administration deal with that threat?
REP. LEE HAMILTON: I think we should ignore it, and I think we should go ahead with the U-2 flights. If he attacks those U-2 flights, when we should respond with very strong military power.
MARGARET WARNER: And, Congressman Gilman, do you think that at that--if something like that were to happen, that the administration would need to get U.N. backing first, a separate vote, or is this something that you think the administration should just go ahead and do itself?
REP. BENJAMIN GILMAN: Well, I think the first opportunity would be to get the United Nations support, but I don't think we would wait very long if that support was not forthcoming. And I think the Congress would fully support a military action in response to any shoot down of our planes that are trying to monitor this situation.
MARGARET WARNER: And you think that's the way the administration should read this resolution that was passed today?
REP. BENJAMIN GILMAN: The resolution states unequivocally that the President should use every kind of diplomatic and any kind of pressure to peacefully resolve it, and if that's not possible, then to consider multilateral or unilateral force.
Does the U.S. have support for military action in the Security Council?
MARGARET WARNER: Now, Congressman Hamilton, you alluded to the fact that most other members of the Security Council right now are saying they don't want to use military force. How should the U.S. deal with that?
REP. LEE HAMILTON: Well, I think we deal with it in the Security Council first. We try to persuade them that this is a very serious challenge that Saddam Hussein has put forward; it's a direct attack in a sense on the United Nations, itself. Keep in mind that resolution that was passed today was a unanimous resolution. That's a very encouraging sign. We're keeping the coalition together. And I think we can continue to keep it together, and we ought to do everything we can to achieve that goal. What Saddam Hussein is doing here is trying to expand his capacity to use these weapons of mass destruction. There is no more serious foreign policy problem than this one. And we must be up to the challenge diplomatically first but militarily second.
MARGARET WARNER: Congressman Gilman, before we go, one last question: Why do you think six and a half years after the end of the Cold War--excuse me, the Gulf War we are--the U.S. is still in this position, in this confrontation with Saddam Hussein?
REP. BENJAMIN GILMAN: Well, it's because he has not complied over the years. You heard earlier in this program that in the six and a half years we've taken away and destroyed more weapons of mass destruction than was accomplished during the war, itself. He's continually building up his arsenal, and I think once and for all we have to let him know that we're determined that these weapons of mass destruction are not going to be allowed and that we are going to demand compliance with the United Nations resolutions.
MARGARET WARNER: Congressman Hamilton, very briefly on that last question, about why we're in this fix.
REP. LEE HAMILTON: Because we have a long pattern by Saddam Hussein of evasion of the sanctions. He is intent on threatening his neighbors and disrupting the Gulf. He has a history that is as reprehensible and despicable as any leader in the world today. And we must just expect that kind of action from him. We have to indicate to him that we're up to the challenge; we're not going to tolerate it; and he must comply. The bottom line here is he must comply with the United Nations resolution.
MARGARET WARNER: All right.
REP. LEE HAMILTON: That's not a matter of negotiation. He must do it.
MARGARET WARNER: All right. Thank you, Congressmen both, very much.