March 11, 2005
Exclusive: Raw Story chats with Scott Ritter
In a candid interview with RAW STORY < http://rawstory.com/ >, former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter sets the record straight on his comments about Iran, shares his concerns about the threats facing America and discusses his hopes. RAW STORY’s interview with Ritter will be published in three parts.
Iran’s nuclear program
Raw Story’s Larisa Alexandrovna: Scott, first let me thank you for taking the time to speak with me. I want to get right to the meat of things by asking you about a comment you reportedly made in February of this year in your joint appearance with journalist Dahr Jamail in Washington state, where you were quoted as saying that George W. Bush had signed off on plans to bomb Iran in June 2005.
Former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter: No. Someone else wrote that I had said that.
Raw Story: So it is not correct?
Ritter: It is not wildly incorrect, but it is taken totally out of context. The emphasis is placed on the wrong things. What I said was that the President, in October of 2004, had been briefed by the Pentagon. In [the Pentagon’s] preparation to have in place by June 2005 a viable military option. This was in response to instructions by the President that the US must be prepared to implement the next phase of its Iran policy or strategy; the first phase of course being the pursuit of the so called diplomatic option-in other words allowing the European Union to carry out its outreach program.
Raw Story: So Secretary of State’s Condoleezza Rice’s comments regarding not taking any options off the table would echo that sentiment, it seems.
Ritter: [Rice] had just come back from Europe, and this is what I was talking about during that speaking engagement, [Rice] said that military plans were not on the table at this time. I said that she was a liar; either she is being really cute or she is lying. Military plans are on the table and the President has signed off on those plans. That does not mean we are going to bomb, but to sit here and pretend that we have fully embraced the diplomatic option or have not considered military plans is wrong. I reminded everyone of the situation in the fall of 2002 where the same Condoleezza Rice, along with Donald Rumsfeld, Collin Powell, and other members of the Bush administration were saying that the United States was embarking on serious diplomatic path to resolve the situation in Iraq. They made these statements to Congress in the fall when the President had already signed off on plans for an Iraq invasion in August. She lied then and she is lying now.
Raw Story: So based on this pattern that you are pointing out, does that then mean an attack on Iran is probable?
Ritter: No, what is happening is that in June, the U.S. will walk away from Europe with regard to their outreach in Iran. If the situation is not resolved by June, the US will shift its policy and methodology. Now this is not speculation on my part. This has been stated. Then [the U.S.] will seek to impose robust sanctions against Iran.
Raw Story: The UN has to approve those sanctions still.
Ritter: Right. Only the UN Security Council can apply those sanctions and the Russians and the French have already said we are not game, we are not playing.
When we confront the Russians with our desire to impose sanctions and the Russians must know there is something else outside of sanctions; so when they are saying no, they know they are opening the door to something else. That something else is a military bombardment. In that event, the U.S. has to be prepared; the Pentagon has been tasked with being prepared to launch a massive military bombardment by June of 2005. October of 2004 was a status report on those preparations.
Raw Story: Does Iran have a functioning nuclear weapons program?
Ritter: Iran does not have a fully functional nuclear program. I don’t think there is anybody out there, anybody responsible, who would say that [Iran] does. There are a lot of people out there who have jumped on to the 'Iran has nukes’ wagon and are speculating on something they do not fully understand, especially in a knee-jerk fashion in response to North Korea’s admission. The difference between Iran and North Korea is that the Iranian program has been thoroughly investigated by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and you don’t create nuclear weapons in a cave.
You need dedicated modern industrial facilities to do this.
Russia’s unsecured weapons?
Raw Story: Some have said it would be cheaper for Iran to buy weapons. Is Russia selling the reported unsecured cache that it has to Iran?
Ritter: You can’t buy them. If you could buy them, then everyone would be buying them.
Raw Story: What about Russia’s much talked about post-Cold war unsecured nuclear stockpile?
Ritter: These are allegations. No one sustains the notion that there are stock piles of unsecured materials in Russia. It’s not there.
Raw Story: Are you saying there is no way of really knowing if there is an unsecured stockpile of materials in Russia or are you saying that it is known that there is not?
Ritter: Firstly, there is no proof that [the stockpile of nuclear grade materials] is there. Secondly, what I know about how the material is secured leads me to believe that it is not there. It cannot be there. Putin would have to be involved, himself, in this misinformation campaign.
Raw Story: Why is it unlikely that Putin would not be involved? We are talking about the former head of the KGB, who is not shy about taking care of business, as it were.
Ritter: Because that would be suicide for Putin. He faces his own terrorist-based threat. Why would Putin allow a system to exist that puts on the market nuclear grade material that would be bought by people who want to destroy him, like the Chechens for example, who have high placed financiers in the Islamic fundamentalist world. It is ludicrous to think that the Russians would embrace a system that would lead to their own destruction… to make what, a little bit of money? You are talking about a Russia that is a major producer of oil at a time when oil prices are record high. They are rolling in money right now.
Raw Story: Yet both Senator Kerry (D-MA) as well as President Bush both have made mention of this problem of unsecured nuclear grade materials in Russia.
Ritter: Well, they both said that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.
Iraq’s elections, the full circle to Iran
Raw Story: During that same talk you gave in Washington State with journalist Dahr Jamail, you are quoted as saying that the U.S. had "cooked" the Iraqi elections. Now given that you were misquoted on the first "bombshell," is this a correct account of what you said?
Ritter: It is amazing people are walking away from this one. The US cooked the election in Iraq. For three days after the election the Shia were saying "we" had 60 percent of the vote. The election was flawed to begin with. I was not a big supporter of having a so called democratic election under martial law where 300,000 troops were securing the scene. I don’t think anyone would endorse elections under those conditions. Yet they did manage to vote. Anyone with a brain on their shoulders would know that if you have an open election, the Shia would win.
Raw Story: And they did win. So how was the election "cooked?"
Ritter: The way the law was given to the Iraqis [by the U.S.] - that L. Paul Bremer wrote and gave to Prime Minister Allawi - and gave to the transitional government is designed so that you have to win over 50 percent of the vote to have the plurality needed to control the assembly.
The election results came in and the Shia got 60 percent of the vote. Now, it is no secret that the Shia want a law based on the Islamic law [not secular].
Raw Story: Right. The Kurds want full independence.
Ritter: Right, the Kurds want independence and they got somewhere in the mid 20 percentile of the vote. I don’t think most Americans are aware that the Kurds had their own referendum during this election. Ninety-eight percent of Kurds voted for independence.
Allawi’s group got low single digit figures. That makes them meaningless as any government influence in Iraq. The Kurds do not have enough votes to have their own government. The Shia do, however. Now what would happen is that the Shia would cut a deal with the Kurds and give them autonomy as a road to independence.
Raw Story: So the Shia, and through them, the Kurds, win the election, which we know. The cooking, as it were, then took place in terms of percentages?
Ritter: Well suddenly, three days later after the election. We have a secret recount and ballads appear, disappear… now this is not Florida, and you don’t have TV cameras holding up the chads in front of everybody.
Raw Story: Missing ballots, secret recount, magically appearing new ballots… I can see how this is not Florida.
Ritter: [laughs] Well I am talking about Iraq right now.
Raw Story: So back to Iraq.
Ritter: Right. So you have ballots appearing from nowhere, disappearing, and there is a secret recount and suddenly the Shia have 48 percent of the vote and Allawi has 13 percent. Allawi is now a viable force and can deny the Shia control. This is what was wanted from the beginning. Now why this is important is, and we come back to Iran and these things are related. You cannot talk about bombing Iran unless you have neutered the Shia of Iraq.
Raw Story: What about Lebanon, Yemen, and other countries in the region with a strong Shia population, how will they see this Iraq-U.S.-Iran conflict?
Ritter: There is 130,000 troops in harms way in Iraq right now. If you are going to use these forces in any useful way with regard to Iran… well, I won’t say too much here.
Raw Story: Please don’t say too much. I want to live long enough to at least write this piece [laughs].
Ritter: Well, there are things that can be done with conventional forces, without going into Tehran. The fear is that if we bomb Iran, the Shia of Iran will do their best to use the Shia of Iran to strike back at U.S. forces.
Raw Story: Is this not going to galvanize the rest of the Muslim world regardless of sect affiliation against the U.S.? How is a galvanized international Muslim force supporting fundamentalist factions - something they would otherwise not support - be beneficial to the U.S.?
Ritter: Right. From a national security perspective this makes no logical sense.
Raw Story: So there is no logic behind this?
Ritter: Well, let’s change the environment that you are operating in… your thinking from a national security perspective. Rethink this from a domestic political consideration … here in America, from the perspective of a radical minority called the neocons.
RAW STORY will carry the second part of this conversation will be on Monday, Mar. 14, 2005..