Rumsfeld: Iraqi chemical, biological weapons more lethal today
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld answered questions Tuesday on the Iraqi situation following a speech at a meeting of the Hoover Institution, a think tank associated with Stanford University.
The following is an edited transcript of the question and answer session:
QUESTION: There have been a lot of reports in the last 24 hours on TV in regard to these small aircraft [unmanned drones], and I mean very small aircraft that are pilotless, that potentially could deliver biological things. Can you comment, to the extent you're allowed to, in regard to how we're looking at that? What is the degree of equipment that [the Iraqis] have in your assessment, etc.?
RUMSFELD: They come in a variety of sizes and shapes and capabilities. They are perfectly capable of being equipped with spraying and aerosol-type capabilities.
Today with Global Position Systems, GPS, and the kinds of maps that one can buy readily, these types of things can be purchased and used and guided and directed with great precision and capable of dispensing those kinds of weapons.
They do exist. We know that Iraq has a number of so-called UAVs -- unmanned aerial vehicles -- of different types, that they train with them and exercise them.
QUESTION: What's the typical range that they have?
RUMSFELD: They vary dramatically in their range, but in some cases, they've taken -- countries have taken regular manned aircraft and equipped them for unmanned flight so they would have the typical range, depending on the speed and circumstance, of the aircraft that they converted.
Of the smaller types that are made directly for the purpose, as opposed to being first made as a manned aircraft, we've seen them go hundreds of kilometers. And it can be done two ways: It can be done on a guided basis, or it can be done on a preprogrammed basis. And as I say, with great precision.
QUESTION: Let me just ask whether -- could you speculate for us what is going to be the event that will trigger the decision to go to war? And do you think that event will have an impact on the support that you have from the U.S. population as well as countries that should be part of our coalition but aren't yet there?
RUMSFELD: No. Actually I could, but I won't.
You know -- who knows what's going to happen in the U.N.? Who knows what could happen on the ground? There are so many different things that could happen. You know, as we're meeting, he [Saddam Hussein] could decide to leave the country. It's a nice thought. Someone could decide to help him leave the country. It's not a bad thought. I just don't know.
There are so many things that can happen, and these are decisions that are made, of course, by the president of the United States and by other countries' leaders, and I just simply wouldn't want to even begin to speculate.
We have aircraft flying around in that region, as you know, in the northern and southern "no-fly" zones, and we have U-2 aircraft that are assisting the U.N. inspectors. And I suppose something could happen to one of those aircraft that could cause a problem. There's any number of things, and it's just not possible to speculate on it.
QUESTION: What do you see as Iraq's military capability?
RUMSFELD: If you go to organizations like Jane's and others that look at militaries in various countries, you know and drop a plumb line through everyone's best guess -- first of all, it's a closed society, so there's a great deal that people don't know. But the guess is that it's something under 50 percent of what its capability was in 1991 during the Gulf War in terms of conventional capability, full stop.
With respect to chemical/biological capabilities, one knows that they have advanced, and they are, in my judgment, probably more lethal and dangerous today than they would've been back in '91, but I don't know that for sure. I don't think anyone does, except the Iraqis.
QUESTION: What would you perceive would be the problem with the government of Iran? Would they be throwing a wrench in the process? How dangerous are they? And how dangerous are the Syrians on the other side to help Saddam maybe take his weapons and hold them? Whatever that comes up.
RUMSFELD: Well, back in the Gulf War, the Iraqis flew their airplanes into Iran to save them rather than use them in the conflict, and they never got them back.
So my guess is that he'll be more careful this time if something were to happen. And I don't know what he might do.
There's no question but that he does have some things that he doesn't want inspectors to find, and it's entirely possible that he could try to move those off into some other country.
My guess is that in the event that the decision is made to use military force to disarm Saddam Hussein, in the event that he refuses to cooperate with the inspectors, which one still hopes he might do, that -- just a guess -- I would think that probably both Syria and Iran would probably stay pretty much out of it and not do anything particular that would be disadvantageous to either side.
QUESTION: How much support do you think Saddam truly has from the Iraqi people? How do their sentiments break down?
RUMSFELD: It's awfully hard to know; in fact, it's impossible to know unless one just speculates. I don't know how many people who live in an exceedingly repressive regime actually like it. So one has to believe that to the extent people prefer not to be repressed and not to live in fear, that they would prefer to have a different regime.
Because it is such a repressive regime, however, people are afraid to say what they think. And until, at some moment, they see that it is inevitable that that regime is not going to be there, I would suspect that it would be very difficult to come up with any accurate speculation.
We have a lot of intelligence and a lot of anecdotal information that, needless to say, is encouraging. But I think, you know, placing your hopes in it is a stretch. I think you just have to wait and see what happens in the event that that would be the case.
They've lived under that repressive regime for a very long time, and it can't be easy. If one looks at the size of their prison population and looks at the number of people that the regime kills each year and reads the various nongovernmental organizations' reports on their human rights violations and the way they treat people, it's hard to believe that there would be an awful lot of support, to say nothing of the fact that there's a relatively small minority of Sunni that pretty much run the country, and there's a large Shia population and a large Kurdish population that probably hold that with a minimum of high regard.