Condoleezza Rice IV With Katie Couric of CBS News
Interview With Katie Couric of CBS News
Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Dead Sea, Jordan
November 30, 2006
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, many people are skeptical, even cynical about what's transpired there. Will this summit really change anything?
SECRETARY RICE: First of all, it was an opportunity for the President to sit down directly with Prime Minister Maliki and say to him what he's been saying to the American people and to others: The United States is committed, the United States recognizes that there are difficult problems that have to be dealt with but that we recognize that Iraq's security and success is essential to the security of the United States. But they did more than that. They heard a report on the Joint Committee that has been working -- the Committee that General Casey, Ambassador Khalilzad and their National Security Advisor Dr. Rubaie have been working on -- to talk about accelerating not just responsibility for security to the Iraqis, but also the capabilities to help them to be able to exercise those responsibilities. So that was -- the bulk of the meeting was spent on that issue.
QUESTION: Do you have doubts about Prime Minister Maliki, as Stephen Hadley does?
SECRETARY RICE: Oh, I don't think Stephen Hadley, or the President most especially doesn't, nor I have doubts about Prime Minister Maliki.
QUESTION: There was that memo.
SECRETARY RICE: Well, of course, there are questions, and Prime Minister Maliki said everybody's asking us questions. I would be asking those questions too. But this is someone who when you look in his eyes, you know his commitment to his people. You know that he has one of the most difficult jobs that one can imagine right now in the international system. You know that he has really great challenges because not only is he trying to bring a country out of the circumstances of tyranny into a functioning democracy, but he's trying to do so with terrorists who quite clearly set out to set off sectarian conflict between Iraqis. That was the plan all along of Zarqawi going back to the bombing of the Golden Mosque last February. So he has a very difficult job; but you see his commitment, you see his desire to take control of the situation, and I believe in him. The President believes in him, and I think the Iraqi people know that they have a good leader.
QUESTION: The Baker-Hamilton Commission will reportedly recommend withdrawal of U.S. troops with the official suggestion that it begins starting next year. President Bush said today that U.S. troops were in Iraq as long as the Iraqi Government wants them to be there, until the job gets done. So how do these two ideas square?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, we have to wait until the Baker-Hamilton Commission reports and we'll see how -- the nature of what they're recommending. But clearly everybody wants this to be a success. And I've spoken with the members of the Baker-Hamilton Commission. These are very eminent Americans who also want us to succeed and want the Iraqis to succeed. The Iraqis can only succeed if they are capable of dealing with the security situation.
Now, as I've been saying, the whole goal here is to transfer responsibility to the Iraqis and to give them enough capability to take those responsibilities. Obviously, as those responsibilities are transferred, as the capability improves, then American forces will be less in evidence and less needed. That's a natural outcome.
QUESTION: Can you see that happening as early as next year?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I think we have to have it dictated by when the Iraqis are capable of taking these responsibilities. I think that we have to recognize that they've already taken responsibility for (inaudible) provinces. There is a plan to have them take greater responsibility in a very rapid fashion. In fact, the acceleration of that responsibility was a great deal of the conversation today. And so American forces will have to fit into that equation, but the key is that they be able to do the job.
QUESTION: According to a study released by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the civil war in Iraq is likely to deteriorate significantly over the next few months regardless of the actions the Bush Administration may pursue.
SECRETARY RICE: Well, with all due respect to the CSIS, which is a great institution, the Iraqis don't see it that way and we don't see it that way. This -- the Iraqis see that they have extraordinarily difficult problems. They see that they have sectarian violence. They see that they have to deal with those who are operating outside the law and killing innocent people. But it really doesn't help to speak about their circumstance as a civil war, in terms that they don't speak about their circumstances.
SECRETARY RICE: If you talk to these Iraqi leaders, you recognize that they are devoted to a unified Iraq, they are devoted to an Iraq in which all Iraqis are represented. They are devoted to an Iraq that is stable and whole and democratic within the region. It does not help to talk about this in terms that they themselves don't use. They see the future of Iraq as one that is certainly challenged, but one that can certainly be a bright future for their people. They (inaudible) difficulties right now, but they are committed to making this unified Iraq work. And the great majority of Iraqis are committed to the same thing. This is not a society in which these people have decided to separate and to live in two separate political entities. That's not what's going on in Iraq. There are extremists who are challenging them and trying to tear them apart. That had been the plan of Zarqawi going all the way back to the bombing of Samara at the Golden Mosque. But the Iraqis see themselves under very difficult circumstances building a unified Iraq, not tearing themselves apart.
QUESTION: Why wouldn't you call this a "civil war?"
SECRETARY RICE: Katie, whatever you want to say about Iraq, these are people who want to live together, not live apart. These are people who are experiencing, by extremists and by death squads and by people who want to tear them apart, a lot of sectarian violence. But the notion that there's been somehow some political decision, even some social decision by the Iraqis to separate themselves into different political entities is simply not true.
QUESTION: And that is, in your view, what constitutes a civil war?
SECRETARY RICE: Katie, I am only concerned with how the Iraqis see their challenge. And they see their challenge as holding this country together, not tearing it apart.
QUESTION: And you do not believe they're in a civil war?
SECRETARY RICE: They do not talk in those terms. When you talk to these leaders, you talk to people who are committed to a united Iraqi future.
QUESTION: When Iraq's Prime Minister told me Iraq's problems would have to be solved within Iraq, he said they were, in fact, engaging Iran in the process. If it is deemed, Madame Secretary, that the Iranians could be very useful in coming up with a solution for Iraq, will the United States engage with them directly?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I think it's very clear that Iran -- if Iran wants to be a stabilizing force and a part of the solution, they can do it any day.
QUESTION: The United States will meet with them directly?
SECRETARY RICE: The Iranians know how to be a stabilizing factor. We don't have the problem. In fact, the Iraqis have been very clear that they want to conduct their own diplomacy with their neighbors. They have just sent their President to Iran. They have just had the Syrians in Baghdad. That's entirely proper for Iraq to deal with its neighbors. But it's not as if its neighbors don't know what would contribute to the stabilization of Iraq. What would contribute to the stabilization of Iraq is to stop training militias in the south in techniques that have been used to kill either innocent civilians or coalition forces. What would help in the stabilization of Iraq is for Syria not to allow terrorists to cross Syrian territory to kill innocent Iraqis. It's been clear, it's pretty simple, and I think if the Syrians and the Iranians want to do it, they'll do it.
QUESTION: And would the United States be participating in some kind of regional conference?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, in fact, we do have an international compact for Iraq that is not just regional, but also international. It is properly chaired by the Iraqis and by the United Nations, which I think is totally appropriate. This is an elected government of Iraq that wants to control its own future. That is a regional forum in which not just Iraq's neighbors, but other states that wish to help are engaged, and in which the United States is also engaged.
QUESTION: Meanwhile, I (inaudible), but I have one question about the Palestinian situation. You have had separate meetings today with Israeli Prime Minister Olmert and Palestinian President Abbas. Is there any progress being made in that, and do you, in any way, feel that solving the Israeli-Palestinian issue is even more important than solving Iraq?
SECRETARY RICE: Oh, I think these are both important on their own merits. And they are both a part of a different kind of Middle East in which you would have a Palestinian state, Israel and Palestine living side by side in democracy and peace; and Iraq democratic and able to be a positive force in the region, unlike Saddam Hussein's regime that has been such a negative force, ever since that regime was in power.
Those are both pillars of a different and truly stable Middle East that has a democratic future. So we will spend every effort -- and I said to Prime Minister Olmert and to President Abbas today, the President is committed and I am personally committed to accelerating, to intensifying our efforts to try and help the Palestinians and the Israelis advance toward a two-state solution. There's a little opening today as a result of the ceasefire which we hope will be consolidated and extended; as a result of Prime Minister Olmert's positive speech and offering a hand to their Palestinian partner; and as a result of the very strong leadership efforts that President Abbas is making to try to resolve the Palestinian political process. These are elements of an opening. It's going to take hard work. It's going to take good will and heart, but we will do everything that we can to try and make progress towards a two-state solution.
QUESTION: Do you think the stray cat is (inaudible?)
SECRETARY RICE: (Inaudible.)
QUESTION: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Thank you so much.
SECRETARY RICE: Thank you.
Released on November 30, 2006