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Showdown:Iraq: The Weapons Report: Insight & Analysis

Aired January 27, 2003 - 10:00   ET


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: In just about 30 minutes from now, the U.N.'s chief inspector begins delivering his report to the Security Council. Hans Blix and Mohamed Elbaradei are expected to make the case for more time, while criticizing the level of cooperation from Baghdad, and then the session moves behind closed doors to discuss the next step.
We have CNN correspondents posted round the world with the view from many different countries enmeshed in this developing story.

We have CNN's Richard Roth at his post at the United Nations, Suzanne Malveaux at the White House, Nic Robertson in Baghdad and Bill Hemmer joining us from Kuwait City, where he'll spend time with U.S. troops on duty there. We will also have in-depth analysis from Jeff Greenfield in New York, Christian Amanpour, joining us from Tel Aviv this morning, in New York, former weapons inspector Terry Taylor, and Ambassador Joseph Wilson in Washington, the last man to sit down face to face with Saddam Hussein, representing the U.S. government.

Let's begin at the nucleus of this hour's pivotal report; that's where we catch up with Richard Roth from the U.N.

Good morning, Richard.

Kofi Annan, the secretary-general, made some brief remarks to reporters in advance of this report today. I guess he really said stuff we've heard before, but he made it loud and clear that everybody wants more time for inspection.

ROTH: That's Kofi Annan's view. We'll hear views from a lot of people over the next few hours. Things are heating up right now definitely behind me. You can't really see clearly behind me, but arrests are being made on First Avenue, running in front of U.N. headquarters, protesters opposed to any kind of military conflict.

I said earlier temperatures, the cold temperatures, may keep the crowds down, the numbers are slightly growing outside, and people are cheering, and yelling no to war against Iraq, and some people are beginning to be put into paddy wagons of the New York City Police.

Also outside about an hour ago, Hans Blix, the U.N.'s chief weapons inspector, far from the protesters, he entered headquarters without make a comment, he noted Nordic weather, however; Blix likely to say a lot more inside, detailing where Iraq has not cooperated with his inspectors, providing information about anthrax, and VX and sarin. Blix also didn't comment when he entered U.N. headquarters there. After here, he went upstairs and went into a meeting with the U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and Mohamed Elbaradei of the International Atomic Energy Agency. Kofi Annan earlier expressed confidence in both men. He noted their independence. He indicated that he did go to Baghdad, but didn't get the information they need close gaps their report. And later to journalists, Annan said inspectors should be given more time.


KOFI ANNAN, U.N. SECY. GENERAL: I think the inspectors will report to the council what they have achieved, the state of their work and what more needs to be done for them to come to certain conclusions, and they will be able to give the facts to the council, and the council will have to determine how to proceed next, but I think if they do need time, they should be given the time to do their work.


ROTH: Kofi Annan also saying that he has not given up on peace, and neither should the journalists. Here is another aspect of the demonstration, people also not ready to go to war, protesters hanging a big banner, no war on Iraq. If you're in the U.N. building, you can look directly across and see this sign. Kofi Annan, Paula, will do anything possible to avoid military conflict. He has said, though, that Iraq has to live up to its responsibilities under that unanimously passed Security Council resolution.

ZAHN: By all accounts, Richard, we are told that Hans Blix will deliver a sort of mixed bag report of some positive things he thinks Iraq is doing and then some negative things as well. Fill us in on what we may hear.

ROTH: Well, he'll probably say he has not been able to find detailed proof that Iraq has an active weapons mass destruction program or is hiding thinking, but he wants more time, because it's a big country, and he's only had a few hundred inspectors in there, and Iraq will be praised by Blix for opening doors and providing access. A lot of people thought that would not happen. That's why January 27 a long time seemed like a flash point day. Many in Washington thought Baghdad would blow it and bar the inspectors in some way. That has not happened so far; that's why the French and other European countries said let's give Blix and Elbaradei and team more time.

ZAHN: Richard, we'll be checking in with you throughout our special coverage today. Thanks for the update/

Now just hours before the scheduled session at the U.N., Baghdad delivered a scathing rebuke of the process. It says 400 site inspections show that it harbors no weapons of mass destruction, and that the only thing truly revealed is warmongering motives of Washington and London.

Senior international correspondent Nic Robertson join us from Iraq's capital and provides the view from Baghdad now. Good morning, Nic.


Well, that view from Iraq's foreign minister, Naji Sabri. While there's been a lot of talk about war, he said that there was still time for diplomacy. However, he said diplomacy had to be aimed at the United States, along with its only ally, he said, Great Britain, and Tony Blair, the British prime minister he named there.

Now he said that there main aim for this region was to take over the region, to take control of the oil here and provide security for Israel.

Nevertheless, he's been characterizing Iraq's cooperation with the U.N. weapons inspectors as super cooperation, and that, to a degree, is what we've seen here over the last 60 days. On the surface, over the last 60 days, it does seem there is good cooperation.

ZAHN: As you go, one question for you, despite the extensive allocations of manpower, machinery and expertise, where have the inspection fallen short of providing definitive answers?

ROBERTSON: Well, the key thing to all of this has been the private interviews with Iraqi scientists. Now, the government here saying it is encouraging the scientists. The scientists haven't been willing to do it, they say, because they're afraid how their words might get used.

But we've seen rhetoric stepping up significantly over the last week here. We've seen the calls from religious leaders that showed no tolerance towards inspectors, saying inspectors have violated a mosque. We've seen a farmer here, very publicly, saying he wanted to sue the U.n. for damage to his property. What we've seen over the last few days is a level of dislike being shown publicly towards the weapons inspectors.

However, over the last 60 days there has been good cooperation up on the surface.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good morning. Are you coming with us today?



ROBERTSON (voice-over): After almost 60 days of U.N. inspections, cooperation from Iraqi officials still has much of the appearance of being good.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have four vehicles.

ROBERTSON: It's the way it's been now for over 400 site visits -- help in finding the way when lost, doors opened, mostly without delay. But just opening doors and showing the way has not been the proactive cooperation the U.N. wants.

HANS BLIX, CNN U.N. WEAPONS INSPECTOR: It requires comprehensive inspection and it requires very active Iraqi cooperation.

ROBERTSON: Despite the high-speed car chases, an inspector's efforts to hide where they're going, most agree, no smoking gun has been found thus far. Iraqis have a simple explanation. They have no weapons of mass destruction.

GEN. AMIR AL-SAADI, IRAQI PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: Will you accept my story unless you have evidence to the contrary? And you don't have evidence to the contrary. If they had, they would come up with it right away.


ROBERTSON: And really that's the issue that daunts everything the U.N. weapon inspectors are doing here, because resolution 1441 is set up in such a way that it will only succeed, the U.N. says, if Iraq is forthcoming with that evidence and does show that it has essentially killed off its previous programs of weapons of mass destruction -- Paula.

ZAHN: All right, Nic, if you wouldn't mind standing by, we'd love to come back to you, after Hans Blix and Mohamed Elbaradei make their report to get reaction from there.

Right now, we're going to head to the White House and check in with Suzanne Malveaux to give us a better idea of what the White House is up against in particular as they try analyze public opinion, which most polls seem to indicate are eroding support for military action.

Give us the headline from there, Suzanne.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Paula, really, the bottom line is White House says that it's not about whether or not Saddam Hussein is disarming, he's not and will not, they say the question now is whether or not the world is really going to do anything about this. The centerpiece to their strategy is try to get U.S. allies and the American people to think differently about inspections.

Now while Germany, France, as well as China say, look, inspectors are finding things, it's working, give them more time, we can contain Saddam Hussein, the Bush administration says exactly the opposite, they say, because we are finding things, it simply proves it has evidence that Saddam Hussein refuses to disarm. What they are saying is if inspections cannot work, if you are dealing with regime that refuses to disarm, that there are more than 22 million people there more than 100 inspectors that you could be there for 20 years and you still would not successfully disarm Saddam Hussein unless he wanted to.

So what you're going to see the administration doing is making that case to the American people, as well as to the U.S. allies. They're going to be putting pressure on U.N. Security Council members at the very least to acknowledge Iraqi's defiance. At the most to commit to military action if it's necessary.

What we are going to be seeing is really a true campaign in weeks to come, they're saying yes we'll allow inspectors to do their jobs, we'll consult, but this is going to be a matter of weeks, not months. We heard from Secretary of State Colin Powell yesterday making that case to the world community in Switzerland, and this coming from one of the administration's most adamant doves.

Here what is Powell said yesterday.


COLIN POWELL, U.S. SECY. OF STATE: The United States believes that time is running out. We will not shrink from war if that is the only way to rid Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction. We continue to reserve our sovereign right to take military action against Iraq alone or in a coalition of the willing.

As the president has said, we cannot defend American America and our friends by hoping for the best. History will judge harshly those who sought the coming danger, but failed to act.


MALVEAUX: So today, Paula, the administration will assess what the findings are from the U.N. Security Council from those inspectors, and then tomorrow, as you know, the president has been preparing for his State of the Union address tomorrow, and outlining the case, we're told he's not going to declare war, but outlining a broad and detailed case against Saddam Hussein, why he believes that he will not disarm, that time is running out, and that the prospect for war is very real.

Following that, they'll be consultations with the U.N. Security Council members, and then over the weekend, President Bush is going to be meeting with British Prime Minister Tony Blair at Camp David to discuss what will happen next. White House sources tells us this is a matter of weeks when the president makes up his mind, not months.

And, Paula, really the key to the strategy here is that they are going call on U.N. Security Council members and put their credibility on the line. They believe they will be successful in doing so, just like when the president went before the U.N. on September 12 and asked for a resolution, calling Saddam Hussein to be held into account. That is exactly the same thing that they believe the president will be able to do this time around -- Paula.

ZAHN: All right, Suzanne, thanks so much. We'd love for to you stand by, too, so we can get White House reaction to the reports once they are made, and preferably they'll be inside for you. Thank you.

Americans are apparently divided in who they trust more as the decision-maker in the showdown. A new CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup poll says 47 percent Americans are more inclined to trust the Bush administration to make the right decisions on Iraq. Now an identical percentage likely to place trust in the United Nations.

Let's turn to our senior analyst Jeff Greenfield who will flesh out American sentiment as the country inches closer to the brink of war. Good luck, Jeff. This poll today had very interesting contradictions, didn't it?

Good morning.


And in fact, it reflects a contradiction that's been around for some time. If you go through these numbers, what they say is Americans are prepared to support President Bush if he goes to war in Iraq. They would much rather he went to war with the support of the U.N., which if you think about it, is not necessarily a contradiction, and they'd like more time, because war is not anything that people particularly embrace. But I actually think the real story today is what Colin Powell said yesterday, as you just heard, because while the president is going to be talking to America tomorrow, he and his administration are also talking to the world.

And what the secretary of state did yesterday was preemption. We've heard a lot about whether or not the United States is prepared to act preemptively against Iraq. This was an act of diplomat preemption. He said to a skeptical world community and to the United States, look, it really doesn't matter what the inspectors report is today, we are not going to be bound by it, and as symbol of multilateralism in this administration, the man that the world sees as least likely to encourage unilateral move to war, the words of Colin Powell yesterday, no distance between he, and Rumsfeld, and Cheney And Bush, was a critical message to the world community, that we are prepared to act whether or not you think there is enough evidence, because we believe there is.

ZAHN: But isn't the overarching message from this polling that the Americans, like you said, would be willing to go on along with some more action, if there is proof that Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction?

GREENFIELD: You know I'm not a betting man, Paula, but I will bet you whatever you'd like that after the president's speech tomorrow, his approval ratings will be stratospheric, and the sentiment of the United States, we'd rather you went in (ph) multilaterally, because first of all, State of the Unions always produce that spike. And second it is the contradiction of which you spoke, the country named (UNINTELLIGIBLE), the world would be with us, the way it was in 1991, but they are not prepared to go against the president.

But let me be blunt with you, country will turn against the president if the war proves to be unsuccessful -- if it goes on too long, if it doesn't produce quick results, and if it produces a lot of casualties, and if the war -- if there is a war, and it is swift and relatively bloodless, the president will have the support of the country. And I so think these poll numbers have to be taken with several grains of salt. There is skepticism out there. Their is a kind of feeling of, has he really told us why we might do this? But I don't think the country is prepared to say no to the president until an unless he takes us into a war that doesn't go well.

ZAHN: I know you say you're not a betting man, but you see him getting a spike, as all presidents traditional do after the State of the Union Address, but you had this "Wall Street Journal"/NBC poll showing that 72 percent of Americans will only support this war effort if there is proof.

Now from what we understand, the president isn't going to lay out critical intelligence information tomorrow night.

GREENFIELD: Look, at some point, and we've been told he's not going to do that tomorrow, but at some point, if the president takes the United States into armed conflict with Iraq, I think they know that they have to put on the table why he's doing it beyond a simple assertion that we know more than do you.

And again, I'd be cautious in reading these numbers as a feeling that if the United States citizenry will not support the president. As I said, it sounds very cold blooded, but history teaches us that except for World War II, the country will turn against a president if war doesn't go well, if people die and we're not seeing a successful conclusion, and that I think is where the critical political fallout, if you will, will come when and if we go to war and how that turns out.

The country, if you remember, back in 1990, after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, was reluctant on first President Bush taking us into war. The war went bloodlessly, it went well, it was quick, and his popularity, his approval rating soared.

So I really this administration is telling us, particularly Powell's speech yesterday, that it is prepared to act, and the polling numbers and the international community are not the key.

ZAHN: Jeff Greenfield, thanks for helping us walk through the maze of these statistics. Appreciate it.

World sentiment is also divided not so much within countries, but within actual regions.

For a closer analysis of that, we're joined by Christiane Amanpour in Tel Aviv.

Good morning, Christiane.


ZAHN: And why don't you give us a better sense of the anti- American sentiment we have seen bubble up throughout Europe and the Middle East? AMANPOUR: Well, I think a remarkable similarity from what you heard from Jeff Greenfield and in many other parts of the world. Certainly many people in many parts of the world want so to see so- called proof. The administration says they have proof, many people that is, in fact, the case, but they haven't seen proof yet. They also don't believe necessarily as the administration does that Iraq is an imminent threat. Having said that, many people around the world, especially this region would like to see the back of Saddam Hussein.

But what also ruffles feathers around the world this administration says, yes, we will go the multilateralist approach, we'll go through the U.N., but if the rest of the world doesn't agree with us, we'll go it alone. So there's a bit of a disconnect in terms of how the world views what this administration is saying.

I think for people on the street, leaders in this part of the world and Europe, if this was done in a thorough U.N. manner, multilaterally, with a great deal of world support, then for many people that would provide adequate cover, and they would be able to accept this much more readily.

Having said that, it is very likely that once push comes to shove, if it does, most of the traditional allies will line up behind the administration, and certainly in this part of the world, in the Middle East, people will sort of hopefully, once it's over and fit goes well, certainly line up and appreciate and approve of what happened. That's if it goes well and if the war not just defeats the Iraqi army, but results in removal of Saddam Hussein and the total disarmament of weapons of mass destruction.

But we are in a part of the world where we do have an external factor that inflames people's passions, and that is ongoing conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians. In the Islamic world and much of Europe, this a major irritant as the United States tries to pursue a separate policy in Iraq.

ZAHN: I want to come back to some of what we heard about what is going to be in these reports today. According to Richard Roth, a mixed bag for praise for Saddam Hussein, and some of his cooperation, on the other hand, condemnation for not allowing inspectors the access they need.

How do you feel these reports will ultimately play in the Middle East?

AMANPOUR: Well, I think if it's expected that the inspectors will ask for more time, that will go down well in this part of the world. But I think also the fact of the matter is that certainly Mr. Blix is probably going to say that Iraq has not done all it should do under the inspection mandate, under the U.N. resolution, because it's not enough, people are saying, for Iraq to allow the inspectors access, which they pretty much have done to a large extent, but Iraq is meant to be providing, actively cooperating, showing that it does or does not have weapons of mass destruction.

In other words, if it was serious about disarming, it should be the leading weapons inspectors to where its programs were where it's programs are and allow them properly to verify what it has , and of course he's going to talk about the massive gaps in the declaration that Iraq provided a month or more ago. Where are these many, many gallons and tons of product that could make biological or chemical weapons, things that the inspectors knew existed when they were last there in 1998?

So I think with that what's going to happen in this part of the world if this does go ahead and in the next few weeks is people are going to wait to see whether the U.S. administration provides more proof and whether the U.S. administration will at least make a show of continuing down the U.N., the multilateralist route -- Paula.

ZAHN: Christiane, thanks. Christiane Amanpour, reporting from Tel Aviv Israel for us today.


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