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Condoleezza Rice Roundtable With Press 12/19/2006

Roundtable With the Press

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Washington, DC
December 19, 2006

SECRETARY RICE: All right. Who wants to lead off?

QUESTION: Madame Secretary?

SECRETARY RICE: Yes.


QUESTION: The Pentagon yesterday put out a report identifying the Saddamists as the single greatest security threat in Iraq and I'm wondering, has the U.S. decided that now is the time to bring this confrontation with the Saddamists to a head?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, first of all, let's remember that there is a sovereign Iraqi Government that has very clear views about its own security and we're working with the Maliki Government on security issues. I think Prime Minister Maliki's speech was tracked -- a couple of days ago now made very clear that he sees that they have to go after criminals, as he called them, or people who are killing innocent people, no matter which side of the political spectrum they come from.

And there are obviously Shia death squads, some of them associated with -- we believe with (inaudible). There are Sunni death squads. There are people who operate, simply, as criminals. And so it doesn't matter who's breaking the law, was his point. Those people have to be gone after and they have to be stopped. And so I wouldn't put this in the context of any specific group. There are plenty of groups that are contributing to this and I think they all have to be taken on and I think that's what Maliki was saying, that he intends to do that.

The U.S. will support the Iraqis in going after the people who are killing innocent people, but again, I think it's very important to remember that the Iraqis have very strong views about what their security problems are and we are working with them every day to try and resolve those.

QUESTION: Can I follow on that, Madame Secretary? There's been a lot of talk that one of the options that the President is considering is a surge of forces. What would be the political piece of that? What would you see as the mission, in political terms, of the surge? Would it be to help the Maliki Government go after these elements?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, first of all, the President has to determine whether he thinks some adjustment in American troop levels and what American troops would do is necessitated by current circumstances. What we do know is that since February of this year, the problem of sectarian violence has gotten worse, really following on the Samara bombing. We also know that the problem of Baghdad has become, really, the central problem.

There's still -- there are problems, obviously, in Anbar, there are obviously problems in (inaudible), but I think the security issues in Baghdad have risen to prominence over this period of about the last year. So one of the important questions that the Iraqis have been asking, that they were asking when we were in Amman, that the President has been asking, is what can we do about the security of Baghdad. And I'm sure that anything that he considers will certainly look at what can be done about the security of Baghdad, what can be done as well to continue to fight al-Qaida. But obviously, this sectarian issue is very much on his mind.

QUESTION: Another question on Iraq. General Chiarelli --

SECRETARY RICE: Let me just be clear, Barbara. What American forces would do, whether in current numbers or larger numbers, I think, is still an issue for the military commanders to address in a plan.

QUESTION: As you know, Secretary Powell and others have said -- you know, even if you had the troops, which he doesn't think we do, to do this kind of surge, you know, what's the mission? What's the point if they would only be there for a couple of months?

SECRETARY RICE: When the President has fully heard from his military commanders and from Secretary of Defense Gates about how this next phase is going to take place, what role Iraqis need to play, what role Americans need to play, then, you know, he can make decisions about numbers and about mission.

QUESTION: Well, I thought your question, Barbara, was a little bit more along the lines of, what is the State Department's corollary to whatever the Pentagon's thinking is going to be.

SECRETARY RICE: Oh, political aside -- oh, yeah, I'm sorry. Well, clearly, the Iraqis have some difficult decisions to make and I think Prime Minister Maliki made clear in that speech that they are making those decisions and are trying to organize themselves to make those decisions. If national reconciliation is going to work, they're going to have to have a national hydrocarbons law because that will be the source of a lot of sectarian difficulty if there isn't a hydrocarbons law.

They will have to make decisions, as Prime Minister Maliki started laying out some of them, about what will be done about debaathification, what will be done about reintegrating people who were not high-ranking baathists into the system. They will have to make decisions, as he suggested, about having to go after the people, as he put it, who are breaking the law from whatever side.

That's really the political piece. That commitment has got to be there in order for anything to work, because this is first and foremost a political problem, not a military problem. And yes, there are very big security elements here and there are very big security problems that can be dealt with by Iraqi forces with the contributions of the coalition. But that security problem is going to be made very much more manageable if there is a political framework that is really moving rapidly ahead on the national reconciliation front.

And I think the other piece that the Prime Minister has been very interested in is how can Iraqis more rapidly disburse funds for reconstruction and not just at the national level. I think the national reconstruction program actually is relatively entrained. It's really more at the local level where there have been some provinces that have not had the kind of resources that they need to really have a proper counterinsurgency strategy where you clear an area and then hold with forces and then build it.

So those are the companion pieces for us, the political commitment and really doing something to make the economic reconstruction, particularly the local level, work better.

QUESTION: This seems like a natural transition moment. You've been in office almost two years. The Administration will, at that point, have two years left. There has obviously been a lot of criticism in the Iraq Study Group report and other reports about your -- the general slant of U.S. foreign policy, particularly in the Middle East. That whole region's policy is sort of up for grabs at the moment, in a sense.

What should the American people expect going into next month that will be different about your diplomacy in particular? How -- what's going to be new?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, first of all, let's talk about what is constant, because one doesn't shift strategy every week if you believe you have the right strategy. And I think that in the Middle East, the strategic context has changed a lot and it's changed because there is a clarifying moment between -- really, I think, underscored by Lebanon, between extremist forces and more mainstream, more moderate forces. And that then gives the possibility of different alignments in the Middle East than we are accustomed to in the past.

Unfortunately, some states -- Iran is very clear where Iran stands in that constellation. Iran essentially runs its policy through the extension of extremist elements like Hezbollah into Lebanon or support for extremist elements in the Palestinian territories or in trying to create difficulty for the new Iraqi Government itself. So we know how Iran runs its policy.

Unfortunately, Syria has been a kind of handmaiden to that Iranian policy in part, I think, because where it comes to Lebanon, Syria is still not reconciled to the 2005 withdrawal of its forces from Lebanon and the diminution of its influence in Lebanon and the emergence of a Lebanon that, while still very challenged, is nonetheless sovereign and beginning to control all of its territories. So these alignments have changed.

Now those -- that alignment presents some opportunities. I think that one possible opportunity is to have a coalescence of these more mainstream, moderate forces, what we've been doing in the GCC+2, to support the development of stable, democratic, new governments in Iraq and in Lebanon and to potentially give a space in which a Palestinian -- you could make progress toward the emergence of a Palestinian state that was founded on the same principles as these democratic, moderate states that are emerging in the Middle East.

So I think that's the real opportunity. The real opportunity is to solidify the support of these states that are on the right side of the alignment, to support the development of a Lebanese state that is capable of maintaining its sovereignty and is capable of resisting outside influences, an Iraqi state that is capable of overcoming its differences and becoming a stable and moderate state in the region and a Palestinian state that would be founded on those same principles.

And I think that's really the diplomacy of the next couple of years, is to try and solidify that alignment in the Middle East. And it's a very -- potentially a very powerful alignment because it has, as a part of it, some of the most important and powerful states of the Middle East.

QUESTION: Secretary Rice, you've been -- what you've said sounds very similar to what you were saying in the summertime, when the Hezbollah-Israeli crisis first started. And for the last few months, it feels as if we've been on the edge of launching something new in the Mid-East. And each time, it seems something happens; you know, there are more bombings in Gaza, there are more Katyushas fired over, there's the collapse of the national unity government talks.

Is there anything that the United States can do, sort of, to push this process forward if there's no -- if Abu Mazen and Hamas don't figure it out? I mean, because, sort of -- our launch of all this seems --

SECRETARY RICE: No, our launch is not dependent on Abu Mazen and Hamas figuring it out. It's dependent on the Palestinians resolving this political conflict in a way that produces a partner for Israelis and others in the promotion of a way forward along the roadmap toward the development of a Palestinian state. And I think Abu Mazen has made very clear that if he can't get a national unity government, he's going to find some other way to do it.

So he -- the national unity government effort, which he devoted an enormous amount of time and energy to, failed for -- let's say for the right reasons, in that he refused to accept a national unity government that was not going to be internationally acceptable, was not going to be internationally respectable, because it wasn't going to live up to the Quartet principles. That's why it failed.

And so I think that he now has made very clear that he needs, nonetheless, to be able to resolve the political conflict, resolve the political crisis in the Palestinian territories, and he is putting forward ways to do that. And he deserves the support and backing of people as he moves, but I think you've heard Prime Minister Olmert say that he and Abu Mazen will meet soon. It doesn't sound to me as if this depends on a national unity government having been formed. We are pushing forward with helping Abu Mazen on the reconstruction of his security forces. That's not dependent on a national unity government being formed.

We are pushing forward, as Prime Minister Blair was out, on trying to help with the support for Palestinian political institutions. That doesn't depend on a national unity government being formed. So I would not overstate the importance of a national unity government to the possibility for progress if the -- on the Palestinian front.

QUESTION: Aren't you pushing them into civil war?

SECRETARY RICE: Barbara, the Palestinians have to resolve their internal situation, but the fact is that they can only resolve it in a way that brings the international community along with them on the basis of certain principles. And Abu Mazen is doing everything that he can to support them and I would hope that Hamas would still take him up on the offer that he's made, which is to form a national unity government. But my only point is that if a national unity government can be formed, the Palestinian people can't simply be left to the circumstances in which they find themselves because Hamas wasn't willing -- despite the fact that they were elected, Hamas was not willing to do what it needs to do in order to be able to govern.

QUESTION: Are you talking about all this in the context of the -- before any elections take place, the meeting with Olmert, the funds that you're going to provide for his security forces?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, yes, because there is no date for elections, there's no, even, sense of -- you know, how these elections might be organized. I mean, I think that Abu Mazen has laid that out as a possibility, but we are going to continue to work with the presidency under any circumstances because we think the presidency is a responsible Palestinian voice, Palestinian address, Palestinian partner and we're going to continue to work with Abu Mazen.

QUESTION: But that conflict you're talking about, in terms of the political institutions in the Palestinian territories, is that going to be resolved only in new elections or is there -- do you see another way to resolve this?

SECRETARY RICE: I can't answer that, Nick. I really think this is a question for Abu Mazen and the Palestinians, but what I can tell you is that the international community -- and the United States is not alone in this, is going to continue to support Abu Mazen in the development of Palestinian institutions that can help to deal with the very difficult circumstances the Palestinian people face.

Yeah, Glenn.

QUESTION: Actually, if I can just switch subjects here. Last December when we were in Germany and you were asked about the Al Masri case, you said that "When and if mistakes are made, we work very hard and as quickly as possible to rectify that." Now Mr. Al Masri has said that all he wants is an apology from the United States. Do you think he is owed one?

SECRETARY RICE: Glenn, I stand by the statement I've made on this, all right? And I think that we have tried to deal with this case in a way that is responsible and -- you know, that's all I'm going to say about this case.

QUESTION: Well, then -- I mean, just speaking more generally, as a moral matter, when mistakes of this magnitude are made, does the United States owe an apology?

SECRETARY RICE: Glenn, I'm not going to talk in broad general terms about this. As I said, we have done what we can to try and deal with the circumstances here, to try to act responsibly, and we're going to continue to act responsibly.

QUESTION: Then if I could just follow up on that train of conversation before. You know, the GCC+2, those two are Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

SECRETARY RICE: And Jordan.

QUESTION: And Jordan, all right. That's right, Saudi Arabia --

SECRETARY RICE: Saudi is a member of the GCC.

QUESTION: Anyway, let's talk about Saudi Arabia and Egypt, who you challenged very much at the beginning of your --

SECRETARY RICE: Yeah, and continue to.

QUESTION: But don't you have to make choices here in terms of --

SECRETARY RICE: No, no.

QUESTION: I mean, the sense in the region is that you have pulled back from the, kind of, campaign on democracy that you started with because you now feel you need their help on Iraq, on Iran, on Lebanon.

SECRETARY RICE: You can have commonality of interest about an issue like the creation of a Palestinian state. You can commonality of interest about the need for Iraq to be stable and not to be in the center of the Arab world with its neighbors picking at its bones. You can have commonality of interest on a whole variety of issues and still have a strong view and a strong program that says to Egypt and Saudi Arabia, "You need to reform." Those are not inconsistent.

In fact, I think if you look at the last few years, I'd be the first to say, Glenn, reform is going to have its ups and downs and that's not wholly in the hands of the United States as to whether the reforms are going to go in a straight line. In some places, they're going in a pretty straight line. In other places, they are -- there's movement forward and sometimes there's setbacks.

But the agenda that the United States -- this President set in the Middle East about democracy and reform dominates the debate in the Middle East to an extent that was not the case five years ago. It just wasn't the case. People didn& rsquo;t sit around talking about democracy and reform in Egypt. People didn't sit with the Saudis in the Forum for the Future and talk about women's rights.

I mean, I'm sorry, you have to recognize that part of the role of the United States is to set the agenda so that these issues become salient for a region. You didn't have, five years ago, the kind of support for nongovernmental institutions in civil societies from the United States that you have now. They're, in part, challenging and pushing and prodding and probing. Egypt is never going to be the same after its presidential elections in which all kinds of taboos broke down about what you could criticize and what you couldn't.

Kuwait actually has women voting. Jordan is on a major reform program. These things are not going to happen overnight. The -- you know, when I gave a speech in Cairo, I didn't expect that a year later or two years later or even four years later, that you were going to have a 180-degree turn in the Middle East toward representative governments and democracies. But the point was to set the agenda to make it a part of our bilateral agenda with these countries, to make it a part of the discourse of the region, and to make it a part of America's support for the people who were going to push it internally.

So no, there's no problem with having common interest about some of these issues. But it's very interesting, when we talk about a Palestinian state, do we just assume that the only thing that matters would be its borders? No. We actually talk about what that democratic Palestinian state ought to look like. That, in itself, is a major change from the way people have thought about the Palestinian-Israeli issue. So I -- it's -- you know, things aren't going to be black and white, but that this is an area in which the United States has championed and will continue to champion these issues. This should be very evident to people.

And if I can just say one other thing, it's extremely important that we recognize that this isn't just some flight of fancy about, it would be nice to have democracies in the Middle East. I would ask people, what is the alternative to the democratization of this region, to the opening up of this region, to creating systems that actually can give the kind of potential, the chance for the potential to be realized in the Middle East that's being realized in the rest of the world? What is so different about the Middle East that we can advocate for democracy in Nigeria and South Africa and El Salvador and Mexico, but not in the Middle East? What's so different?

QUESTION: But the criticism, I think, is that -- for the Administration, it's increasingly a sort of flight of fancy, that there's a sort of passivity that's crept into your policy that you won't interact with certain people because they're not worthy of interaction and then everything else is supposed to sort of happen of its own accord. I mean, you're waiting for the Palestinians to come together so there's some partner there. I mean, when I asked you about what's the main opportunity looking forward, you said, "To solidify the stability of the Gulf states and the other states."

SECRETARY RICE: No, that's not what I said. No, that's not what I said. I said that it was to solidify the alignment --

QUESTION: On the alignment, okay.

SECRETARY RICE: The alignment, okay, so that you have support for Lebanese democracy, Palestinian democracy and Iraqi democracy. That's what I said. It is not about solidifying the stability of those states. Those states may, in fact, see that a -- imagine that those states see that a democratic Iraq is actually more in their interest than not. Now that's a very big step forward. We're not waiting for the Palestinians to come together.

In answer to Helene's question, I talked about the work that we're actively doing with Abu Mazen on his security forces, actively doing with them about political reform in the Palestinian territories, actively working to promote the -- Olmert and Abbas getting together to deal with the issues before them. And as to the agenda on democracy, you know, we have created the Forum for the Future, the Foundation for the Future which, in and of themselves, are institutions in which the nongovernmental organizations and civil society are, in part -- funded, in part, act with governments and, in part, challenge governments in ways that my standing up and giving a speech will never do. And so these are changes that take time. Everybody understands that they take time. But the United States has, in effect, changed the nature of this entire discussion in the Middle East.

QUESTION: On Saudi Arabia, there have been a lot of concerns in that country about Iraq. It's not everyday that the Vice President goes halfway around the world for less than 24 hours to talk about things with the Saudis. They have been talking about a Shiite state within Iraq. Have you addressed those concerns? Do you now think that the Saudis have been satisfied at least temporarily that what they fear in Iraq is only -- that you're not going to allow it to happen?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I think that the Saudi concerns are not unlike a lot of concerns in the Gulf and that is a sense that the Iraqi Government, which is Shia majority, is going to be equally representative and equally protective of all Iraqis. I think that's at the core. And the speech that Prime Minister Maliki made speaks to that. The national reconciliation plan that he has speaks to that. The efforts to build up some of the more impoverished Sunni areas will speak to that.

But I think at root, Iraq is a different phenomenon in the Middle East. It is a Shia-majority state that is democratic and will have to demonstrate its ability and its willingness to protect and incorporate minorities. That's really what's at issue here and I think Prime Minister Maliki has been demonstrating that he understands that that is also the Iraqi -- what the Iraqi Government must do.

And it answers the question that some have asked about where Iraqi loyalties lie. The Iraqis are Arabs. Whether they are Shia or Sunni, they're Arabs and they see their future with the Arab world. And they are no more tolerant of Iranian -- of sort of throwing out Saddam Hussein and now having Iranian dominance than any people would be. But I think those are the kinds of underlying issues that have been there and I think Maliki is answering those concerns and answering them very effectively. We can't answer them. It's really the Iraqis who have to answer them and I think they're doing that. The other thing is that I think our allies want to know that the United States is fully committed and the President, I think, has made that very clear.

QUESTION: Given what you've been now saying for the last 15 minutes or so, how do you explain, sort of, the rise in criticism of the Administration's foreign policy? You see it not just from Democrats, but also from Republicans, from the public. It is because what you're doing is so difficult, that there's not going to be a lot of quick successes? Do you think it's partisan? I mean, some people look around the world and they --

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I think it's difficult and --

QUESTION: It's about Russia and North Korea as well as the Middle East.

SECRETARY RICE: Look, it's a world that's in a lot of -- there are a lot of transitions going on in a lot of difficult places. But you know, it's interesting, after the year of 2005, which was this sort of -- you know, with the Cedar Revolution and all of the -- and the elections in the Palestinian territories that brought Mahmoud Abbas to power and so forth and so on, if anybody expected that the forces of the repression or the forces of -- the forces that wanted to count -- the counterrevolutionary forces were not going to react, you don't know much about history.

So of course, the removal of Syrian forces from Lebanon and the emergence of a democratic government in Lebanon that was avowedly against foreign elements in their country, that had come to power on a removed Syrian forces, that that was going to produce a Syrian reaction and a reaction from others, absolutely clear the -- that the Palestinians, that there would be a reaction that produced, once it looked like Prime Minister Olmert and Abu Mazen were actually starting to make some progress.

Do you think it's an absolute -- do you think it's an accident that Shalit gets kidnapped at that moment? Do you think it's an accident that as things are moving forward, Hezbollah decides to attack across the international line? Yeah, forces of reaction react when they're challenged. After the elections in Iraq, you got forces of reaction to that. As a matter of fact, we know exactly what happened there because Zarqawi wrote about it. He wrote about it to Zawahiri, he wrote about in his e-mails. He said this -- if these elections come off and you start to get this democracy thing, we're finished in Iraq. And he came up with a quite diabolical and pretty -- as it turns out, unfortunately successful strategy, which was to set Shia against Sunni. And he -- it was the bombing of the Samara mosque that set that off.

So do you have progress and forces of reaction? Absolutely.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, could I change quickly to Cuba?

SECRETARY RICE: Yeah. Sure, but let me just finish. We'll get right into -- but yeah, it's difficult. It's why -- and I don't mean to suggest that the historical analogy is perfect, but it's why it always takes you through what the beginning of the Cold War was really like. It's why it's important that you recognize that when I stood there in 1990 behind Jim Baker and had the foreign power rights and responsibilities of the United States and all the other foreign powers signed away so you could have a democratic Germany completely and thoroughly united in the west and a member of NATO, do you think that was at all predictable in 1947 or '48 or '49 or 1950?

When I go to South Korea now and I sit with a democratically elected Government of South Korea and, by the way, a South Korean becomes the Secretary General of the UN, do you think in 1950 when the Korean War broke out that was at all likely? Or when we went to NATO and sat, as the Czech President indelicately put it, on the territory of the former Soviet Union for our first NATO meeting on the territory of the former Soviet Union, do you think that was at all predictable in 1949?

So yeah, when you're at the beginning of a big historical transition, it's very tough. And as I remember, what Harry Truman was able to do was to take some very difficult circumstances and some fairly unpopular policies and find a few people across the aisle who were willing to support a long-term strategy of containment. And I do think that the Baker-Hamilton report and the soundings that you hear from Congress on both sides of the aisle suggest that people want to find a sustainable place for American policy in what everybody understands is the beginning of a long struggle, not the end of it.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, can I -- before we move on --

SECRETARY RICE: Sure.

QUESTION: Can I just ask a follow-up? So how much of this current turmoil in the Middle East and in the rest of the world, which I guess, seen differently, might be the beginning of this historical transition can be traced back to American action in Iraq?

SECRETARY RICE: Some of it, but not all of it. The Middle East -- when people talk about returning to the stability of the Middle East, I wonder, what Middle East is that? Is it the Middle East that allowed Saddam Hussein twice to attack its neighbors, gas Kurds, gas Shia, acquire weapons of mass destruction, turn the world inside out for 12 years with sanctions that weren't -- it turns out were not so hard on his people -- not so hard on him, but pretty hard on his people?

Is it the Middle East that produced Syrian occupation of Lebanon to the point that when Warren Christopher negotiated in 1996, into the last conflict in Lebanon, he did it with Syria and Hezbollah and didn't even bother with the Lebanese Government? Is it the Middle East that Yasser Arafat was stealing the Palestinian people blind, accepting arms from Iran which was intercepted in the Karine A incident and, by the way, couldn't take a deal with 97 percent of the land to the Palestinian people, launch the second intifada, 3,000 Palestinians died, a thousand Israelis died? Is that the Middle East that was stable?

Finally, is it the Middle East that produced al-Qaida? Is that the Middle East was that was stable, one that was so stagnant that politics was going on, but it was either going on in a radical mosque or it was going on in this perverted way to produce al-Qaida?

So yes, some of it is that America challenged some of those old bargains, whether it was deciding that Saddam Hussein finally had to go or saying Yasser Arafat wasn't a partner for peace, yes. But that Middle East was going to break down. It had to break down. You weren't going to continue to suppress all of these negative trends. And so one way or another, it was going to come apart, but I think September 11th probably changed the strategic direction of the United States. But the ground was more than plowed.

QUESTION: On Cuba, I think you've said you don't want to see a transition from one strong man to another, but a lot of folks have suggested the U.S. might do something. Congressman Flake, who just came back from Cuba, would like to see the U.S. ease a little bit the ban on Cuban Americans visiting the island. As you recall, the Bush Administration tightened those restrictions. And he said its put Cuban Americans in a terrible situation and it hasn't done anything to change the Cuban regime. Are you considering any gesture that might suggest a slight change in policy now that Fidel Castro appears not to be coming back to power?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, there's clearly a transition underway in Cuba. But I think that our energies need to go into making very clear to the Cuban people that we believe, first of all, that the future of Cuba is with the Cubans on the island, that -- you know, they will have to make their choices. But secondly, that we're going to support a democratic future and democratic elections and I think that's the gesture that needs to be made; not gestures to potentially continue the regime.

The sense that Cuba -- Cubans somehow need a transition; well, all right, fine. Everybody understands that -- you know, elections wouldn't be held on day one, but we have a lot of experience with this in places where the international community has stepped in, has been able to help a society to get to free and fair elections. That's what the Cuban people deserve and so that's where we are spending our efforts.

QUESTION: So nothing before elections?

SECRETARY RICE: In all of these years there has been an assessment -- and by the way, you know, yes, the Bush Administration tightens on this, but this policy has been pretty steady for the United States. In all these years, the day has been wished for when the Cuban people were going to have a chance to have a democratic choice and I think the worst betrayal would be to hand, in any way, a sense of outreach to someone who may think that he's just going to succeed and go to another -- you know, one dictator to another. I just don't see the value of that.

QUESTION: If we could turn to North Korea.

QUESTION: One quick Iran one.

SECRETARY RICE: Yeah, sure.

QUESTION: It looks like you may have an agreement on a resolution --

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I would not be premature with this. I think we're not there yet, so --

QUESTION: All right, well, any --

SECRETARY RICE: But I think it is moving forward, yes.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, in any case, the expectation is that once this Chapter 7 resolution is passed, that the Treasury Department would be, kind of, unleashed to press for worldwide restrictions on Iranian finances. Yet there are internal U.S. assessments that have determined that such economic measures would "have second order of consequences for the people of Iran." And how concerned are you that ordinary Iranians will suffer as a result of these actions?

SECRETARY RICE: Yeah, actually very concerned because I think Iranian -- we would like to see a circumstance in which the Iranian regime pays the price for its refusal to adhere to international norms and standards, but we don't have -- we have nothing -- we have no gripe with the Iranian people, no disagreement with the Iranian people. In fact, we want to see the Iranian people emerge stronger. So I think we will want to look very carefully -- we did, in this resolution, look very carefully at efforts to target the regime, not the Iranian people.

QUESTION: Right. But that's in that resolution, but once Iran is in that box of Chapter 7, you can begin to make the case to financial institutions, to companies that -- you know, you really -- do you really want to be dealing with a Chapter 7 country --

SECRETARY RICE: No, that's right.

QUESTION: -- and that would -- you know, that would have a consequence for ordinary Iranians that are trying to make a living, that are --

SECRETARY RICE: It will have a consequence. I do believe it will have a consequence for the Iranian economy, yes. I think we will try not to target -- to target Iranian people. For instance, I'll give you an example. At one point, there was some thought; well, perhaps you should put a ban on sports teams and university students and various (inaudible). Nobody wanted to go there because we don't want to see that kind of effort.

Will it have an affect on the Iranian economy? I think yes, but that has to be the -- then people have to ask whether or not the Iranian regime is really serving the interests of the Iranian people and it will not be serving the interests of the Iranian people. We'll not be able to perfectly -- you know, this isn't going to be surgical and you can't perfectly target in that way. But I think we've tried to be sensitive to not doing things that would have an ill effect on the Iranian people, per se.

QUESTION: Do you have any response to the Iranian elections which seems to have -- it seems to have repudiated, to some extent, Ahmadi-Nejad?

SECRETARY RICE: It's very interesting. Well, it's just, obviously, a strange electoral system in some ways, but I can quite see why some of the policies that he's following don't seem to me to at all accord with an Iranian people that see themselves as integrated into the international community. It's a great culture that has been able to mix with and have interchange with other cultures and his is a dark and rather backward-looking philosophy, so I guess I'm not surprised that that's not all that popular with the Iranian people.

QUESTION: Does it appear to you that some of the reaction that we saw in the election results reflect unease by the commercial classes in Iran at all?

SECRETARY RICE: I don't know and I haven't seen enough an analysis to know and, you know, I don't want to do a kind of pop exit poll analysis of what happened in Iran.

QUESTION: That never stops us.

SECRETARY RICE: Yeah, that's right. (Laughter.) But it is going to, I think, become clearer and clearer to any number of people in Iran who have a different view of what Iran is. Iran's a great culture. Iran's a great country. Iran ought to be integrated into the international system. And you know, when you sit there and have conferences to question the existence of the Holocaust and embarrass the country in front of the entire international community, I don't think that really does serve the interest of the Iranian people, but I haven't see an analysis to know who voted where.

QUESTION: On North Korea, the main issues before the financial sanctions came up last year after the September 19th agreement have to do with sequencing and who does what or who is first and what step forward, another step -- what is it that you're seeking the North Koreans to do in terms of verifiably suspend?

Are you looking for them to allow inspectors from the IAEA in the country? Are you looking for something that perhaps scientists or experts can verify? In specific terms, how would you know that they've made the first step, that then you can go ahead and improve relations and offer guarantees of economic and securities or --

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I think that the first step is really for the North Koreans to do something that demonstrates that they're actually committed to denuclearization.

QUESTION: Because they said it in that statement.

SECRETARY RICE: Yes, they said it in the statement, but have not demonstrated it in any way and --

QUESTION: Is that turning off the reactor?

SECRETARY RICE: No, I -- look, I'm not going to talk about what's going on in the negotiations. But there are -- you know the ideas that are out there about how one demonstrates early on that -- you know, that yes, this is serious. As to the -- what goes on before and after that, the Chinese have had the idea that there should be a work plan and I think that's probably the way to think about this.

I actually think that the sequencing argument -- this kind of tight sequencing is problematic. It's going to get you into endless arguments about what little thing goes before what next little thing and I actually don't think that that's going to get us anywhere. I think rather, if you have a work plan that's going to have obligations for both sides over some period of time -- it's not as if you can't kind of watch and see whether or not people are carrying out obligations and decide whether or not you then are able to move forward on certain other obligations. You know, this is not a science; it's an art. Diplomacy's an art. It's not a matter of -- oh, goodness, I should never have said that because this is going to be quoted everywhere. But it's a (laughter) --

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

SECRETARY RICE: That's all right. I'll give you talking points tomorrow. (Laughter.) But I think it's not a matter of -- we don't want to get back into a situation where every step has to be gauged against some other step. There are going to be, I would hope, broader steps forward and then broader steps forward that would move this along. Because ultimately, what the world is waiting to see is if this is going to lead to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, not can we continue to talk.

Everybody knows we can continue to talk. But I can tell you when I was at the APEC and we had that breakfast with all of the foreign ministers, I would say there was considerable skepticism around that table, you know, saying, look, the world has to see that this is actually going to work. And that's why I think you'll see -- why I think the Chinese have had a notion of a work plan and I think that's a good one.

QUESTION: So how would that work out? What do you mean by a work plan?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, you know, here are the obligations that will lead to denuclearization and a kind of rough notion of when they have to -- when they should be accomplished. Here are some political, some economic issues and a kind of rough idea of when they need to be accomplished. But not trying to marry up every little step because --

QUESTION: Action -- not doing action for action?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, action for action can mean action for action or it can mean action for action (gesturing) and I just think that -- you know, we --

(Laughter.)

MR. MCCORMACK: Hands are sort of rapid because of the transcript --

QUESTION: A set of actions --

SECRETARY RICE: Yeah, a set of actions against a set of actions.

QUESTION: And you've got those sets a period of time --

SECRETARY RICE: More flexibility and more --

QUESTION: A couple months rather than weeks --

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I think people are not talking about -- you know, nobody's talking about making this over years, but I think that --

QUESTION: Months, not years?

SECRETARY RICE: I think that the notion of sets of actions and sets of actions is probably about right. What you don't want is to get yet again -- in practice, the North Koreans are masters of it. You know, when will you give us this and what do we have to do and what little step can we take to get this?

I think that doesn't actually move to our advantage. What we have to do is we have to have movement on denuclearization. We all know what movement on denuclearization looks like. We all know that there's some steps that are not going to be taken until toward the end, because we know how one dismantles a nuclear program. And so I think it's still a sequence, but it's a somewhat looser sequence.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, what if they stiff us? What if they say, "Sorry?"

SECRETARY RICE: Well --

QUESTION: I mean, you've already passed a resolution. What more can you --

SECRETARY RICE: Yeah. Well, we haven't just passed a resolution. They're under Security Council resolutions and I think if they decide that they are not going to move down this path, we're going to see people continue to press those sanctions and I actually think those sanctions will have an effect.

QUESTION: Can I ask one more on Iraq?

SECRETARY RICE: Yeah.

QUESTION: Most of the debate in the newspapers and in the public has been about more troops versus not more troops. And I want to ask a question about resources. General Chiarelli, before he left, talked about that this isn't a military problem, you need more jobs for Iraqis, you need more reconstruction and so forth.

And the question is, as part of this President's review, could you conceive of a new request to Congress for significant resources? Because the 18 billion is about to run out.

SECRETARY RICE: Yeah. The President is reviewing everything. Of course, you know, there's some possibility to move resources around as well. But we ought to also note that Iraq has considerable resources of its own. This is not a circumstance of a country that is without revenue and they are -- one of the issues that's been there in the International Compact is to use Iraq's resources effectively leveraging international resources, not just relying on international resources.

And when the budget was put together for security, for instance, Iraq put up a good deal of the money to deal with that. So I think we have to -- it's a different mentality in dealing with a country that actually has significant revenue. Now when it comes to some of the big reconstruction, they're going to need some help from the international community and I don't think it needs to be all -- that most of it needs to be the United States. There are other international partners in the Gulf and other places.

But, you know, if there needs to be a creation of more jobs or more projects or whatever, we can contribute some to that and monies that are already available or monies that are being -- are going to be made available, I would hope, through budget requests that are going forward. The Iraqis have considerable resources to put toward this.

Okay.

QUESTION: Are we done?

SECRETARY RICE: Are we done? All right.

QUESTION: 45 minutes, all of --

(Laughter.)

QUESTION: You paint this big historical picture and you go back to the Cold War and you basically -- if I understand it, your message is, trust the American people, people didn't see all the changes that were coming up, this thing in the Middle East is going to work out, the old stability was bad, that things are going to work out.

And as -- if you look at the moment, we're teetering on civil war in Lebanon, the same in the Palestinian Authority, we're in -- or maybe in or not, a civil war in Iraq. Iran is emboldened and headed towards a nuclear program. So the American people are looking at it and saying, holy whatever and yet, you're telling us that the arrows are pointing in a positive direction and I just --

QUESTION: That sounds a little Pollyannaish.

SECRETARY RICE: I didn't say it was going in a positive direction. What I said is that the old Middle East wasn't going to stay, all right. Let's stop mourning the old Middle East. It was not so great and it wasn't going to survive anyway. And there are some positive elements of the new alignment that is there.

I don't know, for instance, if any of you were at that Security Council meeting that was held on the Middle East which the, you know, the Qatari -- I'm sorry, that the Danes arranged. It was during the UNGA and we had a session on the Middle East toward the end. I thought it was quite phenomenal. You know, there was no -- we were -- it was the end of the -- you know, Lebanon had just ended, you know, what terrible things were going to be said and so forth. There was no posturing and talking about occupation and this and that. There was a real strong sense that actually, if states came together, you know, maybe the Palestinian situation could be resolved. I've never really seen that kind of mood about the issues.

I just -- my only point is that there are -- it's a positive alignment when you have Arab states, some new democratic forces, and the potential for an Israeli Prime Minister who sees the need to try and resolve some of the outstanding questions for the Jewish state, vis-Ã -vis, the Palestinian state. That's an interesting new alignment and we ought to see if we can make it have an outcome.

So I'm not arguing that it's just going great, no. There are a lot of very difficult places. So of course, some of these, as you put it, teeter on the edge of really bad outcomes. But my point about the Cold War is that if you just go back and put yourself in that time and walk through the events of that time, you will have the same feel of things that could have gone very badly and thrown the whole beginning of the Cold War in a completely different direction, but for the United States getting in there, trusting in the values and working at it day after day.

You know, you've heard it before, but in '46, the French Communists won 46 percent of the vote and the Italian Communists 48 percent of the vote. People actually worried that Western Europe -- not Eastern Europe, Western Europe was about to go communist. In 1947, you did have a civil war in Greece, all out civil war in Greece and civil conflict in Turkey. Two million Europeans were starving in Europe in 1947.

In 1948, Berlin, the permanent division of Germany, Czechoslovakia falls to a coup. In 1949, the Soviet Union explodes a nuclear weapon five years ahead of schedule, the Chinese Communists win their revolution, and in 1950, the Korean war breaks out. Does it look that much better than it looks now in the Middle East? I don't think so.

That's the point that I'm trying to get across, is that at the beginning of big historic transitions, yes, everything is on the table and yes, it can go wrong, but it can also go right. And if you just sit in the middle of it and say, "Oh, my God, it's all going wrong," you miss the hooks, the pillars on which you can begin to build to make it go right. And so I'm just -- am just not given to the day-to-day assessment of the -- you know, where are we today. It's not how my mind works. My mind works, where are we today, but what is there in what is this very difficult situation today that might provide a platform or a hook or a pillar for setting that next brick in place for moving towards something that I am quite certain will not have a full resolution and that you will be able to fully judge for decades and there, I really do mean decades.

MR. MCCORMACK: All right, guys.

SECRETARY RICE: All right. Thanks.

2006/1131

Released on December 20, 2006

ENDS


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