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Interview with Ambassador Joseph Wilson (3-23) - 2003-03-23


MR. BORGIDA:
Joining us now, Ambassador Joseph Wilson, with J.C. Wilson International Ventures Corp., a former U.S. diplomat in Iraq.

Ambassador Wilson, thanks for joining us. You've been on before; you know the drill.

AMBASSADOR WILSON:
It's good to be with you.

MR. BORGIDA:
Let's tackle just for a moment, quickly, what we talked about briefly in the program, and that is this issue of the prisoners of war. And I wanted your take on this because you've been a diplomat in Iraq and that part of the world and understand public opinion. How do you think this will be perceived, the displaying of American prisoners of war, on the Arab street?

AMBASSADOR WILSON:
I think on the Arab street there ought to be some concern that this will in fact be seen by Arabs as a willingness on the part of the Iraqis to confront Americans invading an Arab country. You remember that when the World Trade Center was hit, there were many, many in the Arab world who thought that this was a good comeuppance for the United States. So, it may play like that, unfortunately. Because of course these are terrible things to do to American soldiers, and a violation of all the appropriate treaties.

MR. BORGIDA:
And these reports of Saddam and the Iraqi Army doing, I guess gamesmanship might be a good word, a fake surrender here, not really a surrender, the use of disinformation and so forth, these are tactics that Saddam certainly is not unfamiliar with.

AMBASSADOR WILSON:
Sure. During the Gulf War they used all those tactics. Just to give you an example, with our hostages, with our human shields, they violated the Geneva Convention. With our diplomats, they violated the Vienna Convention covering diplomatic relations. So, we should not at all be surprised if they are in violation of every international treaty that they've ever signed.

MR. BORGIDA:
Let's talk a bit about the diplomacy, because that's also swirling around the events on the ground inside Iraq. Iraq is warning Turkey not to support the United States. There has been an awful lot of discussion about Turkey and its help for the allied forces. What do you make of that, a surprising or not so surprising diplomatic warning?

AMBASSADOR WILSON:
Well, I'm not surprised by the Iraqi diplomatic warning. There is not much they can do, though. They don't have a lot of forces up in the north. They clearly decided they were going to defend Baghdad, that's what they were going to do.

What's of more concern really is how you de?conflict the Turks and the Kurds, if they decide to race down to Kirkuk, which is the capital of the oil-producing region. Who is going to be there to prevent them from skirmishing with each other?

MR. BORGIDA:
A war within a war, as someone suggested.

AMBASSADOR WILSON:
The war within the war is what they have called it, exactly. And that was, I think, the most important reason for us to have wanted to be able to deploy troops from the north, which was basically to ensure that Kirkuk remained in the hands of the United States essentially and didn't fall prey to this sort of fighting between Turks and Kurds.

MR. BORGIDA:
Let's talk a little bit more broadly on the diplomatic front. The Russian Foreign Minister the other day was saying once again that the Russians weren't going to support any U.S. activity at the United Nations in reconstruction and so forth. This is a delicate bilateral relationship, Washington and Moscow. Are you concerned about the fracturing of that relationship in this context?

AMBASSADOR WILSON:
Absolutely. I think after the Battle for Baghdad is won it's going to be in everybody's interest to regroup and become part of the rebuilding of Iraq. There is about $12 billion owed to Russian companies, former Soviet companies, from pre-Gulf War-type contracts. But, moreover, I think the Russians are very concerned that an unstable Iraq impacts on the republics just south of now?Russia, the former republics of the Soviet Union, and it runs the risk of destabilizing the region in a way that doesn't advantage them in any way whatsoever.

MR. BORGIDA:
And likewise, the U.S. relationship vis-ŕ-vis NATO countries; France and Germany are the ones that jump out?

AMBASSADOR WILSON:
Absolutely. After this is all over, we are going to want, I think, a broad partnership to rebuild Iraq.

MR. BORGIDA:
How does that happen, though, a broad partnership of these countries that, at least publicly and globally, are now seen at odds?

AMBASSADOR WILSON:
Hopefully, the need that will be Iraq in the aftermath of this battle will focus everybody's minds. And that's what one hopes, that the U.N. will come back in, the U.N. will work with the United States and its allies to put together the humanitarian relief and the development assistance that needs to be done in the aftermath. This is going to be a big problem. There is going to be, I think, an interest in sharing the burden and sharing the risk. Because if it goes badly, we don't want to be the only ones who are blamed.

MR. BORGIDA:
A very complicated situation. Ambassador Joseph Wilson, of the J.C. Wilson International Ventures Corp., a former U.S. diplomat in Baghdad. Thanks so much, Ambassador, for joining us. We appreciate your insights.

AMBASSADOR WILSON:
My pleasure.

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