Iraq: UN Inspections
With Karen DeYoung
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, Jan. 17, 2003; Noon ET
President Bush's effort to build international support for attacking Iraq may be helped by news that UN inspectors on Thursday found 11 empty chemical warheads at an ammunition storage area where they were inspecting bunkers built in the late 1990s, a U.N. spokesman reported.
Washington Post staff writer Karen DeYoung was online Friday, Jan. 17 at Noon ET, to discuss U.S./UN relations and the latest developments from Iraq.
The transcript follows.
Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.
Germantown, Md.: Secretary of State Colin Powell has from the beginning openly opposed the Administration's desire to take pre-emptive military action against the Iraqi government, and it was Powell who painted the United States into the futile U.N. inspection corner we now find ourselves in. Why hasn't the President already asked for Secretary Powell's resignation?
Karen DeYoung: I'm not aware of "open" opposition by Powell to pre-emptive action against Iraq. His argument inside the administration has been that such an action was much more likely to succeed, and minimize post-attack fallout, with international backing and participation--an argument also made by others inside and supported by major U.S. allies, including Britain. Although some of his senior advisers, including Vice President Cheney and the Pentagon's civilian leadership, believed that involvement with the United Nations would delay what they felt was the need for urgent action, both views were exhaustively conveyed to President Bush. The decision to go to the U.N. was his.
washingtonpost.com: Karen should be with us shortly.
Glenmont, Md.: Isn't it true that Arafat, Hamas and other terrorist groups are getting their weapons from Iraq via Syria?
Karen DeYoung: According to the U.S. government's list of designated terrorist organizations, readily accessible on government Web sites, Hamas receives outside assistance from "Palestinian expatriates, Iran and private benefactors in Saudi Arabia and other moderate Arab states" along with "some fundraising in Western Europe and North America." It lists only two groups that have received support from Iraq--the Abu Nidal organization and the Palestine Liberation Front, both of which were most active in terrorist activities in the 1980s.
Washington, D.C.: Ms. DeYoung:
I don't think this is grounds for support for war from the international community.
This is strictly an American intrusion war on a very small and powerless country and unfortunately now Mr. Bush has to move ahead with war to save face. And now that this North Korea thing as blown up in his face, Mr. Bush has to show power of some kind(?), if there is such a thing.
By the way, where is Mr. Putin (the other world power) -- quiet, waiting and probably being entertained.
This is sad, but our president has set himself up to be accepted and remembered as the the man who helped or destroyed this wonderful country (America).
Karen DeYoung: Not sure what the question is here. While Putin himself has been largely quiet on the issue lately, his United Nations ambassador and foreign minister have repeated the Russian government's opposition to early military action in Iraq several times this week, saying their government favors giving inspectors more time.
Philadelphia, Pa.: Administration spokesmen keep saying that the president "has not made a decision." Is there any substantive sense in which this can be said to be the truth?
Karen DeYoung: Although the administration has certainly escalated its military deployments to the region, and Pentagon officials have said that they expect all elements to be in place within the next month, I believe it is true that President Bush has not yet made a final decision whether or when to attack Iraq.
Millersville, Md.: If war does come and we are able to topple Saddam (which I think we will be able to do), what are we going to do about the Kurds desire to become their own country. They have desires to become a new country after post Saddam. Also what about the Influence that Iran has with the Shiites in the South. It seems that Iran, Turkey, the Kurds, and Shiites all have a desire to carve up portions of Iraq. this could lead to problems. How are we going to settle this problem.
Karen DeYoung: The "what comes after" question is one that weighs heavily on those favoring war against Iraq as well as those opposed to it. The administration has said unequivocally that it will maintain the territorial integrity of Iraq; it is in close contact with a range of Iraqi groups and has tried--fairly unsuccessfully thus far--to unify them. Although each nominally supports Iraq's continued unity, many want to influence the future balance of power. The southern Shiites, who far outnumber the currently-ruling Sunnis under Saddam Hussein, believe they should have a role proportionate to their size. They are certainly allied with Iran but so far have not mentioned having a separate country. Turkey is very much opposed to any "carving up" of Iraq, fearing that increased power for the Kurds would set off their own Kurdish minority.
London, England: Since Syria is clearly supporting Iraq, will they be next in the war on terrorism? Also, what about Yasser Arafat? Isn't he also a strong supporter of Saddam Hussein?
Karen DeYoung: I disagree with your premise. While Syria is opposed to increased U.S. influence in the region and active in supporting anti-Israel terrorist groups, it has thrown its weight behind pan-Arab efforts to force Iraq to comply with international disarmament demands. In terms of Arafat, although he unwisely gave nominal support to Iraq during the 1991 Gulf War, I believe Palestinians resent Saddam Hussein's current efforts to tie his cause to theirs.
Washington, D.C.: The other day, Donald Rumsfeld said the absence of a "smoking gun" may prove more of a material breach by Iraq for showing failure to cooperate. What exactly is the U.S. looking for? Can Iraq reasonably prove a negative (that they don't have WMD)?
Karen DeYoung: I think that Secretary Rumsfeld's somewhat contorted reasoning was a reflection of U.S. frustration with the pace--and to some extent, the existence--of new U.N. inspections and the fact that much of the international community has questioned the U.S. position.
Harrisburg, Pa.: What in your assessment does the finding of weapons in Iraq mean? Might this be a small piece of evidence that Iraq is hiding weapons? Or are they poor record keepers? Is it too early to fairly assess what this means in terms of whether Iraq has seriously violated the terms of weapons agreements?
Karen DeYoung: White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said this morning that the discovery of undeclared, empty chemical warheads was "troubling and serious." Indications are that it is unlikely this will provide convincing evidence of a "material breach" by Iraq, but I don't think anyone knows yet what it means. Possession of the munitions is certainly a technical violation of weapons prohibitions, and failure to declare them, as required, does not indicate Iraqi good faith. But indications that the artillery rockets are old, and that they contained no chemicals, may make them less than the "smoking gun" being sought.
Bethesda, Md.: Is anybody controlling Blix or is he on his own now?
Karen DeYoung: Hans Blix is an international bureaucrat, answerable to all 15 countries of the U.N. Security Council. Although some individual countries may take issue with the pace or direction of UNMOVIC efforts, Blix is sticking very closely to the instructions the council as a whole has given him.
Chatham, Va.: How credible do your sources believe are the reports that other Arab countries are actively seeking a Saddam-in-exile solution? Seems to me unlikely other than perhaps a U.S. tactic meant to encourage a coup.
Karen DeYoung: Not very credible. Arab diplomats have pointed out that no country is likely to welcome Saddam Hussein, as he would arrive with a target on his back and bring with him more trouble than any of them wants, regardless of their political persuasions. In a Washington Post interview last week with Libyan leader Qaddafi, whose country has been mentioned as a possible exile site, Qaddafi said he was absolutely certain Saddam Hussein would never leave Iraq but would fight to the end.
Pickens, S.C.: How seriously do you feel The Saudis are in offering to support a coup to topple Saddam from within. Do you feel that this is more than just a gesture to slow down the race to war in the region?
Karen DeYoung: This was a report this week by Time Magazine. It certainly would solve a lot of problems (although it might cause additional ones, depending on who took over and what happened the next day). I don't know who Time's sources where; it's not a scenario I've heard.
washingtonpost.com: Q&A: Moammar Gaddafi, (Post, Jan. 12)
Long Beach, Calif.: Assuming that cooperation is something that is negotiated for, and not simply asked for, do you think Bush will be viewed as a shrewd President? It looks to me like he overpaid Pakistan for their cynical "help", and is all too willing to make concessions in order to get approval of his "pax americana" routine. Your thoughts on the costs of complicity?
Karen DeYoung: There is nothing much new in President Bush's willingness to cooperate with governments he believes will be useful in achieving larger aims. It was a hallmark of the Cold War, and let's not forget our World War II alliance with the Soviet Union. Such alliances tend to cause later problems or eventually fall apart, but they have historically been seen as useful in achieving tactical goals.
Vienna, Va.: Wondering if you would comment on the President's comment: "...and that's how I feel about timetables."
I was taken aback by his statement. It was like something that a child would say. Or even more severe, like something a dictator would say. He makes his battles personal: Saddam, Osama... but only when they have no real power base. When dealing with a real power, he initially talks tough, but then always backs down (North Korea and the spy plane incident with China). Not a good presentation of leadership I feel.
Could it be that our leadership is just making a bad situation worse? I read that Afghanistan is once again a drug-traffic center complete with arms shipments and guerilla training.
Karen DeYoung: Part of the administration's strategy vis a vis Iraq has been to keep Saddam Hussein guessing, something that is undermined by setting public timetables. On your larger question, President Bush has made it clear that he feels personally about leaders such as Hussein and North Korea's Kim Il Jong in addition to the threats he feels they pose toward this country. Afghanistan is certainly back into the opium cultivation and heroin export business, although the United States and other governments are actually working hard to stop it.
© Copyright 2003 The Washington Post Company