Rice IV on Fox News Sunday With Chris Wallace
Interview on Fox News Sunday With Chris Wallace
St. Petersburg, Russia
July 16, 2006
QUESTION: And we're joined now by the Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who's attending the G-8 summit in St. Petersburg, Russia. Secretary Rice, thanks for taking time out to talk with us. How do you view the current situation in the Middle East, as the kind of cross-border conflict that we have seen over the years or as something more dangerous that has the potential to create a regional conflict?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, we certainly view the situation with great concern and the President is having discussions with his counterparts here about that. We're concerned about the rising civilian casualties. We're concerned about the general atmosphere in the region. But I would say that what is really happening here is that extremists have revealed their hand. They are demonstrating that they cannot tolerate the forward march of democratic moderate forces in the Middle East. They are trying to destabilize the young Government of Lebanon by, in the case of Hezbollah, using Lebanon's territory to attack Israel without the knowledge of the Lebanese Government; in the case of radical elements of Hamas, as President Abbas was making some progress toward getting Palestinian leaders to accept Quartet -- to move toward Quartet conditions and to engage Prime Minister Olmert, radical elements of Hamas have acted out. And of course they're doing this in conjunction with sponsors in Damascus and in Tehran.
So what we really have here is extremist forces making very clear what the situation is, and we therefore have to work hard to stabilize and to promote a set of platforms on which moderate forces can stand.
QUESTION: Well, let's talk about precisely that because some of the allies that you're meeting with at the summit in St. Petersburg are talking about an immediate ceasefire, but the Israelis are talking about a bombing campaign that could take weeks to basically rewrite the facts on the ground and put Hezbollah out of business in southern Lebanon. Does the U.S. want to see, in effect, a solution to the problem so it doesn't just paper it over and six months, a year down the line, we're in exactly the same situation?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, that's a very important point, Chris. First of all, Israel has a right to defend itself. No country would sit and continue to receive rocket fire against civilian populations and not try to do something about it. What we have asked of the Israelis is that they act in a way to avoid innocent civilian casualties, to avoid the destruction of civilian infrastructure, because there does need to be another day. Israel will need to have those moderate allies in Lebanon and in the Palestinian territories in order to create a stable peace.
But what we don't want to do is to have a cessation of violence that is not going to last for more than the next time that Hezbollah or Hamas decides that they're going to launch a rocket into Israel or abduct an Israeli citizen. We need to deal with the fundamental underlying conditions here and that means to isolate the extremists. That means to get back to the framework in Lebanon of Resolution 1559 which was aimed at protecting the sovereignty of Lebanon and disarming unauthorized armed groups, and in the case of the Palestinian territories to get back on the road to a two-state solution with President Abbas and the Israelis.
QUESTION: Secretary Rice, you talk about obviously the danger of civilian and collateral damage. At least one American reportedly has been injured. What is our government doing to get those 25,000 Americans who are in Lebanon out of harm's way?
SECRETARY RICE: Chris, we are following this hour to hour. The Ambassador is fully empowered to make recommendations to us about what needs to be done to protect American life. We have contingency plans should we need them for evacuation. We're already allowed authorized departures of some of our personnel in the Embassy. We're watching this hour by hour. I'm getting reports every few hours about the situation there. We're going to do what we need to do to protect Americans.
QUESTION: Secretary Rice, you talked about the fact that it is not just Hezbollah and Hamas but also their sponsor states, Syria and Iran. I've talked with top Israeli officials over the last few days who absolutely believe that Iran is behind all of this and that it is no coincidence that within 24 hours after the West put new pressure on them to stop their nuclear program that their proxy, Hezbollah, attacked in Israel. Do you believe, as the Israelis do, that in fact Iran is orchestrating all of this to send a message that if we make trouble for them, they can make trouble for us?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I don't know what message Iran intends to send. I do know that it is very clear that there is an Iranian hand behind, indeed Iranian financing behind, Hezbollah and perhaps some of the radical elements of Hamas; that they've made common cause with Syria in which the radical elements of Hamas reside and in which Hezbollah also has offices and infrastructure; and that they're all -- Iran, Syria, Hezbollah, Hamas -- trying to destabilizing democratic and moderate forces, trying to throw the region into chaos. And they can't be allowed to do that.
I would just note that the Saudi statement in this regard pointed the finger just a couple of days ago directly at these extremist elements who, when progress was being made in the Palestinian territories, when progress was being made in Lebanon, decided that they had to disrupt that process. And so as we look at today's current events, as we are concerned about the growing civilian casualties, we also have to look at these underlying circumstances and say to extremist elements you are not going to succeed in destabilizing this region and you're not going to succeed in taking away the chance for a moderate and democratic future for the Middle East.
QUESTION: Secretary Rice, as you well know, Secretaries of State over the years, going back to Henry Kissinger, have in this kind of a situation gone to the region themselves, engaged in personal shuttle diplomacy to try to work out some kind of deal. Any thoughts on your part about going directly personally to the region? And if not, why not?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I'm thinking about it, as you might imagine, and assessing it every day, Chris, and I certainly stand ready to do so when I believe that I can make a difference. But it's also important to recognize that others have a role to play here. We have a UN mission that is in the region on behalf of Secretary General Kofi Annan. That was an idea that came out of conversations that we had with the Secretary General. We have also -- the regional states that are playing a very important role. The G-8 here is discussing ways ahead.
We first need a way ahead. Let's recognize that simply going in and shutting back and forth if you don't know where you're trying to go is not going to help. And we are working and discussing with others what kind of framework would really allow us not just to get out of the immediate crisis, as important as that is, but also to lay a foundation so that we don't have continual further crises. Because I just want to repeat a cessation of violence is crucial, but if that cessation of violence is hostage to Hezbollah's next decision to launch missiles into Israel or Hamas's next decision to abduct an Israeli citizen, then we will have gotten nowhere.
QUESTION: Secretary Rice, I want to read you what our very own Bill Kristol has written in the latest issue of the Weekly Standard about the way that the U.S. has handled Syria and Iran, and let's put it up on the screen if we can: "We have done a poor job of standing up to them," meaning Iran and Syria, "and weakening them. They are now testing us more boldly than one would have thought possible a few years ago. Weakness is provocative."
In fact, Secretary Rice, have our threats but lack of action emboldened Iran and Syria?
SECRETARY RICE: I don't believe by any stretch of the imagination that Iran and Syria misunderstand that the United States and its allies have a different vision for the Middle East than they do, and that's what has them alarmed. That is why they are striking out. Because when we succeed in a different kind of Middle East, a Middle East in which you have a stable Iraq that is democratic and multi-religious and pluralistic, when you have a different kind of Middle East in which you have a Lebanon as it is now devoid of Syrian forces but in fact stable and democratic, it's going to be a different kind of Middle East. When you have a two-state solution with Palestinians and Israelis living side by side, it's going to be a different kind of Middle East and it is going to be a Middle East, by the way, in which there is no room for the kind of extremism that Syria and Iran represent. That's why they're striking out. It's not a matter of weakness. It's a matter that they believe we're going to succeed and they're determined to stop it. We're determined that they won't.
QUESTION: Secretary Rice, I certainly agree that no one in that area doubts our vision. The question is whether or not they doubt our will and our resolve to enforce, if you will, that vision. You were on our show, on this show, on June 4th --
SECRETARY RICE: Well, Chris -- but, Chris, let me just -- but, Chris, I have to answer that point because of course if we do not have the will then they will succeed. But the President of the United States has made very clear that this is the work of a generation. What happened to us on September 11th showed the American people that we have to have a different kind of Middle East and we're determined to have a different kind of Middle East. And it's hard work and sometimes it's violent and sometimes it is difficult, and unfortunately we lose American life in bringing about that different kind of Middle East.
QUESTION: You were on the show back on June 4th and I asked you at that time how long Iran had to respond to the offer that had been made to the West, both carrots and sticks for them to stop their nuclear program. Let's listen to what you had to say at that time. Here it is: "I think it's fair to say that we really do have to have this settled over a matter of weeks not months."
Secretary Rice, that was six weeks ago. Iran still says that it won't meet any deadline and we are now going to the UN Security Council to ask them once again to stop their nuclear program. Is that in fact a show of strength?
SECRETARY RICE: Chris, I believe I said weeks not months and we would make a decision as to whether or not we were on the negotiating track or whether or not we were going to the Security Council. We made that decision in Paris and in fact we're on our way back to the Security Council. I think you will see a resolution that makes mandatory the Iranian suspension and we will see whether or not the Iranians indeed recognize how isolated they are. They are completely isolated now. The Security Council is going back to work and that happened in a matter of weeks not months.
QUESTION: One final question. We have a couple of minutes left, Secretary Rice. The UN Security Council yesterday passed a resolution condemning North Korea's launch of those seven missiles on the 4th of July but the U.S. had to back down on its call for any reference to Chapter 7, which would make any kind of resolution of that sort enforceable by military action. And in fact North Korea now has rejected the measure and they say that they are going to boost their "deterrent." In fact do you see any chance that this resolution is going to change North Korea's behavior?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, first of all, this is the first resolution, Chris, since 1993 on North Korea and the Chinese voted affirmatively for a resolution that demands that North Korea stop its activities that are jeopardizing international peace and security. The Chinese voted affirmatively with the rest of the Security Council to require member-states to take steps to prevent North Korea from obtaining dangerous materials. This is a very strong resolution. It is binding on member-states. And it says to the North Koreans you're isolated, come back to the six-party talks.
Now, I'm not surprised that the first reaction of the North Koreans is to reject it. That's the way that the North Koreans are. But they've got to be a little surprised at the strength of the resolution. They've got to be a little surprised that the unity of the community was maintained. And by the way, we are of course engaged in other activities outside the Security Council, including checking illicit activities of North Korea through financial measures, through Proliferation Security Initiative denying North Korea certain kinds of materials, and we're going to continue to do those too. And North Korea of course is not confused about the security balance on the Korean Peninsula. We have a strong deterrent force there. We have strong alliances with South Korea and with Japan and we'll continue to pursue those as well.
QUESTION: Secretary Rice, we want to thank you so much for joining us in the middle of the G-8 summit. We're going to let you go back to work. Have a successful summit and safe travels.
Released on July 16, 2006