Colin Powell's statements on Iran
January 17, 2001
U.S. SENATOR JOSEPH BIDEN (D-DE) CHAIRMAN SENATE FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE
U.S. SENATOR JOSEPH BIDEN (D-DE) HOLDS CONFIRMATION HEARING FOR SECRETARY
OF STATE-DESIGNATE COLIN POWELL
HAGEL: ...On Senator Dodd's point on sanctions and certification issues,
which you and I talked about as well in my office last week, would you
care to elaborate a bit on how you might approach getting your arms around
this? We've got them everywhere, and you know the statistics on this on
how many unilateral sanctions that we throw on countries--we don't like
this so we're going to show them, aren't we? And they laugh at us and we
only hurt ourselves, not every instance.
But I have been rather vocal over the last four years about speaking
out against, against our own unilateral sanctioning position. Sanctions
that are multi-lateral, like in Iraq, that's a different story.
I'd be interested in hearing, Secretary Powell, how you would intend
to get your arms around this issue.
POWELL: Well, one, I would encourage the Congress to stop for awhile.
I mean stop, look and listen before you impose a sanction. I mean they
just keep coming. And I think I've seen about half a dozen new ones even
before I took office in the last couple of weeks.
So I would encourage self-discipline on the part of theCongress, that
when you're made about something, or when there is a particular constituent
interest, please stop, count to 10, call me, let me come up, let's talk
about it before you slap another bureaucratic process on me. It's not just
the certification of the sanctions, it's the people involved in doing all
of this. I've got battalions of lawyers and experts and analysts who want
to be worrying about are gional strategy for the Andes, who are instead,
writing long reports about who should be certified or not certified. That's
not the best use of our talent. So I would encourage restraint and discipline
on the part of theCongress. I don't know that there is a single law you
could pass that wipes it all out, or you give us a new way of looking at
them. Some of the proposals I've heard about, the mechanics of those proposals
might cause us even greater difficulty than the sanctions in the first
I would also like to participate with you in discussing how to get rid
of most of these and for our sakes, please give them all a sunset clause.
Make them all go away at the end of the year. And if there is still merit
at the end of the year or at the end of the particular period, or some
action-causing event, then let's make it go away and not just keep repeating
it and have bureaucrats at the State Department spending all of their time
doing things like this so that you can call them bureaucrats at the State
Department spending all of their time doing things like this.(LAUGHTER)
HAGEL: I guess your answer is we should look at our own house.
POWELL: Yes, sir.
HAGEL: I got you. That's why you were a general and I was a sergeant.
I was interested in your testimony this morning on your reference to
Iran, and I'm not sure you read it all verbally, but I did read it. And
I want you to know occasionally we do read what you write. And if I could,
just for the benefit of those not having the verbiage in front of them
like I do, you talk about Iran is a different case and an important country
undergoing profound change from within.
``We have important differences on matters of policy. But these differences
need not preclude greater interaction,whether in more normal commerce or
increased dialogue. Our nationalsecurity team will be reviewing such possibilities.''
I'm encouraged to read this. And I'd be interested, if you could embroider
around that statement a bit and tell us more about it.
POWELL: We have serious problems in our relationship with Iran. And
I'm not going to minimize them, and that statement doesn't intend to minimize
them. Whether it's their pursuit of nuclear capability or their support
of terrorism, or the way they treat human rights issues in their own country,
these are significant differences.
But at the same time, we can see in recent years that there is change
happening in Iran. We have those who hold power, the old ayatollahs, but
there is a president who was elected to office. Elections. He was elected
to office because the people of Iran were expecting a little more moderation,
a little more openness in their lives. So the people of Iran, I think,
are starting to speak. Especially the young people of Iran are starting
to speak, that they think there is a broader world out here. The kind of
world I talked about this morning, that perhaps has a place for them.
And to the extent that our policies can take into account the serious
difficulties we have with the offensive policies, but at the same time,
give encouragement to the people of Iran, that Iranians are not our enemies,
that we are trying to make life better to them. We are trying to give them
insight into the world that's waiting for them out here. To the extent
that we can nuance our policy in that regard, I think it serves our interests
and the interests of the region.
HAGEL: Thank you.
Staying in the Middle East, also noted in your testimony this morning,
your general comment, ``peace for Israel means peace with all her neighbors,
Syria included, where we need to build on the opportunity created by Israel's
withdrawal from Lebanon.'' Could you talk a little more about that, as
to the approach you might take?
I know it's early. A lot of dynamics in this. But certainly peace has
eluded us, not because we've not put effort into it in the Middle East.
But I think, in my opinion, that statement is exactly where you should
begin, the complete peace.
POWELL: I'll have to be guarded because there are still negotiations
ongoing, and President Clinton is still fully engaged in this process and
we wish him all the best in what he is doing.
But it seems to me that there are a number of pieces to this. And one
is the Syrian piece and the Palestinian piece. Two years ago, we were moving
down a Syrian track, and then that didn't panout at the time and we moved
to the Palestinian track. But the only way you will get a comprehensive
settlement is to do both of them. And I hope that we will find a set of
conditions at some point in the future where if we get one, the other one
will quickly followand fall in place. And then we are on our way to a comprehensive
I think the Israeli withdrawal from southern Lebanon removed one of
the great irritants that was standing in the way--obstacles that was standing
in the way of the Syrian peace.
But it all begins with making absolutely sure that Israel is secure.
The only democracy in the region. A nation we have supported for 50 years.
It has to be secure and it has to feel thatit is secure and that it can
And we cannot expect Israel to do much in conditions of violence, where
their security is at risk, where both sides are responding to the violence.
And the one thing we will start to do right away, as President Clinton
has been doing for these many, many months, is to encourage both sides
to get the violence under control. I believe it is in the power of both
sides to do it. Especially, I believe, it is in the power of the Palestinianleadership
to do so--Mr. Arafat to do so.
And so we will call upon him to do that. Encourage him to do that. And
only then can we then see what the next step in this process is going to
The new administration is going to be in a position where we'll have
to wait and see what happens in the Israeli election. And itwill be also
a function of what the Clinton administration is able to do in these last
But we won't be standing by idly. We'll be watching. We'll befollowing
it all. We'll be engaging. I started to talk to people from the region
already. I started to come up with our plan, how we will organize ourselves
to deal with this account. And we'll be ready to move forward as soon as
the parties in the region areready to move forward.