March 2001 Address to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee

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[The following has been extracted from a testimony presented to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Washington, D.C., 8 March 2001.]

I think before going into a very short version of my prepared statement, I would like to talk to some of the foreign policy issues that Senator Biden raised because, for the most part, I am here to talk about the budget, but of course we can talk about any issues that members wish to talk about. Let me start with Iraq. Iraq and the situation in Iraq was the principal purpose of my trip throughout the Persian Gulf and Middle East area the week before last. When we took over on the 20th of January, I discovered that we had an Iraq policy that was in disarray, and the sanctions part of that policy was not just in disarray, it was falling apart. We were losing support for the sanctions regime that has served so well over the last ten years. With all of the ups and downs and with all of the difficulties that are associated that regime, it was falling apart. It has been successful. Saddam Hussein has not been able to rebuild his army, notwithstanding claims that he has. He has fewer tanks in his inventory today th an he had ten years ago. Even though we know he is working on weapons of mass destruction, we know he has things squirrelled away; at the same time we have not seen that capacity emerge to present a full-fledged threat to us.

So I think credit has to be given to the United Nations and to the Permanent 5 and to the nations in the region for putting in place a regime that has kept him pretty much in check. What I found on the 20th of January, however, was that regime was collapsing. More and more nations were saying let's just get rid of the sanctions, let's not worry about inspectors, let's just forget it. There was all kinds of leakage from the front line states, whether it was through Syria, through Jordan, through Turkey, or down through the Persian Gulf with the smuggling of oil.

And so what I felt we had to do was to start taking a look at these sanctions, remember what they were oriented to in the first place. With respect to the sanctions let's call what the United Nations does basket one. It has nothing to do with regime change. That is U.S. policy. That is U.S. policy that lets us put in basket two, the no-fly zone, or in basket three, Iraqi opposition activities.

My immediate concern was basket one, the U.N. basket, and how it was falling apart. And it seemed to me the first thing we had to do was to change the nature of the debate. We were being accused and we were taking on the burden of hurting Iraqi people, hurting Iraqi children, and we needed to turn that around. The purpose of these sanctions was to go after weapons of mass destruction. That's why they were put in place in the first instance at the end of the Gulf War.

So let us start talking about how the Iraqi regime is threatening children, their own children and the children of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait and Syria and all over the region, how they were in danger of what Saddam Hussein was doing, and take away the argument he was using against us.

In order to make sure that that carried forward, we then had to take a look at the sanctions themselves. Were they being used to go after weapons of mass destruction and was that the way they were connected to our original goals, or, increasingly, were those sanctions starting to look as if they were hurting the Iraqi people? And it seems to me one approach to this was to go to those sanctions and eliminate those items in the sanctions regime that really were of civilian use and benefited people, and focus them exclusively on weapons of mass destruction and items that could be directed toward the development of weapons of mass destruction. I carried that message around the region and I found that our Arab friends in the region, as well as members of the Permanent 5 in the United Nations, as well as a number of my colleagues in NATO, found this to be a very attractive approach and that we should continue down this line. …