11 September 2001>News Stories>Powell: Mideast solution a must

Powell: Mideast solution a must
John Diamond . Chicago Tribune . 13 October

Ending Israeli-Palestinian violence and alleviating the suffering of Afghan people are essential elements of the war on terrorism, Secretary of State Colin Powell said in an interview Friday.

Powell said the year of nearly continuous clashes between Palestinians and Israelis that cut short a promising peace effort has fueled resentments in the Arab world that have made parts of the region a breeding ground for terrorism.

Those resentments could escalate if the Muslim world sees the war on terrorism as sidetracking the Mideast peace process, or sees the U.S. bombing Afghanistan but doing nothing to ease human suffering.

"There is discontent in a number of the Arab nations. That's obvious. You can see it in the demonstrations that are held," Powell said.

"Hopefully if we can bring the Al Qaeda organization to heel, show the people of Afghanistan that we are trying to rebuild their lives, I think that would remove a lot of the discontent that one sees," Powell said. "If we could also get some progress in the Middle East, that would remove another large source of discontent."

Although the Bush administration insists it never stopped working toward Mideast peace, Powell, preparing for a trip within days to Pakistan and India, acknowledged that the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon added a new intensity to U.S. efforts.

"Every day we push both sides," Powell said. "We started doing this the day after Sept. 11."

When the terrorists struck, Powell cut short a three-day trip to South America and rushed back to Washington. "On Sept. 12, when I got back here, we immediately started calling not only everybody in the new [anti-terrorist] coalition, but we started to talk to the Israelis and the Palestinians, saying, `The world changed yesterday, guys, and we need to find a way to move this process along,'" Powell said.

As Powell pressed on with his coalition-building effort, Muslim leaders in countries such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan mixed their support for the U.S. anti-terrorism effort with appeals for Washington to address Palestinian grievances.

Speaking to reporters from three newspaper groups, Powell acknowledged the gap between support coming from most Muslim regimes and the discontent among the Muslim populace.

"There's no question that the continuing difficulties between the Israelis and the Palestinians are part of the mixture, one of the disturbing features--a major disturbing feature--that causes this kind of difficult situation we're in to exist where it fuels discontent," Powell said. "We need to find a solution to it."

Powell's comments came as the U.S. and Britain prepare to intensify their diplomatic efforts to restart a Mideast peace process stalled since violence broke out in Israel and the Palestinian territories a year ago.

Powell praises Arafat
Nabil Shaath, a Palestinian Cabinet secretary, said Friday that the U.S. is preparing a peace settlement proposal that would establish a Palestinian state that included at least part of Jerusalem. Israeli officials say they have not seen such a proposal and emphasize they oppose a solution that involves Jerusalem as capital of a new Palestinian state.

Powell praised Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat for making "a bold choice" this week in demanding that the radical Palestinian group Hamas take part in a cease-fire. But Powell said both sides have much work to do just to get to the point where they can return to negotiations on a final settlement.

"There has been some improvement in the situation," Powell said. "It's not where we want it yet."

Powell's trip to India and Pakistan is aimed at easing tension between those two nuclear-armed countries. He also intends to thank them for their support in the campaign against terrorism. Pakistan has granted U.S. combat planes fly-over rights into Afghanistan.

Powell said the military campaign against Al Qaeda and Afghanistan's Taliban regime that supports the terrorist group would proceed slowly, perhaps lasting years. This could prove a point of friction with Pakistan, whose leader, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, has called for a short, decisive conflict.

Pakistan "has even gotten ahead of us in terms of [Musharraf's] offering things and saying, `Let's get going, we want to be with you on this,'" Powell said.

No `drift' in coalition yet
Asked about reports that the U.S. had eased up in its attacks on the Taliban out of fears in Afghanistan that the war may result in a new Afghan regime antagonistic to Pakistan, Powell said all military campaigns require political adjustments.

"I have never known of any campaign in history where those conducting the campaign didn't have to modulate lots of different things," Powell said, likening the challenge in Afghanistan to the political shoals Gen. Dwight Eisenhower had to navigate in World War II. "War is not war and combat is not simply something for soldiers. It has to be within a political context, and that's no less true now than it was back in the time of the Caesars."

Powell dismissed concern about his own safety while in Pakistan.

"I've been shot at by professionals," the former Army general said.

The biggest surprise since Sept. 11, Powell said, was how well the coalition has held together under pressure.

"When you start asking them to do things and when they realize we're in this for the long haul and `gee, it may not be as easy as we thought it was going to be,' you start to get drift," Powell said. "Well, we haven't had any drift."

As to those who don't join the coalition, Powell said, only a handful of countries, long adversaries to the U.S., have totally shunned participation. While he remained vague on what the consequences would be for these countries, Powell said there might be different levels of punishment. Those that simply refuse to take part may suffer economic and political consequences.

Those that "are conscious havens actively supporting . . . terrorism," he said, may suffer "other consequences as well." Powell didn't spell them out but said that Afghanistan, now under sustained U.S. military attack, is an example.