FTN - 3/24/02

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BOB SCHIEFFER, Chief Washington Correspondent: And joining us now, the vice president of the United States, Dick Cheney.

Mr. Vice President, thank you so much for coming.

Vice President DICK CHENEY: Thank you, Bob.

SCHIEFFER: I want to begin with Iraq. You have just been to the Middle East. Did you leave that region feeling that Arab leaders would basically oppose an American action against Saddam Hussein?

CHENEY: No, not at all. What I came away with, Bob, is the sense that they share our concern. And that the notion of a Saddam Hussein, with his great oil wealth, with his inventory that he already has of biological and chemical weapons, that he might actually acquire a nuclear weapon is, I think, a frightening proposition for anybody who thinks about it. And part of my task our there was to go out and begin the dialogue with our friends to make sure they were thinking about it.

SCHIEFFER: I ask that because the public reaction was, if one just reads what those leaders said in public, it was "We're unified against any kind of action against Saddam Hussein." Is that a correct interpretation of the public reactions?

CHENEY: It was mixed, I think, in terms of their public reactions.

But each of them can speak for themselves.

I had very good sessions throughout the region, many private sessions, one-on-one with my host. I have known him a long time, and I would say that, almost without exception, there is universal concern on the developments we see in Iraq, given Saddam Hussein's history and the evidence that is available of his pursuit of these deadly weapons.

SCHIEFFER: Did they outline any sort of predicate that they would want to see before action might be taken against Saddam Hussein?

CHENEY: I think the variety of concerns, in terms of how best to focus on it, a lot of focus on the United Nations, for example -- and of course, the key point there is that we already have U.N. Security Council resolutions on this issue. 687 prohibits him from owning weapons of mass destruction. He signed up to it. It's not been enforced or complied with. A lot of interest in terms of how this relates to other issues. For example, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a major focus of concern now.

But what you find is that we here in the U.S. like to portray it as either you are going to work on one problem or you are going to work on the other.
It's not that easy. You have got to work on both, and to some extent they are interrelated.

And so the importance, I think, from the standpoint of the United States is we have to be concerned both with the Iraqi problem as well as the Israeli-Palestinian problem.

SCHIEFFER: Let me just go back to the first question I asked because I want to make sure I understand you correctly.

You did not come away feeling that they would oppose an American action against Saddam Hussein, if in fact that became necessary ?

CHENEY: That's correct.

GLORIA BORGER, U.S. News & World Report: Mr. Vice President, on its front page today, the New York Times is reporting that intelligence officials believe that Yasser Arafat has forged a new strategic relationship with Iran, where Iran supplies the Palestinian Authority with heavy weapons and with money.

Can you tell us whether you believe this to be correct?

CHENEY: I've seen the story. I really -- I could not confirm it at this point. First of all, I can't talk about intelligence reports anyway.

Secondly, we have in one particular case, the Karine A, a few months ago, a set of circumstances where weapons were moving from Iran through Hezbollah to elements of the Palestinian Authority. We know that occurred. The ship was intercepted, the weapons were captured and so forth.

To go beyond that, as that article does, I simply couldn't go that far at this point.

BORGER: Well, do you think that it makes sense that the relationship could be more extensive? Does it sound like something that has the ring of truth to it?

CHENEY: I just--I don't want to speculate on it, Gloria. I think it would be wrong for me to speculate on it at this point.

There are all kinds of cross-cutting currents in that part of the world. We do know that Iran has supported Hezbollah very aggressively, and Hezbollah has done everything they can to torpedo the peace process.

To the extent that Arafat is engaged in negotiations with the Israelis, that's obviously something that the Iranians and Hezbollah are adamantly opposed to.

So I think it's -- at this point, I would not make the kind of judgment that I've seen there. I mean, it's -- I can't validate it, verify it.

BORGER: So do you have any reason to believe that Tehran might be harboring Al Qaeda members?

CHENEY: We believe that there are Al Qaeda members who have gone from Afghanistan into Iran. Whether or not they're still there or not, I don't know.

I think the Iranians have been careful historically not to get too close to the Al Qaeda organization. You have to remember the Al Qaeda organization has been primarily Sunni Muslim, and of course, Iran is primarily a Shi'a nation. So there's not a natural affinity there.

And Iran has been helpful in some respects in terms of supporting, standing up for the interim government, financial assistance to the interim authority in Afghanistan. But they've also been real problems in other regards.

SCHIEFFER: Yasser Arafat, you said, or sent signals, the U.S. government did, last week, that in fact you might return to the Middle East to meet with him under certain conditions. It's my understanding that today the administration is saying those conditions have not been met.

Are you going back to see him? Or what does he have to do in order for you to go?

CHENEY: The premise of your question, the lead-in was correct. That is, at present there's no meeting scheduled.

What we agreed to when I was in Israel last week, and both the Israelis and the Palestinians signed up to this, was that if, in fact, Yasser Arafat moves aggressively to implement the so-called Tenet plan -- this is a plan put forward by CIA Director Tenet last summer; it's a series of steps that would get us into a cease-fire -- if in fact they implement that, then I would agree to meet with Arafat.

And the judge as to whether or not they've met those terms is to be General Zinni, our special Mideast negotiator who's in the midst of those discussions between the Palestinians and the Israelis.

To date, as we meet this morning, circumstances are such that we've not yet scheduled a meeting.

SCHIEFFER: Well, what has to happen? He has to meet -- you've got to get a cease-fire, at least take some steps toward that. Has he taken any steps along that line yet, Mr. Vice President?

CHENEY: Well, if you look at the Tenet proposal in particular, it says you have to resume security meetings between the two sides. That's happening. General Zinni is presiding over such a meeting today.

Secondly, there has to be an exchange of information, intelligence information, warning, threat warning between the two.

Third, each has to take responsibility for maintaining security in its own areas and not allowing attacks from its territory against the other.

A series of six steps like that that are part of Tenet. And what we've said is, until Mr. Arafat actively implements those steps to the satisfaction of General Zinni, there won't be a meeting.

So far, those have not been implemented. That doesn't mean it won't happen. It doesn't mean it will happen. But the circumstances that I announced jointly when I was there and to say that I worked this out both with Sharon and Arafat, those circumstances have not yet been met.

SCHIEFFER: Would you say, at this point, you're optimistic they might happen, or you're pessimistic? What's your state of mind about that right now?

CHENEY: Well, I'm enough of a skeptic, I guess, about the difficulty of all this. I'm really reluctant to make a forecast, Bob. This has got to be one of the most difficult, intractable problems I've ever seen.

Hopefully, my willingness to meet with Arafat, if he meets these conditions, will give General Zinni some extra leverage in his mediation of this conflict. We're going to do everything we can to try to bring the bloodshed to an end and get on a political track, but we're not there yet.

BORGER: What if Mr. Arafat just doesn't have enough control to meet your requirements?

CHENEY: Well, we know he can do more than he has. We know that they've not yet made a 100 percent effort to contain the violence on their side.

If you go back to the Oslo Accord, entered into in '93, there was an arrangement for there to be 30,000 Palestinian Authority security personnel armed to maintain security in the Palestinian areas. That's clearly not happening, given the attacks that are being launched into Israel.

When we see a 100 percent effort from Mr. Arafat, when he issues directions to his own security services, when he's very public in Arabic telling the Palestinian people to knock it off, that there should not be these kinds of attacks, until he actually moves forward on the implementation of Tenet, there will not be a meeting.

SCHIEFFER: There seems to be some disagreement within the Israeli government itself as to whether Mr. Arafat should be allowed to go to this Arab summit that is going to take place later this week. He basically, as we all know, is basically under house arrest where he is now.

Should the Israelis allow him to go to this summit?

CHENEY: Well, they are divided, obviously, as you mentioned, Bob.

Shimon Peres believes he should go. To date, the prime minister has felt he shouldn't go. I think it's our view that the summit is likely to be more productive, or more likely to be productive, if in fact he is allowed to attend.

The focus in the summit, we think should be on Crown Prince Abdullah's proposal, his plan of withdrawal by the Israelis to '67 borders in exchange for normalization, and getting the other Arab nations to sign up to that. If Arafat is not there, it is more likely, in our view, that he will become the focus of the summit instead of the Saudi proposal. And so as a general proposition, we think he ought to go.

BORGER: Mr. Vice President, you have not ruled out sending U.S. troops into this region. Is that correct?

CHENEY: I haven't ruled sending troops into the region. I mean, I would be careful about how you state that. I have been asked whether or not I think it is a good idea. Frankly, we haven't discussed it.

I'll say we have in the past, and do today, have U.S. troops on, in the Sinai between the Egyptians and the Israelis. That's part of an agreement that goes back nearly 20 years. The notion that U.S. troops ought to somehow be committed here strikes me as -- I'd have to be shown that it makes sense, and so far I haven't seen that.

SCHIEFFER: That is a major step, isn't it?

CHENEY: It would be a huge step. And to this point, it's not been suggested in a formal way that we would actually take it under consideration.

BORGER: Well, is there -- has somebody asked you to do that?

CHENEY: No.

BORGER: Do you -- can you...

CHENEY: I've seen press speculation. But I think Tom Friedman actually recommended it at one point. But it has not been seriously discussed in our government.

BORGER: Can you envision any way in which you think it might be helpful?

CHENEY: At this stage, no, I cannot.

SCHIEFFER: Well, as I understand it, we have proposed or are amenable to perhaps sending CIA agents into the region to monitor any kind of cease-fire or any kind of -- as sort of a monitoring force. That would be different though, wouldn't it?

CHENEY: That would. And I don't want to get into the business this morning, Bob, of trying to say we will do this, we won't do that. The fact of the matter is, we're actively engaged in trying to get to the parties on to the track of negotiations. And I don't want to be in the business here this morning of saying we will do this or we won't do that. I think that would be inappropriate.

BORGER: Without getting too specific about your private conversations with leaders in the Middle East, I just want to ask you, how would you generally characterize their attitudes toward Saddam Hussein?

CHENEY: Oh, frankly, I couldn't find anybody out there who has anything good to say about him, in terms of the people I talked to. Now, maybe they wouldn't say anything positive about Saddam Hussein to me anyway.

But I've dealt with most of these folks now for many, many years, going back at least to the Gulf War crisis. And I would be amazed if any of them have anything good to say about him. They're all -- many of them think they're on a target list, that if he ever gets the opportunity, he'll take them out.

SCHIEFFER: Mr. Vice President, I have just been told that a story has moved on the wire that says that Iraq has just announced that it would be willing to receive a delegation to discuss the fate of an American pilot shot down during the Gulf War.

Number one, have we ever confirmed that in fact an American pilot is being held in Iraq? And number two, what would you make of this report?

CHENEY: I haven't seen the report except what you've just mentioned, Bob. The first night of the air war we lost a pilot, a carrier pilot Speicher I believe was his name.

SCHIEFFER: Scott Speicher, I believe, something like that.

CHENEY: Right. And for several years, based on the report of his wing man, the view was that he had been killed in action, seen an explosion and so forth.

Years later, at one point, there was, in the desert in Iraq, the finding of his uniform, some of the parts of his plane and no body. And so, in recent years, he has been classified as MIA, missing in action. We don't have any more information or evidence, at least I don't, other than the fact that he is missing in action and did go down over Iraq the first night of the Gulf War.

So this is news to me. I don't -- I'd have to see...

SCHIEFFER: Well, this would suggest -- and I mean, we don't want to take this beyond the story that's moved on the wire -- that he is in fact alive. Did we have any evidence that he was alive or we just listed him as missing?

CHENEY: No. He's listed as missing because we couldn't confirm his death.

SCHIEFFER: Would we send a delegation if in fact they have invited us to do that?

CHENEY: I'd have to take a look at the report and probably go back and take a look and see whether or not this is a serious proposition or whether Saddam Hussein is simply trying to change the subject.

SCHIEFFER: Mr. Vice President, thank you so much for being with us this morning.

CHENEY: Thank you.

SCHIEFFER: We appreciate it.

When we come back, we'll talk to Tom Friedman of the New York Times in a minute.

COMMERCIAL BREAK

SCHIEFFER: And with us now to talk about all of this, foreign affairs columnist of the New York Times, Tom Friedman.

I want to clarify one thing, Tom, the report that we were just talking to the vice president about, that Iraq now saying that they're ready to accept a delegation to discuss the fate of the missing American pilot. They did not suggest in the report that he is alive. Iraq has always said that he was killed when he ejected, but the remains have never been found. And apparently they're now saying they're willing to discuss that and the conditions. But the report, I should stress, did not say that he was alive.

Well, what did you make of what the vice president said today, Tom?

TOM FRIEDMAN, New York Times: Well, just apropos to that, Bob, I think this is the first of what I would call the Iraqi "dust in our eyes" strategy. This is the axis-of-evil effect. The Iraqis know that there is a spotlight on them. They know this administration has them in its crosshairs.

And I think this is going to be the first of many, many things they're going to try to put out as chaff and decoys in order to deflect this administration from coming after them.

BORGER: Tom, you heard what the vice president had to say, though, about Saddam Hussein and his conversations over there in the Middle East. He said nobody seemed to have a good word to say about Saddam.

FRIEDMAN: Well, it doesn't surprise me, Gloria. You know, I think all of the Arab leaders he met with came out and told their own press in Arabic, "Oh, I told that vice president, don't lay a finger on Iraq." In private, I think they told him something very different.

I think they told him, "Number one, whatever you do, lay a predicate at the United Nations. Go there, go through all of the steps of trying to force inspectors in on him." That's number one.

Number two, "Do what you can to neutralize the Israeli-Palestinian issue by trying to settle as much as you can to cool that down."

And number three, they told him, "Shoot to kill, baby. If you are going to go after him, shoot to kill because we sure don't want him wounded and coming after us."

SCHIEFFER: Is it your sense, Tom, that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict simply must be settled before the United States can move on Saddam Hussein?

FRIEDMAN: No, but I think it has to be on a track though, Bob, where you have a cease-fire and the parties are talking about a political solution. I think that's all that is really needed for them to really move on this other front. But I do think that is very important.

BORGER: Here we have an administration which started out by saying that they weren't going to be actively involved in negotiating any kind of settlement in the Middle East because Bill Clinton did that, and they said that it was counterproductive. Now you have a vice president who has essentially become the chief Mideast peace negotiator for this country.

Why the shift?

FRIEDMAN: Well, it was very striking, Gloria, to hear the vice president really spend almost, you know, almost a half hour talking just about this issue. And I think the world is curing them of a lot of the stuff they came into office with.

If their focus is Iraq, and it does remain Iraq -- and Iraq is an important issue to be addressing -- I think they understand you can't address Iraq unless you can bring Afghanistan up to some minimal level of civility.

So you got to do some nation-building there. You know, the kind of attitude of the administration initially, which was add money and stir, you know, to Afghanistan, hard to do that if you don't have a glass, OK. There is no glass there, there's no structure. So you're going to have to build a structure; that means some nation-building. Because who's going to justify or legitimate our breaking up Iraq if we can't even do Afghanistan right?

And secondly, I think there is a connection between the Israeli-Palestinian thing in terms of what Arab leaders can do to overtly and even covertly help us. So you got to do a minimum of there, too.

That brings you right back where? To where Clinton left off.

SCHIEFFER: How important is it, this back and forth about whether Arafat and the vice president are going to meet, whether or not Arafat goes to the Arab summit, how important is all of that in this?

FRIEDMAN: Well, I think it's important, Bob, in the sense that this Arab summit really is on a track to put out the proposal of Crown Prince Abdullah of Arab world, full normalization for full withdrawal. And I think that would be a net contributor to the process and to the atmosphere out there.

It's not going to happen, or it's unlikely to happen, if Arafat is there. I think the Israelis understand that. I think, at the end of the day, my guess is the Israelis are going to try to find a way to get Arafat out there if they can, simply because, otherwise, the whole focus is going to be on them.

SCHIEFFER: Do you think the vice president will wind up meeting with Arafat this week?

FRIEDMAN: I'm not sure about that. I mean, I think he is right when he says this has been harder to tamp down. And one reason it's harder to tamp down is, over the last year and a half of this, Yasser Arafat's lost control.

BORGER: The vice president did not seem very excited about the notion of peacekeepers, which is something he noted that you mentioned in a column of yours.

FRIEDMAN: I still think it's a live issue, Gloria. You know, a lot of people have said we can't send peacekeepers out to the Middle East. I say, excuse me, we're going to send 500,000 troops to Iraq, we're going to send them to Bosnia and to Kosovo, to Georgia and the Philippines, but we can't send them to a part of the world that is essential now solving in order to advance all our other interests? I think we're going to revisit that issue again.

SCHIEFFER: But you would agree with the vice president, that would be a major step?

FRIEDMAN: Big time.

SCHIEFFER: All right. Thank you very much, Tom.

Back with a final word in just a minute.

COMMERCIAL BREAK

SCHIEFFER: Finally today, here is a question: What do the Lincoln Memorial and liquor stores have in common? And the answer is video surveillance cameras.

Or at least they'll share that distinction come October when the Park Service will begin around-the-clock video surveillance of all our national monuments -- the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials, the Washington Monument, even the wall that honors those who died in Vietnam.

The icons of our freedom have become such likely targets for terrorists that, once again, in order to protect them, the government is telling us we must surrender another part of our freedoms, the right to be left alone and unobserved.

I reluctantly tend to agree that this is probably necessary, the prudent thing to do. But it worries me. What is the next place that cameras will be necessary? And what if somebody in the government just decides they don't like my looks? Can they put a special watch on me? Whose call will that be?
We need some rules here.

But mostly it just infuriates me that the same terrorists who have forced us to turn so many things we once took for granted -- air travel, for example --into exercises in torture, have found yet another way to limit our freedom.

There are many reasons to press the war on terrorists. But when they have forced us to turn America into a place that is on camera all the time, when we can't even stroll through our nation's monuments without the uneasy feeling that somebody someplace is watching us, that's as good a reason as any.

That's it for us. We'll see you here next week on Face the Nation.
  • Bootie Cosgrove-Mather

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