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HEARING BEFORE THE
April 27, 2004
LUGAR: This hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is called to order.
Today the Foreign Relations Committee meets to consider the nomination of Ambassador John Negroponte to be the United States ambassador to Iraq. This post, in my judgment, will be one of the most consequential ambassadorships in American history.
The ambassador to Iraq not only will be called upon to lead an estimated 1,700 embassy personnel -- 1,000 Americans and 700 Iraqis -- he will be at the epicenter of international efforts to secure and to reconstruct Iraq, and to provide the developing Iraqi government with the opportunity to achieve responsible nationhood.
American credibility in the world, progress in our war on terrorism, relationships with our allies and the future of the Middle East depend on a positive outcome in Iraq. What happens there during the next 18 months almost certainly will determine whether we can begin to direct the Middle East toward a more productive and peaceful future beyond the grip of terrorist influences.
Helping the Iraqi people achieve a secure, independent state is a vital United States security priority that requires the highest level of our national commitment.
With so much at stake, I am pleased that the president of the United States has nominated a veteran diplomat and manager to lead the American presence in Iraq.
Ambassador Negroponte has served as United States ambassador to Honduras, Mexico and the Philippines. He has also served as an assistant secretary of state and as deputy assistant for national security affairs under President Ronald Reagan.
He has been the United States ambassador to United Nations since September 18, 2001, just seven days after the September 11 attacks. The contacts and credibility that he has developed at the United Nations will be invaluable.
If we are to be successful in Iraq, the United Nations and the international community must play a more central role. U.N. involvement can help us generate greater international participation, improve the political legitimacy of the interim Iraqi government and take the American face off the occupation of Iraq.
The appointment of an ambassador who occupies such a high and visible post underscores for our coalition partners and the Iraqis that the American commitment to Iraq is strong and that we mean to succeed.
Last week, the Foreign Relations Committee held three hearings to examine whether American and Iraqi authorities are ready for the transition to Iraqi sovereignty on June 30. These hearings greatly advanced our understanding of the situation in Iraq and helped the committee to answer many questions.
But we hold additional hearings in the weeks to come to monitor progress and to illuminate for the American people the challenges and responsibilities that we face in Iraq.
LUGAR: The president and other leaders, including members of Congress, must communicate with the American people about our plans in Iraq. American lives will continue to be at risk in Iraq and substantial American resources will continue to be spent there for the foreseeable future.
This nomination hearing is part of our ongoing oversight. And I'm convinced that the confidence and commitment demonstrated by the pronouncement of a flexible but detailed plan for Iraq is necessary for our success.
Such a plan would prove to our allies and to Iraqis that we have a strategy and that we are committed to making it work.
If we cannot provide this clarity, we risk the loss of support of the American people, the loss of potential contributions from allies and the disillusionment of Iraqis.
During the set of three hearings on Iraq last week, I posed six detailed questions as a way of fleshing out a plan for Iraq. And I believe the answers to those questions would constitute a coherent strategy for Iraq.
In pursuit of this clarity, we discussed issues surrounding Ambassador Brahimi's efforts, the status of American armed forces in Iraq after the transition, the role of the U.N. Security Council resolutions, plans for elections, the composition of the United States embassy and efforts to provide security for its personnel, and how we intend to pay for the continuing United States involvement in Iraq.
The Foreign Relations Committee will be persistent and probing for details on these and many other aspects of Iraqi plans, but we have taken up Ambassador Negroponte's nomination in expedited fashion.
Processing a diplomatic nomination often requires weeks and sometimes months from the time the president announces it. Through the diligent efforts of the State Department and our own staffs on both sides of the aisle, we have accelerated the normal timetable to give Ambassador Negroponte and the administration a chance to stand up the United States embassy in Iraq as soon as possible.
This nomination was announced just last week. With the help of Senator Biden and the other members of this committee, we intend to vote on it this coming Thursday, along with other nominations that will come before our business meeting.
Undersecretary Marc Grossman testified last Thursday about the importance of engaging the interim Iraqi government as soon as it is selected. We cannot simply turn on the lights at the embassy on June 30 and expect everything to go well.
LUGAR: We must be rehearsing with the Iraqi authorities and our coalition partners how decision-making and administrative power will be distributed and exercised. It is critical therefore that Ambassador Negroponte and his team be in place at the earliest possible moment.
Today we look forward to a thorough discussion with Ambassador Negroponte about his perspectives on Iraq and his plans for providing leadership to our embassy. We recognize the deep personal commitment necessary on the part of Ambassador Negroponte and his family to undertake this very difficult assignment, and we are grateful that a leader of his stature and experience is willing to step forward.
Let me pause at this point and to ask if my colleagues might have words of greeting and introduction.
DODD: Well, thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, and let me thank you as well for your opening comments and underscore the themes behind them. I think they are very solid themes and ones which you pursued during these last number of hearings we've held. And so I congratulate you once again on having this committee perform such a very important educational function at this time.
Let me begin by thanking John Negroponte for doing this. And you said it well, Mr. Chairman: This is in many ways a thankless task to be taking on. It's a very, very difficult one. But John Negroponte has a very distinguished career and is certainly more than eminently qualified to take on this challenge.
And so we welcome your willingness to pursue this.
And let me say to you, Mr. Chairman, that from the very outset, I'll do everything I can as well to see that we expedite this nomination. I know that Senator Biden feels very much the same, as other members of the committee do, so we can try and get this work done over the next several days.
Having said that, and although the process may be abridged, and with good reason, I certainly welcome today's opportunity to address the nomination briefly.
We all know on this committee that U.S. ambassadors perform one of the most critical and crucial tasks of our nation. An effective ambassador is vital to facilitating the success of American foreign policy objectives. He or she is the bearer of the concepts of human rights, of freedom, free markets, free press and the rule of law.
DODD: And at this moment there is no more important ambassadorial post to the U.S. national interest than in Iraq.
In fact, as you said, Mr. Chairman, this may be one of the most important posts ever held by an American ambassador at any point in time.
Our overall measure of success in that country of Iraq will in great part be dependent upon the success of our diplomatic efforts. I happen to believe that Ambassador John Negroponte, a career diplomat with a long and very large and distinguished career, has the requisite skills for this incredibly important post.
Unfortunately, up to this point U.S. efforts in Iraq have been plagued, in my view, by a lack of planning on the part of the administration. This lack of planning has seriously jeopardized the security situation in that country. And the lack of security unfortunately has lost us the confidence of many Iraqis. It is undermining our mission there.
This isn't simply my observation. I was told so directly a few months ago by an Iraqi during my trip to the country in December; well before the recent flare-up in violence. This is an ordinary man, a Shiite, a moderate, a forward-thinking individual. He very frankly told me that the lawlessness which followed the war negatively impacted Iraqis' confidence in America's intentions, preparedness and capabilities to create a safe and secure Iraq.
Let me very clear: The lawlessness was not a failure -- a military failure, rather. It was a failure on the part, I believe, of civilian planners in the administration.
It will be incumbent upon you, Mr. Ambassador, along with others in the U.S. mission and administration, and hopefully with the help of the United Nations, to win back the confidence of the Iraqi people.
Given what is happening on the ground there at this moment, it is an understatement to say that this is not going to be an easy task. As chief of mission in that country, the U.S. ambassador will replace Ambassador Bremer and the Coalition Provisional Authority as the U.S. presence in that nation, monitoring and supporting Iraq's transition to self-rule and democratic governance.
It is well known that Ambassador Negroponte and I had some differences many years ago, when he was ambassador in the 1980s in Honduras. Those differences stem largely from a lack of candor about what the U.S. was and wasn't doing in Central America in the conflict at that time.
And although I intend to support and strongly support this nomination when it comes to a vote in this committee, and later on the Senate floor, I want to make one point especially clear: That same issue -- candor -- in my view, is going to be critical with respect to continued support for U.S. policies in Iraq.
DODD: If the administration's policies aren't working, it'll be your duty to the American people to say so, and to say so very clearly and without any hesitation so that we can make course corrections before it's too late.
U.S. policy in Iraq must stop being crafted and reactive in the hasty manner characterized by much of the Bush administration's policies up to this point.
Instead, the United States must develop a clear, proactive and comprehensive strategy in cooperation with the international community and, of course, the Iraqis themselves.
I'm very hopeful, Mr. Chairman, that this nominee will draw upon his years of diplomatic experience, his senior status. He's a man of candor, he's not afraid to speak his mind.
And this is going to be absolutely critical, John, in these days that you continue to do so. And your contacts at the United Nations I think are going to be tremendously helpful to us as we try to get back our footing in Iraq.
Ambassador Negroponte, you are entering this post at a most critical time, as you know. The June 30th deadline for the handover of sovereignty is fast approaching and the likelihood is increasing that the interim Iraqi government will be far from the fully sovereign entity called for in the law of administration for the state of Iraq.
Iraq is witnessing a state of unrest and insecurity not since the days following the fall of Saddam Hussein, and our troops are in great peril.
We have a genuine opportunity, I believe, to transform Iraq from a dictatorship to a member of the family of democratic nations. It is a complex and difficult path, but one that we need to get right.
I have several very specific questions, Mr. Chairman, which I'll reserve during the question period.
But again, I congratulate you, John, for taking this job.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
LUGAR: Thank you very much, Senator Dodd, for your opening comments.
Senator Biden has graciously -- says he will make an opening statement after other colleague have been heard.
And I'll recognize now Senator Hagel.
HAGEL: Mr. Chairman, thank you.
I would withhold my comments as well until the questioning period to give us an opportunity to spend more time with Ambassador Negroponte.
But I would conclude by saying we very much appreciate this preeminent diplomat, his willingness to step forward and take on an immense responsibility and a very, very large task, as well as his family.
HAGEL: And we will help him in every way we can.
And with that, Mr. Chairman, I'll yield back my time and wait to hear from our distinguished witness.
LUGAR: Thank you, Senator Hagel.
Senator Boxer, do you have an opening comment?
BOXER: I'll waive.
LUGAR: I thank the senator.
BROWNBACK: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
And welcome, Ambassador Negroponte. Very good to have you here.
I'll forego a formal statement. But I would just make note of the situation that you're going into, which you note and you know, of us handing over sovereignty to Iraq and where you'll be the ambassador in a period of time when we're going from a role as an occupier and into the role as a supporter of democracy in Iraq.
It's going to be a critical transition. I think it's going to be difficult. It's going to be something we probably should have done months earlier, more along the design of what, perhaps, if we could have have taken place in Afghanistan of having an Afghan face and an Afghan leadership at a very early stage. But we're getting there now and we're going to do that, and it's important that we do that.
That handoff and the transition and then that handing of the sovereignty is going to be at such a critical phase. I stand ready to provide any assistance that I can in support.
Also, just on one point that's coming up now, I think we are going to have to bring back a lot more of the people that were in the government, even during Saddam Hussein. I know that's a tough thing to do and you're going to have to ferret out who is worthy and who's somebody we can deal with. But we certainly saw that feature when the communist countries fell of a number of people that were communist yesterday and the next day or democracy advocates or free market advocates, and they made the transition -- some better than others.
But I think you're going to have to be one that's going to be a very shrewd judge of people and hearts, which is often difficult to do.
So I wish you well and God speed. And I'll look forward to try to be of any assistance I can.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
LUGAR: Thank you very much, Senator Brownback.
NELSON: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I think unanimously this committee gives you its best wishes and our hopes and prayers go with you, because I don't think we have any choice: We have to be successful in Iraq for the interests of the United States, for the interest of the free world. That's what's at stake. God speed.
LUGAR: Thank you very much, Senator Nelson.
COLEMAN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Chairman, I want to thank you for your leadership in expediting the nomination process.
I would note that this nomination presents a unique opportunity to rise above some of the partisanship and finger-pointing that has characterized the Iraq debate. I hope we seize that opportunity. God speed. And I look forward to strongly supporting this nomination.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
LUGAR: Thank you very much, Senator Coleman.
BIDEN: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Ambassador, welcome.
I don't know whether to say congratulations or -- but I'm glad we have a man of your caliber who is ready to take on this daunting task.
This may sound paradoxical but I believe that the lower your profile the more successful you're likely to be in Iraq. Let me explain what I mean.
The Iraqi people have been promised, as we all know and heard repeatedly, sovereignty on June 30th. We have yet to define exactly what that means and it's understandable -- it is difficult to do so. Yet, all of us know that Iraqi institutions are not strong enough to handle their own security on June 30th. We also know the Iraqis will need a political referee to prevent the country from sliding into civil war.
The irony here is that -- and I know you know this well -- we cannot want a representative government for the Iraqi people more than the Iraqi people want a representative government. We all know through three decades of absolutely brutal repression that the majority of the Iraqi people -- and this is the premise upon which we're basing everything; I am anyway -- that the majority of the Iraqi people reject an Iranian-style theocracy and reject the reintroduction of a strong man as the governing mechanism of their country.
BIDEN: We assume, based on polling data and our knowledge of the region and the country, that a majority of the Iraqi people want some form of a representative government, whether or not it falls into the category of a liberal Western democracy of not, which I think is beyond the pale, beyond our reach, maybe not in a generation, but clearly within a year, in my view -- within several years.
And so we're assuming, I think all of us, that a majority of the Iraqi people want a representative government. But that same majority has been taught by experience for over a generation to keep their head down, because it gets blown off if they rise up.
And so we have this daunting responsibility of trying to figure out how to provide security, not just against insurgency, but so that an Iraqi mother or father can allow their daughter to walk down the street and go to the equivalent of a local grocery store to buy a local loaf of bread without getting raped or kidnapped or sold into slavery or any version thereof.
And at the same time, there is an ongoing and understandable competition among the Iraqis, not only those who are, quote, "the insurgents," but among the Iraqi people who want to have a representative government, as to who will control that government. It's happened in every single experience in the last 300 years when any form of a government has been toppled and another one is in the making.
Now, it's either going to be done through some form of a democratic process or a civil war, but there is a competition.
And there's another thing we know for certain from our experience, not just in Iraq and in the Middle East, but anywhere that we've had experience, and that is that, to the degree to which that competition takes place, there is a predictable rise in appeal to nationalism.
BIDEN: The competing force, seeking to become the new governing body, is going to appeal to a nationalism. I mean, we do that in our elections; everybody does in every free and democratic election.
And to the degree that is a player, there is going to be this second conundrum: the very institution, the very entity, the very capacity of the United States is going to be seen in a way that it cannot be embraced. It's not going to be able to be, in effect -- they're not going to kiss us in public. This is a thing that is going to be have to be done very deftly.
So the very people we're putting in place, or Mr. Brahimi's going to suggest we put in place, who are going to be the, sort of, institutional forerunner of what will become an Iraqi government -- we all know the process, but we don't say it enough for the public -- there is this interim entity to whom we're going to hand over some form of sovereignty.
They in turn have the responsibility, which is awesome: between June 30th and sometime in January, to hold an election, to put together a group that's going to write a constitution, who in turn then are going to hold an election between January of this year and November or December of the following year, '06, that's going to produce a representative government.
Now, we know how it works. To the extent that any portion of that leadership is seen to be relying upon or taking orders from, or being the handmaiden of, a foreign power, it is going to damage their ability to become the party or the parties to whom the Iraqi people turn to say, "You lead us in the future."
BIDEN: I know you know all this, John, better than I do. But that seems to me therein lies the incredibly difficult role that you have to fulfill. The higher your profile, the more you seem to be seen getting in the automobile and riding to wherever this interim government is meeting to discuss with them plans, the more they're going to want to keep you at arm's length so they don't appear to be doing the bidding -- whether they are or not -- of the United States.
So the critical question to me is, who is going to be not only -- in fact, who's going to be perceived as the Iraqi interim government's primary partner in providing the support we acknowledge they need militarily, politically and economically? Will it be you, the ambassador of the United States? Or it'll be perceived as a much broader coalition, including those countries around the world that have the most at stake in seeing that there is success in establishing a representative government in Iraq?
As Senators Lugar and Hagel and myself and others in this committee travel the world, we hear constantly -- and I don't want to get him in trouble, but my colleague from Nebraska was saying he recently was in Europe and I think he heard the same kinds of things. Again, am I -- I may be mistaken, but that -- they, A, didn't like the way we went about this, but, B, they know if this thing comes a- cropper, if it ends up in a civil war, they've got a real problem.
And so for the cynics and the press and other places -- and I don't say that in the critical sense -- is really going to be cynical, who say, "Well, why would anybody want to help? They didn't like what we did. They didn't like the way we do it. They don't like the way we're doing it now. So why would they possibly come along and help?"
You at the United Nations understand better than anybody they can't afford a civil war either.
Over 10 percent of France's population is Arab-speaking, but the guesses are it's closer to 14 percent is Muslim.
BIDEN: In Germany, they already have an incredibly delicate situation in what I would characterize as their occasional xenophobia, their concern about Turkish immigrant workers. You think we've got a problem of being concerned? Our country is so much more broad-minded, in my view, about Mexican workers. Not so in Germany: They're worried about a civil war, what that means to the Kurds and the Turks and what will happen and refugee flows.
So these countries have a serious stake in the outcome, which I'm assuming and hoping with serious diplomacy of the caliber you can provide may very well get them in the game in a way they haven't been so far. Like you've gotten them -- and I credit you -- gotten them into Afghanistan.
Afghanistan is a NATO operation in part. Afghanistan has French and German soldiers in Afghanistan. French soldiers standing side by side of the Americans in Tora Bora and ending up into the most dangerous parts of that country.
So the question's going to be, in my view, is it going to be you?
And as a staff member of mine said, I think appropriately, right now we have a guy named Bremer who's a first-rate individual, heading up a coalition of sorts, not the coalition most Americans think, but it is a coalition nonetheless. And up until recently Jeremy Greenstock, other serious ambassadors have been part of this operation.
Are we going to go from the image of Clark Kent where, you know, we're not wearing our "S" in this coalition and ostensibly speaking for more than just ourselves through the present Bremer operation, are we going to go from there to you as superman? You're the super ambassador. You are there representing one of the largest embassies we'll have in the world allegedly. You are going to be there. What is your role?
And so, in a sense, how we generate a much broader coalition of countries with the most at stake in Iraq and a representative who speaks in their name, it may be useful for you to have that -- I'll put it in cynical terms -- that foil at least, so it's not just you, not just the United States.
BIDEN: When the Iraqis wake up on July the 1st, they will see at least 135,000 American forces still there. I support that; I'm not being critical of that. But let's look at what they're going to see when they wake up after sovereignty is turned over: 135,000 minimum American forces there, a presence absolutely necessary for their own security.
But as the president himself said, he can understand, notwithstanding the fact that they need the forces, they know they have to be there, he can understand -- I think I'm quoting him, he's saying, "chafing under occupation forces."
He understands that. We understand that. Again, that's another conundrum here.
But it would be a profound mistake, in my view, to compound our military presence with the perception that the caretaker government to whom we're handing over sovereignty is taking its political cues from you. You should not become the new proconsul once Ambassador Bremer leaves.
Otherwise we'll continue to be viewed as the occupier, we'll continue to be viewed and blamed for everything that goes wrong, we'll continue to be viewed as the target of every malcontent in the country, and that caretaker government, in my view, I predict, will try to distance itself from us.
There must be a fundamental change in the circumstance of the Iraqi people on June the 30th, and that change must be for them to see that we are no longer the only outfit calling all the shots. We'd be wise to work out an arrangement ahead of time with the major powers, not the U.N., the major powers and our Arab allies ahead of time.
We'd be wise to work out an agreement whereby they would -- like the contact group that existed before, like what we did in Afghanistan, or like what we did in the Balkans, where they would come along, this group, this supportive group, and bless what Brahimi suggests, which the president's going to bless, and hopefully call for a Security Council resolution that would mandate a Brahimi-like figure to be in Iraq along with you, not you alone.
BIDEN: We should have this agreement blessed by the U.N. so that we can, as George Will so aptly put it, no support of the United Nations, and I quote -- so that we can, quote, "usefully blur the clarity of U.S. primacy." "Usefully blur": George Will's words, not mine. He's more articulate than I am. He's right.
We will be the primary power, but it is important to give everybody a little bit of plausible deniability here, particularly this caretaker government.
I and others in this committee have been calling on the president for months to change the model in Iraq so that we can take the American face off the occupation. And there are signs -- maybe I am just a cockeyed optimist, but there are signs the administration is changing course, and I don't say that in a derisive way. I say that in a complimentary way. I hope I'm reading the signs correctly.
The president has endorsed the efforts of Ambassador Brahimi to establish a caretaker government. The administration has said it will seek a U.N. Security Council resolution that could get international buy-in that we desperately need. We've invited back qualified members of the Iraqi military to try to have them be the prime movers in establishing an Iraqi military, reversing the indiscriminate implementation of the deBaathification policy.
I asked on the weekend, and my staff is doing this for me -- I don't recall and my more informed colleagues may -- in Germany we did not blanketly say anyone who'd ever been a member of the Nazi Party could not participate in anything. We had gradation.
As I understand it, that's basically what is beginning to happen now. We're going back and looking. Anyone who is a Baathist, we said up until now, can't be a teacher, for example. Maybe not such a good idea. There is, in my view, an actual and significant and necessary and wise reconsideration of the policy initially implemented.
And the administration seems to be distancing itself -- maybe this is where the wish is the father of the thought -- is distancing itself from an unpopular exile leader like Ahmed Chalabi. I hope to the Lord that is correct because we need to establish legitimacy.
BIDEN: So there's hope that we can still get this right. But the president is yet to make clear how he sees our role in Iraq after June 30th. Will we finally make Iraq the world's problem as well? Or will it remain our problem solely, in the eyes of the Iraqis and in terms of the burden we shoulder?
I hope we can use this hearing, Mr. Chairman, to get some answers to those questions and to the many questions that we still have about the administration's plan for success.
Here's what I hope we'll be able to find out. One, what role have you been told, Mr. Ambassador, will be yours to play? Not do I expect you to have all the answers, but what do you think -- what do you think your role will be? Is it will be as a traditional ambassador in a country, or will it be, to my phrase, and a phrase used by Mr. Bremer in other contexts, will it be the proconsul role?
Secondly, how do you plan to interact with the Iraqi caretaker government -- I'm having trouble with that phrase, as they're having trouble envisioning what it is.
If it makes a decision we don't like, what are we going to do?
For example, what happens if a deal is cut that the role of women will be more like that in a sharia government, or under sharia, or under like it's drawn now? Will we call them into account?
Third, how are discussions going in New York, on the so-called mega resolution? Not my term. How will that resolution address the questions of balancing Iraqi sovereignty while retaining freedom of action for American forces?
For example, if there's another standoff in Fallujah or Najaf, and the U.S. military wants to intervene but the caretaker government says no, who carries the day? My guess is we're going to have to negotiate that as we go. I don't know how you write that absolutely.
Fourth, on weapons inspections, why are we pressing for the dissolution of UNMOVIC? Why not let UNMOVIC issue its own report, after the Iraqi Survey Group completes its work?
BIDEN: It seems to me we constantly undermine our credibility among our colleagues. Wouldn't it be helpful for UNMOVIC to confirm the ISG's findings? Isn't the continued existence of UNMOVIC a small price to pay if it helps get a consensus on a resolution?
Now, you're more qualified to answer that question than anybody. Maybe we don't need that. Maybe we can diss UNMOVIC, get rid of it, and still get a consensus.
And fifth, with regard to reconstruction, will you have full control over the reconstruction funds that are granted by us, the Congress, or will a large portion of that be managed by the Pentagon, only with nominal oversight on your part?
In other words, who do we hold accountable -- who do we hold accountable, on how the money's spent? My dad used to say, when I was a kid, God rest his soul, I was the oldest in the family, and I'd leave, and I'd say, "Dad, why am I responsible?" And he said, "I like to know who to hold accountable when I come back."
Well, you know, who do we hold accountable?
And sixth, and lastly, Mr. Chairman, how can we best prevent corruption in Iraq, particularly as it relates to our assistance dollars?
There are reports now that 20 percent of our reconstruction dollars have been lost to corruption. At the same time, as much as 25 percent of the reconstruction money is going to pay for security for the reconstructors. That means nearly half of the $18.4 billion that we've appropriated last year could be lost on security and corruption. Maybe that's a necessary price, but I don't think it's acceptable.
So, Mr. Chairman, we have a lot of ground to cover, and I've taken a lot of time to indicate what I hope gets covered. But as was stated by you before I walked in, I'm told, and has been stated by the senator from Connecticut, this is an incredibly important juncture in the history of the beginning of the 21st century for us.
And I think it may not be the last chance, Mr. Ambassador, but it may be close to our last chance to get it right in Iraq. We cannot squander this opportunity. And in my view, if you are Superman, figuratively speaking, there is no way you can get the job done -- there is no way you can get the job done.
BIDEN: If you're able to have a lower profile, with the significant diplomatic capability you have, with the rest of the world more engaged than they are now, we've got an even shot to deliver for the Iraqi people a circumstance where they will raise their head.
I conclude where I began: We cannot want a representative government in Iraq more than the Iraqi people. If that's the formula, we fail.
But with you there, I think we've got a chance. And I really personally want to tell you, it takes political, moral and physical courage for you to take on this responsibility. We owe you a debt of gratitude. And we owe your family a debt of gratitude. I appreciate your willingness to do this.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
LUGAR: Thank you very much, Senator Biden.
Mention has been made of your family, Ambassador. Would you like to introduce Mrs. Negroponte and the daughters who have accompanied you?
We're delighted that you are here, and we appreciate your coming to the hearing.
And, Ambassador, you have heard expressions of support from all members who have attended the hearing this morning. They have been genuine. And my hopes are that you will be encouraged by this. But now we hope to be encouraged by you testimony.
And so all of the testimony you have prepared will be made a part of the record in full and you may proceed as you wish. But do not feel a need for abbreviation where the points need to be made; this is really tremendously important for your views to be heard and we are here to hear them.
Would you please proceed?
NEGROPONTE: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman and Senator Biden and distinguished members of the committee.
You took the words out of my mouth, Mr. Chairman. The first thing I was going to say was how encouraged I was by the expressions of support that all the senators have expressed as I prepare to undertake this assignment if, of course, confirmed by the Senate.
I also want to want to acknowledge the understanding, support and sacrifice that my wife, Diana, my two children, Marina and Alejandra (ph), who are here with me today, and my three other children who could not be with us, have displayed, as we go forward in this process.
NEGROPONTE: I couldn't do it without the support and understanding of my family.
Mr. Chairman, I'm pleased to appear before you today as the president's nominee to be the first United States ambassador to a liberated Iraq.
This is, by the way, an abbreviated version of the statement that I have submitted for the record, Mr. Chairman.
I'm honored by the confidence shown in me by President Bush and Secretary Powell. I support the fine work that this committee has done to shape, guide and inform the United States policy on this most crucial of foreign policy issues. And if confirmed, I look forward to our continued close consultation in the weeks and months ahead.
Mr. Chairman, in your hearings on Iraq, your committee clearly demonstrated its concerns about the gravity of the situation and the complexity of the challenges we face. My colleagues have addressed many of the important questions you raised and shared with you some of the successes achieved thus far in Iraq.
But these successes will be for naught if Iraqis cannot weave them into the permanent fabric of their society, building on these successes to produce a stable, peaceful and democratic Iraq: our core strategic goal.
The sober reality, Mr. Chairman, is that destructive and divisive forces are working to undermine progress in Iraq. Coalition forces and Iraqi and international civilians are targeted by disparate elements opposed to a democratic Iraq. Our challenge is to establish the conditions by which the Iraqi people can pursue their interests through legitimate political channels, rather than through violence and retribution.
NEGROPONTE: The courage shown by all Americans working on the ground in Iraq in dangerous and uncertain conditions to support the principles we and our coalition partners share with Iraqis is humbling.
The men and women of our armed forces, of our diplomatic service and from all walks of American life who have come forward to serve our nation in Iraq have made great and too often the ultimate sacrifices.
We owe it to them to proceed with the utmost in forethought, resolve and prudence as we enter the next phase.
A prosperous, stable and democratic Iraq is central to our national interest and to the successful campaign against global terror. All of our efforts over the past year have sought to ensure that the new Iraq will be a constructive presence in the region and that its government be at peace with its neighbors and with its own citizens.
In partnership with the people of Iraq, the United States mission will support the democratization and rule of law, it will promote economic development and it will support efforts to restore security and eliminate terrorism.
Visionary and courageous Iraqis developed a time table and program for getting to democracy in the November 15th agreement, which they subsequently reaffirmed in the Transitional Administrative Law.
The mission will fully support, in cooperation with the United Nations, the international community and independent Iraqi electoral authorities, all aspects of electoral preparation.
In parallel with our support for elections, we will continue to encourage Iraqis as they establish effective governing institutions in Baghdad and in the provinces.
NEGROPONTE: Mr. Chairman, the United States is providing unprecedented funding and technical assistance to help Iraq achieve a level of prosperity commensurate with its natural and human resources and its proud history.
Working with the Iraqi authorities, who best know the needs of their people, the mission will oversee the vast array of reconstruction projects under way in Iraq.
We will ensure that these projects, financed with taxpayers' funds, serve our policy goals and the priority needs validated by the Iraqis themselves, and we will hold these projects to the highest standards of financial accountability.
We will encourage Iraq's new leaders to choose sound economic policies and to enforce high standards of integrity in public administration in order to stimulate growth and to create jobs.
As the security situation improves and Iraq's oil production capacity increases, we expect that Iraq's share of reconstruction expenses will gradually increase, and once again private investment will provide opportunities for all Iraqis.
The key to achieving lasting security in Iraq is building and strengthening the capacity of Iraq's security services to deal with both domestic extremists and foreign terrorists. I can think of no more important task.
We must do everything within our power to help the government and the courageous people of Iraq develop the capacity to defend themselves and maintain the kind of peace and tranquility that will permit their nation to go about its legitimate civilian pursuits.
A robust multinational force presence will be critical. I will work hard in my current capacity, as representative to the United Nations, to obtain continued Security Council authorization for such a force.
There are still unanswered questions about the structure, composition and powers of the Iraqi interim government to which I will present my credentials.
NEGROPONTE: The process over the next 60 days will have broad implications. In concert with Iraqi political figures, and representatives of our government, Ambassador Lakhdar Brahimi has been developing plans for the new government, its structure, selection process and its ultimate composition.
Later today, in my capacity as our permanent representative to the United Nations, I plan to attend Ambassador Brahimi's briefing to the Security Council about his proposals.
I would simply note that over the past two and half years, I have had the opportunity to work with Ambassador Brahimi on the post- conflict situation in Afghanistan. I have a great deal of respect for his ability to engage disparate, even warring, groups, and moving them toward production dialogue, consensus and the establishment of viable political institutions. We will remain engaged with Ambassador Brahimi in the critical weeks ahead.
The prospect of legitimacy that the United Nations can bring to the process of political reconciliation is a point of crucial interest in both the region and the broader international community.
With an expanded United Nations role in the political arena, I believe that it will be easier to generate the international support that the successful rehabilitation of Iraq requires.
I want to be clear, that a vital United Nations role does not come at the expense of United States influence or interests. Our efforts can be well-coordinated and complementary.
There is ample evidence, across a broad range of situations, that a strong partnership with the international community, including the United Nations organization, is in our strategic interests.
Mr. Chairman, I'm impressed with the work of the Interagency Transition Planning Team, led by Ambassador Ricciardone and Lieutenant General Kicklighter -- both of whom are here with us today -- to structure our United States mission in Iraq, so that it will be prepared to pursue these objectives and carry forward the valuable work of the Coalition Provisional Authority.
NEGROPONTE: We anticipate about 1,000 direct-hire Americans serving under the ambassador's authority. Drawing on the resources and skills of all United States government agencies present in Iraq, we will represent United States interests and offer support to the people and government of Iraq as they renew their country.
Mr. Chairman, I have the greatest respect and admiration for Ambassador Bremer's accomplishments in Iraq under the most difficult circumstances. He is a personal friend as well as a colleague and I value highly his historic contribution to our efforts in Iraq.
However, my role in Iraq will be fundamentally different from that of Ambassador Bremer. Whereas the Coalition Provisional Authority is the ultimate political authority in Iraq, the embassy will be in a supportive as opposed to a commanding role.
Also, the mission will be distinctly American in contrast to the multinational character of the Coalition Provisional Authority. Nevertheless we will continue our close relationship with our coalition partners, multilateral organizations, and nongovernmental organizations who are all vital to the advancement of our common interests.
In regular consultation with the secretary of state, I will provide policy direction and coordination for all United States government activities in Iraq with the notable exception of operations by United States forces under the area military commander.
First among the duties of the ambassador is to provide a safe environment for our mission staff. I will work closely with the United States area military commander and our own Bureau of Diplomatic Security to ensure the security of our personnel.
Mr. Chairman, as momentous as the transition to sovereignty for an interim government of Iraq will be, we should bear in mind that we are still in the early phase of Iraq's reconstruction and rehabilitation.
NEGROPONTE: The conclusion of the Coalition Provisional Authority on June 30 will mark a vital step toward realizing an independent, democratic and stable Iraq at peace with its neighbors.
I see my mission as working to assist the people and the government of Iraq to achieve these noble goals, while at the same time seeking to ensure that the resources of the American people, voted by the Congress to support our efforts, are wisely and efficiently utilized.
With our help the people of Iraq can overcome the trauma of Saddam's brutality and the intimidation of violent extremists seeking to derail the progress they have made so far. But for these policies to succeed, we will need to proceed with resolve, constancy and unity of purpose. If confirmed, I will do my utmost to serve the administration and the American people to these ends.
I look forward to working closely with the Congress in that effort.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
LUGAR: Thank you very much, Ambassador Negroponte, for that very important opening statement.
We'll have a round of questions now with 10 minutes per member, and I would like to proceed with a question which I'll list four items and do so succinctly so you have an ample opportunity to try to address the situation.
First of all, you have mentioned even this very day you will be in the presence of Ambassador Brahimi and other members of the Security Council to hear his plan.
Already there are suggestions, and I cite the words of Ahmed Chalabi on television this Sunday, that he and maybe other members of the governing council are not at all certain that Mr. Brahimi is the right one to name people for an Iraqi government, or that the council of 24 ought to be displaced. And furthermore, he mentioned the transitional law that that council has promulgated which, as you mentioned, presumably serves as sort of the rules of the road for the foreseeable future as a product of that council and out of the incoming group.
LUGAR: My first question, and it's one that you can't resolve here today, but will you, as you are confirmed and arrive in Iraq -- and this emphasizes the importance of getting on with it rapidly -- be trying to work through with the Iraqis to make certain that these people that have been named are acceptable; that Iraqis, in fact, are going to see these people as worthy of the sovereignty that we're passing on, because it may not be a lay down hand, even though the president has indicated that we are prepared to accept the Brahimi suggestions?
Now, secondly, mention has been made in the press, even yesterday in the Washington Post in a front-page story, that the Security Council resolution or resolutions may be difficult and that it brings back to the fore much of the discussion that occurred in previous Security Council resolution efforts in which you were so vitally involved and were successful in the first instance, had difficulty in the second, before the war.
But that many of the old feelings may be back as we try to find a Security Council resolution undergirding what we're going to do. That is not news to you and you'll be seeing your fellow members even this afternoon, and that's one of the values of this nomination, is really the hands-on with these parties.
But at the same time, give us some assurance of how you will work through the Security Council resolution and the importance of it.
And then, thirdly, you have outlined what you believe your relationship with the United States military in Iraq will be, and that's clear from your testimony. You said with the exception of operations by U.S. forces, you will provide policy coordination direction to other activities.
But the military side of this and the security side is extremely important. It's not that you are attempting to get into the chain of command. But at the same time, what they do, how they perform, is going to have a great deal to do with your success and that of the Iraqi government.
And as the fourth part of this, what will be the relationship of the Iraqi government with the United States armed forces and/or other coalition forces?
LUGAR: I raise that question because even over the weekend since our hearing Ambassador Brahimi has been quoted as suggesting that we be very careful, for example, in Fallujah.
And other advice is being given already, and yet here in our hearings we had one witness after another -- and this was true in the Armed Services Committee hearing -- pointing out that security is a necessity; that nothing proceeds very satisfactorily whether it be new investment, whether it be Iraqis getting their own oil, as we saw with that surprise attempted attack on oil facilities coming out of the blue over the weekend, to say the least not everyone wishes the Iraqis well, would even now deprive them of their money and their oil.
So discuss, if you will, these problems. I've offered a context which you may or may not find useful, but suggesting that your coming on stage early, May, likewise the Brahimi nominees, people that are already there, the armed forces, the relationship with our armed forces and with others, the discussion that occurs, which you may help organize, you may be the major organizer, makes all the difference as to what happens when the curtain comes up July 1.
But absent all these rehearsals off stage before, there is likely to be a great deal of turmoil and perhaps once again charges that we were not well prepared, that we had not planned sufficiently.
Now, all I'm saying is you've outlined some plans, and I want to get some feel of how you would execute those, at least with the four guidelines that I suggested.
NEGROPONTE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
First of all -- this is not a cop-out, it's just that we've been so expeditious about getting my nomination up here that it's literally been eight days since the president announced his intent to nominate me. So I do not purport to be an instant expert on Iraq and I just want to be clear about that. Although I'm doing my best to learn -- the learning curve is steep.
NEGROPONTE: Let me -- on your first question about the formation of the transitional government and Ambassador Brahimi's comments and also the comments by Mr. Chalabi on television over the weekend, the plan, as I understand it, is that this transitional government -- this interim government will take over on the 1st of July. Mr. Brahimi's charge is to help facilitate the creation of that government. He's already been out for extensive consultations. And my understanding is that he intends to return early next month, possibly as early as next week, to continue that process of talking to various political groups and trying to identify future members of this transitional government.
That is to say -- and I understand that he currently visualizes a government that would consist of a prime minister and a number of cabinet ministers. His current thinking is that there would also be a president, although the president would not have as much -- wouldn't have the kind of operational authority in that government. So that is the intent.
And as I said in my statement, he would engage in this consultative process with Iraqi political forces, with ourselves, with other coalition partners as well. He would get ideas from all quarters.
I have no doubt in my mind he's the right person to carry out that job. And he has got that responsibility at the moment, and I think it's important that he carry through with that responsibility.
And as Senator Biden mentioned, Ambassador Brahimi has had considerable success in Afghanistan, where he helped facilitate the standing up of that government. And he's had other similar successes in the past as well.
So I'm sure there are going to be some comments along the way and some doubts that might be expressed from one quarter or another because, after all, this is a difficult and complicated process and there are all sorts of cross-currents of interests that are at stake here.
NEGROPONTE: But the goal is to encourage and do everything we can to ensure that that government is established -- probably identified earlier, much earlier than the 1st of July -- perhaps at the beginning of June, for example, so that it can begin to ready itself to take over its responsibilities on the 1st of July.
Where is the Security Council resolution going?
I saw the speculative piece yesterday that appeared in the Washington Post. We're beginning that process. I would suspect that concurrently with Ambassador Brahimi's efforts to identify -- help identify a transitional government, we are now going to start working on the issue of a Security Council resolution, and I would expect that we're going to have that debate during the month of May.
I'm reluctant to try to give you a target date for getting the resolution passed because I've found in my experience during the past two and a half years that Iraq resolutions tend to be quite time- consuming, but I'm also optimistic that a workable resolution can be achieved.
I think after the problems we had of a year ago last winter, we've actually experienced some considerable success in passing the other key resolutions with respect to the Iraq question since that time, and that resolution I think is going to deal in some way with the question of the transitional government, the issue of multinational forces and perhaps a number of other questions as well.
You asked me about my relations with the United States military. First of all let me say that I have had considerable experience in that area, going back 40 years to when I was a junior diplomatic officer in Vietnam.
NEGROPONTE: I, of course, had that kind of experience in Honduras. I've had it as a deputy national security adviser. And I've also had it in the Philippines.
So I'm no stranger to the question of working on a teamwork basis with our colleagues in uniform. I think it's going to be an extremely important relationship, but they've got their responsibilities. The theater commander is responsible for the command of those United States forces, and I am a strong believer in unity of command.
But where issues and problems come up that have political implications and political ramifications for the people and government of Iraq, I have no doubt that the military commander and myself will be in the closest possible of communication.
You asked the question of what will be the relationship of the Iraqis with the United States armed forces. And as you know, initially it is visualized that Iraqi security forces will come under the command of the multinational force. And this approach is rooted in the belief that at this point in time the security services and the armed forces of Iraq are simply not sufficiently numerous or equipped to take on that responsibility for themselves.
But as I said in my statement, we have no more important goal, in my judgment, than to encourage the development of that capacity.
Now, there will be some legal issues with respect to this question. Some of them are already dealt with in Security Council Resolution 1511. Some of them are dealt with in the Coalition Provisional Authority order number 17. And some are dealt with in the Transitional Administrative Law. But I have no doubt that this question will also have to be dealt with in the Security Council resolution.
And I guess the related question of what happens when situations arise that are of great political sensitivity, and if the Iraqis should favor -- the political leadership, for example, should favor one particular strategy and our military might favor another approach -- well, these are the kinds of questions that I think our diplomacy is going to have to deal with.
NEGROPONTE: And I think the most important thing in this regard is to establish from the outset effective lines of communication between precisely those three entities: the multinational force on the one hand, the mission on the other, and, of course, the Iraqis on the third. And I think that that is going to be one of the principal challenges of our diplomacy in Baghdad in the foreseeable future.
LUGAR: Well, you have made a very important statement that the Iraqi security forces will be under the coalition force -- that chain of command. Now, hopefully, as you visit with everyone, there will be the same understanding between the Iraqi civilians and their security forces as you have forged between our civilians, yourself and our military, if the parallels are going to occur and there is not vast misunderstanding among the trainees and the new 29 if that is the course that follows.
But I appreciate very much the detailed question -- and rather -- answers you've given to these questions, with understanding that this has been a truncated period for preparation. But you have been working at these issues for a long time and your answers reveal that very clearly.
BIDEN: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
I'm going to pick up on some of the points made by you and the chairman, Mr. Ambassador.
The doubts expressed about the nature of the transition from the transition to the transition, because what we're talking about here is we have 25 people that are sitting over in Iraq now, including one of the most vocal of those, Mr. Chalabi, sitting on a commission that came up with a transition law as to how Iraq would be governed between the time it was put in place until the elections were held and a new permanent constitution is written.
Now, you said there are cross currents of interest in Iraq. There are also cross currents of interest within the administration as it relates to Mr. Chalabi, the expatriates and those persons who now make up that 25-person commission. We don't know who -- at least I don't know who Mr. Brahimi is going to recommend in this new caretaker structure.
BIDEN: Except that we are told, unless it's changed, that there will be a president, a couple vice -- there's a structural mechanism. It is not a 25-person commission, which means all the folks who are now in positions of authority in this interim government in Iraq, not all of them are going to have a spot in this new government.
I'm not asking you who or what or how. Do you know -- and you may not know -- whether or not, within the administration, the American administration, President Bush's administration, there is a unanimity of view on how we will proceed to this new caretaker model Brahimi is going to present?
In other words, is there agreement that if Brahimi says -- because the president says "I'm waiting for Brahimi" -- if Brahimi says, today in New York, at the Security Council, his recommendation is as follows and it includes the following persons, have we already basically signed on? Or is that something that we are going to attempt to negotiate in terms of who the actual personnel are that will make up the president, the two -- is it two vice presidents? Two vice presidents. Is there agreement in the administration?
NEGROPONTE: Well, certainly there's clarity as to who's carrying the ball in terms of communicating with Mr. Brahimi. Ambassador Robert Blackwill is in the White House as the deputy national security adviser and he's a special envoy for Iraq. He has actually spent a lot of time, concurrently, with Ambassador Brahimi's trips out there. And he and I, Ambassador Blackwill and I, consult very, very closely on these questions.
And I think that the agreement is that -- the view is that Ambassador Brahimi has the lead -- there's no one else at the moment going out and playing the role of helping to identify the transitional administration. But are you asking me, does he have a blank check? I chose my words carefully. I said he has the lead...
NEGROPONTE: ... and he's doing this in consultation with others: Iraqis, the Coalition Provisional Authority...
BIDEN: The bottom line is, if he comes back with a recommendation that we sign off on that does not include the expatriates as part of this new caretaker government, are you confident that there will be one voice coming out of this administration supporting that if we decide that?
NEGROPONTE: This is a hypothetical question.
What I can tell you is that we strongly support Ambassador Brahimi's efforts and I think we will make every effort to give his recommendations the greatest possible weight.
BIDEN: We're kind of dancing around this and you're in a tough spot. I just hope that -- as we all know, there is a vehement disagreement in the administration between the CIA, the State Department and the Defense Department on the other side about what role Mr. Chalabi and the expatriates should have played and should continue to play. I hope we get that straight. And whatever we decide, I hope there will be for a change a uniform view that everybody will fall in line once that occurs. And I predict to you Mr. Chalabi will not go quietly into the night.
But at any rate, the second question I have is, and I don't expect you to know the detail, but do you envision if and when Brahimi makes his presentation today and if the presentation is fleshed out in terms of personnel when it's fleshed out, and if the president signs off on that, whatever it turns out to be, do you envision someone within the Security Council, not necessarily us, suggesting that the council bless that Brahimi proposal if we've already signed on to it? Is that a process -- I mean, I'm not looking for exact steps in diplomatic terms. But I mean, is that what we're kind of looking for as part of the process of giving the United Nations a larger role?
BIDEN: The second question I have is that in whatever form a new U.N. Security Council takes, and you've indicated that the elements that it will encompass, at least in part, would be a blessing of the transitional governance body as well as the multinational military force authorizing it in effect and some other pieces.
Do you envision that if we successfully accomplish a new U.N. resolution that one of the byproducts of that resolution will be an individual, a name, a person, a Brahimi-like figure serving in Baghdad, not with you in the sense of an American embassy, but serving with you with, in a sense, a designated role so that there is someone to go to, there is someone to look to who represents whatever role the U.N. agrees to take on?
BIDEN: Is that part of what you envision?
NEGROPONTE: Let me elaborate a bit on that.
Yes, I do envision it. I think that once the transitional government takes office, I would hope that by that time the secretary general would have already named or identified a special representative of the secretary general to represent him in Baghdad.
I hesitate to venture a prediction as to whom...
BIDEN: Well, I'm not asking that.
NEGROPONTE: ... that might be. But, yes, I think that would be a classic SRSG U.N. operation as there has been in Afghanistan and in these other hot spots around the world.
The other point, if I could add, Senator Biden, I mentioned the resolution dealing with the issue of transition possibly with the multinational force. I think it would also likely deal with the endorsement of Ambassador Brahimi's efforts, as you mentioned. I think it would also touch on this question of the United Nations' role. And I think also, importantly, it would reaffirm appeals for help from other countries, for international assistance for Iraq.
BIDEN: Well, that to me -- I mean, I am encouraged.
First of all, I'm encouraged by you not engaging in diplo-speak with us and answering not only the exact question, but you know what we're driving at, what we're trying to flesh out, and it's been relatively rare of late and I truly appreciate it.
BIDEN: And I know nothing's certain. I know this is a fluid proposition.
It's important for us, in my view, and the American people, to know what the goal is, what the objective is, to, sort of, outline for them.
And the last point you've made -- and my time is almost up -- relates to, as I understand it, essentially more than merely an invitation for other countries to participate.
Providing a vehicle that they can, if we are able -- through bilateral diplomacy with our NATO friends, if through bilateral diplomacy with our friends in India, if through bilateral diplomacy with others we are able to convince them that they should participate for their own safety's sake, as well as our need, that this resolution would be a vessel that they could drop their request in, that they'd be able to go back to their people and say, "No, no, our sending X number of troops to a multinational organizational force is not us responding to the United States alone, it's within the context of a broader U.N. mandate as to how to proceed.
Which, as all of us, as we've traveled around the world, every one of the leaders who have told us, separately, together, that they want to participate, have indicated they need, they need that -- and I don't mean it to sound trite -- that cover, they need that structure in order to participate.
And I'll conclude by saying, Mr. Ambassador, I truly appreciate you not engaging what has occurred in the recent past in these hearings, and that is that, "We're waiting for others to respond." You have been a skilled diplomat for 40 years, and your skills have been honed.
You and I both know that if any circumstance we've ever gotten NATO to participate or any other group of people, it's that we have had a plan that we've gone and sold, as opposed to suggesting that, "Hey, NATO, we'd sure like you in. What do you think, guys? We're inviting you."
BIDEN: That's never how, in my experience -- other than the spontaneous invoking of Article V, which was never done before -- that anything has ever happened in NATO and/or any of our allies.
It's not likely that the Indian prime minister is going to pick up the phone and say, "Hey, Mr. President, I'd like to get engaged here. We're prepared to send," which was being discussed at one point, "up to 30,000 forces." And I'm not suggesting it's going to happen.
It comes as a consequence of an internal decision made by a president, led by a president, and given to incredibly skilled people like you.
And it is encouraging. I don't want to read too much into what you've said, but I believe you are moving in a direction that gives us the opportunity for the first time in the last year to actually put together -- the opportunity to actually put together a genuine multilateral multinational fighting force.
Because remember the numbers: America, 135,000; Britain, 6,500; Spain, gone; Honduras, gone; others gone; others talking about going. So this ain't much of a coalition. I know you have to say it is but it ain't.
And so this gives us the opportunity, I believe, if we back it up, unrelated to the U.N., with bilateral intense negotiations with a plan, to actually flesh out this force in a way that it's not only an American face. That's my hope. I'm not suggesting it's yours or not.
But I hope that last sentence, which is this then creates the opportunity to invite people to come in -- I think it will -- I hope we follow up on that.
I thank you for your testimony. If you want to comment, please do. But you don't have to. I don't want to put you in more of a spot than you're in.
NEGROPONTE: Just one point, because one thing we have done is to go out to a number of countries appealing to them to think about providing forces or to offer forces for the specific purpose of protecting United Nations activities in Iraq. We hadn't yet gotten any affirmative or positive...
BIDEN: We've also gone to NATO. Because I personally was there. I happen to be bracketed the week that I was there speaking to the perm reps.
BIDEN: The secretary of defense came, I spoke -- and I don't put myself in his category -- and then the secretary of state came, and they asked for NATO to consider participating.
That's very different than if you have a plan to go to NATO, as General Jones indicated we have the capacity to do -- I'm not putting him on the spot -- he said the capacity -- to say, "This is a plan. We'd like to proffer this. We have written this plan. Our military guys have sat down and said, 'This would work. This is what you can do. This is what we'd like you to do.'" And it's all done behind closed doors. But I hope we're going to be aggressive in that effort.
And, again, I thank the chairman for -- I've gone over -- I thank the chairman.
And thank you, Mr. Ambassador. I genuinely look forward to working with you. I feel you have given me a ray of hope here.
LUGAR: Mr. Ambassador, let me mention that a bit earlier in our hearing, we were joined for a little while by Senator Domenici, the distinguished chairman of our Energy Committee. He has given to me a note in which he simply indicates that he's very hopeful of visiting with you.
I might ask a staff member to convey this note to you and you may want to give it to a staff member who is helping you today because I have no idea of your schedule, and you've already mentioned returning to the Security Council.
But as a courtesy to my colleague -- because he's deeply interested in visiting with you -- I wanted to mention that.
I now recognize Senator Hagel.
HAGEL: Mr. Chairman, thank you.
John, I, again, express my thanks to you and your family for agreeing to take on this critically important assignment. And as the chairman has noted, there is little question about the support you will get, certainly from every member of this committee and I suspect every member of the United States Senate.
I want to add a point that Senator Biden made in your last exchange regarding United Nations. John, I'm particularly, impressed, pleased, hopeful with one of the things that you said here in your statement, and I quote, you say as you go along into about the middle of your statement, "There is ample evidence across a broad range of situations that a strong partnership with the international community, including the United Nations organization, is in our strategic interest."
HAGEL: Many of us have argued for that for some time, long before we invaded Iraq. It is my opinion that the only option we have for success, not only in Iraq, but in the Middle East, is to work closely with our allies, the United Nations, forging alliances that includes, as you know so well, our Arab allies, our Middle East allies, our Muslim allies, and we have for too long shelved that dynamic and that reality.
And so I am particularly pleased that you would come before this committee this morning and address that as specifically as you have addressed it.
Now a question. You, I'm sure, saw this -- there's been some reference to this piece in The Washington Post yesterday, and I will quote exactly so I can frame my question precisely. The Post reported that in order to gain the support of Ayatollah Sistani and ease the transition to an interim Iraqi government, the U.S. is, quote, "... considering compressing or scraping much of the interim constitution known as the Transitional Administrative Law so that only pivotal provisions on human rights and dates are retained, U.S. officials say."
My question, John: Is that true?
NEGROPONTE: Senator, first of all, it's an unidentified source and it says that the U.S. is considering. So I don't take that to be some kind of gospel here.
As far as I'm concerned, our marching orders are to work toward the achievement of a transitional -- of an interim government and with all the different authorities and documents that have already been agreed up until now. I think, frankly, the Transitional Administrative Law sets forth some very, very important elements.
HAGEL: Well, let me ask you this, John. You're not aware of any exchange going on on the inside, in fact, to make this an accurate report, that we are considering...
NEGROPONTE: Well, certainly not to make it happen. It may be that somebody in the administration is thinking of it, but I'm not aware of any...
HAGEL: You and I both know it would have to somebody, not a clerk, it would have to be somebody at a fairly senior level position. But what you can tell the committee is that you know of no senior administration official now engaging in this consideration that was represented in The Washington Post report.
NEGROPONTE: I know of no such decision.
HAGEL: OK. Thank you.
Back to the interim Iraqi government, what are their powers? As you know Undersecretary of State Grossman was here last week. He was answering a number of questions about sovereignty, and acknowledged that it would be limited sovereignty.
And the particular question I have, and I want to range into this a little wider and deeper, but specifically, would your understanding of a limited sovereign Iraqi government have veto authority over proposed military action, like going into Fallujah, for example?
NEGROPONTE: Let me step back a sec here, Senator. On this whole question of sovereignty, we've even passed a resolution, I think it was Resolution 1500, that said that the Governing Council of Iraq was the embodiment of sovereignty of that country, and what has been restricted here during this occupation phase has been the exercise of that sovereignty.
As far as I'm concerned, when July 1, or June 30, rolls around, the exercise of that sovereignty is going to be restored to the government and people of Iraq.
There happens to be an area where they are not yet in a position to fully exercise their powers, and that is in the security area. But I don't want to use any kind of terminology that would in any way belittle the responsibilities that are going to be taken over by the newly appointed sovereign government of Iraq.
HAGEL: I understand what you have said. However, the answer to my question -- so the question that I asked you, the answer to that would be no. In your terms, the sovereign Iraqi government, July 1st, would not have veto authority over military involvement in Fallujah?
NEGROPONTE: I think you're asking for a yes-or-no answer in a particularly difficult circumstance.
HAGEL: But if they have sovereignty, Mr. Ambassador, what does that mean? I mean, do they have sovereignty or don't they have sovereignty on a specific issue like that, which obviously could widen and be applied to any military exercise or national security issue?
NEGROPONTE: And that is why I use the term "exercise of sovereignty."
I think in the case of military activity, their forces will come under the unified command of the multinational force. That is the plan.
And I think that as far as American forces are concerned, coalition forces, I think they're going to have the freedom to act in their self-defense and they're going to be free to operate in Iraq as they best see fit.
But when it comes to issues like Fallujah, as I discussed earlier, I think that that is going to be the kind of situation that is going to have to, in addition to everything else, be the subject of real dialogue between our military commanders, the new Iraqi government, and I think the United States mission as well.
LUGAR: Please, let's have order in the hearing, please.
(UNKNOWN): Mr. Ambassador, you need to support nonviolence, and not the violent policy of the United States.
LUGAR: Please let's let the ambassador testify. I appreciate the (inaudible) of our audience.
(UNKNOWN): Ambassador, there is no sovereignty if the United States continues to exercise security in Iraq.
Senators, please ask the ambassador about Battalion 315, talking about his involvement in a death squad in Honduras that he supported.
LUGAR: I apologize for that interruption, Mr. Ambassador. I forget where we were in the hearing at this stage.
LUGAR: Were you responding to Hagel's question? Had you completed your response?
NEGROPONTE: I believe so.
HAGEL: Well, I just lost two minutes, of course.
LUGAR: In equity, it'll be restored.
HAGEL: Well, fair chairman as you are, I appreciate that.
Well, let me move on, Mr. Ambassador, because it is my sense that the sovereignty is an issue that's still being played out. And if a country doesn't have the sovereignty to make national security decisions for itself and military commitments, then I'm not sure I would define it as a sovereign government.
But recognizing what you have stated about the unknowns and the uncontrollables, I appreciate that. All I'm trying to do is get to some definition here as to really, in fact, honestly, if that's sovereignty.
NEGROPONTE: Well, sir, it's certainly going to be a lot more sovereignty than they have right now in terms of...
HAGEL: Well, that's a degree of sovereignty.
NEGROPONTE: ... its exercise, number one.
Number two, I think, important to say that we are doing and we're putting a lot of effort behind helping the government and people of Iraq develop their own security capability.
There's some 200,000-plus Iraqi security forces. I don't know whether the position's been created or about to be created of a national security adviser. The different offices required to enable the government and people of Iraq to take over their own defense are being established. And now with this modification that we've just seen in the implementation of the deBaathification policy that was discussed by Ambassador Bremer the other day, that too can help accelerate that process.
So I would say, Senator, that we're going to work toward the day, and hope that it comes as early as possible, that the Iraqis can take greater and greater responsibility for their own security. But they're not in a position to do that at this particular moment.
HAGEL: Well, my point here in spending a little time with this issue, because I think it is important, not because it technically is some definition that we need to come to within this committee, but it's an expectation issue for the Iraqi people, as you know. And the Iraqi people, I suspect, are going to expect something on July 1st.
HAGEL: I don't know if they are going to expect or will expect a so-called sovereign nation making decisions for itself as sovereign governments do. But my point is in pursuing this a little further, and you know better than anyone, is because this is going to be an issue and it's going to be an issue that ties back to the United Nations. And that's where I want to go with my last question.
In your opinion, to get some of the members of the U.N. Security Council committed here, what do we need to do, in your opinion?
The Russians, the Chinese, the French, all have had private conversations with you, have had private conversations with their senior members of their government, with members of the Congress, obviously the administration on where they can participate, how they can participate. But what kind of a U.N. statement that would be codified in a new resolution, which you acknowledged earlier this morning, would need to be written in order to get the enthusiastic not only support, but involvement of those U.N. Security Council members?
NEGROPONTE: Well, I did discuss or describe earlier the kinds of elements that I think will be covered in such a resolution. I can't think of any particular element that would be decisive with respect to their -- I don't think it's a resolution in and of itself that is necessarily going to bring about participation by France or Russia or Germany or others. They have some other concerns as well. But I think that once sovereignty has been restored, once that transitional government has been established, these governments have signaled that they will be more open and more amenable to looking for ways to be helpful to the country of Iraq.
HAGEL: Well, that's what I was driving at. What do we have to do in order to get them into that position which you have just said more amenable to help which specifically means what, troops or what would that mean?
NEGROPONTE: Well, I think among others would be economic assistance. None of them have signaled yet a readiness to deploy troops to Iraq, whether it's because of the occupation or because of the security situation. I wouldn't hold out great hope for immediate initial contributions of troops...
HAGEL: Well, that's what I'm trying to get at.
NEGROPONTE: ... from the countries that you mentioned.
HAGEL: What would they bring to the effort then if troops are off the table, economic meaning aid, meaning...
NEGROPONTE: Well, I think economic assistance, I think support for the United Nations efforts. Perhaps they'd be willing to provide some troops to support U.N. operations in Iraq.
I think help with the neighbors of Iraq in ensuring and encouraging them not to engage in behavior that undermines what is happening inside of Iraq.
I mean, there are a number of different ways they can be helpful.
HAGEL: My time is up.
Mr. Ambassador, thank you.
LUGAR: Thank you, Senator Hagel.
DODD: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
And again, welcome to the hearing and your family as well. It's good to see them with us.
In a sense, this is a very nontraditional confirmation hearing. I was trying to recall, Mr. Chairman, of a similar kind of a hearing. We haven't gone quite the extent the Finance Committee did a number of years ago when our former colleague Lloyd Bentsen was nominated by President Clinton to be secretary of the Treasury. And as I recall, I think Pat Moynihan actually moved the nomination in the committee and then they proceeded with the questions. They actually voted him out before they started the questions.
We're not going that far, John, here.
But in a sense what I'm getting at here is it's quite obvious that this committee is going to confirm your nomination, and so in the traditional sense the normal question-and-answer period is not really appropriate here because I don't think anything you're going to say here is going to say dissuade any of us that you shouldn't be the choice and get this job done.
So I say that as a background to you, because I think you've been very clear in response to Senator Biden and the chairman, Senator Lugar. And I'm going to pursue a couple of these things.
Let me first of all, just pick up on Senator Hagel's first question to you, because I have a similar line of questioning, and that is The Washington Post story about scrapping -- I don't have the article here, but I think the word is "scrapping" a good part of this law of administration for the state of Iraq for the transitional period.
And you said no decision has been made. The article doesn't suggest one has. It suggests that senior people are discussing this at a very high level, and I think it's important that we pursue this at least briefly.
Can you share with us to what extent that is being considered, to scrap this or at least significantly truncate it?
There are 62 provisions, articles in this document, and I've read through it. I find some of them, sort of, interesting, banning guns and guaranteeing a right to education and health care; things that you don't find in our own Constitution.
DODD: But I'm not going to pursue the line of discussion about specific provisions, but are we walking away from this in order to get the kind of support we need at the U.N.? And is that a serious discussion that ongoing in the administration?
NEGROPONTE: Senator, if it is, I don't know about it.
DODD: OK. All right.
Second line of question I want to pursue with you: Contrary to what many people may think, these 62 articles here is not -- this did take effect when the elected government takes over -- as I read this -- so that these 62 articles don't apply on July 1 through January of 2005 because, as I read this, going into the first Article II, it says, "The first phase shall begin with the formation of a fully sovereign Iraq interim government that takes over on June 30th. This government shall be constituted in accordance with a process of extensive deliberations and consultations with cross-sections of the Iraqi people, conducted by the governing council and the Coalition Provisional Authority" -- the CPA -- "and the possibility in consolation with the United Nations.
"This government shall exercise authority in accordance with this law" -- in accordance with it -- "including the provisional principles and with an annex that shall be agreed upon and issued before the beginning of the transitional period and shall be an integral part of this law."
I haven't been able to get an answer as where this annex is. What's in it? Who's writing it? Is anyone being consulted in Iraq about it?
The annex, seems to me, is going to be the pivotal document between July 1 and the January date. And I need to know what's in this annex and who's writing it, how's it different. Because I think a lot of people are working under the assumption that these 62 articles in the Transitional Administrative Law (ph) are really going to apply. And it seems to me, reading Article II, that it's this annex that's going to apply. And I'd like to know how that works.
Can you share or shed any light on that at all?
NEGROPONTE: I'm afraid I can't. I mean, I'm just not, at the moment, not clued in as to the discussions about the annex, conceivably because they haven't taken place yet. But I'd have to get you the answer on that one for the record. And obviously, it's an issue that I myself am going to have to get into.
DODD: Well, if we could -- and Mr. Chairman, I might suggest -- that in appropriate circumstances, since it's -- if the annex is going to be potentially a vehicle for compressing the transitional law, I think it might be important for the committee to find out what's in this annex.
DODD: I think it's going to be a very important document, seems to me, and having access to that is going to be critically important as how this transitional period works between July 1 and December.
I know you want to know, clearly, what's involved in it, and I understand that. I think it's also important for the committee to be well-briefed on what's in this. We might even want to do a hearing on it at some point, if we (inaudible)...
LUGAR: If I may, a quick response to the senator.
LUGAR: This might be appropriate for a future hearing. I indicated with the cooperation of both sides that we'll have additional hearings to monitor what is going to happen during these critical months of May and June, and that certainly is an important element.
DODD: Appreciate that, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Ambassador, would you also share with us what your role is apt to be here? Now, obviously, we're all talking about this new position. But a critical position is going to be, who's going to be managing the U.N. operations here? We're all talking about the significance of this.
What is your plan? Will you continue to be at the U.N., and working that side of the agenda here? Can you share with us how the administration intends to proceed with the function obviously of getting an embassy up and running, doing that job, and the critical role the U.N. will play, and who will take on that responsibility?
NEGROPONTE: Subject to further guidance from Secretary Powell, what I'm doing at the moment is I'm working on identifying a team. I've already identified a deputy chief of mission who will be going out to Baghdad in the middle of May. We've already identified most of the key consular positions at the embassy, and so we will have a forward cell, if you will, or base, of that embassy.
We've, as Mark Grossman mentioned the other day, identified I think about 80 percent of the positions that we intend to fill. So work moves apace. They were waiting for my nomination before identifying the senior-most levels of the embassy, but that now is in the process of happening.
I'm spending half -- at least half my time here in Washington now, reading into this job. But I'm also shuttling back and forth between here and New York.
NEGROPONTE: And I expect, certainly, to play a role in the question of the negotiation of a Security Council resolution.
Lastly, as to when, in fact, I will actually go out to Baghdad, I would at the moment estimate that that's going to be some time around the time of the transition. But the details as to when exactly I would arrive there have yet to be worked out. But it'd be some time around the 1st of July.
DODD: I read into that then that you're not finding a specific allocate time, but your involvement with this mega-resolution, whatever you want to call it, at the U.N. is where you're going to be spending at least a bulk of your time here trying to get that right rather be on the ground in Iraq.
NEGROPONTE: As far as my involvement at the United Nations is concerned, yes, that will be my priority.
DODD: OK. Let me ask you, if I may, as well about the security. What's the plan very briefly? And again, this a little specific, but are we going to rely on private contractors for security at the embassy or are we going to go the more traditional route?
NEGROPONTE: Well, there's a major effort under way to deal with the question of security for the embassy. Ambassador Frank Taylor, our assistant secretary for diplomatic security, has been out to the area. We have some 30 diplomatic security agents already there preparing -- laying the ground work. We expect to have at least 50 diplomatic security agents in Baghdad, plus we expect to continue some of the contracting arrangements that have existed with the CPA for protective details and so forth. And in addition, of course, we will have to work extremely closely with the coalition forces, with American forces upon whom we will be relying for our fundamental protection.
DODD: Very good.
And lastly, I mean if I just quickly can -- I wonder if you'd agree that under existing U.N. resolutions, the United Nations Monitoring and Verification Inspection Commission still exists in your view and has the authority to complete its mission and make a final report to the U.N. with respect to Iraq's WMD program. Is it going to be allowed to do so?
NEGROPONTE: It certainly still exists. The Iraq Survey Group has supplanted it, if you will, in the current situation with respect to searching and verifying the existence of WMD in Iraq.
NEGROPONTE: I think the issue of the final disposition of UNMOVIC is something that we ought to put off into the future and not seek to resolve now. And I would not subscribe to the notion that it -- I think it was mentioned earlier that we might be recommending that it be abolished, and I do not believe that we should address any such action at this time.
DODD: Very good.
Mr. Chairman, thank you.
LUGAR: Thank you very much, Senator Dodd.
CHAFEE: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
NEGROPONTE: Thank you.
CHAFEE: I think there's a sense in the American public that anybody that wants this job is welcome to it. On the other hand, as Senator Biden said, we're looking for somebody that can get into a phone booth and come out with an "S" on their chest. But I know you talked about it's a steep learning curve in your moving into this capacity -- I guess you said eight days ago you were appointed.
This is probably a technical question but I'll give it a shot anyway. We're seeing inside Najaf a shadowing group, according to the papers, attacking al-Sadr's militia men under the heading of a Felfaker (ph) army. Are you up to speed at all on what that dynamic is and the ramifications of internecine warfare there inside Najaf?
NEGROPONTE: No, I'm not. I did see the report, Senator.
But the only thing I would add, I think it is important to make the point -- and I didn't make it in my prepared statement; that Ambassador Bremer has been hammering away at this -- is that these uncontrolled armed militias have no place in the future of Iraq, and strong steps have to be taken to bring those kinds of situations under control.
CHAFEE: And even if it means another, as it says in the paper, shadowy militia rising up, is that to our advantage? Ambassador Bremer is advocating, it sounded like and as you said, for Iraqis to rise up, but is that a positive development?
NEGROPONTE: I honestly don't know anything more than what's in that story, but I certainly will look into it.
CHAFEE: Very good.
As we look at this Superman position you have been appointed to, what, in your long career, will be helpful as you look ahead?
CHAFEE: You certainly have had a distinguished career in Vietnam, in the Paris peace talks, Ecuador, Honduras, hot spots around the world, the Philippines, as you said earlier. Is there anything in particular just in general, as you look back on your career, that would help prepare you for this difficult task?
NEGROPONTE: I think my most recent assignment in many respects could be extremely helpful, Senator; the fact that I've been our representative to the United Nations, I've dealt with representatives from countries that are interested in Iraq at the permanent representative level, many of them who are high-level diplomats from their own countries.
And I've also had a chance to interact with ambassadors from the region surrounding Iraq. And, of course I've worked on the Iraq issue in the United Nations for the past two years. So I think that probably has been the most immediate preparation.
I referred to my past experience in dealing with our military and of course I've had the opportunity to run a couple of pretty large missions.
CHAFEE: Yes, that might beg the question, will our allies look on this, considering how many mistakes have been made, that that past position might be a liability in building bridges?
NEGROPONTE: Well, I'm a great believer in diplomacy. I haven't done this for more than 40 years because I didn't enjoy it. I enjoy reaching out to people of other countries and nationalities, their representatives, their peoples. That's been, sort of, the bread and butter, if you will, of the kind of work I have enjoyed doing throughout my life.
I also don't see myself as being some kind of -- running some kind of super embassy, Senator. I see it more as a -- obviously not a traditional embassy, it's just going to be an embassy operating under very challenging circumstances and I guess that's what I would say about it.
CHAFEE: My last question is, it's a long time ago, but the Paris peace talks, what did you learn from that? Is there any opportunity here as we see things deteriorating for more, as Senator Biden said, jaw, jaw, jaw?
NEGROPONTE: Well, I certainly don't see analogies between the Iraq situation and Vietnam, because I think we're talking about a Cold War versus post-Cold War situation. I think we're talking about much more contemporary kinds of threats and difficulties.
I suppose the main thing the Paris peace talk experience gave me was just the exposure to negotiations about issues that are of intense interest to the people of the United States.
CHAFEE: Thank you. Good luck.
NEGROPONTE: Thank you.
LUGAR: Thank you very much, Senator Chafee.
I want to express appreciation to Senator Sarbanes for yielding temporarily to Senator Boxer, who has been present for a while. Then I will recognize Senator Sarbanes and then Senator Corzine.
BOXER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Thank you, Senator Sarbanes.
Ambassador, you and I have had our past differences and we have been very open about that. Speaking about human rights abuses in Honduras, we approached it differently. I brought that up at your U.N. confirmation hearing, and what I greatly respect about you is, we got past it, and we've worked together on child soldiers and other matters. And I wanted to just say that I appreciate that.
I am supporting you strongly for this. I will do anything I can to protect you and to make sure that your family can rest easy, because we need to do that.
But whether you succeed or not depends on, obviously, the policies that we put forward and the people at the other end of those policies. How do they see those policies? Will we continue to go it alone? Will we be able to get this resolution through? Will our friends in NATO help us?
The expectations of the people are so important. My mother always said to me when I was a little girl, if you work hard, this is what will happen at the end of the day. There will be rewards there.
And I think when statues fell, expectations were high -- there's going to be an end to the dictatorship, there's going to be the beginning of freedom, and instead those expectations weren't met.
There's a lot of reasons for that, and I don't want to reiterate it except to say a lot of us on this committee, on both sides, said "Where's the plan?" But that's not to discuss today, because we are where we are.
BOXER: Expectations weren't met. There was an occupation, increased violence. The terrorists moved in. I have a Department of State brochure that lists the countries where Al Qaida operated. This was done right after 9/11. It was printed in October. Iraq is not on the list. They operate in our country; more cells here than there were in Iraq. Iraq wasn't on the list.
Now we know there is a void and we've got the former Baathists and we have the terrorists moving in. And more troubling than that, because I think in a sense that had to be expected because we didn't have a plan, but more troubling than that is that seven out of 10 people in Fallujah say it's OK to kill Americans, Mr. Chairman. Can you imagine?
People that we want to free -- we want to give them freedom and economic justice, and so on and so forth; they say, "Oh, it's not right to burn the bodies and hang them from the bridge." That they didn't like. But it's OK to kill Americans.
So to say that you have a challenge is to just understate it, but you're not alone. We all want this to work now.
As some say, this could be the last opportunity. So today, you have a clear chance to define what Iraqis can expect on July 1st and you've said some of it today. But I think that Senator Hagel was trying to get from you the reality of what the Iraqis can expect when he kept saying, "Well, you say it's full sovereignty. Isn't it limited sovereignty?" And I'm not sure that I got the right answer.
So I have two questions.
The first is -- and I will pick up on Senator Hagel's point -- what will this new entity have to say in it if the American military says, "Look, we have to do some very unpleasant things in order to gain security and gain control"? So just to step back and in the loftiest terms you want, I think that's fine, tell us today what you expect the reality to be on the ground.
And my second question is really a tougher question -- and the first one is tough. But the second one is this. I'm very disturbed to read an article by William Safire yesterday, and I don't think it's been brought up and I don't even know if it's totally accurate.
But William Safire said that Lakhdar Brahimi said on French radio, quote, "The great poison in the region is this Israeli policy of domination and the suffering imposed on the Palestinians," as well as the, quote, "equally unjust support of the United States for this policy," unquote. And then he went on to call the Israelis "brutal, repressive Israelis. That they're not interested in peace no matter what you seem to believe in America," unquote.
This is extremely disturbing to me. And so, you've got a man out there who the administration has put its faith in. We've all called for U.N. greater participation. And these are his comments.
So could you please comment, first. This is your opportunity. As if you were on the radio to the Iraqi people right now, what do you hope their circumstance will be after they get this power returned to them on July 1? And by the way, I've been one of the people who said, "You can't back off the date. Because you promised it, you've got to keep it. And so, I feel you need to go forward."
What can they expect?
And two, do you know about this Brahimi comment? Have you discussed it with him? Thank you.
NEGROPONTE: Thank you, Senator Boxer.
First on the question of what can they expect and on following up on Senator Hagel's question.
NEGROPONTE: The discussion always zeros in on the, perhaps, the most difficult and challenging question, i.e., what happens if there should be a difference of view on how to deal with a particular security situation.
But for a moment, let's just step back and recognize that on the 1st of July, this transitional government will be in charge of however many ministries there are, 25 ministries. They will be managing their own revenues. They will be able to conduct international relations. They will have ambassadors around the world. They will be exercising all of the normal attributes of sovereignty.
And, in fact, there are models around the world of countries that might not fully exercise sovereignty, but exercise the great preponderance of attributes of sovereignty. And that's going to be the situation with respect to Iraq. But it's going to be work in progress, and it's going to be evolutionary.
On the security issues, I think we've already -- you were going to follow-up.
BOXER: Yes, just to say, your message is not to the people in the ministries, it's to the other people. What do you have to say to them about these ministries?
NEGROPONTE: What I'm going to say is that, up until now, you have technically been in an occupation status. And July 1st -- from July 1st forward, you, the people and government of Iraq, are going to be taking responsibility for your own affairs. And this is the way forward. This is the way to resolve...
BOXER: And who picks the people who will be now in charge?
NEGROPONTE: Well, this is the process that Ambassador Brahimi, in consultation with others, is involved in, and we're hoping that sometime between now and the 1st of July, those individuals will be identified.
I gave an estimate of around the 1st of June. I don't know when exactly this new government is going to be identified. But that -- for planning purposes...
BOXER: Well, just to finish off that part of the conversation -- that's a good message, but a very important part of it, which you really haven't addressed, because you can't, you don't even know how this is going to come down -- and this is the end of April. You have to convince, and we have to convince the people in Iraq that these new ministers have some semblance to them that they're not hand-picked by anybody else, and that's something I hope you'll work for in the interim.
For them to have any credibility, and for the people to embrace what they do will take a belief by the people that they're just not hand-picked by America or someone else because that's the key to this whole deal.
BOXER: And so, in this interim time, if we can help in anyway, if we can help you in anyway, push that forward, please let us know. But please continue on Mr. Brahimi.
NEGROPONTE: Secondly, I'd just like to say that no one has been a stronger supporter of Israel and the United Nations than the United States delegation to the United Nations. And I have been deeply involved in all aspects of that question during my tenure in New York.
Mr. Brahimi's statements -- I noticed that the secretary general and his spokesperson distanced themselves from those remarks. The work of the United Nations on Israel is carried out by the secretary general and another individual, a special representative for the Middle East peace process and working with us in the quartet. It's not Ambassador Brahimi's responsibility. And I would have thought that if he had it to do over again, he might not have made those kinds of comments on the record.
BOXER: I would hope he wouldn't either. Thank you very much. And thank you again, Senator Sarbanes, for your generosity.
LUGAR: Thank you, Senator Boxer.
SARBANES: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Ambassador, welcome. We wish you well. You're taking on a very difficult assignment. I have just a couple of questions I want to put to you.
I'm very concerned about our status of forces situation after June 30th.
SARBANES: If we're turning sovereignty over to a new regime of some sort that's now being put together, how do we ensure the situation of our men and women, and, indeed, the others who are in there with us, in terms of their status in Iraq as they go about carrying out their responsibilities?
NEGROPONTE: My understanding, Senator, is that we consider Resolution 1511, which deals with the multinational force, to still apply. We also...
SARBANES: Even after June 30th?
NEGROPONTE: Correct, because it talks about the establishment of a multinational force until the completion, until an elected government is established under the constitution. Not all Security Council members agree with us that that language is sufficient. And so I think the question of a multinational force is going to have to be dealt with in the resolution that we negotiate now before the establishment of the transitional government.
There is also a Coalition Provisional Authority Order Number 17, I believe it's called, that deals with the issue of status of forces. And we expect that to be continued to be valid.
And there's also a reference -- I can't find it instantaneously -- but in this Transitional Administrative Law.
So I think we feel we've got the issue fairly well covered from various angles.
SARBANES: Well, I want to express some concern. It seems to me that reliance on the previous resolution, if it's being questioned or challenged in a number of sources with respect to the coverage it provides, is a risky thing to do and exposes our people potentially to some high degree of risks, and it may well put you in a very difficult situation.
SARBANES: So it seems to me, thought has to be given for how to cover that status of forces situation as you move ahead. And presumably, a number of people agree, including even some of our own people, since they're now considering a further U.N. resolution that would be addressed to that issues.
And presumably if the previous resolution was deemed to be crystal clear on the subject, we wouldn't have to be engaged in that effort. And I think this is a very important issue that needs to be covered over the next 60 days, I guess, that we have leading up to the transfer of authority.
Secondly, apparently to be determined in this resolution that you're considering is whether the U.N. or the U.S. team will write the final report on Iraq's weaponry. It's not quite clear to me why each of them can't write their own report. I don't quite understand what the issue is there. And it would seem to me that diplomacy would dictate, or they'd each go ahead and write their own report. What is the issue there?
NEGROPONTE: Well, the issue, Senator, is the role and ultimate disposition of UNMOVIC, the United Nation's monitoring and verification mechanism.
I think that the best way of dealing with this. And I think the current intention will be to just defer that issue until a later date, once the Iraq Survey Group has completed it's work. Our belief is that this is not an issue that has to be decided now.
SARBANES: Well, I have a number of questions, but Mr. Chairman, I know my colleague's's been here some time, and I'll forbear on that.
And, Mr. Ambassador, we wish you well. And you're taking on, as everyone realizes, a very difficult assignment, not the least of which is to work hard in not being perceived as a proconsul, I guess.
Presumably, you've given a lot of thought to that. How does one avoid being perceived as a proconsul?
NEGROPONTE: Well I think the -- I mean, there's no denying that the United States is going to continue to play an important role in Iraq for the foreseeable future.
NEGROPONTE: Not the least of which aspects of that is that we are going to have a substantial military presence, plus we're going to be providing massive economic assistance.
I think, however, Senator, that where possible, we should make every effort to play a supportive and encouraging role, rather than an out-front role. And that kind of approach is certainly very consistent with the kind of diplomacy that I'm comfortable carrying out.
SARBANES: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
LUGAR: Thank you very much, Senator Sarbanes.
CORZINE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman and Senator Sarbanes, for your courtesy, as well.
Mr. Ambassador, I too want to convey my gratitude and express respect for both your courage and commitment to serving our nation in such a difficult task. Hope to be supportive in every way, not just through the nomination process, but as you carry on your tasks. And they are quite formidable.
I continue to be very troubled. And I'm actually particularly calmed by your testimony today about what this sovereignty means. I reflect back on the speech that Ambassador Bremer gave last week, where he stated that new Iraqi government will be fully sovereign.
We had this discussion about what the Transitional Administrative Law says, and it uses "fully sovereign." Then we have specific discussions, to go just a little bit off the top of what that means, and it quite clearly doesn't get to the same translation that I think normal human beings, like Iraqis and the American people, might actually look at, what full sovereignty would mean.
I think one of your most major tasks is trying to get the expression of how this is reflected to the general publics, not just the United States public or the international community or the Iraqi people. But we ought to be talking about the same thing, using similar language that is not so loose. And I'm troubled that we don't seem to get that.
CORZINE: There are many specifics that go well beyond. Let's just assume that, you know, we're relatively clear on the security situations. I have concerns about the status of forces arrangements. But let's say those are accepted, that we understand how sovereignty is somewhat limited with respect to those because of the U.N. resolutions in the arguments you've made.
But there is this question that we heard last week that Undersecretary Grossman testified that the interim government will have no law-making authority. Who's responsible for budgets? Who's going to deal with criminal procedure? Who's going to set up the law governing civil service or at least having those issues?
One of the big issues that I wonder about within the context of law making is: How do we deal with these 15,000 contractors who are out there? Are they responsible to our military disposition of law? Or are they subject to domestic supervision of countries? It's a significant issue that I think to worry about. Can't write law, but there's an election coming. Who has the responsibility of setting down how those laws will be -- or regulations or structure of the election world being put together?
I heard you give a very articulate view that we'll set up a foreign ministry and start establishing relationships with other countries, but who signs contracts? Who has the power of committing the economic will of the Iraqi people with regard to the disposition of the many, many contracts that so far the CPA has been involved with?
And then finally, just another specific example, and I know there's a whole series of them there. Last week we also heard about the naming of at least the leader of this tribunal that's going to deal with the prosecution of Saddam Hussein.
CORZINE: Do you know whether the announcement of Salam Chalabi as administrator of the tribunal, how we're going to name judges, authorized by the CPA, does it follow on to a transitional law? Why are we moving in that -- there are a whole series of questions there that get at fundamental sovereignty.
And I think this is pretty confusing when you hear "fully sovereign" and "limited sovereignty."
So I give you plenty of room to roam, Mr. Ambassador.
NEGROPONTE: I'll try not to roam too much.
First of all, I didn't mean to give the impression that they don't have a foreign ministry yet. They do. And they have a foreign minister and they've already been quite active and, I think, quite effective in representing their interest and with presenting the interests of Iraq around the world, including at the United Nations.
On the question of the law-making authority, I think we got to remember that this is going to be a transitional government, by definition, limited in its time frame. And the phrase "caretaker government" has been used quite often. And sort of the implication of that term is that it's created for a limited period of time and with a particular focus.
In this instance, the focus is going to be organizing the elections for the Transitional National Assembly not later than the 30th of June.
You asked about election preparation. Ms. Carina Pirelli, of the United Nations, has been out there and will be going back out there again. And the plan there is to help form -- and I think that's probably going to be done within the month or so -- an independent, Iraqi electoral commission that will oversee the electoral process.
So I think those preparations, I wouldn't say they're very much in hand, but there's definitely a plan and steps are being taken to carry it out.
Who signs contracts? Who commits the government economically? I think the answer is: the government, the cabinet ministries. They're going to be doing that, in some instances, I think like they've already been doing, in the ministry of trade and elsewhere where they've been implementing oil-for-food contracts and so forth.
Last point in that regard...
CORZINE: You are suggesting that this interim government, therefore, could make commitments with respect to oil reserve fields being negotiated contracts with foreign nations such as have been previously negotiated by the same government.
NEGROPONTE: Well, I believe the thinking there is that major decisions in that area ought to await the establishment of an elected government of Iraq.
NEGROPONTE: But as far as carrying out the day-to-day business of the country, I think they'll be able to do that. And while they may not be able to write laws, I think they're going to have to find some way to memorialize various policy decisions that they take. But, let's remember, we're talking -- if things go according to plan -- we're talking about a five- or six-month period here.
CORZINE: Tribunal, do you want to speak on...
NEGROPONTE: On the tribunal, the one thing I would mention -- I've just start getting briefed on that. But the Justice Department has got what they call a regimes crimes adviser. There's a team led by the Justice Department that will be operating under my authority, at the embassy, that will be advising and assisting the Iraqi tribunal with respect to the various war crimes.
But, I think, planning for that is going forward, perhaps not as quickly as some might have liked. But now that we have a Justice Department team going out there, I think that that's going to be helpful.
CORZINE: And the authority, or the validity of the Chalabi administration on this tribunal, your...
NEGROPONTE: I had just assumed that that was his job. I wasn't aware that there was any question as to whether he should or should not be in that position.
CORZINE: I think the nature of these questions and how these actually are dealt with in fact will lead to judgments about people, whether this is sovereignty or this is just another iteration of American occupation.
And, I think it's personally, I think that a lot of these questions are open enough that it is worrisome that we set up false expectations. My main concern is that -- and I hope that we don't rush to justice -- in conclusion is this June 30th date, while important for some reasons, I think if this ends up not meshing with expectations in broader public, we could end up failing even though we're doing a Herculean job of trying to accomplish the kinds of processes that you've talked about.
LUGAR: Thank you very much, Senator Corzine.
FEINGOLD: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Thank you Ambassador, first for your patience. And I want to wish you well. And, I think you on behalf of myself and all of my constituents for taking on such a tough assignment. And I hope your tenure in Iraq will be safe and successful.
Let me say a bit about your long history in the foreign service. You've had a great deal of experience in working as an ambassador and with interacting with congressional committees and members of Congress.
But the post to which you've been nominated this time is obviously really quite extraordinary, in terms of the profile of the United States and the stakes at hand.
FEINGOLD: If confirmed, you will also be stepping into this role at a time when many in Congress feel a level of frustration that we have been experiencing for some time, when it comes to getting solid information and clarity on U.S. policy in Iraq, and the reality of the situation on the ground.
And as Senator Dodd indicated in his opening remarks, this issue of candor -- the need for candor, and the importance of candor for policy success -- gets to the core of some of the concerns that I and others raised the last time you were before the committee for confirmation.
If confirmed, what do you understand your responsibilities to be toward the Congress? Can you assure us that you will make open lines of communication, transparency and the disclosure of the whole truth to the elected representatives of the American people, priorities, even when full disclosure means reporting bad or inconvenient news? And related to this, what steps will you take toward this end?
NEGROPONTE: Well, first of all, the answer is yes. I believe in the fullest possible communication with the Congress, Senator. And you can count on that.
And also I, in my previous assignments in embassies abroad, have always been a strong believer in welcoming congressional delegations, putting all facilities at their disposal and ensuring that Congress is as well informed as possible on the local conditions in the country to which I am assigned.
I've always thought that that was one of the highest priority tasks. So I just don't think you're going to have any difficulty with me in that regard.
FEINGOLD: If confirmed, what steps will you take to monitor and report on human-rights-related developments in Iraq?
NEGROPONTE: Well, that is going to be one of the elements of the political situation in Iraq that will have to be reported on constantly. So you can count on reporting on the human rights situation there, including the rights of women and a number of the kinds of rights in Iraq that I think the United States is going to be particularly interested in.
FEINGOLD: I'm signaling here that I'll be particularly interested in that information as you convey it. To what extent will be your responsibility to protect the employees of private security companies stat have been hired to protect U.S. and allied contractors in Iraq?
NEGROPONTE: I do not believe the responsibility is absolute, Senator, in the sense that we have, I think, a number of these. You asked about security companies, did you not, Senator?
FEINGOLD: Private security companies.
NEGROPONTE: Yes, I think that until now, at least, we have expected them to make their own arrangements and bear responsibility for their own security. But obviously, they operate within the umbrella, as we all will be doing, of the coalition military presence.
FEINGOLD: Let me ask another angle on this. During last week's hearings, one of the witnesses before the committee, Dr. Hashim (ph), indicated that Iraqis have complained more about contemptuous attitudes of private security personnel than about any other armed force in the country.
To what extent will you supervise the actions of private security personnel employed by the United States contractors? And to what extent will you as the senior representative of the United States government, assume responsibility for their actions?
NEGROPONTE: Well, to the extent that I have responsibility, I will exercise it. But to be honest with you, I don't know the full extent of my responsibilities. But I will find them out.
FEINGOLD: Obviously, this would be of great importance to us in our success that these attitudes not be conveyed by Americans that are in that country.
FEINGOLD: OK. In other post-conflict situations, we have seen corruption flourish and entrench itself during the period in which stability is very much at work in progress and transparency and accountability are lacking. Do you believe this problem of corruption to be taking root in Iraq today? And what can we do to combat this trend?
NEGROPONTE: I've heard some comments about corruption in Iraq, but I don't know all of the facts. I hasten to add, finding out facts about corruption isn't always the easiest thing in the world.
But I think among the ways to deal with this issue are to encourage the development of democracy. I think free elections are an important constraint on corrupt practices; I think encouraging a free press and the other kinds of institutions that hold people accountable.
Ambassador Bremer has reported that he's now encouraging, I think he may indeed have named, the creation of a position of inspectors general in each of the various ministries. And I think that that's an important development. And I think we should give those institution's encouragement as well.
So I think there are ways of helping the people in government of Iraq find ways to hold their government accountable in keeping with democratic practices, and ti think we should pursue that.
FEINGOLD: I would agree that it's going to be one of the most important things for the credibility of the future government, is the ability to prove (ph) a minimum of corruption.
Based on your experience at the U.N., what is your assessment of how the United States presence and intervention in Iraq is understood in the Arab world and in the broader Muslin world?
Have we seen, in your view, a meaningful change in perceptions of the motives in the United States in the year since the war began?
FEINGOLD: And what kinds of consequences will negative perceptions have for U.S. interests around the world? What can we do to address any problems that may have cropped up in this regard?
NEGROPONTE: Well, I wish I could give you an encouraging report on that. I'm not sure I can, Senator.
I do think it's fair to say that in the Security Council, which has only one Arab state member -- Algeria is currently representing the Arab world in the Security Council -- I do think that attitudes have become more understanding and supportive of what we're trying to accomplish going forward.
But I think we still have our work cut out for us in the Arab world in general.
FEINGOLD: But when would you date that sort of shift to a more sympathetic feeling...
NEGROPONTE: Well, sympathetic may be strong, but I would go all the way back to May of 2003 when we succeeded in passing Resolution 1483 unanimously. So from that time forward, we were able to muster or generate consensus in the Security Council. But that doesn't mean that there may not have been underlying doubts and underlying difficulties with our policies.
But I think as far as wanting us to succeed going forward, I think that attitude's been around for a while in the Security Council, in particular.
FEINGOLD: I'm interested to hear that because it doesn't track with what I think are some of the broader trends in many Muslim countries and feelings toward us. But obviously you're there and you would know the perceptions in the Security Council.
NEGROPONTE: Well, I make the distinction between the Security Council on the one hand and the Arab world on the other.
FEINGOLD: Yes. Fair enough.
I thank you, and I wish you well.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
LUGAR: Thank you very much, Senator Feingold.
NELSON: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Ambassador, what was General Garner's position with regard to keeping the Iraqi army in tact?
NEGROPONTE: I don't know the answer to that question, Senator. I'm sorry, I regret to say.
NELSON: I'm surprised that that wasn't considerably discussed at the United Nations in the back halls.
It was my understanding that General Garner, when he had the responsibilities, wanted to keep the Iraqi army intact. And he was overruled by a decision, I am told, by Ambassador Bremer who decided -- let me ask you that -- is it your understanding that Ambassador Bremer is the one who decided to disband the Iraqi army?
NEGROPONTE: Well, it certainly -- that decision is attributed to Ambassador Bremer, and so I assume that's the case. Yes, I'm sure he did not -- I'm sure he did it with the consent of authorities in Washington.
NELSON: And as you look forward now in your position, how do you go about helping knit back together that Iraqi army and cutting off at a certain level the Baathist leadership that you would feel that would be inimical to the interests of the U.S.?
NEGROPONTE: Well, first, as of July 1st, that responsibility really is going to shift more and more -- or is going to shift to some extent to the new government of Iraq. But I think that apparently the decision's been made to modify the implementation of that policy with respect to Baathists. And that seems to be being welcomed, not only with respect to the security forces, but also with respect to other professionals in Iraqi society, such as teachers, professors and so forth.
And the other thing, as I was saying in my statement and I think perhaps at a couple of other points, I can think of nothing more important than the training efforts that are going to be undertaken to improve the quality and capabilities of the Iraqi security services, not only their army, but their police, their Iraqi Civil Defense Corps, their border police, and so forth.
And as I mentioned, that force adds up to some number around 200,000 and may even go slightly higher than that. But it's the quality and the training of these forces that I think is extremely important and deserves a lot of attention.
And I'm delighted that General Petraeus has gone back out to Iraq to undertake the responsibility for training Iraqi security services. And I think that's a very hopeful development.
NELSON: I visited one of those police training facilities east of Amman, Jordan. And it was then, when I visited in January, well done. The question when I was there was whether or not you can produce enough trained police over the course of time, not only from that one training facility, but several others, in order to have a police force that can keep the peace.
And then, of course, in the Marines moving on the city to the west of Fallujah -- what is it called, Ramadi, that's the city -- I was so disappointed to hear that the Iraqi civilian defense force that was to be fighting in conjunction with our Marines suddenly melted away and disappeared.
NELSON: What do you see your role as our ambassador there, in order to get the ICDF, as well as the police force to be a professional, effective kind of operation?
NEGROPONTE: Well, as I mentioned, this is going to be the responsibility of our military. And General Petraeus very experienced already in Iraq, has been given the assignment of overseeing and managing the training of Iraq security forces.
So my responsibility will not be a direct one. But I can assure you that it will have my strong personal support and encouragement, because I think that the ultimate answer to dealing with security issues in Iraq is that the Iraqis themselves develop the capability to deal with those questions.
NELSON: I hope so. That's another reason I was so disappointed in what we saw happen two weeks ago.
How long is it going to be for us, from a construction standpoint, to develop a new embassy, construct it and move in, in Baghdad?
NEGROPONTE: Well, first, Senator, my understanding is we don't have funds for that project at the moment.
NELSON: But you have plans?
NEGROPONTE: There are plans. But we have nothing in the budget for that. My understanding is something on the order of four or five years.
NELSON: So that leaves you, in the interim, to remain in the palace?
NEGROPONTE: Well, actually, my own office -- my understanding is, the embassy is going to be in three different sets of buildings. And the palace will continue to be used for some of the -- I don't want to call them back office -- some of the support activities of the embassy. But, my own office is going to be moved to a different location within the green zone.
NELSON: Within the green zone?
NEGROPONTE: Yes, sir.
NELSON: Let's talk about the Syrian border. There have been a number of press reports, recently, most recently last week in The Washington Times, about jihadists going across the border into Iraq with the complicity of the Syrian government.
As our future ambassador, what is your view about working with the Syrians to try to change this, if true?
NEGROPONTE: Well, of course, that's been a problem with Syria, in terms of its support for Palestinian rejectionist groups, Hamas and the Islamic Jihad and the fact that they have provided a safe haven for those groups in Syria while they were conducting terrorist activities in Israel and in the occupied territory.
So it's a problem, in some respects, that is not new to us. But I think my message to the Syrians would be that it would behoove them, and I think it's in their interests, as well as the interests of the region, to do everything they can to curb these kinds of activities and prevent them from happening.
I don't think that it's going to be my job in Baghdad to deal with the Syrians on this issue. But I would hope that our diplomacy, in support of our efforts in Iraq, is going to be sending that kind of a message to the government of Syria. I know they're already doing it. I think we're just going to have to keep hammering away at it.
NELSON: Well, I hope so. I hope that that's the message that's being sent. I don't see any down side to having those kind of messages sent to the government of Syria. If nothing happens, nothing happens. But if it's successful, it clearly seems like it's in the interest of lessening the people who come in to kill our young men and women.
I think, in addition, if they reflect on the longer-term, it really is in their interest that there be a stable and prosperous Iraq, not only for them, but for all the countries of the region.
NEGROPONTE: Sir, could I correct or add to a statement I made -- actually correct: Ambassador Ricciardoni reminds me that the construction of an embassy could be completed in 24 months from the receipt of funds.
NELSON: And, of course this committee, no doubt, under the able leadership of our chairman, will be quite responsive in coming forth with recommendation on those funds. But we have to know what the plans are before we can appropriate the funds.
NEGROPONTE: A site has been identified, and General Williams is working on that. And I'm sure we'll be back up to you on that question at some point in the future.
NELSON: OK. And, Mr. Chairman, I'll just close out my comments by saying to the ambassador, because he has not, apparently, had the advantage of hearing my ad infinitum comments here about the offer that was suggested to me by the Syrian president, that he wanted to cooperate with the Americans in trying to close the border.
I have reported that to everybody in this administration until I'm blue in the face. In some quarters, it has been readily received, as in your department, as well as among people like General Myers, for obvious reasons.
NELSON: But in some other quarters, it has been derided as if that were not serious, coming from Assad.
So I give you, even though you're not going to be talking directly with them, I give you that for whatever it's worth as you calculate what you're going to do.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
LUGAR: Thank you very much, Senator Nelson.
Before I ask the final two questions, I'll just announce that the record of the hearing will be kept open until 3 p.m. this afternoon for additional comments, statements or questions from senators.
And in the event that there are additional questions, Ambassador, if you would respond as quickly and appropriate as possible, that would help us in completing the record at that point.
I wanted to ask question which I really don't know the answer, but it's been raised by some of our colleagues who are not on this committee. They have asked as the coalition has been formed and the United States and other nations step forward to provide security in Iraq, has any preference been given to member countries of the coalition with regard to contracts, with regard to business?
The question in this case is not being asked in an investigatory way; in other words, that some type of nefarious relationship is going on here -- it's being asked as a practical matter of diplomacy.
Are countries who are preparing to come forward with troops interested as a part of, at least, an implied contract of their participation that they ought to get some business or some consideration when contracts occur in Iraq? Do you have any view of what has been occurring or a view of what should occur?
NEGROPONTE: Prospectively, I don't think I have a view, and I don't think I know the answer to the question.
I think looking back, my understanding and recollection was that coalition members at the outset did have a priority with respect to prime contracting.
NEGROPONTE: But then again, in many instances, I think there were only a few countries that could actually carry out prime contracts. And then as far as the sub-contracting was concerned, that was pretty much open. And I believe it remains the case today.
LUGAR: Open then to any country...
NEGROPONTE: Just about anybody with very few limitations, which I'm sure must be of a legal and other nature.
LUGAR: Clearly, I suppose many senators, many Americans looking at that question, would say: We really don't want to mix politics and business or military commitments with commercial interests of a country. I simply raise the question out of curiosity. In a practical way, often there is some mixture in state craft of the interests of countries, the elements are not all military, and particularly when we're asking countries to commit forces and others are standing aside in equity.
Some say, "Well, after all, we are your friends. And we've stepped forward to help in this respect." But you're suggesting, maybe at the outset, there might have been a degree of preference. Perhaps for the moment, the security situation is such that most contracts are not progressing very rapidly, or many people who are offering to help are holding back until they are certain that their workers are secure.
But as the reconstruction proceeds, some of these issues are likely to come to you, of a business aspect, as to how to sort out the equities, both American equities as well as others. And you understand that. I'm just curious whether you have any initial views or if this is still an area of policy that, along with many other issues, will have to be worked out with several parties.
NEGROPONTE: I honestly don't have any initial views, but really it's more from lack of familiarity with the subject matter, Senator.
LUGAR: Let me ask -- you responded in terms of your own physical presence in various places. For a while, you were back and forth, understandably, to New York and to Washington, reading into this new assignment, participating in the debates and work that you are doing anyway in your role at the United Nations.
But you indicated that you would probably be in this country, by and large, until the end of June, or close to that time.
I'm curious: Why would you not be in Iraq, say, during the month of June, visiting the Iraqi government people or helping out, to determine really who is the government, and the security issues with the armed forces? Is this the kind of work that you can do in Washington and New York, with representatives of the countries or our country? Give me some road map of your own itinerary at this point.
NEGROPONTE: Yes. Well, I think the answer to your question of why -- and again, this is obviously subject to the desires of the secretary of state and the president -- but the why I wouldn't visualize being in Iraq during the month of June is that Ambassador Bremer is leading the Coalition Provisional Authority, and that is the vehicle for American representation in Iraq at this time. And the embassy won't be created until the first of July, or the afternoon of the 30th of June.
But I did say, and I did mention I will have a team there, including a deputy chief of mission. Mr. Jim Jeffrey (ph), who is currently our ambassador in Albania, has been designated and has strong management skills, strong political skills and a terrific reputation in the Department of State as a leader. And he will be out there with his embryonic team by the 15th of May. So I think we'll be getting going.
As far as my own plans, I really expect to be between here and New York during this intervening period, learning as much as I can and also helping out on this question of the Security Council resolution.
LUGAR: Well that may very well be the best course. As you've pointed out, you do not want to step on the act that proceeds you. On the other hand, a lot of what you have emphasized today, and what we have emphasized, indicates the need for a lot of hands-on rehearsing out there, prior to Mr. Bremer leaving, or the transfer of some of his people over to your embassy, as I understand some will be transferred and many will be new.
LUGAR: And I suppose maybe this is something that our own government has to think through, that is the president, secretary of state and defense and so forth, as to where you ought to be, physically, how the success, at least post July 1, is best ensured, even while we work out our own diplomatic sensitivities as to who ought to be where and so forth.
Normally, clearly the role you have suggested would be fully appropriate and there would be resentment if somehow an ambassador arrived before the ambassador left. It's almost like the pastor of a church gives the final sermon and sometimes it's best then to have departure and somebody else takes over.
But I think this is in a way markedly different, because of the extraordinary number of intersecting circumstances and personalities.
So I leave it at that, but I felt it was important to try to raise who was going to be there. And you said, as for Mr. Jeffrey (ph) and others, and that was one of the important points of testimony of Secretary Grossman in our hearing last week. This was tremendously helpful to the committee and the Senate, and he brought a very considerable text indicating the outline of positions.
NEGROPONTE: Let me just stress, just about the entire team will be there during the month of June.
LUGAR: So those folks given a long-distance call or two from you may be able to give continuity to this.
Well, we very much appreciate your testimony today, as all our members have complimented you, I continue that trend in terms of forthcoming answers and the detail in which you have replied. And likewise where there are areas because of the quickness of this hearing, you simply have not had a chance to prepare, you've indicated that.
And I suggested that with the cooperation of both sides of the aisle here, we will have additional hearings of oversight in which those things that are still to be resolved or maybe unforeseen circumstances, of which there may be many, can be reviewed by the committee in our oversight capacity and perhaps be helpful to you and to those that are working with you.
But we wish you every success. And as I pointed out, the earliest we will attempt to move the nomination to consideration by all of our colleagues on the floor of the Senate, as soon as possible.
NEGROPONTE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
LUGAR: The hearing is adjourned.
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