CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Interview With Hans Blix
Aired November 27, 2002 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They visit each and everything. I tell you again that we don't have anything not permitted in this company.
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ANNOUNCER: Sirens wail a false alarm as U.S. weapons inspectors span out across Baghdad. It's day one.
This is a CNN special report: "Iraq: The Hunt for Weapons."
Live from the United Nations, here's CNN chief international correspondent, Christiane Amanpour.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world.
Today, for the first time in four years, U.N. weapons inspectors are back in Iraq searching for weapons of mass destruction or evidence that they are being concealed.
We are going to have an exclusive conversation with Hans Blix, the chief U.N. weapons inspector.
But first, we are going to go to Baghdad and CNN's Nic Robertson.
Nic, what did they see today and how did it go?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, they went to two different sites. They saw, essentially, a warehouse complex at one site. At another site, they saw a missile site -- or a site that can be used for testing missiles, and also a factory that produces graphite components that can be used in missiles.
It was always going to be a testing day for both sides, as they both tested the cooperation that had been talked about in the meetings a little over a week ago. But, by accounts of both sides, it seems to have been a day that has gone rather well.
(voice-over): 7:00 a.m. and the first weapons inspectors are showing up at their base. Vehicles prepared for what could be a long day and journalists outside for a long wait.
(on camera): It's about 7:30 now. Most of the inspectors seem to have gone in. And everyone here is waiting for them to come out, so we can follow them to their first Inspection.
(voice-over): An hour later, engines gunning, the inspectors race out. And Iraqi officials have given us permission to follow.
(on camera): OK, now we're running to get into the cars, so that we can follow them.
(voice-over): We follow the team of nuclear experts. Turning right in their white U.N. jeeps, they pick up their Iraqi counterparts, who fall in behind.
Confusion for a moment, as the U.N. experts we're tailing appear to lose their way en route to the surprise inspection. By 9:00 a.m., the inspectors are arriving at the Tahadi industrial complex on the eastern outskirts of Baghdad.
Left outside in the enforced lockdown, under U.N. inspection rules, journalists jockey for scant camera positions. Through gaps in the barbed wire top wall surrounding the mile-square compound, inspectors can be seen taking photographs and visiting the dozen or so warehouses. By noon, the team of nuclear experts are finished, heading back to base.
Iraqi officials, keen to show they have nothing to hide, let us in as soon as the inspectors leave.
HAYTHAM MAHMOUD, PLANT MANAGER: Nothing. Everything, it was in front of them. Thank you very much.
ROBERTSON: No weapons visible in the one building we were shown.
(on camera): This part of the factory appears to be for reconditioning heavy industrial motors. But we still don't know where the inspectors went or exactly what they were interested in.
(voice-over): According to Mahmoud, the inspectors saw all they wanted to see -- almost exactly the same language from the inspectors.
JACQUES BAUTE, IAEA TEAM LEADER: And we had access to what we wanted to see. We hope that the Iraqi response today reflects the future pattern of cooperation.
ROBERTSON: Day one, it seems, ended without major incident and without any weapons found.
ROBERTSON: And, Christiane, one of those inspectors giving us a cautionary word this evening, saying today was a good day, but it's going to be a long, long, slow process.
AMANPOUR: Nic, do you know whether they saw sites that had previously been inspected four years ago, or were these new ones?
ROBERTSON: The site that we went to, according to Iraqi officials there, had been previously inspected. Indeed, they said previous teams had left monitoring equipment there, although the section we went to, we couldn't see any evidence of it.
AMANPOUR: Nic Robertson, thank you very much indeed.
And now we turn to Dr. Hans Blix, chief U.N. weapons inspector.
Thank you for joining us.
So, there you have the report. You've obviously been briefed by your own people. How, in your mind, did today go, the first day?
DR. HANS BLIX, CHIEF U.N. WEAPONS INSPECTOR: I think it went as we had expected it. After all, we have had long discussions with Iraqis about the practical arrangements, precisely because we want to avoid any clashes that are unnecessary. And it worked out as it should.
AMANPOUR: Now, your own spokespeople in Baghdad have indicated that, in fact, you're going to spend weeks looking at sites that have been previously inspected, checking monitoring equipment, doing stuff that has already been done and not going to new sites. Is that correct?
BLIX: We have a vast number of old sites, 700 or more of them, and we can select new sites.
You take, for instance, a missile factory, where they are allowed to make missiles that can go 150 kilometers but not longer than that. But if you have such a factory, there could be a possibility that they make missiles which are reaching further. So you may have to go to it many times.
Similarly, chemical factory may be able to produce both chemical weapons and something that is innocent, that is needed. And you have to go and see were there any traces of any illegal production.
AMANPOUR: So are you planning in the first few days to make surprise visits at sites that have not been inspected before?
BLIX: Well, we aren't going to tell anybody, and least of all media, where we're going in the next few days. But we will certainly -- surprise visits are everywhere, yes. We are not giving notice in advance. But the inspectors go to where they want to go, and when they arrive at the place, they tell them, "This is where we want to inspect."
AMANPOUR: Let me ask you a couple of technical questions that may be determined, in fact, as in the end you just talked about missiles. There are missiles that are legally possessed by the Iraqis, and then there are missiles that they're not allowed to possess -- long-range missiles.
Let's say if you go to an area where -- or your inspectors go -- where there are the appropriate kinds of missiles there, would your inspectors be able to tell whether these missiles have been modified, tinkered with, adapted to be long-range, and therefore prohibited?
BLIX: Yes, I think they would. They are very advanced experts. They know what material they are looking at.
AMANPOUR: And what about in terms of chemical or biological agent? We know in the past that there have been many gallons, tons of agents imported. The Iraqis have accounted for a number of gallons of that. And then, according to reports, there is stuff that hasn't been accounted for.
What happens if they say, "Well, you know, here's the 600 gallons that we accounted for. We just don't know what happened or we don't know what's going on with the remaining quantity."
BLIX: Well, we think that they should account for all of what they have produced. And they should also show us how much did they produce in the first place. That has to be proven. Because otherwise, we cannot exclude the possibility that something is left.
If I take the case of anthrax, for instance, they gave the information that they have produced about 8,500 liters, but it could have been more. I mean, technically, capacity would have gone up to 25,000 liters if they had made use of the capacity.
BLIX: And that it is to declare that they destroyed it all. But we didn't full accounting that it was destroyed. So then we can not exclude that there could be something left.
AMANPOUR: And that would be a material breach? I realize the Security Council has to make that decision, but is that a central point here?
BLIX: If we were to find it, yes. If we were to find this quantity, and a quantity they haven't declared, that would be a material breach, yes. If we do not find it, well, then it's still an open question, as far as we are concerned.
AMANPOUR: But what if there's intelligence that shows that material has been imported and they don't account for it?
BLIX: Well, intelligence is intelligence. If they simply say, "We have intelligence telling us that," that's interesting, but it's not evidence.
AMANPOUR: So where is the burden of proof here?
BLIX: We maintain that the burden of proof is on Iraq. And they object that they say, "Anyone who is arraigned before a tribunal is acquitted if a prosecutor cannot prove the case." And we say, "You are not in a criminal tribunal. You are in a situation where you want to create confidence that Iraq does not have any anthrax or anything else that is prohibited. And that takes more than that there's no evidence of it."
AMANPOUR: Can I ask you this matter that was raised in the last couple of days? There are reports that when you were briefing the Security Council in the last couple of days you have said that you expressed a certain amount of understanding or sympathy for Iraq's claim that it would not be able to fully comply with the Security Council demand that it provide a complete and detailed declaration of its civilian and military capabilities, chemical, nuclear or biological. Is that accurate?
BLIX: No, absolutely not. Under the resolutions, the Iraqis are obliged to give a complete account of all the military progress they have within 30 days. And that's perfectly all right. They should be able to so.
They're also asked to provide an account of all their programs in the civilian sector: nuclear, chemical or biological.
The same thing, within 30 days, which are not weapons purposes, then. And the only thing I have said is that they have a big petrochemical industry; if we are asking them to provide an account of all the programs in that chemical sector that may be a little difficult.
Iraqis actually didn't raise that with us. They said that, "Are we going to report every program, production of slippers by chemicals, or what not?"
They didn't ask about the timing.
AMANPOUR: So you fully expect them to account for everything that they have by December 8?
BLIX: By December 8 they should account for it all. I would, but they may come back and say that "Sorry, but in the chemical sector we can't go that far."
I don't think it's a big issue, actually, I think. And the Iraqis are worried about the extent of it, but they didn't raise any point about the date of it.
AMANPOUR: What do you not think is a big issue?
BLIX: Well, the fact that I said in the Security Council that this may be a little difficult to account for the whole -- all programs in the chemical sector, much has been made of that particular comment, and as you cited it sounded as if I have sympathy with the problem for giving the whole declaration.
I did not do so, nor did I express any sympathy. I said that there could be difficulties.
AMANPOUR: We're going to take a quick break, and when we come back we want to talk about the sensitive sites and what they're saying about whether you'll have access -- complete access to presidential sites and others, when we come back.
AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the U.N., where we continue our conversation with Hans Blix, the chief weapons inspector.
Let's talk about sensitive sites. You have said that the Iraqi side has remarked that entry into a presidential site or a ministry is not quite the same thing as entry into a factory. What do they mean?
BLIX: Well, it's hard to say. You know, so-called sensitive sites in the past were subject to a special procedure around which the inspector would have to await the arrival of a higher-up official that was supposed to coordinate it. And the entry into presidential sites were also subject to a very special procedure on which you have to have a number of ambassadors or high diplomats present. And it took a couple of days before you can organize it.
This is all done away with under the new regime. And the talks that we had in Vienna, Mr. ElBaradei and I, Iraq has agreed that we would have immediate and unconditional and unrestricted access to any sensitive sites. And the Security Council decided the same would apply to the presidential sites. So as far as we are concerned, there is no difference between them.
I think what the Iraqis wanted to say that, "Well, look here. There's some dignity attached to these places." Well, that's possible. But they're the same procedures that apply.
AMANPOUR: So you will go in there, no holds barred?
BLIX: Of course. And we will do it with the same professional and correctness, whether it is presidential or sensitive or anything else.
AMANPOUR: They also told you -- as we know, the next key milestone is December 8, the declaration.
AMANPOUR: They have basically said to you and to the world that, "We do not have weapons of mass destruction."
BLIX: Well, that is what they have said until now. I don't think in diplomacy...
AMANPOUR: What have you said to them?
BLIX: Well, I have said to them that many governments think that they have such weapons. And we have said to them that the Security Council clearly states that this is the last opportunity they have to declare it. And therefore I did say that they should look into their stocks and their stores, whether there is something. And if so, declare it.
And if they don't say they have something, then they ought to give a full account; they ought to give much more documentation than they have in the past to try to convince that everything is gone.
AMANPOUR: Let me ask you about searching for these weapons. I've heard from an administration source, an administration official, that they intend to look at the declaration, study it carefully, and if it doesn't include things that they believe the Iraqis have, that they will then notify you, notify your team and lead you to them. For instance, missiles, Scuds, things like that. Is that appropriate? Will you follow that strategy?
BLIX: Well, we want to have the information from member states about any sites where there may be prohibited items. And we go to them. Even before the declaration. If I had tomorrow an indication of such a site, well, we might go there after -- the day after tomorrow.
AMANPOUR: But if there is information provided to you after this declaration comes in and they say, "Well, this wasn't on the list, and we have a strong belief that this is there," this is where...
BLIX: Well, I think if they say that publicly the things will be gone the next day, before we get there.
AMANPOUR: No, but to you.
BLIX: And if they say do it privately, confidentially, yes, we may well go there, if it's plausible.
AMANPOUR: What does that mean, if it's plausible?
BLIX: Well, they have to give us some suggestion that it is based upon something, that they're not just pulling us by our noses.
AMANPOUR: Do you think that might happen?
BLIX: Well, we are not supposed to trust anybody, so we have to assess the value of a site.
We are not just people -- governments cannot just tell us, "Go there," and we go there. No, we decide ourselves where we go, and therefore we have to have some reason to go to sites.
AMANPOUR: Have you read the administration's CIA dossiers and also the Blair dossier that was publicly released, you know, several months ago, weeks ago?
BLIX: Yes. Yes, I have seen it.
AMANPOUR: And do you agree with those?
BLIX: Well, I'm not supposed to agree with them. I read them and they have -- I take the British dossier, for instance, they will say up and down pages that, "Intelligence tells us this, or intelligence tells us that." Well, it may well be true. We are not contradicting them. But at the same time I'm not confirming what they say because simply stating that, "Intelligence says this," is not evidence.
And I think we have to be effectual and see what is evidence.
AMANPOUR: As you know there's a drumbeat of criticism against you. Hardliners in the United States administration, their allies inside and outside of government basically don't think you're up to the job. Things like "weak" have been bandied around, "wimp" has been bandied around.
Can you do this job?
BLIX: Well, I had 16 years at the International Atomic Energy Agency, and being responsible for that organization, and I was elected, re-elected three times, unanimously. I could have been elected a fourth time, re-elected a fourth time if I wanted. And I was unanimously picked by the members of the Security Council.
I think that the governments have confidence in me. There are a number of private individuals who are skeptical. Well, that's their business. But I have not had any criticism from any government.
AMANPOUR: Well, let me ask you this. You talk about your head, your position as head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the IAEA, from, I believe it was from '81 to '97.
AMANPOUR: As you know, as everybody knows, under your stewardship, Iraq was very close to producing a nuclear weapon at a time when you and your organization gave it a carte blanche, if you like -- not a carte blanche -- you called it exemplary cooperation. And basically, you missed what was going on, as some people say, right under your nose.
BLIX: Well, the whole control system -- verification system of the IAEA was worked out by governments. And so, we were mandated to act in a particular manner. Now, that included going to declared installation, not going to undeclared installation. And this is where the Iraqis mainly produced their -- tried to make enriched uranium. So the system was set up by the governments in this manner.
Moreover, we were not the only ones who did not see. The CIA didn't know what was going on, and they were not restricted as we were. Even the Mossad in Israel didn't know.
Iraq was an extremely closed society at that time. I know an ambassador told me that he lived there for four years and never been able to meet his neighbor. So moving around was impossible to us.
AMANPOUR: That may be the case, but there were also provisions made for certain level and intensity of inspections, certain sizes of, let's say, uranium and this and that was under -- you had to inspect them every three months or whatever. In any event, what they seemed to have done was to have made their weapons smaller.
BLIX: No, not really. Now, it's true that there were certain procedures for how often should we go to sites which contained so and so much of fissionable material. But this was nothing that really impacted upon the Iraqi program. They tried to enrich uranium themselves, and they failed in doing that. They only get very, very tiny quantities. They didn't have time to do it.
At the end and close to the war, they started a crash program in which they had intended to take the fissionable material under safeguards. But they never succeeded in doing that. AMANPOUR: We have to go to a break, but I want to ask you one more question on this using the powers at your discretion. This new U.N. resolution is very clear and very tough, including it allows you to take Iraqi scientists and their families out if you feel that's the only way to be -- or if that's the only way to be able to get information out of them. And you've already said that seems to be impracticable and unworkable. Why is that?
BLIX: Well, this sounds almost as if you were, sort of, cloak- and-dagger agency to put people in the trunk of the car and drive them out. And I don't think that's what the inspectors are for, nor do I think that we are an abduction agency.
If people come to us with -- and they say, "We don't want to leave the country." What shall we do? Shall we take them out anyway? I can see the practical difficulties. That's what I refer to.
AMANPOUR: So you don't think you'll be bringing any scientists out?
BLIX: Well, if they come, if they want to, yes. We will be ready to facilitate it. That's the word (ph) of the resolution. Yes, we will do that.
But what if the Iraqis stop it? We cannot force it. We are not an army.
AMANPOUR: We'll come back with more questions for Dr. Blix right after a short break.
AMANPOUR: Welcome back, as we continue to talk to Dr. Hans Blix.
What is the most challenging thing for you to find, these weapons of mass destruction, or whatever you're looking for there? Is it that they become more sophisticated in hiding things? Is it that they're more mobile now? What is it that's going to be the hardest thing for you to do your job?
BLIX: I think both the factors you mentioned are hard, yes. They could hide things underground. There is nowadays ground- penetrating radar, so there are means of getting there. And they could also be defectors who would tell us or some might give us as a tip. They're mobile. Things are also -- they enjoy -- they report to the effect that they have the laboratories, mobile. And to catch that is not an easy task.
There could also be dispersion of things in the country. If you look for documents they could be dispersed in the private houses of people. There are quite a lot of things.
Of course, the techniques of finding things have improved very much and Iraq has been enormous stimulation to it. But at the same time, the Iraqis have also learned quite a lot. So if they are hiding things, well, they have -- might have learned quite a lot. AMANPOUR: And how are you going to do this job effectively with a fairly small number of inspectors right now? I think it's 17 or so on the ground right now; you expect 100 or so by the end of the year. But the last time they had nearly 300, and it was still a huge and too unwieldy job for those inspectors to be able to complete.
BLIX: I don't think they had in the field on any one inspection more than something like 50 inspectors. And that is a fairly big swarm anyway.
I mean we are not a military organization, after all. So when we go to a factory, they did what they use to call freeze the site; let's say, they would surround it and people would go around at the other end to see that nothing is taken out. They would have a helicopter in the air above them, et cetera. And they might be sure that what was in the building was there.
Now there is, of course, a risk study if they have documents that they might have in advance prepared places where they could tuck them away when the inspectors are coming. So there are many difficulties, and the surprise element is an important one.
AMANPOUR: Well, let's talk about the surprise element. I mean, obviously, the White House, this administration has pretty much made it clear that it would like you to go and do confrontational inspections or surprise inspections, go to very sensitive locations to test Saddam Hussein's willingness to cooperate and to see whether this is a go or whether it's just the same old same old.
BLIX: Well, we'll be ready to go anywhere where we think, as I said, it's plausible that there could be something. If they are hiding something then likely if they would deny us access. And denying access would then be like a smoke -- it's not finding a smoking gun, but finding the smoke, and that would be a very serious matter.
If they deny us access, we will report it to the Security Council. But even a delay of some little time will also be something that might be reported to the council.
AMANPOUR: Do you consider that your job could lead you to be a trigger for war?
BLIX: We would not be a trigger for war. But, of course, if we report a violation of some kind, that is for the Security Council to assess. We are not the ones that decide war and peace. It's the Iraqi and their behavior on the one hand, and the Security Council and its members on the other hand that decide on peace and war.
We will be factual. We will be objective. We will report as honestly as we humanly can.
AMANPOUR: Well, there are many people who don't think that you want to do, sort of, in-your-face aggressive inspections.
BLIX: I don't think that aggression -- aggressive inspections is a purpose, per se. But if you demand that -- you have the right to come in somewhere and you demand it. I don't know whether you call that aggressive. We'll demand it wherever we want to go in.
AMANPOUR: I want to ask you about your time again as IAEA chief inspector. Back in '94 or in the early '90s you also were looking at the North Korean program. And we have recently learned that the Clinton administration in '94, around then, was considering a preemptive strike on North Korea precisely because you had reported back that they were not allowing you the access to be able to accurately verify their weapons of mass destruction; their nuclear program. Tell me a little bit about that, because you haven't spoken about that.
BLIX: Well, the North Korea has opened up to us for safeguards inspection in '94, maybe it was. And I was the first Westerner, outsider who was invited to see the reprocessing plant there. Then we sent in the inspectors and they were given a sample of the plutonium that they had reprocessed. And they took the isotopic composition of that. They were also given a liquid, a waste solution. And they analyzed that.
And when you reprocess uranium, spent uranium, you will also always get a little plutonium in the waste. And they analyzed it. And the isotopic composition was not the same as that of the reprocessed plutonium. So we drew the conclusion that they must have reprocessed more than once. And they only admitted once. And there must be hence be more plutonium than they had declared. That was the beginning.
I mean, some people accused the IAEA of not finding things. We were the ones who found it and we reported it to the board of governors. And that started the crisis in -- when it came to the Security Council.
AMANPOUR: So you did, sort of, have it on your shoulders then, or at least you were one of the principal actors in what could have been war on the Korean Peninsula?
BLIX: Certainly it was -- no, in this sense that we reported honestly to the board of governors and to the Security Council. But it's they who decide how will they will act. Will they use force or will they not use? That's not us. We have only the duty to report honestly.
AMANPOUR: Why do you think that you will be any more successful this time in trying to get to the bottom of many, many years of programming in Iraq on these weapons of mass destruction when there has been, you know, considerable cheat and retreat as some people call it, some, you know, failure from the inspection sides in the past?
BLIX: Well, it's a very difficult task. We have no illusions that it's going to be easy. But there is something that is different now from what it was in 1991, and that is the backing of the Security Council.
In 1991, when we went in -- I remember it well -- in the summer of 1991, we had a team of IAEA inspectors. And they went to a truck park. And we took pictures of the trucks going out. And then the Iraqis started to shoot in the air. And Security Council didn't like that, so they sent me and Mr. Ekeus and Mr. (inaudible) of the Disarmament Department in the U.N. down to Iraq to talk to them, get assurance that they wouldn't do it again. Now, that was not a very strong reaction. I think if somebody were shooting over the heads of inspectors today, it would be very different situation.
So the most important thing for us in the new resolution is that the inspector's demands are backed up, and therefore we think will be respected, respected by the Iraqis.
Does that mean that we would be arrogant? No. We will be correct all the way through and professional all the way through. But there is a very strong power behind us.
AMANPOUR: Have the Iraqis given you anything, in terms of what they've said, in terms of making early declarations, in terms of filling gaps in information that they've already given you that, you know, clearly wasn't full disclosure? Have they shown you that they are going to do differently this time?
BLIX: We expect to read the declaration as to come the 8th of December. But already at the meeting that we had with them before inspections started, they handed over to us a number of CD-ROMs concerning the dual-use items, their semi-annual declarations that they -- we had a backlog of from 1998 up to now. We have analyzed those already.
AMANPOUR: Because I read that there was some instance where they hadn't given full information on missile programs, and they said they were going to fill in. What's that?
BLIX: Yes, yes. This was something they have told us in the semi-annual declarations. And they told us when we were in Baghdad now that, yes, they had found that there was something further that they should add to it, and so they supplemented.
We had, of course, also found a number of shortcomings, and we told them about that. And they promised that they would rectify that.
AMANPOUR: So do you think that they will, as time continues and as this process goes on, come up with the things that they say they have forgotten to disclose in the past?
BLIX: I hope so. I hope that it will come up with everything, whether they have forgotten it or not. If they have simply not declared it in the past, well, this is the opportunity to do it.
AMANPOUR: And on that note, thank you very much, indeed, for joining us.
And we will be back with analysis on what's happening in Iraq today and for the next several weeks. We'll go to the administration, John King in Crawford, Texas, and we'll have a panelist and a group to discuss the situation when we return.
AMANPOUR: Welcome back to our special program on this, the first day of U.N. inspections in four years. We're going to go now to Crawford, Texas, which is the home of President George W. Bush. And John King, who's traveling with the president, our Senior White House Correspondent, joins us from there.
John, what does, right now, as day one has gone into effect, the White House believe that Hans Blix and his people -- what do they believe can be accomplished?
JOHN KING, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, number one, for all the respect they have for Dr. Blix, Christiane, they believe, of course, the success or the failure of this inspection regime will depend on not Dr. Blix and his teams, but on the cooperation of Saddam Hussein and his government. U.S. officials say they will have a wait and see and a very skeptical attitude for some time to come.
We do know that when President Bush, Vice President Cheney and others met with Dr. Blix, they promised him that when the inspectors were in on the ground, if the United States thought the Iraqis were lying -- and the White House fully expects Iraq will lie -- that they would share top shelf intelligence about what the United States thinks, where the United States thinks stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction are.
We know in the war planning, President Bush has been told that U.S. intelligence data suggests much of this is hidden deep under ground. Some of it at those so-called presidential palace sites. Mr. Bush has been asking questions about that in terms of how would the U.S. military get to those sites in the event of war. That is also a relevant question for the inspectors. U.S. officials believe Saddam Hussein, despite his promises, his government's promises, will not let the inspectors get to those sites -- Christiane.
AMANPOUR: John, precisely. I asked him that about this leading him to these sites that the U.S. expects may exist, and he wasn't very clear or he didn't want to answer precisely on whether he would follow that intelligence, that information.
KING: There is a political sensitivity, of course, because the Iraqi government consistently has accused the inspection teams of being little more than spies for the United States, spies for Great Britain and other Western powers. U.S. officials say they came away from the conversations with Dr. Blix and Mohamed Elbaradei, satisfied that those inspection teams would accept and would act on U.S. intelligence. And U.S. officials they want to put the commitment to these inspections to the test right away.
The question will come, will U.S. faith in the inspection teams persevere? U.S. officials say they will give Dr. Blix and his teams the most sensitive intelligence and urge him to push the envelope, if you will, test Iraq quickly. That will be what we will see beginning December 8. The United States want the declaration from Iraq to come first so that the United States can then, if it believes there are lies in the declaration -- and, again, they believe there will be lies -- stand up and say, Iraq already is trying to hedge with the inspections.
AMANPOUR: John, what kind of a timetable for a decision are you looking at from your sources at the White House? Because a December 8 declaration, depending how big it is, could take significant amount of time to go through.
KING: The administration is undergoing what some call "strategic ambiguity" on that point. Some in the administration argue Iraq is already in material breach because it continues almost daily to fire on U.S. and British planes patrolling the no-fly zones. The president himself has said he will have a zero tolerance policy for interference or defiance of the inspection regime. So some could say Mr. Bush has made clear one interference, one frustration would be enough for him.
At the same time, the administration understands the politics here. Understands that you would probably need a pattern of several significant violations to get support in the Security Council for military action. They are planning behind the scenes. Some officials say the president has a threshold in his mind.
His public line is zero tolerance. They won't say anymore, in part because they don't want Saddam Hussein to know just where the president would draw the line. But they make this clear, they will not tolerate repeated haggling, repeated defiance of the inspectors, they just won't say exactly where they will draw that line right now.
AMANPOUR: And just one last question. Have they made any comment on how today went?
KING: All the officials are saying so far is that they will wait for Dr. Blix to report back to the Security Council. They will not judge this based on any one day. And they also believe that we are in a preliminary phase, if you will. That the key test will come from December 8 and beyond.
So far so good, they say. But they say this is just not a fair test. That we are not at the dramatic point of this inspections regime just yet. They view December 8 as a much more important deadline and much more important day than anything that will happen between now and then.
AMANPOUR: John King, thank you very much, indeed, from the Texas White House in Crawford.
And now we're going to talk with our panel of experts about what we just heard, not only from John King, but obviously from Hans Blix as well. Richard Butler, the former U.N. Chief Weapons Inspector, joins us from Australia. Also, Kenneth Pollack, who used to be at the National Security Council, and before that at the CIA, and has just written a book about Iraq, "The Threatening Storm."
And Joe Wilson, who was ambassador and charge d'affaires in Ira, and was the last U.S. diplomat to meet with Saddam Hussein. That was just during the Gulf War time. Can I first go to Australia and ask Richard Butler, not necessarily to comment immediately about what Hans Blix just said, but since you were the last one to try find these weapons of mass destruction, how hard do you think it's going to be between now and the deadline to make any considerable progress?
RICHARD BUTLER, FMR. CHIEF U.N. WEAPONS INSPECTOR: Christiane, it's a very, very difficult job. And no one should be under any illusions about that. This new inspector has powers that we didn't have in the past, and they're very important. They have equipment, technical capability, much improved on what we had in the past and that will help them a lot.
Hans Blix was right, too, in pointing out that there is a resolve in the Security Council now giving him the political fundament that should help greatly, indeed is essential if he's to get the job done. But Christiane, this feels eerily similar to the past in some ways, with Iraq giving very, very mixed signals with respect to its position of such weapons. On one moment, they say they don't have any at all. And then, on the other hand, talking about a declaration that (UNINTELLIGIBLE) which will be thousands of pages long.
Christiane, that declaration will be crucial, and the issue that was raised this morning about additional information, intelligence information from the United States and so on, I agree with you, I agree with John King. That, too, will be a very important issue after the Iraqi declaration is launched.
Bottom line is, this is a difficult job. The inspectors have great powers. But, in the end, it will rely on Iraq's decision to cooperate or not. And, frankly, with the mixed signals they're giving around their declaration, I'm not sure that they really are going to come to the party and offer the full cooperation that they've said they will.
AMANPOUR: Let's turn to Kenneth Pollack. Ken, you have worked in the administration and before that at the CIA on this issue. What do you think, given this robust U.N. Security Council resolution? What do you think the inspectors are going to be able to achieve, and what do you think the Iraqis are going to allow them to achieve?
KENNETH POLLACK, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: Well, I share Richard Butler's skepticism, Christiane. I think that the problem is, we're likely to get Iraqi cooperation with inspections, but not compliance with the resolution. And that's really the critical distinction. I think all the evidence that we're seeing out of Iraq -- and here I guess I would disagree a little bit with Ambassador Butler -- I think the Iraqis are making it clear they're going to let the inspectors wherever they want to. And I also think that they are going to give a very clean declaration.
I think they are going to fully come out and say they have nothing at all. That's what we've been hearing from the Iraqis for the last several weeks. I think those thousands of pages are going to include all of the sites that Ambassador Butler and Ambassador Caos (ph) inspected throughout the 1990s, as well as every potential site in Iraq that any idiot would know could produce nuclear, chemical or biological weapons.
And I think they'll declare every pharmaceutical factory in the country. They will declare every fertilizer factory in the country, because those could theoretically be used to produce chemical weapons. I don't think they're going to surrender any of their actual weapons or their real production facilities. I think they've made it very clear that they are confident that they can continue to mislead the inspectors exactly as they did in the 1990s.
AMANPOUR: You know, let me ask you to follow up on that. I mean, basically, since this U.N. resolution was passed -- and frankly, since President Bush made his speech at the United Nations back in September -- they have, in fact, been defying conventional wisdom and they have -- they have been doing what they basically have to do, at least up until now. Why do you think, given how immense the thing is for Saddam Hussein -- I mean, he stands to either lose his regime, lose his head or disarm -- why do you think he'll hang on to this stuff and not do a better job of telling the inspectors what he has?
POLLACK: Well, of course, Christiane, what we've seen over the last 11 years is that Saddam Hussein doesn't seem to make much distinction between his survival in power and his possession of weapons of mass destruction. They seem to be one and the same. Remember, he has given up somewhere between $130 and $180 billion in oil revenues to hang on to these weapons.
He has allowed the Iraqi economy to be destroyed, he has allowed the Iraqi armed forces to be destroyed. He has allowed his people to suffer in great misery, all to hold on to his weapons of mass destruction.
These make very clear that he believes that retention of those weapons of mass destruction are critical to his own hold on power. Therefore, I think that it is just highly unlikely that he's going to give them up. And what's more, again, he is very confident, he appears very confident that he can continue to hide them. You know he's been through this all before.
In the 1990s, he got so good at hiding his weapons of mass destruction, that Ambassador Butler and his teams and Ambassador Caos (ph) before him really had no idea where those weapons were being stored. They were chasing the Iraqis around the country, and occasionally they would come up with pieces of evidence that indicated that the Iraqis were still cheating, but neither they nor we, who were providing them with intelligence support, could ever figure out where the Iraqis were actually hiding the stuff.
And the same is true today. I think the Iraqis know that. And, as a result, they're very confident that they can come out and say, we don't have anything, and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the new inspection regime. If you think we do, prove it. And they're confident that they won't be able to prove it.
AMANPOUR: Let me turn to Joe Wilson. You met Saddam Hussein. Do you think that -- I mean, it's hard. You can't do pop psychology on live television, but weapons of mass destruction, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) regime, do you think there's a moment of truth going on at the highest levels of Iraqi government right now?
JOSEPH WILSON, FMR. U.S. CHARGE D'AFFAIRES: Well, we can always try and do pop psychology. Why not? But I think that what you've got is Saddam employing his age-old strategy of trying to figure out how he can slip this news, principally by dividing of the opposition that's already against him. The longer he can play this out in his own mind, the more likely it is that the political will that has currently been cobbled together by the administration and by the United Nations will begin to slip, and you'll get back into that period where, as Hans Blix was talking about, where the response of the international community to obstacles he might put up are tepid, at best again.
So that's why I think it's important that we remain focused and the president remain focused on maintaining that credible threat of force in the event that there are discrepancies that can't otherwise be resolved, and that Saddam be made aware that zero tolerance means zero tolerance. At the end of the day, it is going to be the political support of the U.N. Security Council that is going to give Hans Blix the sort of power that he needs to affect this inspection regime.
AMANPOUR: Joe, I've heard from a senior Arab diplomat, one who's had meetings with Saddam Hussein in the past, that they believe that he would be willing to disarm, but does not believe, even if he does disarm, he won't be invaded by the United States. Do you think that's a credible view from inside Baghdad? And do you think he should be given a message to say, do it and you won't be invaded?
WILSON: Yeah. I wouldn't be surprised at all if that's the conclusion that he's made. After all, he's heard coming out of the United States nothing but regime change arguments up until the time we went to the United Nations. I think it is important that he begin to listen to the president and to others in the U.N. Security Council, with the object of this exercise is disarmament.
At the end of the day, if he hopes to survive, he is going have to give up his weapons of mass destruction. It's as simple as that.
AMANPOUR: All right, gentlemen. We'll be back. We'll talk to you further after a break.
AMANPOUR: Welcome back. I want to go to Australia again to our own CNN analyst and the former Chief U.N. Weapons Chief Richard Butler. The issue of intelligence has come up quite a lot in the course of the last hour. Obviously, one of the pitfalls with UNSCOM, the organization that you headed, was about intelligence, about the two-way transfer of intelligence with you guys being accused of reporting back.
What do you think that Hans Blix and his team will be able to do when they will be given intelligence by the U.S. administration that enables them to do that and keep going on with the job? BUTLER: Christiane, that's a terrific question. He's got a very difficult problem on his hands here in this context. The core of it is that crucial, political unity within the council that he needs to support his work and the possibility that it might be successful. And opposite that is, of course, Saddam's fundamental objective is to divide the Security Council, because whenever it's divided, he prospers, as we saw in the past.
Now, one of the keys ways in which that division was expressed and indeed brought about four years ago was the Iraqi accusation that UNSCOM had become an agency of the United States, was doing the CIA's work and so on. Now I want to say to you with crystal clarity that was utter and complete nonsense and it was Iraqi propaganda, beginning to end.
Now, then all countries, all states were obliged by the Security Council to give UNSCOM support and information. The same is true today. The Security Council resolution today calls on all states to give whatever information they have, whatever support they can to Hans Blix and his operation.
That includes the intelligence agencies of the United States. They will, I'm sure -- and, of course, the intelligence agencies of other countries -- they will, of course, come forward with information where they think it's relevant and helpful.
But Hans Blix will have a very serious political problem on his hands in how he uses that information, because the minute the Iraqis see that happening, they will try what they did in the past, which is to say, there you are, you see? These inspectors aren't working for the U.N., they're working for the U.S. Same as before. And attempt by that means to divide the Security Council.
I hope that doesn't succeed. May I just say quickly before I end this statement, Christiane, this business of giving assurances to Saddam about, you know, if he does properly disarm he'll survive and he won't be invaded, we've been around that track many times. I was personally authorized four years ago to give similar assurances to Saddam. It's not the point.
The point is the one that was made earlier in the program. The identity that Saddam feels with his being in power and his weapons of mass destruction and prizing apart from those weapons is what this is about, and that's going to be a tough job.
AMANPOUR: We're so out of time. But I just want to ask Joe Wilson one last, final question. Do you think it's a vertical chain of command? If Saddam Hussein gives the order to those inspectors to do what they have to do, will it happen on the ground?
WILSON: If Saddam Hussein gives the order to which inspectors? The U.N. Inspectors?
AMANPOUR: Sorry. His own people. His own people to cooperate.
WILSON: Oh, yeah. Well I think that if he gives the order, they will cooperate. The question is, what are the orders that he's going to give? Are they the orders that he says publicly or is there the hidden agenda, which is to hide as much of the core technology, expertise, missiles and weapons that he has in stock from the inspection regime? We need to be very, very careful and to verify anything that we go about doing on this.
AMANPOUR: On that note, Joe Wilson, Richard Butler, Ken Pollack, thank you very much indeed for joining us.
I'm Christiane Amanpour at the United Nations.
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