Peter Willetts, Professor of Global Politics
Documents and Speeches on the Crisis over Iraq
This collection is intended to be a useful archive of important primary materials. The texts of the documents has not been amended, but usually some copy-editing of the lay-out has been done.
Downloaded from the website of the US Department of State, International Information Programs, page http://usinfo.state.gov/topical/pol/terror/02110809.htm on 13 November 2002.
08 November 2002
Senior U.S. Officials Brief on U.N. Resolution to Disarm Iraq
Say resolve of U.S. supported by the international community
The Iraq disarmament resolution, approved unanimously November 8 by the 15 members of the U.N. Security Council, including Syria, gives the Saddam Hussein regime one last chance to disarm, senior administration officials said at a November 8 White House briefing on the resolution, and on events leading up to the vote.
"The resolve of the United States has been supported by the Security Council's unanimity of purpose. The Council has spoken with one voice, and its message is clear. As the President said today, one way or another, the Iraqi regime will be disarmed," one senior official said.
"And if disarmament does not take place, (if) the regime does not change its stripes, so to speak, and refuses to cooperate, then there will be a regime change by force."
"The United States believes that after all Saddam has done, we have to have really a zero-tolerance view" that official said.
"It is Iraq's obligation now to cooperate. And when you start getting indications that the Iraqis are cheating here or deceiving here or shaving here or there, what you have is a clear indication that they don't intend to cooperate. And that is the point at which we would say that they're in material breach," a senior official said.
The officials pointed out that on September 12, in a speech to the United Nations General Assembly, President Bush called on the world organization to live up to its responsibilities and to its founding purpose.
"Today, the United Nations Security Council answered that call," one of the officials said.
All of President Bush's "principled lines ... have been met," that official added, but at the same time, the Bush administration has shown that it can work with the international community.
"(I)t's a powerful signal to Iraq, but ... to the world as well, about this president's willingness to work with members of the (international) community."
Asked if under the resolution the United States could begin a military operation against a non-compliant Iraq without first getting Security Council approval, a senior administration official said "one of the principles imbedded in all of our negotiations over the past seven weeks was that the President ultimately retains his authority to act in the interest of the American people.
"And the compromise we came up with was that in the face of new violations, those violations will be referred to the Security Council for their consideration as to what they want to do with respect to the seriousness and how to cause Iraq to come into compliance," that official said.
"And we are obliged to participate in that debate and to forward such violations to the Security Council. But there is no doubt that in that deliberation within the Security Council, the president has given up none of his ability, his authority to act to implement these resolutions or to protect the United States working with like-minded nations."
There is a precedent for this kind of operation, one of the officials said, pointing to the Kosovo campaign "where you didn't get a Security Council resolution, but like-minded nations came together."
Following is the White House transcript of the background briefing:
The White House
Mr. McCormack: Good morning, everybody. We have a background briefing with not one, but two, senior administration officials. They're here to talk this morning about the U.N. resolution that passed 15-0. So these remarks are on background, attribution as senior administration officials.
Senior Administration Official: On September 12th, the President called on the United Nations to live up to its responsibilities and to its founding purpose. Today, the United Nations Security Council answered that call.
The resolve of the United States has been supported by the Security Council's unanimity of purpose. The Council has spoken with one voice, and its message is clear. As the President said today, one way or another, the Iraqi regime will be disarmed.
Today's resolution, jointly sponsored by the United Nations -- I'm sorry, the United States and the United Kingdom, makes clear that Iraq remains in material breach of its obligations to the international community. It gives the Iraqi regime a final chance to comply. It charts a way forward for the international community to ensure Iraqi compliance through inspections. And it puts the Iraqi regime on notice that it will face serious consequences if it does not comply.
Senior Administration Official: This all really flows from a strategic decision the President made some time ago, and that was we would not step away from this problem, Iraq had to be disarmed, one way or another.
And over the course of the summer, but especially through August, in consultations with his national security team, the President made a judgment that since this was an affront not just to the United States, but to the international community, we should take the problem to the international community. And as my colleague just noted, that's what the President did on the 12th of September at his speech before the General Assembly in New York.
There were three elements really in that speech and those three elements drove all of the negotiations that we had been involved in for the past seven weeks. One, a clear statement of the problem, the indictment against the Iraqi regime and against Saddam Hussein, repeated violations over 11 years of U.N. resolutions.
Secondly, the President laid out what would have to be done to get Iraq out of violation or for Iraq to get itself out of violation, a strong inspection regime and satisfaction on the various resolutions.
And then the third element, which made this effort different from all other efforts, there had to be consequences. If he violated this resolution this time, there had to be consequences, serious consequences, and the President left no doubt what those consequences would be: a military operation to get rid of the weapons of mass destruction and to change the regime.
Those were the three elements that we have been using ever since the 12th of September to bring us to the point we are at today.
We began our discussions with our Security Council colleagues by putting down a strong resolution, a draft resolution -- not tabling it, but beginning a discussion on these three elements in the strongest terms. And then, over a period of seven weeks, working with our United Kingdom colleagues, our French, Russian, Chinese colleagues and French colleagues within the permanent membership, we slowly but surely adjusted our position in accordance with what we heard from others.
This was a situation where the President instructed us to work with the others, never moving away from our principles, never moving away from these three elements. But, at the same time, trying to accommodate the views of others. This, at some times, became an excruciatingly difficult task as we first put the British into the basket with us, and then slowly all of the others.
We tabled a final resolution on Wednesday past, for consideration two days ago. By then we were reasonably sure we had the votes for it in order to pass it, but we were interested in getting as many votes as we could for the resolution. And trying to get all of the permanent members not only to not veto it, but also not to abstain, to be for it.
And so through yesterday afternoon, we were working very closely with the permanent members, as well as the elected members of the Security Council, and I'm very pleased that we got all 15 members of the Security Council to vote for the resolution just a little while ago.
The last three votes to come in really were the French yesterday afternoon. The President spoke to President Chirac a little earlier in the day. I had spoken to Foreign Minister de Villepin, and we solved the last outstanding problem with respect to French concerns. And this morning, just before -- a little after 9:00 a.m., the Russian Foreign Minister contacted me and said that they would be voting yes.
And then just as Ambassador Negroponte was going into the Council chamber, we still were not sure about the Syrian vote. But he got word at that point, and he called me immediately -- as he's walking down the hallway that you all photographed, watching him walk down the hallway -- he called me to say we had the Syrian vote, and that was 15-0. And I very delightedly called Dr. Rice, who advised the President that we had gotten a pretty good outcome on this vote.
The real test now is what happens in the future. And I think the President made it clear and the Secretary General made it clear that it is cooperation with Iraq that the international community is looking for. If they cooperate, then the inspectors can do their job. If they don't cooperate, then the inspectors are going to be frustrated. And so that's what we'll be looking for, and that will be the test.
I think all of the President's principled lines that we put out there have been met. But I think at the same time we show that we are willing to work with the international community to have the kind of result we saw today, where the whole community comes together on this issue. And I think it's a powerful signal to Iraq, but I think to the world as well, about this President's willingness to work with members of the community.
I'll stop at that point and take your questions.
Question: Thank you. First, do you interpret the resolution to establish a prerequisite, an absolute prerequisite that before any military attack can be launched to disarm Saddam, the United States and her friends and allies must go back to the United Nations for a reassessment, a debate, another vote? Is that a prerequisite, or can you go back -- can you launch a military campaign without that reassessment?
And, second, who lobbied the Syrians and what did they say to them to get their vote?
Senior Administration Official: One of the principles imbedded in all of our negotiations over the past seven weeks was that the President ultimately retains his authority to act in the interest of the American people. And the compromise we came up with was that in the face of new violations, those violations will be referred to the Security Council for their consideration as to what they want to do with respect to the seriousness and how to cause Iraq to come into compliance.
And we are obliged to participate in that debate and to forward such violations to the Security Council. But there is no doubt that in that deliberation within the Security Council, the President has given up none of his ability, his authority to act to implement these resolutions or to protect the United States working with like-minded nations.
And there is a precedent for this kind of operation. It was a Kosovo precedent I can make reference to, where you didn't get a Security Council resolution, but like-minded nations came together. We never gave up any of the President's authority and there is no member of the Council who is confused on this point.
With respect to Syria, I think Syria just ultimately saw where their interests were in this matter. All of my colleagues among the permanent members of the Security Council talked to the Syrians. The Secretary General talked to the Syrians. I sent an oral message to the Syrian Foreign Minister yesterday. They indicated a desire to delay the vote, but we saw no need to delay the vote. We thought that this was the time to act and to send a powerful message to the Iraqis.
Q: Sir, the President said the world must not lapse into unproductive debates about whether specific instances of Iraqi noncompliance are serious. What's he talking about here? What's the danger here?
Senior Administration Official: If we see a pattern of noncompliance, if it is clear they are going to try to do what they have done in the past and frustrate the United Nations and frustrate the inspectors and try to escape from the will of the international community and that gets reported back to the Security Council, it is time for the Security Council to decide what to do about that, not get into a prolonged discussion as to whether they did or they didn't, it's right, it's wrong, let's take a look at Dr. Blix's report a little more. It would be time at that moment for the Security Council to act.
Let me say a word, if I may, about the inspection regime. A lot of time and effort went into designing this new inspection regime. It is different than what UNSCOM was operating under. And we took the time to sit with Dr. Blix and Mr. ElBaradei and to see what they needed, how can we help them, how can we enhance them, and how can we show that we are supporting their efforts? And I think we have created a good relationship and made it clear to them that it is not their responsibility as to whether there will be a conflict or not. It is their responsibility to go find the truth and tell the Council what they have learned from their investigations.
Senior Administration Official: Just on this point, the United States believes that after all Saddam has done, we have to have really a zero-tolerance view. And when the President said, violations are serious because the Iraqis with this long pattern engage in them, so they are by definition serious, he meant that is not really -- as my colleague said -- the responsibility of the inspectors to go hunting and pecking around the country trying to find something in a country the size of Iraq. It is Iraq's obligation now to cooperate. And when you start getting indications that the Iraqis are cheating here or deceiving here or shaving here or there, what you have is a clear indication that they don't intend to cooperate. And that is the point at which we would say that they're in material breach.
Q: Just a couple of questions, it gets it a little bit into the arcana here. In Paragraph 4, where the word "or," between 11 and 12 was changed to the word "and," that the French said that they saw that taken together as meaning that only Blix and ElBaradei could determine what was a material breach. Do you read it that way? And then I just have one other question.
Senior Administration Official: No, it certainly means that Blix -- neither Blix nor ElBaradei, nor we, determine a material breach. The facts determine that is a material breach. And that's the way OP-4 is written. Violations with respect to the declarations, falsifying the declarations or failure to cooperate the inspectors, that fact in itself, the way OP-4 is worded, constitutes a material breach, which then gets reported to the Council, either by Blix or ElBaradei, or as was noted by Ambassador Negroponte in his explanation of vote, any member -- not just at the Security Council -- any member of the United Nations seeing such a violation constituting a material breach can say to the Council, I want to have a meeting under OP-12.
And so there was a great deal of discussion about that wording, and I don't think that the French would disagree with the formulation I just gave you.
Q: The other question I had was where are we with regime change? Tony Blair said just a few minutes ago that if Saddam acts in a just fashion and comes clean with his weapons and complies with the resolution, we would be just to him. You have also said some other things in the past, but then we heard just about a week and a half ago that we're preparing war crimes charges against Saddam Hussein in any eventuality. So where are we with all of that?
Senior Administration Official: I think we have all been speaking consistently on the subject, me, the President and Prime Minister Blair. The origin of regime change is in 1998, when he refused to cooperate with the inspectors and the policy was determined by the previous administration, and by the Congress, that regime change was obviously going to be the only way to get him to disarm.
And now we are giving him one last chance to disarm. And if disarmament does not take place, the regime does not change its stripes, so to speak, and refuses to cooperate, then there will be a regime change by force.
Q: But will he be off the hook for war crimes if he comes clean?
Senior Administration Official: No.
Senior Administration Official: If you remember, there are other U.N. resolutions. And those deal with things like his crimes against his own people, his crimes against his neighbors, his use in the past of weapons of mass destruction. The policy of the United States has been regime change, as my colleague said, because it was the only way to get to a regime that could actually bring peace and stability in the region.
But it was also because we recognized that if this regime -- as the President said in his speech at the U.N., if the Iraqi regime did everything that it needed to do to comply with all of the U.N. resolutions, it would be a changed regime. There is no doubt that you would not have that regime under these circumstances in place. But regime change remains the policy of the United States. The key to this resolution, though, is to give this regime one last chance to comply. Of course there is always that chance. One has to be skeptical until you -- until he demonstrates.
Q: Two questions. First, the President made brief reference to intelligence sharing with the inspectors. Can you tell us a little bit about how you expect that to work? Are you identifying for them what might be the hardest, most difficult, biggest sites at the beginning, things that you would suggest are in priority order? How is this working? And then I have a follow up that has to do with --
Senior Administration Official: I'd rather not get into the details of what we might or might not be providing to the inspection team for their use, for obvious reasons. But you can be sure that we are going to try to do everything we can. And the resolution calls for all members of the United Nations to do everything they can to enhance Dr. Blix's and Mr. ElBaradei's ability to do their job. And the tactics of it, as to where they go and how they start and what they might do, I think I'd rather not comment on.
Q: Can you go as far as to say whether there is a priority order in the U.S. mind of the most important sites --
Senior Administration Official: We have ideas, and they have ideas. I think as a result of the many conversations we've had with them, the ideas are converging as to how someone would go about this task, and go about it in a way so that it cannot be frustrated in the way that it's been frustrated in the past by the Iraqis.
Q: On the regime change issue that you were both discussing a moment ago, if it is required that the United States and its allies go in and effect a regime change, what is the period of time, in your initial planning, that you think would be required for American forces to stay there, find all the weapons of mass destruction -- clearly you wouldn't want to leave before all that happened -- stabilize the government. Over what -- are we talking months, years here, what's --
Senior Administration Official: David, I really can't answer that question or get into the subject right now. Right now we're focusing on this resolution, the inspectors going in. And obviously, because we think we know a little bit about how to plan for such contingencies, a lot of things are being looked at.
What really changes that thinking today is this resolution bringing the international community to bear on this problem. And it would not be just a U.S. problem, and I think that's clear from the stance the international community took today.
Q: During these excruciating negotiations, was there a turning point or several turning points where you realized we were on the way to a good majority in the Council of what was adamant? In particular, did your newly refined language on the meaning of regime change that we heard over the past several weeks, did that play an important role in these negotiations? Because, of course, others at the beginning expressed some alarm that that was --
Senior Administration Official: No, not really. There were a number of turning points in this rather difficult discussion and set of negotiations. Early on, we realized that we had to accommodate the concerns about how you get to the all-necessary-means part of it, and we found a way to do that in what was then called OP-10, bringing it to the Council, but in a way that did not foreclose what we might do or remove any of the President's options.
Then there was another long debate about the simple term "material breach." In the course of the discussion, some only wanted to talk about material breaches in the past and not in the present. We won that argument about 10 days ago; if it's a material breach in the past and it hasn't been cleared up, it still exists, it is still a material breach.
And then last weekend, we solved one of the more vexing problems about characterizing material breaches flowing from this resolution. And we were able to get agreement with our friends last weekend -- about 20 minutes before my daughter's wedding, if you want a little color -- (laughter) -- before I shut the cell phone off to go down the aisle -- we got an agreement with a key ally that we would not make material breach a judgment of the Council. But material breach from this resolution would be something that occurs simply from the facts.
If it's a violation, it's a material breach. And we have precedent in that, if you go back to old U.N. Resolution 707; it has the same context. Facts determine that it's a material breach, not a judgment of the Council, or a judgment of Blix.
Q: You were on the phone with the French Foreign Minister at that point?
Senior Administration Official: Yes, yes, yes.
Q: You said, if we see a pattern of noncompliance. And you talked about indications of cheating. I think a lot of people are wondering, is it a single omission or error or act of deceit or discovery by weapons inspectors, or is it a pattern and picture?
Senior Administration Official: Look, we will know rather quickly whether or not they are cooperating. And I think Dr. Blix and Mr. ElBaradei are particularly sensitive to this point. They are -- they have no desire to go over there and play any of the rope-a-dope games that have been played previously.
So the United States is not poised, looking for the first comma out of place, and we're not going to sit back and wait until we see day after day, week after week of violation. I think it will become clear early on whether or not Iraq tends to cooperate or not, and we will take evidence of failure to cooperate or willingness to cooperate right to the Council.
Q: And then just to follow up, has there been an increase in confidence within the administration and on the part of the President that a tough inspections regime can not only disarm Iraq but perhaps change the nature of the regime by putting enough pressure on it that it might break? And in that context, do you read any of the recent activity that Saddam Hussein has done, giving interviews for the first time in a while, releasing prisoners, as evidence of the impact of the kind of pressure that the international community --
Senior Administration Official: All of those things are possibilities, but I can't say that we have based our strategy on that. Any one of those things could happen. Our focus has been disarmament. This regime is going to be disarmed, one way or the other, now. Fifteen members of the Security Council unanimously joined in that today. I have been in touch already today with members of the Arab League who -- they're meeting this weekend, and I'm encouraging them to give a strong signal of support to this resolution so that, as Saddam Hussein looks around trying to split us, trying to split the international community, he will find that those seams that he has used in the past are no longer there.
Senior Administration Official: Just to follow up, absolutely we've been focused on this. You will notice that the President today did talk about the fate of the Iraqi people, nonetheless. And that is something that we all have to keep in mind. It is a wonderful day when the U.N. Security Council by a vote of 15 to nothing answers the call to disarm Saddam Hussein. Nobody should forget that the Iraqi people are living under a tyrant who murders them and tortures them and does horrible things to them, and this President hasn't forgotten about them. And I was interested to hear that Prime Minister Blair in his remarks also mentioned the fate of the Iraqi people. It's just important to keep them in mind.
I think we have to go. Is that right?
Q: One on Russia, if you could.
All right, real quick here --
Q: Could you say to us whether as of this morning Russia was actually preparing to veto it, or was it a fight against abstention? And what reassurance did you offer Mr. Ivanov to win his support on this?
And if you could, sir, in the Oval Office just before the President came out, you seemed to be holding forth in some capacity with the senior staff there and the President, and if you could share anything about that conversation -- (laughter).
Senior Administration Official: Remind me not to hold forth in the Oval Office anymore. (Laughter.)
Senior Administration Official: He was giving us color and tick-tock, too. All right? He was giving us color.
Senior Administration Official: Tone and tint. (Laughter.)
I don't want to speak for President Putin or Foreign Minister Ivanov. Let me just say that they were intent on making sure that there was not automaticity in there that would -- we would somehow grab something and immediately take it to conflict. I think they saw that we were serious about this, that our goal was disarmament. Within the last 48 hours, it became clear to me that we had to do a little more work to satisfy them. President Bush spoke to President Putin yesterday. And I've been in constant contact with Foreign Minister Ivanov.
Yesterday afternoon when we consummated the final deal with the French, I called Foreign Minister Ivanov and told him of that change in language. And he considered that to be a breakthrough that he wanted to take to President Putin right away. This was after President Bush had spoken to President Putin. So at that point I knew that the Russians were very close. And then I essentially went home, went to bed, and waited for Igor to call this morning. And he called about 9:00 a.m., "Khorosho?"
Senior Administration Official: That's not bad. (Laughter.)
Q: Two questions. Does this approval today constitute the beginning of the second phase of the war on terror? And also, how can you reassure Americans that you will have a regime change this time? You tried for Saddam before, and also, we're not sure if Osama bin Laden is alive or dead. And how can you reassure people that there will definitely be a regime change this time?
Senior Administration Official: I think this is a continuation of the campaign. I don't like to see it in phases, because the President really has never described it that way in recent conversations.
We are against terror. We are not just going to be satisfied with the overthrow of the Taliban and the destruction of al Qaeda in Afghanistan. We can see with each passing day that terror is a worldwide phenomenon. And it's going to be a long campaign. We're going to be patient and persistent.
And the longer into this campaign, the more we learn about our adversaries. And we also have a better understanding of the possibilities that exist when you have regimes like the Iraqi regime that is developing weapons of mass destruction, weapons of mass destruction that could get out into the hands of non-state-sponsored terrorists. So I think it is all part of one campaign.
And in the first instance, right now, our goal is to remove those weapons of mass destruction from Saddam Hussein's hands, and therefore, potentially, from the hands of a terrorist at some point in the future. Whatever connection you believe exists now or does not exist now, that possibility was there. And that was always in our mind. And then we will see what happens in Iraq.
There are other U.N. resolutions, as my colleague mentioned, that deal with humanitarian issues, that deal with how you treat your population, that deal with terror. But our focus right now with this resolution was on the weapons of mass destruction for the reason I just mentioned.
Q: Thank you.
Q: -- reassurances to Russia, could you just kind of -- reassurances to Syria?
Senior Administration Official: Oh, I'm sorry. We -- no, we gave no reassurances to Syria.
Q: And which language did you say they've considered a breakthrough last night?
Senior Administration Official: "And" versus "or."
Senior Administration Official: Yes. That made all the difference?
Senior Administration Official: And in -- the people were asking Richard earlier, there are two words that changed between Wednesday and this morning. "And" substituting "or," and "secure" substituting for "restore" --
Q: What about Mexico? Have you assurances there to get their support?
Senior Administration Official: No, Mexico, I talked to Foreign Minister -- Foreign Secretary Castaneda just a few moments ago. Since the President had his conversation with President Fox in Mexico two weeks ago, I guess it is now, we've been working very closely with them. They wanted assurances that we really were interested in disarmament and that the Security Council would have an opportunity to discuss it again. And so they were looking for the same assurances that the French and others were looking for. And once we satisfied the French and the others, the Mexicans were fine. And they've been very supportive for the past week -- you may have seen some of Foreign Secretary Castaneda's comments earlier this week.
Q: So they've all been assured that there will be discussions before any military campaign? It sounds like that's what they wanted to hear.
Senior Administration Official: Read the resolution. And the resolution says that, before the U.N., as a body, will act, there will be discussions. But those discussions might produce another resolution, or might not. And while those discussions are taking place -- and the United States will be a part of those discussions -- the President has not lost any of his authority at some point to say, you know, I've got to act and who wants act with us?
Q: What was the Russian phrase?
Senior Administration Official: Oh, khorosho.
Senior Administration Official: Khorosho, it means okay.
Q: Okay, good?
Senior Administration Official: -- really good. (Laughter.)
Senior Administration Official: And then, da.
Senior Administration Official: Da means yes.
For a summary of the debate in the Security Council on 16-17 October 2002 at the request of the Non-Aligned Movement, click here.
For a summary of the debate in the Security Council on 8 November 2002 upon the adoption of Resolution 1441 (2002), click here.
Text of Security Council Resolution 1441 (2002), click here.
For the text of the joint letter from the Executive Chairman of the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, Hans Blix, and the Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed El-Baradei, to General Amir H. Al-Saadi, of the Iraqi Presidential Office, dated 8 October 2002, and annexed to Resolution 1441 (2002), click here.
For the explanation of the vote of the United States, on Resolution 1441 (2002), click here.
For the explanation of the vote of the United Kingdom, on Resolution 1441 (2002), click here.
For the text of the Joint Statement of 8 November 2002 by China, France and Russia interpreting Security Council Resolution 1441 (2002), click here.
For other documents on the Iraq crisis, click here.
Copyright Peter Willetts, 2002.
The text of this web page may be freely used provided that the author and the website address www.staff.city.ac.uk/p.willetts/IRAQ/INDEX.HTM are cited.
Centre for International Politics, School of Social Science, City University, Northampton Square, London EC1V 0HB.
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Last updated on 15 November 2002.