U.S. Remarks at the Baltimore Council
Remarks at the Baltimore Council on Foreign Affairs
John D. Negroponte, Deputy Secretary of State
October 16, 2008
DEPUTY SECRETARY NEGROPONTE: Thank you, Dr. Burd, for the very kind introduction. It’s a pleasure to be with all of you tonight, and I also want to thank Lockheed Martin and your chairman, Mr. Robbie Harris for having sponsored this event, and all who – others who were involved in its preparation.
Across the country and, of course, here in Baltimore, Americans are preparing to vote in just three short weeks. And a new administration will take office in just three short months. With the prospect of change on the horizon, I want to focus my remarks this evening on several foreign policy priorities that will likely, and in my view, should remain important issues for the next president, whomever that may be. An increasingly globalized and multi-polar world holds major challenges and opportunities for our nation. And how successfully we deal with them will determine the shape of the international order and the nature of American power, security, and prosperity in the years ahead.
Let me start by discussing the war on terror. Our goal, as you know, is to defeat al-Qaida and to diminish the appeal of violent extremism. Clearly, our most pressing need is to prevent existing extremists from launching attacks and kinetic action; that is, action to capture and kill extremists and to prevent them from communicating, traveling, and moving money has achieved good progress towards that end. But as Secretary of Defense Gates has said, we cannot kill or capture our way to victory in this war. Defeating extremism will require denying extremist groups safe havens and new recruits by supporting the growth of societies that are governed by law with accountable, transparent institutions that respond to the needs of people.
And although this will be a generational struggle, we have already seen populations from Pakistan to Jordan to Iraq to Saudi Arabia turn against al-Qaida. In large part due to the atrocities al-Qaida has inflicted on fellow Muslims, the appeal of extremist ideologies is at a low ebb in the Muslim world. Across the broader Middle East and beyond, moderate forces are resisting the extremists who are trying to hijack their peaceful region. Nevertheless, major challenges lie ahead. Foremost among them is reinforcing Iraq’s recent progress and helping it overcome remaining obstacles to its success.
Our goal is an Iraq that is federal, plural, pluralistic, democratic, and unified, an Iraq that is at peace with itself, with its neighbors, and with the international community. Every day, in ways big and small, Iraqis are advancing towards that goal, and we are supporting them. They are rejecting extremism, pursuing reconciliation, expanding opportunity, and assuming control of their country’s future.
Iraq’s progress is fragile and reversible, but it is also significant and hopeful. For some perspective, consider the challenges Iraq faced when I arrived there as Ambassador in June of 2004: an increasingly widespread and lethal insurgency; a weak central government unable to provide security or public services; extremist infiltration of key institutions, including security forces; heavy foreign debt; and profound reluctance by neighboring states to recognize, much less engage with Iraq’s new government.
Consider the situation today. The citizens of Al Anbar province have made decisive progress in expelling al-Qaida from their province. Muqtada al-Sadr, the Shia extremist, has declared a ceasefire. Iraq’s government is asserting its sovereignty through successful operations in Basra, in Sadr City, Mosul and elsewhere. Iraq’s economy is growing by approximately nine percent this year. Political reconciliation is progressing and several of Iraq’s neighbors have named ambassadors to Iraq while several more have made high-level official visits.
The significant progress of the past 20 months does not mean our work in Iraq is over. The reconciliation process in particular requires time and patience, and depends on the security situations -- security situation continuing to improve. Sustaining United States’ involvement, both military and diplomatic, is vital. In addition, Iraq must overcome several hurdles of its own along the road to success.
First, it must pass meaningful hydrocarbon legislation that equitably divides oil revenue among Iraq’s regions. Second, it must hold successful provincial elections which will allow Iraqis, and particularly Sunnis, who largely boycotted the first provincial elections in 2005 – that is, to say the elections that were conducted while I was Ambassador there – to participate in selecting their local councils. Third, Iraq must continue professionalizing its security forces and must make good on its promise to give jobs to the 100,000 so-called sons of Iraq who are contributing to local security.
Fourth, Iraq and the United States must provide for the continued presence of United States forces after December 31st of this year by concluding a status of forces agreement. And fifth, Iraq’s government and the Kurds must manage the status of Kirkuk and other mixed Arab-Kurd cities in the oil-rich north.
These challenges are both a measure of how far Iraq has come and of how far it yet has to go. But as Iraqis work through these challenges, what’s already clear is their overwhelming rejection of extremists’ bleak vision for their country. Al-Qaida has suffered an ideological and strategic defeat. It is in retreat in Iraq and it is – and its deliberate, unrestrained killing of fellow Muslims, both Shia and Sunni, is discrediting its ideology throughout the Muslim world. Usama bin Ladin once called Iraq the perfect base and sought to establish a footing there for al-Qaida’s offensive presence in the Arab world. Today, al-Qaida increasingly has no base in Iraq. In losing Al Anbar Province, it also will lose its most significant toehold in the Arab world. Al-Qaida cannot be allowed to regain it.
The emerging sovereign Iraqi state also represents a setback for Iran. Iran’s regime hoped Iraq would serve as a platform for projecting Iranian influence into the Arab world. But through its actions against Iranian-backed militias, Iraq has made two things clear. It will not be a client state of Tehran and it will not be a theocracy. Iraq’s leaders do not see the world as Iran’s do. For Iraq’s leaders, the main distinction is not between Sunni and Shia, but between moderates and extremists. The emerging Iraq reflects this world view: pluralistic, democratic, and a partner in regional stability.
In Afghanistan, as in Iraq, when the people have had an opportunity to choose a course for their nation, they have voted overwhelmingly, and often at great personal risk and sacrifice, for a future of democracy, law, prosperity and modernity. The Taliban’s theory of victory is not to prevail on the battlefield or simply to win Afghan hearts and minds. It is to undermine the elected Afghan Government, fracture the international coalition, and outlast us in Afghanistan.
Our theory of victory and our counterinsurgency strategy to achieve it recognizes that defeating the Taliban on the battlefield is not enough. Working with our Afghan and international partners, we can render the Taliban obsolete by supporting an effective, accountable Afghan state that can provide for human security through good governance, the rule of law and economic opportunity. What – where the Afghan Government and its armed forces working with our international partners has been able to do so, for instance, in the north and the east of Afghanistan, the Taliban is in retreat. The Taliban can only prevail if the international community and our Afghan partners lose our will and our commitment to help the Afghan people build their new nation.
One of the main challenges to a stable Afghanistan, and more broadly, to defeating global terrorism is the trajectory of Pakistan. Pakistan is a vitally important nation. It is the world’s third most populous Muslim state. It is a nuclear power. It is situated in the strategically crucial neighborhood of India, Iran, Afghanistan and China, and it is a frontline state in the war on terrorism. United States and our allies face near-term challenges from Pakistan’s reluctance and inability to roll back terrorist sanctuaries in the tribal region. And we must balance the need to address those challenges with our longer-run interest in partnering with Pakistan’s moderate, civilian leaders to build an effective democratic state capable of co-opting or defeating its internal adversaries.
This objective requires supporting Pakistan’s democratic institutions and civil society groups that have their own interests in taking on violent extremism. It requires a long-term partnership with the Pakistani Government in a broad effort to promote the key elements necessary to Pakistan’s long-term stability, including, among other things, security, education, economic opportunity, good governance, and rule of law, especially in the tribal regions where the absence of adequate security forces and governance enable terrorists to find sanctuary. Supporting moderate political forces against extremism is also crucial to achieving lasting peace in the Middle East. And progress towards this purpose, in turn, reinforces the vision of moderate, nonviolent forces throughout the region.
The Administration – this Administration has helped to launch and support a negotiations process between the parties that will provide our successor with a foundation on which to seek a just, lasting and comprehensive peace. The process between Israelis and Palestinians recognizes the need for progress on several tracks at once: settlement of permanent status issues, support for Palestinian security, governance and economic institutions, and fulfillment of Roadmap obligations.
We are hopeful of success because the Israelis and Palestinians now have leaders who share a commitment to peace. On the Palestinian side, we are supporting responsible leaders in an unprecedented effort to realign their society around the values of nonviolence. Of course, Hamas’ control of the – of Gaza is deeply troubling and threatens both Israeli security and the Palestinians’ well-being. But that control also means that Hamas and other violent extremists can no longer hide in the shadows destroying all prospects for peace without bearing any consequences for their actions. They are now being forced to make the fundamental choice they have always refused to make. Either you’re a terrorist group or you’re a political party, but you cannot be both.
All of the challenges I mentioned intersect with another major challenge in the region: Iran. Our current focus shared by the international community is on ending Iran’s production of fissile material that can be used to make nuclear weapons. We are also working to end Iran’s other weapon of mass destruction and long-range missile programs and to push Iran to abandon its support for terrorists and insurgent groups – destabilizing democratically elected governments in Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinian Authority.
Finally, we continue to support the great and proud Iranian people in their pursuit of human dignity, human rights, and greater liberty. We view the Iranian people as a natural friend of the United States. We affirm our friendship at every opportunity and we emphasize to the Iranian people the grave cost of their government’s policies: deeper isolation for their country and a worse quality of life for themselves.
We have made clear to the Iranian regime the potential benefits of changing course and rejoining the community of nations as a responsible constructive member. Those benefits include cooperation on peaceful nuclear energy, including light water reactors; increased trade and investment; deepening integration into the global economy; growing financial and technological assistance; and an opportunity to build better relations with the international community, including the United States. But if Iranian leaders continue to support terrorists, continue to pursue a nuclear weapons capability, and continue to subvert their neighbors, we will rally the international community to deepen its isolation.
In addition to the challenges posed by weak states and those posed by Iran, the United States is increasingly moving into a multidimensional world with more centers of power than in previous decades. Different powers present different sets of challenges and opportunities. But as a general matter, the United States welcomes the rise of strong, capable partners willing to assume their fair share of responsibility as stakeholders in the international system. We are particularly eager to build close strategic partnerships with large pluralistic democracies like Brazil and India.
Earlier this month, we achieved a milestone in our relationship with India when President Bush signed the Civil Nuclear Cooperation Agreement into law. This agreement culminates eight years of steady progress, strengthening the natural bonds between our two countries. Such partnerships with fellow democracies are a platform for projecting influence and for cooperating on the full panorama of common interests. Those interests include long-term challenges of international governance, such as free trade and climate change. We cannot reach effective solutions to such challenges without consensus among both developed and developing major economies, especially India and China.
Building that consensus has not been easy. The Indians and the Chinese are understandably concerned about sustaining economic growth, and shielding their populations and industries from the dislocations of global trade. Indeed, many Americans have similar concerns. But as major stakeholders in the international system, especially in the global trading system from which they, as much as anyone, are benefitting, India and China should join us in leading the way towards a successful conclusion of the Doha trade round, that is to say the World Trade Organization round of talks, and the post-Kyoto framework on climate change. On trade especially, the United States Congress should exercise leadership of its own by ratifying our free trade agreements with Panama, Colombia, and South Korea.
Finally, let me say a few words about Russia. Recent events, of course, have focused attention on Russia’s international role. Russia’s invasion and occupation of Georgia, or of parts of it at least, a violation of international agreements, and the recognition of Abkhaz and Ossetian independence all call into question Russia’s commitment to the international order. But Russia today is not the Soviet Union. Its prosperity depends on participation in the international economy. And Russia stands only to gain from further integration into the international, political, and economic architecture.
Russia’s leaders need to decide what future they want for their country. We and our European allies are willing to support Russia’s deepening integration into global markets and institutions, but only if Russia respects the rules of the game. We will not let Russia recreate a sphere of influence where sovereignty is ignored, democracy is subverted, and weak states live at the mercy of strong ones.
I want to conclude by emphasizing the importance of America’s leadership. Whether we are discussing challenges arising from particular countries or global governance challenges such as climate change, free trade, or energy security, American leadership will be necessary to rally capable powers to uphold the international order on which we all depend. Sustaining that leadership will, as ever, be a challenge for the Department of State. And President Bush and Secretary Rice have begun the long process of equipping our Department to meet that challenge by increasing our resources and adjusting our diplomatic posture to reflect the emergence of new international and regional powers.
Sustaining American leadership is also a matter of sustaining the will among Americans to lead, to accept responsibilities, and bear the burdens that global leadership entails. Americans must understand the stake of United States leadership, the challenges and opportunities our country faces in responding to and shaping a dynamic, globalizing world. Spreading that understanding is the work not only of those of us in government, but of organizations such as this that educate fellow citizens about international affairs.
So let me once again thank the Baltimore Council on Foreign Affairs for hosting me and I look forward to answering your questions. Thank you very much.