November 11, 1997
U.N. weapons inspectors were turned away today for the eighth time in nine days. The U.S. and Great Britain are urging the United Nations to take action. In a draft resolution for the 15-nation Security Council they called for continued economic santions and travel restrictions on Iraqi officials. Four Iraq watchers discuss the crisis and debate what should be done about Saddam Hussein.
JIM LEHRER: Iraq, the problem that won't go away. Here we are, six years after Iraq's defeat by an American-led coalition in the Gulf War again asking how to handle its leader, Saddam Hussein. This time the issue is Iraq's refusal to allow U.S. personnel to be part of U.N. weapons inspections teams. Robert Pelletreau, a career diplomat, was Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs from 1994 to '97; Richard Haass served on the National Security Council staff under President Bush; Edward Peck was a career diplomat who served as chief of U.S. Mission in Bagdad from 1977 to '89; and Thomas Friedman is the foreign affairs columnist for the New York Times.
A RealAudio version of this segment is available.
November 10, 1996
Defense Sec. Cohen discusses the situation with Iraq.
November 7, 1996
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
Tom Friedman, what should be done this time about Saddam Hussein?
Is using force justified?
THOMAS FRIEDMAN, New York Times: Jim, I think the administration is basically on the right track right now, which is to say, first of all, we've got to lay down a diplomatic case, a diplomatic predicate for him to try to keep the global alliance that we've got against Iraq, to keep Iraq from acquiring weapons of mass destruction or breaking out again, as it did against Kuwait, to try to keep that together, and they're playing that out at the U.N. today, and you heard now we've got a new resolution that will ban the travel of Iraqi leaders. I think that's an important step. I think we should keep ratcheting up this diplomacy to see how far we can go with our allies, and if that somehow will get Iraq to back down, but at the same time I think we have to be prepared. I think the United States is prepared; that if we need to use force and, if necessary, to do it alone.
JIM LEHRER: And you think this justifies using force; it's that serious a matter?
THOMAS FRIEDMAN: Oh, I think this is the most serious matter because basically this involved weapons of mass destruction. We're talking about potential nuclear development by Iraq, germ warfare, poison gas. We're talking about things that could be totally disruptive to the security and stability of this part of the world, and I think it's essential on this issue that Iraq not be allowed to remove these inspections, to be allowed to develop these things on your own because we know who Saddam Hussein is; we know what he's about; we know what his objectives are. This is a man with absolutely no redeeming features. He's killed his relatives; he's depressed his people; he's invaded; he's attacked five different countries around him; and if he is given the wherewithal, or allowed to develop the wherewithal to acquire these weapons of mass destruction, I have no doubt he would use it.
JIM LEHRER: Mr. Peck, do you see the threat the same way?
EDWARD PECK, Former State Department Official: No, not exactly. I have a feeling that in the United States today there is a kind of a national feeding frenzy in which Saddam Hussein is described as the devil incarnate and, as Mr. Friedman just said, with no redeeming values. The thing that concerns me the most is that our very open desire to get Saddam seems to overlook our key interest in the area, our overriding interest in the area, the Middle East, which is stability. And the thing that we don't want--above all else--is instability, because without stability none of the other things we want in that region can come to pass. And this idea of trying to find some way to justify knocking off Saddam seems to disregard the fact that when he goes, there's no one to take his place and that place in Iraq is going to dissolve into just a sea of chaos--which serves no one's interest.
JIM LEHRER: We'll come back to that in a moment. But what about Tom Friedman's basic point that the--that what Iraq is doing in acquiring and developing weapons of mass destruction justifies just about anything in order to stop it?
EDWARD PECK: Well, I mean, I don't know that he's doing this. The problem that Saddam Hussein faces--and Tariq Aziz has put it rather nicely--is that, you know, when is the--when is the inspection over, at what point does somebody stand up and say I guarantee that there are no weapons of mass destruction under development or in stockpiles here--you can never get that to happen. And so how long does the embargo stay in place? Forever.
JIM LEHRER: Mr. Pelletreau, where do you come down between Friedman and Peck?
What is Saddam Hussein's goal?
ROBERT PELLETREAU, Former State Department Official: I think almost nobody would doubt that if the sanctions for some reason were lifted tomorrow the day after Saddam would be back in the rearmament game, acquiring weapons of mass destruction, rebuilding his armed forces, and it might be only a few days after that, that he was mobilized again on the Kuwaiti frontier.
JIM LEHRER: On what is that based? On what is that feeling based, that belief?
ROBERT PELLETREAU: That everything he has done over six years points to a desire to try to maintain his capability to conduct offensive actions against his neighbors.
JIM LEHRER: Against whom particularly?
ROBERT PELLETREAU: Against Kuwait, against Saudi Arabia. He has not given up his ambition to be the dominant force in the Gulf.
JIM LEHRER: Now, Mr. Peck, you don't buy that?
EDWARD PECK: No. I think that Saddam Hussein's objective, No. 1, is to remain in power. Every politician seems to suffer from that. And the second thing he probably wants is good things for Iraq, whatever those may be. You know, the man is not stupid. He's already received a rather sharp lesson in the 100 hours of the Gulf War and is unlikely to demonstrate a desire to emulate himself on the cross of going forward. He's been taught, and he can be restrained by mechanisms other than the ones we're using.
JIM LEHRER: Richard Haass, you shook your head when Mr. Peck just said that Saddam Hussein is not stupid.
RICHARD HAASS, National Security Council Staff: I don't know what planet Mr. Peck is living on. Saddam Hussein is beyond redemption. He would sacrifice Iraq down to the last Iraqi. He couldn't care less about the welfare of his people. The man is a danger, perhaps one of the greatest dangers of the 20th century.
Trying to build international consensus.
JIM LEHRER: Greatest dangers of the 20th century?
RICHARD HAASS: Saddam Hussein with weapons of mass destruction, do you think that somehow he would put a limit on what he would do, that he would stop invading Kuwait, that he would not want to gain control of the world's energy supply, that he would not pose a threat against Israel? This is a man who does not place limits on himself. The only people who would place limits on him are outsiders. The only area--the only area where I would take issue with Tom Friedman, who I think was 100 percent right in his analysis, Jim, was in the question of whether we should act alone. I'd rather not do that. I would say, first, let's try to get the Security Council to authorize the use of force until Saddam complies and accepts unconditional inspections. Failing that, what I would do is not act alone, but I would put together a coalition with the British, with the Kuwaitis, with anyone else, hopefully the Saudis and the Turks.
JIM LEHRER: Outside the U.N., if you had to?
RICHARD HAASS: Outside the U.N.
JIM LEHRER: I see.
RICHARD HAASS: We cannot give the French, the Russians, the Chinese, or anyone else in New York a veto over American foreign policy and what needs to be done.
JIM LEHRER: Tom Friedman, why are the allies, who were part of the coalition before, why are they not in the same state of rage as the U.S. is over this?
THOMAS FRIEDMAN: Well, it depends which ones, Jim, and I think it's several different factors. I think the French and Russians--it's not I don't think--they've been in Iraq with their oil companies trying to sign contracts with Iraq. And Iraq's been offering French and Russian and other oil companies very attractive terms, so there is the mercantilist question. I think there is also the question of this sort of fear of American hegemony these days, resentment of American hegemony. We stand astride the world today very powerfully--our economy, our military. A lot of people resent that. We're expanding NATO into Europe and telling the Russians, you know, be with us here but we're in your face there. The French resent this enormously, so you've got that dimension of it as well.
Now, I say to all that, look, we knew with the end of the Cold War that was going to happen. We knew there was going to be sharper economic rivalry. But surely if we cannot agree--as Bob and Richard said--that this man with weapons of mass destruction is a danger to the stability that Mr. Peck referred to in the Middle East, then what can we agree on? What does it mean to have allies in a world we can't even agree that this is a menace? And with all due respect to Mr. Peck when he said, what proof do we have, as President Clinton said, the UNSCOM, the U.N. weapons inspectors, have found more missiles and parts of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq since the end of the Gulf War than we destroyed during the Gulf War. I'm ready to say that he has complied when the U.N. inspectors are ready to say that he's complied.
JIM LEHRER: Mr. Peck.
EDWARD PECK: But, you know that that is never going to happen. The thing that concerns me about this is that-- That there's some kind of mass hysteria here, and Mr. Haass is talking about the devil incarnate and the rest, and you, I think, Mr. Friedman, have recommended a head shot as the way to solve these problems.
JIM LEHRER: He didn't do that on the air tonight--it was the column--we'll come back to that in a moment--but he did that in the column, right.
EDWARD PECK: Yes, sir. It's the sort of thing that concerns me because there are ways to work this thing short of doing what the rest of--what our allies don't want us to do, and that is to destroy whatever fragile stability Iraq has as a nation.
JIM LEHRER: Well, what about--would you speak to the point that all these--you're three against one here on this--I'm sorry about that.
EDWARD PECK: It's all right.
JIM LEHRER: That the stability of the region is in jeopardy just by the fact of what Iraq is doing in developing these weapons.
EDWARD PECK: He doesn't have any weapons. We've got 110 inspectors who have been held back for six days. Nobody builds these things up in six days. And a moment's sober reflection leads you to the conclusion that if Saddam Hussein wants to, he can develop a bathtub full of, you know, anthrax in his apartment. So you can never be certain he's not doing this sort of thing unless you take the steps to explain to him very carefully what the costs are if he does 'em.
JIM LEHRER: What about that point, Amb. Pelletreau?
Keeping an eye on the prize: stability in the region.
ROBERT PELLETREAU: The facts are just contrary to what Mr. Peck is describing. In Middle East terms the Iraqi army today is still a very significant force. It has about 400,000 men; it has over 3,500 tanks, over 2,000 artillery pieces. This is roughly half of what it had at the beginning of the Gulf War. But, nevertheless, when you look at the region, there's no other country in the region that possesses this kind of strength. And given Saddam's unpredictability, his preference and predilection for using his military force to intimidate, to invade, to repress, I think that it's just overwhelmingly clear that the U.N. sanctions have to remain in place.
JIM LEHRER: What would you say to those--among the French and the Russians and elsewhere--Mr. Peck might even agree with this--who say, wait a minute, the more we demonize this man, the worst he's going to be to deal with, why don't we try another approach, which is to try to negotiate with him, come in and there and talk to him about all of this?
ROBERT PELLETREAU: Well, I think some of that other approach is starting right now. The action is with Bill Richardson up at the U.N. and I believe that the French and the Russians are on board for this resolution. The U.N. is going to be rock solid.
JIM LEHRER: Talk first, taking a step at a time?
ROBERT PELLETREAU: Lay the foundation for common international action very clearly, utilize your diplomatic options, and keep the international coalition together. Then you've laid a foundation, a good foundation, if it's necessary, if it's necessary to use military force as a follow-up action.
What would happen if Saddam were removed?
JIM LEHRER: Let's go to another point Mr. Peck made, Richard Haass, which is that you take out Saddam Hussein and that doesn't solve any problems; there's no infrastructure; there's no party in waiting; there's no second level who's going to come and make everything nice and tidy in Iraq.
RICHARD HAASS: It's a risk I'd be willing to take. Two things though: One, taking him out is easier said than done. If we could have done it, I assure you we would have. It's just--
JIM LEHRER: "We" meaning the Bush administration?
RICHARD HAASS: Indeed, the Bush administration or the Clinton administration. It's just easier said than done. It's very hard to get from here to there. This is one of the most insulated, protected people in the world, very tough to get at him. Secondly, Mr. Peck is right to this extent. Getting rid of Saddam does not solve the problem. Iraq still has a political culture that is filled with decades of tyranny. It would still pose a military threat, and one of the things we would have to do under a post-Saddam leadership is lay out a road map and say to the new leadership, here is what we expect from you and here is what we in return, the international community, would be willing to do for you. We would be willing to relax the sanctions; we would be willing to welcome you back as a member of the international community, as you demonstrate that you are, in fact, a changed country and a changed regime.
JIM LEHRER: But you have to first get rid of Saddam Hussein?
RICHARD HAASS: I think it's going to be necessary, but in the meantime it's a moot point. Let Saddam comply fully with all the U.N. resolutions. Let him work cooperatively with the weapons inspections. Then we can have that debate at the United Nations. But we're not there yet.
JIM LEHRER: Mr. Peck, what is your analysis of why Saddam Hussein will not comply with the U.N. resolutions on the inspections?
EDWARD PECK: You know, Saddam Hussein has a feeling somehow deep down that we don't like him very much. And you may remember that when he went North last November I think it was, he exposed to the eyes and ears of the world a shatteringly ineffective UN-funded--pardon me--US-funded CIA operation which was in the country for the express purpose of overthrowing him. That alone--
JIM LEHRER: What do you mean? You'll have to refresh my memory on that. When you say he went North, what do you mean?
EDWARD PECK: The Barzani Kurds asked him to come help him fight the Talabani Kurds, who are backed by the Iranians. And then here was this CIA operation inside the sovereign borders of his country, which was there for the express purpose of overthrowing Saddam Hussein. He may begin to suspect that we don't like him, and may begin to suspect that he really can't trust us.
JIM LEHRER: So he would be--under that scenario he would be justified in saying we'll let you in--inspectors in here but no Americans because they're out to get me?
EDWARD PECK: Well, he certainly thinks so. Whether he's justified or not is another call. I don't think that he should be allowed to decide which inspectors come on but one of the forces that's driving him is the very distinct fear that we're out to get him. We've said as much, and I think he believes this.
JIM LEHRER: Does he have reason to believe that, Tom Friedman?
THOMAS FRIEDMAN: You know, Jim, this reminds me of a cartoon after the 1973 war of Golda Meir standing in a boxing ring over Anwar Sadat and Sadat is flat on his back and he's pointing up to Golda Meir, and he's saying, I want the ring; I want the belt; I want the prize money. There was a war. There was a war that Saddam Hussein started, a war against Kuwait in which he went in, took over their oil fields, and when it was clear he couldn't take them, he set all their oil fields ablaze, creating a huge ecological disaster there. He lost that war. The U.N. imposed certain conditions on him. Part of those conditions was this weapons inspection regime. Let's keep our focus on that. All right. If he is ready to comply with the weapons inspections regime, as Richard and Bob said, you know, I think then we can have a new debate, which is that this guy, okay, maybe he's had therapy, he's a new man, he's changed, he's reformed, he's ready to comply with the U.N., and let's have a debate about how far we want to push him. But we're not there yet. We're not there by any stretch of the imagination according to the--you know--UN independent weapons inspectors--of which there are, what, six American teams of about 160.
JIM LEHRER: Do you dispute that, Mr. Peck?
EDWARD PECK: Well, I'm concerned about the fact that we touched on another point and went past it, and that is a lot of our alleged allies are not backing us on this, and one of the reasons I think was touched on by some of your colleagues down there, and that is that America is engaged in a very blatant exercise of selective morality in which conquests and weapons and suppressions and all of that are bad if one person does it but not if another. Surely, one of the most classic uses of the--correct uses of the word "irony" is that we base the airplanes that we use to protect the Kurds in Northern Iraq in Turkey, and we're not concerned about the Kurds there, and you can't run around making noises about how you're concerned about the Kurds if you're only concerned about some Kurds. Everybody sees that as something different than the pure morality, which we would like to profess we are following.
JIM LEHRER: Quick response?
ROBERT PELLETREAU: He's awfully articulate, but I don't know what he said.
EDWARD PECK: I'll explain it to you later.
RICHARD BUTLER: Thank you.