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Colin Powell's statements on Iran

January 17, 2001



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 place.

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 solution.

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 defend itself.

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 be.

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 few days.

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.


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