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Rice on ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos

Interview on ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Jerusalem, Israel
June 19, 2005

(9:05 a.m. EDT)

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Good morning, Madame Secretary, and let's begin with your meetings in Israel and Palestine. You've met with Prime Minister Sharon, you've met with President Abbas. You say they share the goal of making this withdrawal from Gaza work, which is coming later this summer. But are they doing enough right now to make it work?

SECRETARY RICE: Yes, George. In fact, I was here principally to talk about the preparations for the Gaza disengagement, and I did find on both sides that there is a lot of planning that is going on. They've really begun pretty significant coordination. I think that coordination has been facilitated by Mr. Wolfensohn, who is working with the parties, and by General Ward. But there obviously is a lot more work to be done, but they do now have working committees that are talking about every aspect of the disengagement.

The most important thing is that they need to make certain that there are no surprises here, that both sides know precisely what's going to happen and that they can work together on what's going to be a very historic but very complex operation.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: What's your biggest worry about the disengagement?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, we have to think in terms of what needs to be done and, obviously, the two goals here that I hold most important is, first of all, that there needs to be security. The Palestinians have an obligation to provide as much security as they can so that settlers and IDF, Israeli Defense Forces, alike, do not face a deteriorated security situation. And General Ward is working with Interior Minister Yusef on that issue. The Israelis need to, of course, coordinate with the Palestinians on that; and I spoke last night with Defense Minister Mofaz, who is talking with Interior Minister Yusef about trying to make sure that the security situation is conducive to a peaceful and orderly withdrawal.

The other issue is one that Jim Wolfensohn is working on, which is that the Gaza needs to be left as a hopeful place for the Palestinians, a place where there is almost an immediate upsurge in -- uptick in economic activity, where the Palestinians can see that the Gaza is going to be a functioning place for them in terms of economic livelihood. And Jim Wolfensohn is working hard on that piece, and I will also talk to my colleagues at the G-8 about what the international community can do to strengthen that possibility.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: The first round of presidential elections in Iran took place on Friday and two of the candidates have claimed that the ruling mullahs and the military have rigged the elections. Were these a sham?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I have no way to know about the claims of these particular people; but from our point of view, from the very beginning, an election that took place with an unelected few having decided who could run, with thousands of people having been disqualified, with women having been disqualified altogether, I find it hard to see how this election could certainly contribute to the sense of legitimacy of the Iranian Government.

And it certainly is out of step with the way that elections are being held in the region. If you look at elections in Lebanon or elections that took place in Iraq or elections that took place in the Palestinian territories, there were not people standing there saying, well, you can't run and you shouldn't run. No, I just don't see the Iranian elections as being a serious attempt to move Iran closer to a democratic future, by the way, for people who deserve a democratic future because they have consistently demonstrated their interest in greater democracy.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's turn to Iraq. Do you agree with Vice President Cheney's assertion that the insurgency in Iraq is in its "last throes"?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, you defeat an insurgency by both political and military means, and there is a lot going on in conjunction jointly between coalition forces and the Iraqis to root out some of the strongholds of insurgencies. There was an operation that's been going on up on the Syrian border, and there's a lot of progress that's being made that way.

But the real goal here and the real way that the insurgency will be defeated is that the Iraqi people choose a political path, and more and more Iraqis have chosen that political path. We are seeing the Iraqis go through a series of milestones that demonstrate that Iraq is building a different kind of political future from the transfer of sovereignty not quite a year ago to the creation of a Transitional Administrative Law earlier than that to, now, elections in January of this year. Now they are about to write a constitution. They'll have elections again in December that will bring about a permanent government.

And at each phase, more Iraqis are involved in this process. Sunni and Shia and Kurds and other Iraqis are concentrating politically on building a united Iraq. That is why I think the insurgency must think that its last days are eventually going to come because the Iraqis are turning to their politics to serve their future.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: But is it in its last throes now?

SECRETARY RICE: George, when you look at what the insurgency is doing, what the terrorists are doing, what they're doing is they're causing chaos by blowing up innocent Iraqis. I don't see that that has a political future because Iraqis don't want to live in that kind of terror. We have to call these people what they are. They're terrorists. These are not people who somehow have an alternative vision for Iraq. Their only way of making their presence felt is to cause murder and mayhem against innocent people. That's not, in the long term, a sustainable position. And Iraqi security forces are being trained to deal with the insurgency. They're getting better at it. And as I said, the Iraqis are demonstrating that what they really want is they want a political future.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: There seems to be a gap between the judgment of how the Iraqi forces are doing from officials in Washington and what soldiers on the ground are saying. I want to share with you something that Lieutenant Kenrick Cato told The Washington Post. He's serving with Iraq's Charlie Company up in northern Iraq and he says: "I know the party line, you know, the Department of Defense, the U.S. Army, five-star Generals, four-star Generals, President Bush, Donald Rumsfeld -- the Iraqis will be ready in whatever time period. But from the ground, I can say with certainty they won't be ready before I leave; and I know I'll be back in Iraq probably in three or four years, and I don't think they'll be ready then."

And doesn't that track with what Generals in Iraq are now saying, that it's going to be at least two years before the Iraqi forces are ready to stand on their own?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, the question is what do the Iraqi forces have to be capable of doing? They don't have to be capable of resisting a massive military force that would come at them. What they have to be capable of doing is, essentially, counterterrorism operations, the sort of thing that they are engaged in with coalition forces at the area around al Qaim. They have to be engaged in protection of certain activities, the way that they were able to protect the elections, without really any help from the coalition.

So, yes, they have a long road ahead of them. They are not ready to stand on their own right now. But Iraqi forces, when they are trained, are in some ways going to be better at some of these functions than coalition forces. If you ask yourself, "Who is likely to know who is a foreign terrorist and who is an Iraqi," it's an Iraqi soldier, not an American soldier or a Polish soldier that's likely to know that.

And so while they will not necessarily have the same capabilities that our forces have, they will have different capabilities and different capacities to bring to the fight. And so I don't think that there is a reason, a cause to be pessimistic about the future of Iraqi security forces.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: But what should the American public expect? Should they expect that there are going to be 140,000 U.S. troops in Iraq for at least the next two years, based on the General's analysis of what the Iraqi forces are capable of?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I'm not going to comment on the analysis of one single General. I'm going to tell you what the President sees in his briefing, what those of us on the National Security Council see in our briefings, and that is that there is progress being made in training the Iraqi security forces, that their functions are to fight the counterterrorism fight and to do certain protection of different kinds of activities, and that no one expects that they are ready to stand on their own right now; but no one expects either that the coalition forces have to do everything any longer, as they once did.

There is a crossover that's taking place. The Iraqis are taking more and more responsibility for their security. And as they do that, then it's going to be possible for coalition forces to step down and, indeed, to leave. Nobody wants to set a timetable or talk about an exit strategy; but I can tell you that the flow of events, the training of Iraqi security forces, their growing capability, the changing political environment in which the insurgency finds itself, gives me considerable confidence that they are going to be more and more capable of doing this on their own and that coalition forces are going to be less important to the cause.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: You say that no one wants to talk about a timetable or an exit strategy. As you know, there are several members of Congress who want to talk about just that. I understand your argument against the fixed timetable for withdrawal, but why not submit an exit strategy to the Congress?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I think we've submitted on a number of occasions a success strategy; and that strategy is, first of all, to support the Iraqi political process. And it's very easy with all of the bombings and the carnage that these terrorists are able to put on our television screens every day to ignore the degree to which the Iraqis have really made incredible political progress, to be sitting there now with an elected government that has just now put together a constitutional committee that is going to draft the constitution and then hold elections again in December. And to have done all of that within a period of about two years is really pretty remarkable. And it's easy to forget that that's where the future of the Iraqi people really is.

Now, in terms of the security situation, the success strategy, the way that coalition forces come down is to train Iraqi forces, is to help the Iraqis to deal with their neighbors, who could do a lot to help the Iraqis, neighbors like Syria that, if they control their border, there will be fewer insurgents getting in; but also to recognize that the connection between that political process and the training of Iraqi security forces will give the Iraqis themselves the upper hand. And I think, George, that we look to a day when, really, coalition forces are going to be unnecessary for the kinds of security tasks that are going to be left to the Iraqis.

That doesn't mean that there will be an absence of violence in Iraq. That's a longer process. But the kinds of things that coalition forces are doing now are simply not going to be necessary as Iraqis do more and more of it themselves.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: As you know, there has also been a lot of talk back here in the United States about these Downing Street memos, the minutes of a meeting with Prime Minister Tony Blair in the spring and summer of 2002, where they discussed their meetings with the United States. I want to show you what one mother, Cindy Sheehan, the mother of a U.S. soldier, had to say about that memo this week: "The so-called Downing Street memo dated 23 July 2002 only confirms what I already suspected: the leadership of this country rushed us into an illegal invasion of another sovereign country on prefabricated and cherry-picked intelligence."

How do you respond to Mrs. Sheehan?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I can only say what the President has said many, many times. The United States of America and its coalition decided that it was finally time to deal with the threat of Saddam Hussein. There had been multiple resolutions against Saddam Hussein and his activities, everything from concerns about his weapons of mass destruction programs and his continued unwillingness to answer the legitimate questions of the international system about those programs, his having used weapons of mass destruction in the past, everything concerning the way that he treated his own people. After all, we found more than 300,000 people in mass graves.

You know, people are talking about in the UN reform a responsibility to protect. We happen to think that the Security Council is the place that that discussion ought to take place. When you consider what the Iraqi people had gone through in the Saddam Hussein regime's reign, what about the responsibility to the Iraqi people? We finally undertook an action that got rid of one of the worst dictators in modern times sitting in the center of the world's most troubled region. And sitting here today in Jerusalem, I can tell you, George, that this region is far better for it. And we now really have a chance to build a different kind of Middle East with a different Iraq in the center of it, with potentially a Palestinian state that is democratic and with changes taking place all over this region that are democratizing, that will be more stabilizing and that will bring greater security to the American people. Saddam Hussein is gone, and that's a good thing.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Before we go, I want to ask you a question about the President's nominee for UN Ambassador, John Bolton. He is, of course, facing another vote in the Senate tomorrow and Democrats say they're going to continue to block that vote unless they have the chance for these 36 names they've submitted to the Administration to be checked against the intercepts that Mr. Bolton had asked for from the National Security Agency.

Is the Administration going to comply with that request?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, Senator Roberts has already spoken to the issue of the nature of those inquiries and he is, after all, the Chairman of the Intelligence Committee, the Senate Select Intelligence Committee. What we need to do is we need to get an up-or-down vote on John Bolton. Let's find out whether, in fact, the Senate, in its whole, in its entirety, intends and wants to confirm him. That's all that we're asking.

And I want to say that it's extremely important that we get it done. I've just spent a lot of time over the last couple of weeks on UN reform and UN Security Council reform. There is a very important debate that is going on in the UN about the future of the UN. We want the UN to be strong and effective. But in order for America's voice to be strong and effective in that very consequential UN debate, we need a strong Permanent Representative to the UN. The President thinks, I believe, that John Bolton is the person to do that job. So let's get an up-or-down vote on him and we'll see --

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: But the Democrats say they're just not going to do that unless they get the information. So is the President and you -- are you prepared to do a recess appointment?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, George, the Administration has answered, as well as John Bolton himself, countless inquiries from the Senate, first from the Foreign Relations Committee, then from others. It's time to have a vote. If Senators wish to vote against him, then they should vote against him. If they wish to vote for him, then they should vote for him. But we need an up-or-down vote and we should get that and see if we can't get a very strong representative like John Bolton at the UN so we can get on with the issues of UN reform.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: And a recess appointment?

SECRETARY RICE: George, we need to get a vote on John Bolton. That's the key.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Madame Secretary, thank you very much.

SECRETARY RICE: Thank you. Nice to be with you.

2005/T10-5

Released on June 19, 2005

ENDS


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