REVIEW: Article

Interview by Bob Schieffer and Gloria Borger of CBS’ Face the Nation

Mr. Schieffer: Good morning, again. The Secretary of State is in the studio with us. Mr. Secretary, thank you so much. We’ll get right to it. The Middle East seems worse than ever, once again. You’re sending your man, General Zinni, back out to the region. What are you telling him to do?  Does he have a plan?  Is he just going to try to get the violence stopped?  What do you expect from him? 

Secretary Powell: General Zinni is going out with a specific mission, and that is to get both sides to agree to enter the Tenet work plan and to participate in the execution of the Tenet work plan. The Tenet work plan is part of our long-range process of getting to the Mitchell process, and that will get us into negotiations, negotiations that ultimately will lead to discussions on the basis of United Nations (UN) Resolutions 242 and 338.*

So we have a vision. We have a plan to solve this crisis. But it begins with ending the violence. And what General Zinni is going to do is to get both sides together, sit them down, get security conversations to begin, get the violence down. But not just talk back and forth. Do it in the framework of the Tenet plan. 

We’re sending him back at this time because both sides indicated receptivity to a visit by General Zinni at this point. He’s going to stay in the region and fight his way through this. We’re not going to allow acts of violence to stop General Zinni from doing his work. And I’m pleased that Prime Minister Sharon, a couple of days ago, indicated that his requirement for days of quiet being set aside so that we can get this going. I hope that this is the beginning of the end to this violence. 

But the violence continues. It’s horrible. I condemn the acts of violence that were perpetrated yesterday against innocent Israeli citizens. I also have to be concerned about some of the responses from the Israeli side. I know that they are executing acts of self-defense; they are under attack. But at the same time, I think we have to be careful about situations where humanitarian or Red Cross or Red Crescent or doctors and people like that are injured in the course of doing their work.

So this is the time for both sides to exercise maximum restraint in order to make sure that General Zinni can come in with some hopeful circumstances.

Mr. Schieffer:  Now let me just kind of go through a little explanation here. When you say the Tenet plan, this is a series of steps to dial back the violence that was kind of worked out by Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director Tenet when he was out there.

Secretary Powell: Exactly.

Mr. Schieffer: And the Mitchell Plan you’re talking about, this is the plan that George Mitchell, the former Senate Democratic leader, had worked out some time back.  So you’re going to try to work within the framework of those two plans.

Let me move to something else, Mr. Secretary, that has to do with that region. As you well know, a top-secret policy paper was leaked to the Los Angeles Times this week.  It outlines our nuclear strategy, and, among other things, it says that nuclear weapons would be an option in any kind of a confrontation with—it lists Russia, with China. It also lists Iraq.

What can you tell us about that?  And are nuclear weapons on the table should it come to a showdown with Saddam Hussein? 

Secretary Powell:  Let’s put this in context.

Mr. Schieffer:  Okay.

Secretary Powell: I think there is less than meets the eye, and less than meets the headline, with respect to this story. We are always reviewing our options—military options, conven­tional weapons, nuclear weapons. We’re always reviewing our diplomatic and economic and political options. And one of the things we are required to do by Congress is to make a review of our nuclear weapons posture, and this particular study took note of two important developments since the last study was done.

One, the Soviet Union is gone and Russia has fundamentally changed with respect to its relationship with the United States (US). President Bush took note of this even before he came into office, saying we’re going to reduce the number of nuclear weapons that we keep in our inventory because Russia has changed. And in the first year of his Administration, Russia clearly is becoming a friend and not an adversary, and we hope to lock in with the Russians a reduced number of nuclear weapons that we keep in our force structure.

The other development that this study took into account is that there are nations out there developing weapons of mass destruction.  And prudent planners have to give some consideration as to the range of options the President should have available to him to deal with those kinds of threats. Right now, today, not a single nation on the face of the earth is being targeted by an American nuclear weapon on a day-to-day basis. We just don’t do that. And so this is prudent military planning, and it’s the kind of planning I think the American people would expect. 

There is also an aspect of the story saying we’re getting ready to develop new nuclear weapons. We are not. What we are looking at, and what we have tasked the Pentagon to do, is to see whether or not within our lowered inventory levels we might want to modify or update or change some of the weapons in our inventory to make them more effective. But we are not developing brand new nuclear weapons, and we are not planning to undergo any testing. So I want to make sure we don’t get the international community upset by what is essentially sound conceptual planning on the part of the Administration. 

Mr. Schieffer: But let me ask you just about another part of this, because I remember that before the United States went to war with Iraq, the last thing that the Bush Administration did was to send the Secretary of State, Jim Baker, to Iraq and to say to Saddam Hussein we want you to know that nuclear weapons are an option. He didn’t say we’re going to use them. He said we’re not going to take that option off the table. Are we saying the same thing?

Secretary Powell: I was in the Administration as that Administration’s Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and what Jim Baker did, and what we all did, was to make it clear to the Iraqis that the President of the United States and the American people had a full range of options available to them. Obviously a full range of options goes  from  an  M-16 rifle to a nuclear device. You don’t have to—

Mr. Schieffer:  Is that still the policy?

Secretary Powell:  Yes, the President has a full range of options available to him. But we are not looking for a war, and it seems most unlikely that, among all the options we have, this is an option we would have to exercise in any foreseeable way that I can understand it. 

But I think it is very useful for people to know that there is a full range of options. This is not new to this Administration.  The previous Administration made the same point in a declaratory statement that Secretary Bill Perry, during the Clinton Administration, put out and which still remains US policy. 

But the headlines suggesting that somehow we are now targeting specific individual countries, whereas all that study said, as reported in the newspapers, is that this class of nations—Iran, Iraq, Syria, North Korea—are developing the kinds of weapons of mass destruction that should be troubling to all of us.  And we have said this for many, many years—previous Administrations and this Administration—and it is prudent for the American President and for our Department of Defense to examine all the options that are going to be available to an American President as he deals with the threats that are out there in the world. 

Ms. Borger: A couple of follow-ups here to Bob’s questions, Mr. Secretary. First of all, does this represent a change in our nuclear first-strike policy? 

Secretary Powell: No. Our nuclear first-strike—which—you have to be a little more precise, so I can be precise.

Ms. Borger:  Well, you can—why don’t you say does it—

Secretary Powell: Well, there are two aspects to this. The United States has never said we would not strike first against some nation that possesses nuclear weapons. It’s an important point because we think it is best for any potential adversary out there to have uncertainty in his calculus. But we have also said, as a declaratory statement—this gets a little tricky—but for those nations that are non-nuclear possessing nations, we would have no intention of fighting them with nuclear weapons unless a certain set of circumstances came into place where they aligned themselves with nations that might have nuclear weapons, or get into weapons of mass destruction.

So there is a theology associated with all of this, but you know we have a range of military options that can be used to defend the nation and defend our interests and our allies around the world, and we should not get all carried away with some sense that the United States is planning to use nuclear weapons in some contingency that is coming up in the near future. It is not the case. What the Pentagon has done with this study is sound military conceptual planning, and the President will take that planning and he will give his directions as to how to proceed. 

Ms. Borger: I’d like to go back to the Middle East for a moment, if I might. There is an Arab summit coming up in Beirut at the end of this month. Can you tell us what you would like to see coming out of that summit? 

Secretary Powell: Well, I am encouraged by the fact that the Arab foreign ministers are meeting now, over the last several days, and there is consensus growing around the idea of the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Crown Prince Abdullah, for this vision that he presented to The New York Times a week or so ago that all of the Arab nations should show a willingness to recognize Israel’s right to exist and normalize relations with Israel, meaning diplomatic relations, in response for peace and in response to some settlement of the borders between Israel and a new state that we would call Palestine.  And the President has said that is his vision as well.*

Now, the way the Crown Prince stated the nature of that boundary is going to be a subject of intense discussion and debate, but I would be very pleased if, when the Arab League met at the end of the month, they would put some texture to the Crown Prince’s vision.

Ms. Borger:  Do you think that Israel should lift the travel ban on Yasser Arafat so that he can attend this meeting? 

Secretary Powell: I think that Prime Minister Sharon should give this serious consideration. As we get closer to the time of the summit, as you know, there was great concern on the part of the Prime Minister over the murder of Minister Zeevi. Some of the individuals who have been identified as being responsible have been arrested, and I hope that as we move forward over the next week or two before the summit, the Prime Minister can take a look at the situation and make a judgment as to whether it serves his interest or serves the interest of getting this crisis behind us to let Mr. Arafat attend the summit. But it is not something we are going to deal with in the next day or two.

Mr. Schieffer: All right, let’s take a break here. We’ll come back in a minute and talk more about this, and also about the war in Afghanistan, in just a moment.

Mr. Schieffer: And we’re back again with the Secretary of State. Mr. Secretary, before we go to Afghanistan, let’s talk a little bit more about Iraq. This whole business of inspections, getting Iraq opened back up. There were meetings at the United Nations about this.  How is that coming along, and where do you think it’s going? 

Secretary Powell: Well, the Iraqi Foreign Minister came to New York and spoke to Secretary-General Kofi Annan and to Hans Blix, the gentleman who would actually run the inspection program.  And I know that Kofi Annan said to the Iraqis these have to be the right kinds of inspections, and you can’t put conditions on what our inspectors have to do.  President Bush has repeatedly called for the inspectors to go back in. The Iraqis heard, I think, the message clearly from the Secretary-General, and I think they’ll be coming back for another meeting with the Secretary-General in April.  And we’ll see what happens.

Mr. Schieffer:  Well, do you have any idea that they would go along with this, or that they would—

Secretary Powell:  I don’t know what they will do. It’s hard to predict what the Iraqis will do. But the one thing I am absolutely sure of is that we will not bend the stan­dards, we will not step back, we will not allow them to try to drag us into some regime where these inspectors are not able to go where they have to go when they have to go to see whatever it is they believe is suspicious. We cannot accept that kind of change to the inspection regime.

If the Iraqis are not doing this, and they say they are not developing weapons of mass destruction, then let the inspectors in. Let the inspectors in to verify it. They can see what’s happening overtly and they can try to find out what the Iraqis may have put underground as well. 

Mr. Schieffer:  Well, is there a deadline? 

Secretary Powell:  No, these UN Resolutions—

Mr. Schieffer:  I mean, do we see a deadline? 

Secretary Powell: These UN Resolutions will continue in effect. The Oil-for-Food program and the sanctions will remain against the Iraqis until they comply with the demand of the international community that they account for the weapons of mass destruction and the programs that they had underway at the end of the Gulf War, and which we are quite sure they have continued. They say they haven’t. If they haven’t, let the inspectors in.

Ms. Borger: Just to clarify for a moment what you’re saying here, are you saying complete, unfettered inspections, 24/7, any time we want, no prior notification?

Secretary Powell: I think that’s the way you conduct an inspection with this kind of regime. But of course Dr. Blix, Hans Blix, will have his set of standards. I’ve given you what I think is the right way to go about it.

Mr. Schieffer: Let’s talk a little bit about Afghanistan. How is this current opera­tion going? How is the war overall going? 

Secretary Powell: Well, I think the war overall is going well. When you look at the objectives we’ve set for ourselves, we’ve broken the Taliban, we’ve broken al-Qaeda, we have put in place a new government, an Interim Authority, and we are starting now to help that Interim Authority actually govern the country and provide for the people. 

At the same time, as we said at the very beginning, there are continuing problems. We have to make sure that we dig out all of the remaining al-Qaeda and Taliban, and this battle that you’ve been watching for the last week or two essentially is doing that. It will continue for a while longer—I don’t know how many more days—but it sounds like and seems like we now have the upper hand and our troops are mopping up and going through these cave complexes and looking for soldiers.

Mr. Schieffer: So you think this is a mop-up operation that’s going on now?

Secretary Powell: Well, I think I would characterize it that way. I can’t say that it might not turn back into a battle if they run into a pocket of resistance, but it is an operation that will continue for some time. I don’t want to give a number of days because I’ll leave that to the Pentagon. But I’m very proud of the way our troops have handled this. We had some casualties initially; we adjusted quickly with our Afghan allies. 

And by the way, so many other allies were in there with us from a variety of other nations, all working together, determined to make sure that al-Qaeda does not regenerate inside of Afghanistan and that the Taliban doesn’t regenerate, and that we give the people of Afghanistan hope for a better future.

Ms. Borger: Well, what about in Pakistan?  Can you foresee the US military going into Pakistan to hunt down—some people say there were 5,000 al-Qaeda and Taliban in Pakistan.

Secretary Powell: I don’t know how many al-Qaeda or Taliban are in Pakistan. I don’t anticipate troop movements into Pakistan on the part of the United States armed forces. We do have people in Pakistan working with Pakistani authorities. President Musharraf has been very forthcoming, has dedicated some of his troops to this mission as well.  And so I think we have a good relationship with Pakistan and the Pakistanis are quite capable of controlling their terrain.

Mr. Schieffer:  Mr. Secretary, does the fact that the President imposed this tariff on imported steel, has that had any kind of an impact on the coalition of countries that have come together to fight this war?

Secretary Powell: No, the coalition remains together and remains strong. Obviously there was some disappointment on the part of some of our friends with what the President did with steel imports, but the President had to comply with the law and he believed he had an obligation under the law to take some actions to give our steel industry some breathing space for a couple of years in order to make adjustments that would make it more competitive. And I hope our friends, even those who are very disappointed by our action, will understand the necessity for that action.

Ms. Borger: Mr. Secretary, as you know, the Vice President, as you mentioned, has left for the Middle East today. Doesn’t all of this news coming out of Israel, the news about the Defense Department report that we were just talking about nuclear weapons, doesn’t this complicate his trip to a great degree?

Secretary Powell: Well, it gives him other things to talk about that he might not have planned to talk about. But Vice President Cheney understands these nuclear issues very, very well, having been a former Secretary of Defense, and he will put it in context and in perspective so that it is not a disturbing feature of his discussions or his trip. I think that part will be dealt with.

The violence in the Middle East, the Vice President will talk to this at every stop. He will consult with all of our moderate Arab friends and with our friends in Great Britain as well. And I hope that by the time he gets there General Zinni will have been on the ground for a few days and will have had an opportunity to see if we can get something going.

But remember, General Zinni is going not just to talk; he’s going to help the two sides get into the Tenet work plan, something both of them have agreed to do previously. And the only reason for doing the Tenet work plan is to get to the Mitchell process.  It’s a way of getting into the process so that they can start to have confidence in one another again. And the only reason for getting into the Mitchell process is to get to the political solution at the end of it: negotiations.

Mr. Schieffer: What is the first step of the Tenet work plan?

Secretary Powell: The first step is to lay out a series of actions both sides will take to get the violence under control. And we’re even prepared to send additional American monitors in with General Zinni to start monitoring actions that the sides are taking—can the two sets of security forces, on the Israeli side and the Palestinian side, start working with one another.

But all of this will bear no fruit whatsoever if Chairman Arafat does not do everything in his power to bring the terrorists under control and to use his powerful voice as the leader of the Palestinian people to tell his people this gets us nowhere, this kind of violence, this kind of terrorism of the kind we have seen in recent days, does nothing but destroy our vision for a Palestinian state.

Mr. Schieffer: Let me just ask you. You said we are willing to send in more monitors. What does that mean? A large force? How many people? 

Secretary Powell: A small—we haven’t decided on a number, but it’s always been there. It is part of the Tenet work plan as our work progresses, the United States is willing to send in some monitors to assist in watching the situation and giving some confidence to both sides and sort of just helping keep the process moving. It’s not news. It’s something that was announced last year at the Group of Eight (G-8) summit meeting.

Ms. Borger:  Are they receptive to this idea?

Secretary Powell: Yes, these are American monitors initially in some small number. Maybe it will grow over time. Both sides are receptive. And of course the Palestinians have always wanted international monitors to come in, but I think that Prime Minister Sharon is quite comfortable with some number of American monitors. That’s been out there for some time. 

Mr. Schieffer: All right. Well, we’ll stop there. Thank you so much, Mr. Secretary, for being with us.

Secretary Powell: Thank you, Bob, Gloria.*

* Editor’s Note: United Nations Resolution 242 (1967) states in part, “The Security Council…affirms that the fulfillment of Charter principles requires the establishment of a just and lasting peace in the Middle East which should include the application of both the following principles: (i) Withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict; (ii) Termination of all claims or states of belligerency and respect for and acknowledgement of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every State in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force….”

United Nations Resolution 338 (1973) states in part, “The Security Council…calls upon all parties to present fighting to cease all firing and terminate all military activity immediately…[and] to start immediately after the cease-fire the implementation of Security Council Resolution 242 (1967) in all its parts...[and] decides that, immediately and concurrently with the cease-fire, negotiations start between the parties concerned under appropriate auspices aimed at establishing a just and durable peace in the Middle East.”

* Editor’s Note: The New York Times of March 14, 2002, reported that on March 12, 2002, the United Nations Security Council by a vote of 14 to 0 (with one abstention) passed Resolution 1397, the “US-sponsored measure…on the Middle East.” Resolution 1397 states in part, “The Security Council…affirming a vision of a region where two states, Israel and Palestine, live side by side within secure and recognized borders…demands immediate cessation of all acts of violence…[and] calls upon the Israeli and Palestinian sides and their leaders to cooperate in the implementation of the Tenet work plan and Mitchell Report recommendations with the aim of resuming negotiations on a political settlement….”

* Editor’s Note: This interview was conducted on March 10, 2002.

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Secretary of State