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Rice Interview on NBC News with Richard Engle

Interview on NBC News with Richard Engle

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Baghdad, Iraq
November 11, 2005

QUESTION: The last time you were here was around the time of the constitution, when that was being formed, and one of the main missions was to try and include the Sunnis. What's the purpose this time?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, first of all, I think the Sunnis did vote in large numbers on the referendum and even those who voted no are engaging in the democratic process. And I've just met with Sunni leaders and they talk a lot now about how they're going to mobilize for the December elections. So, I think the Sunnis are now really getting integrated into the political process and that's a primary change.

I've come here for a couple of reasons. We are standing up Provincial Reconstruction Teams to get more help to the local level and to the provincial level. We in the United States know, as a federal system, that a lot of governance is at the state and local level, and in Iraq it's a very centralized structure here in Baghdad, and so getting our people out more to help the local level is very important.

I also wanted to come to bring a message that while the United States has no intention of supporting any candidate or any political party -- we're supporting a democratic process here -- we do hope that the process will lead to a government that is trying to bridge differences between the various groups here, not to exacerbate those differences.

And finally, I wanted to come out and thank the men and women who serve here, the ones who serve in uniform, the ones who serve from other government agencies, and from the foreign and civil service, and the foreign service nationals -- Iraqis who help with American work here, sometimes at great risk to themselves.

QUESTION: One of the main purposes of this entire war has been to create a more peaceful, stable country that would export democracy to the neighboring countries, but instead we've seen one that seems to be, at times, exporting terrorism. Some people here blame this war -- blame the American foreign policy, for having done that.

SECRETARY RICE: Well, that has to assume that terrorism was not exporting itself before the Iraq war. September 11th [2001] was long before Iraq. And of course, after Spain had said that it was going to leave Iraq, they still attacked.

QUESTION: Terrorists existed but weren't coming out of Iraq to export terrorism into neighboring countries.

SECRETARY RICE: No, but the fact is that terrorism was in Jordan long before the war in Iraq. In the medium- to long-term, we have a chance to create a different kind of Middle East, where terrorism isn't going to be exported from anywhere. And Zarqawi and his network have been operative in Jordan before. It is not as if he needed Iraq to attack Jordan.

So I think we make a mistake if we somehow believe that because the terrorists are now fighting back, seeing that we are finally challenging them, that somehow we are creating more of a problem because we're finally challenging the terrorists, because we're finally trying to create a Middle East where they will not be welcome, where their particular brand of extremism will not find roots in a place that is hopeless and lacking in political freedoms.

We have to go through this very difficult phase in order to get to a Middle East that is truly stable, as opposed to the false stability that we thought we had prior to September 11th.

QUESTION: Zarqawi is one of the main opponents to this vision of the Middle East. Do you have any idea how broad his network is in Jordan or here in Iraq? I'm sure you've been receiving estimates. I know you're on the political front, but it certainly is a challenge to your political vision.

SECRETARY RICE: Well, he, there's no doubt that the vision of Zarqawi, and Zawahiri, and others is a vision that is completely antithetical to the vision not just of the United States but of the free world and of most Iraqis here. But the challenge to him is that the more he says about terrorizing people who go out and vote, the more they seem to vote. So in January when they threatened, 8.5 million people went out to vote. In October when they threatened at the time of the referendum, 10 million people went out to vote. And people are organizing themselves to vote in December. That's the greatest threat to Zarqawi, not the United States.

QUESTION: We've seen political benchmarks come and go. There's been the elections, the constitution, but the violence doesn't seem to be getting any better. There seems to be a number of attacks. The U.S. death rate among the troops is increasing, in fact. Do you think maybe it's time for a new strategy?

SECRETARY RICE: I think that the political process is proceeding and more and more Iraqis are becoming a part of that political process. There's no doubt that a few violent men can always, in a cowardly fashion, blow up school children standing at a school bus, that a few cowardly men can -- and violent men -- can always pull off a suicide bombing against teachers who are seeking employment.

So, of course, the violence is going to be there for a while until the political process becomes so entrenched that the Iraqis are able simply not to tolerate it again until they have -- any longer, until they have security forces that are really able to fight the terrorists. But the fact is that time is not on the side of the terrorists, because the political process is moving forward. And when you read Zarqawi's letters or Zawahiri's letter, they know that every time there's an election, they know that every time the political process takes hold, that they have taken a devastating loss. And that's why they're fighting so hard to keep the Iraqis from participating.

QUESTION: Thank you very much. Good luck with the rest of your trip.


QUESTION: This is obviously a very decisive time and hopefully will be decisive enough to (inaudible).

SECRETARY RICE: It's a decisive time, but you have to be impressed with the way that the Iraqis are going about this political work.

QUESTION: Wish I had more than five minutes. There's a lot of opinions on this, and I would love to share them with you but there are other people in line.

SECRETARY RICE: Okay, some other time.

QUESTION: Thank you very much.

SECRETARY RICE: Thanks a lot.




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