WASHINGTON – The following is a transcript of an exclusive Fox News interview of Secretary of State Colin Powell.
FOX NEWS MANAGING EDITOR BRIT HUME: The secretary has been kind enough to allow us to come and see him here in the State Department.
Mr. Secretary, good afternoon, and thank you, sir.
SECRETARY OF STATE COLIN POWELL: Good afternoon, Brit.
HUME: We took some casualties yesterday in this fighting, a number of skirmishes. It got bloody. Some prisoners of war taken. Some U.S. equipment down. The stock market is tanking. There are stories in the newspapers suggesting the strategy may now have to be changed.
You're a veteran of many military campaigns, sir, and a longtime military planner. What is your view of all of that? What is — how do you view this, as a former military man, what has happened?
POWELL: Well, Brit, people have to understand, this isn't a videogame, it's a war. It's a real war.
We're in the fifth day of ground combat operations and it's amazing what those soldiers of ours and those Marines of ours and airmen and sailors have done. They've penetrated hundreds of miles inside Iraq, and now are only 50 to 60 miles away from Baghdad, in five days, less than five days. That's remarkable.
And the casualties are light at this point, even though every lost life is a pain to all of us here and a pain to the family, obviously. It is agonizing, particularly those who have been made prisoners of war.
But overall, in the great sweep of things, casualties have been light. It's been a remarkable military operation so far.
There will be ups and downs. There will be days like yesterday, where you have a friendly fire incident and something goes wrong and you see some casualties which cause people to get anxious, but I am confident that General Franks and his commanders, General Abizaid on the ground, know what they're doing, and they're prosecuting this war in a very, very fine manner with a solid strategy that I think will work, no question about it. They will prevail, and this regime will be taken down.
HUME: What would you say is the military significance of the encounters that we've had so far, where we've had to do some serious fighting?
POWELL: The big significance, or the real significance is that it is not an organized operation on the part of the enemy. There are pockets of resistance but you are not running into a front line of Iraqi troops. You are not running into divisions standing next to divisions putting up an organized opposition to your efforts. So you run into a pocket of resistance at al-Nasiriyah, you see another one down at Basra, you want to try to bypass those and not get yourself tied down fighting street by street into those cities.
So this is the kind of thing that frankly we expected when the operation was being planned. But what you are not seeing is organized resistance in the sense that there are three Iraqi divisions in a row that you have to go through.
You have the Medina Republican Guard division here, you have another division there, lots of room for the mechanized forces of the coalition to maneuver, get around these units, take them on using air power, after the ground forces have fixed them, air power goes after them and then the ground forces go in there and finish them off.
So what I am seeing is what I would have expected to see frankly at this point in the war and I have been through a number of operations like this where it develops this pattern, so stick with these young men and women, they know what they are doing.
HUME: Over the weekend, there were reports confirmed by officials here that Russia has been, through private sources, allowing certain vital equipment — night-vision goggles, global-positioning satellite devices — to go into Iraq. Indeed, there were even Russian officials, or Russians at least, in Iraq helping to teach the Iraqis how to use this stuff. What is your reaction to that? What have you done to try to stem it, if you have?
POWELL: We have been in touch with the Russians over a period of many months to point this out to them and express our concern, and in the last 48 hours I have seen even more information that causes me concern. We demarched the Russians at the end of last week and today I spoke again to Foreign Minister Ivanov. They say they are looking in all of this and cannot find any evidence. Well, we're giving more cues and clues so they can find out exactly what is going on and why this is a serious problem for us.
Foreign Minister Ivanov assured me that with enough information and the right information, they would do something about it, but frankly, we have given them more than enough information so they should be able to find out the truth of this and I am quite confident of our facts on this matter, very confident of our facts.
HUME: Do you think the Russians are not dealing straight with you on this, sir?
POWELL: I don't want to say that yet. I want to see whether or not they will respond this time, but I must say, that so far, I am disappointed at the response.
HUME: Is this the kind of equipment that can affect the course of this conflict?
POWELL: It is the kind of equipment that puts our men and women in harm's way. It gives an advantage to the enemy, an advantage we don't want them to have and that's our concern.
HUME: Turkey. We keep seeing reports that they are flowing across the border and then that they are not. What is the state of play as you understand it with Turkey? Is there trouble there?
POWELL: There are no troops flowing across the border. Turkey has reassured the international community over the weekend — they did it in NATO this morning and there have been other statements — that they have no plans at the moment to send any troops across the border.
There was all sort of press reporting over the last three days that Turkish units are already across the border, they are getting ready to go across, but the position of the Turkish government is that they are working with us.
We are examining what requirements might emerge in that part of Iraq with respect to humanitarian requirements and things of that nature. We are in closest consultation with the Turks, but right now, they have said they have no plans to cross the border with large formations or even you know medium or small formations.
They have no plans for an incursion at this time. That is not to say that the situation might not change in the future. The important thing is that, is what they have said and the important thing is that there is not been the humanitarian crisis in that part of Iraq. There are not large numbers of refugees flowing toward the Turkish border so we see no need for a Turkish incursion and that is what we are saying to our Turkish friends. There is no need for Turkish troops to cross the border.
HUME: And so far, they are ...
POWELL: So far, notwithstanding all the press reports, they have not crossed the border as we sit here this afternoon.
HUME: We understand that the State Department has received credible reports that Saddam Hussein has planned to use chemical weapons in the south and blame it on us. What about that, sir?
POWELL: There are such reports. I have no doubt that he would do such a thing if he thought it would serve his interests. So we are concerned about it. We will follow this matter carefully, we will do everything we can to gather all the intelligence we can. He has to be careful here because the world knows he has done it before and, were he to do it again, it would be immediate acknowledgement of the fact that he has weapons of mass destruction of the kind that he has been swearing that he does not have and we have been insisting he does have and we continue to believe he does have.
HUME: Gen. Franks, and again Gen. Myers over the weekend expressed confidence that there are indeed weapons of mass destruction. At first it appeared last night that a major weapons facility may have been found and now officials seem in doubt about that. What is your understanding about all that?
POWELL: I think they came upon a facility that they want to take another look at, but I think we have to be very cautious about announcing that a facility has been found and could be — and therefore it is — producing weapons of mass destruction.
We have to be careful about this. Right now our troops are essentially fighting a battle and when this battle has been won and when things have settled down, we will have more than ample opportunity to take a thorough look at the country and determine what weapons of mass destruction programs we can show to the world.
HUME: The French, in the person of Jacques Chirac, say they will not support any U.N. resolution in the aftermath in this conflict that would give the U.S. and Britain the lead in managing Iraq, so to speak, after this is all over with. I wasn't aware that such a resolution had been offered, but what do you make of the continuing diplomatic conduct of the French in all this?
POWELL: Well, uh, President Chirac said that and he also implied that he would not support any resolution that would provide legitimacy to the military operation we are conducting. Well, we haven't asked for any such resolution now because we don't need one. We believe 1441 is more than adequate justification with its underlying resolutions — 678 and 687 — to support what we are doing, so this is a misplaced concern on his part
We need no further legitimacy for what we are doing. That was the great success — sometimes forgotten — of 1441, [a] 15-to-0 vote. People focus on the second resolution, which was really an effort to give some of our coalition partners a little more help with their domestic political scene, but 1441 and the earlier resolutions are all that we need.
And as we move forward, I think that the coalition of the willing that will be in charge of Iraq for as short a time as we can make it — until we can turn it over to Iraqi authorities, an interim Iraq authority and then finally an Iraqi government — you will see that we will get I think the U.N. support that we need for that because the U.N. realizes all we are interested in is rebuilding the country and bringing a better life to the Iraqis.
HUME: Speaking of that coalition, Mr. Secretary, some of the members of your administration have said that it is indeed larger than the coalition that helped out in the Gulf War. Others have pointed out that there were more than 30 countries that sent military forces to participate in the Gulf War. Only a tiny handful in this case, and that the comparison, therefore, is really unreasonable. What do you say to that?
POWELL: I think it's still a fair point to make, whether it is greater or less than it was at the time of the Gulf War, but as of today, there are 46 nations of this coalition. Everybody was saying the United States is going it alone politically and militarily. Well, more and more nations are joining us. Now they all can't contribute militarily. Most of them don't have the wherewithal to add to the kind of combat power that we and the United Kingdom and the Australians can bring to the table.
But for a small country that is taking a big internal domestic political chance, and hears itself threatened by larger nations in Europe, to nevertheless stand up and say we think this is the right thing to do, we want to be a member of the coalition of the willing, and we want the whole world to know it, I think that is the kind of commitment we should treasure and the kind of commitment we should certainly present to the world, as a nation that is part of this great effort to rid its weapons of mass destruction and provide a better life for the Iraqi people by getting rid of this regime.
HUME: Mr. Secretary, I believe our time is up sir. Thank you very much for doing this. Nice to see you sir.
POWELL: Nice to see you.