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Opening Remarks by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice Before the House International Relations Committee

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Washington, DC
February 16, 2006


(1:45 p.m. EST)

SECRETARY RICE: SECRETARY RICE: Thank you very much. Thank you, Mr.
Chairman. Thank you, Congressman Lantos. I'm delighted to have an  opportunity to appear before this Committee. It's been just a little over a
year since I was confirmed as Secretary of State and it has been, as Congressman Lantos said, a very eventful year.

I have prepared a written testimony that I would like to enter into the record, with your permission, Mr. Chairman, but I will not read it so that  we don't all have to suffer through the reading of it and therefore we can have maximum time for questions. Instead, I'll just make a few remarks.

CHAIRMAN HYDE: Without objection, so ordered.


We have seen monumental change over the last year and certainly over the last several years since September 11th and the terrible attacks against this country. We have been engaged in a war on a group of terrorists who show no regard for innocent life, who spawn an ideology of hatred so great that they take innocent life without even thinking, whether it is the Twin Towers of New York or a wedding party, a Palestinian wedding party in Jordan, or whether it is schoolchildren in Russia or whether it is a metro in London. They take innocent life not as collateral to their efforts but as the target of their efforts, and I think that we need to understand that this is a different kind of war.

As a part of that war, or rather to make certain that any peace that we achieve in that war will be a permanent one, the President has noted the importance of the spread of liberty and democracy as antidotes to the ideology of hatred that we are experiencing in the world. This is a process that we know well. It is a process that is difficult. It was difficult in this country. It was difficult in Europe. It was difficult in Asia. It is not easy to have men and women who have been accustomed to either repression or coercion as the means of settling political issues to turn instead to processes of compromise and processes of cooperation. But indeed, if we are to have a more peaceful environment, that is exactly the process that we must encourage around the world.

The United States cannot, of course, impose democracy. But democracy does
not have to be imposed. Tyranny has to be imposed. Men and women long for liberty. We see that when we see long lines of men and women, many of them illiterate in Afghanistan, along dusty roads to vote for the first time in presidential or parliamentary elections, when we see the same in Iraq where the Iraqi people have voted three times in the face of terrorist threats. We see it in places like Liberia, where after decades of civil war we have just experienced elections. And I want to say that one of the most heartening things that I've done in recent years was to go to the inauguration of the Liberian President, who I think is going to try to bring that once proud country back to prosperity and democracy.

We see it, too, in the troubled places like Haiti, where there were elections that were largely free and fair and where there appears now to be a chance for movement forward.

It is not always a process that produces outcomes that are in accordance with our desires, but I do think we have to speak out as Americans for the process. Nonetheless, a vote and election is not the full story. With governing comes responsibility. And so what has happened in the Palestinian territories with an election for which the Palestinian people should be congratulated, an election that was free of violence, that was free and fair, but that brought to power Hamas, an organization that is a terrorist organization that has killed thousands of innocent people in its quest.

There is now a responsibility, first and foremost, of the international community to make it very clear that a Palestinian government, any Palestinian government, will have to meet international standards set out in the Quartet statement of the recognition of Israel's right to exist, disarming militias, renouncing violence, because it is not possible to pursue a peaceful life for your people on the one hand in the political process and to have a foot in the camp of terrorism on the other.

And so the United States will stand strong in its determination that the next Palestinian Government will have to live up to those standards.

We have seen major changes in places like Lebanon, where a government struggles to come out from under the yoke of Syrian -- occupation and Syrian oppression. And we just yesterday -- two days ago, we were able to commemorate the assassination of Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and to, once
again, state with the Lebanese people our desire that they should have a better, more democratic and political future in which all Lebanese are represented.

It is a difficult course and there have been setbacks along that course. I will perhaps, Congressman Lantos, at some other point in the hearing address the questions about Russia. Obviously, we are very concerned about issues of democracy in Russia, issues of a nongovernmental organization law, issues of freedom of the press, issues of the use of Russian gas and oil as a potential pressure point against neighbors. And it's especially important because as we try to encourage democratic development in the countries that emerged from the Soviet Union, Russia's attitude toward those developments is key. So we are supportive of and working hard for a continued democratization in Ukraine, in Kyrgyzstan, in Georgia, in places that have broken free and are trying to move forward.

We have other challenges as well, particularly the challenge of Iran which is emerging, I think, as the -- one of the great challenges for the United States, a strategic challenge for the United States and for those who desire peace and freedom. After all, Iran's policies in the world's most volatile region are policies that are destabilizing. They are policies that use terrorism and use terrorist surrogates to destabilize this very volatile region.

We note in particular that the world has come together concerning Iran's  ambitions for a nuclear weapon. Let me be very clear, this is not about civil nuclear energy for the Iranian people. Iran can have a civil nuclear program. The problem is that no one trusts Iran with the fuel cycle because Iran has been cheating for 18 years on its obligations under the International Atomic Energy Agency.

So we succeeded over the last year in bringing together most of the world, almost all of the world with the exception of Iran's sidekicks, Syria, Venezuela, which, of course, is a challenge to democracy in our own hemisphere, and in Cuba, a country, I think, where democracy cannot be used in the same sentence with Cuba, so perhaps those three, in a sense, belong together in their support of Iran.

But the rest of the world either supported or abstained on a resolution that has sent the Iranian dossier to the Security Council. I want to assure the members of the Committee that we will do everything that we can to deny Iran this course of the development of a nuclear weapon, but we will also remind the world that this has to be understood in the context of broader Iranian policies in the region, in Lebanon, in Iraq, in the Palestinian territories.

We will also remind the world that Iran is a country that is going 180 degrees in the other direction in terms of democracy for its own people and the Iranian people deserve better. This is a people who are connected to the outside world. It's a great culture. They're a great people and they deserve to be able to govern themselves. And I announced yesterday that the Administration will be seeking, in supplemental appropriations, $75 million additional funding for democracy promotion in Iran. We will have to seek some changes to our regulatory regime so that we can work with non-governmental organizations, work with human rights advocates. We will be getting back to you about that, but we believe that this is an important thing to do.

In that regard, I want to thank very much the House and this Committee and the sponsors of the resolution that was just passed on Iran. It helps us very much. Thank you for doing that, because I think it helps us very much, Chairman Hyde, Congressman Lantos, Congressman Ros-Lehtinen. Because the world can see that the United States is united through both branches of its government on this issue concerning Iran, so thank you very much for that.

Finally, let me say that there are other challenges. The United States is a country that recognizes, I think now, that we are not isolated from the world; that when there are countries that are poorly governed or that they are failed states that cannot control their own borders, that cannot meet their own people's needs, when states become like Afghanistan, we suffer. Afghanistan became a failed state and it became the home training ground for al-Qaida and we suffered. And not just on September 11th. We suffered with the Cole. We suffered with the embassy bombings. The failed state is a real threat to our international -- to our peace and security.

It is also a threat to us to have states that cannot sustain themselves. And so I have been working with our foreign assistance community to make some changes to the way that we in the State Department and USAID will try and align our foreign assistance to support the development of well-governed states, states that govern wisely, that fight corruption, are eligible for funding under the Millennium Challenge Account. But even those that are not yet capable of Millennium Challenge compacts have to be encouraged to take responsibility for taking care of the needs of their people. We do not want foreign assistance to become a permanent dependency. We want it to be an enabler for well-governed states.

And I have therefore, under my authorities, made some changes to our foreign assistance organization. I want to say that we have a very fine foreign assistance organization. USAID is on the front lines in the promotion of democracy, in the caring for the most vulnerable populations, in leading our teams in humanitarian disasters. We do need better alignment here in Washington as well as in the field of our foreign assistance priorities.

The United States wants to always remain, I think, a country that is compassionate. It's why the President has doubled Official Development Assistance, why we have the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, why we have the Plan for Malaria Relief and so on.

But I know, too, that the American people are demanding of all of us good stewardship of their dollars, fiscal responsibility. I know that the American people are facing many, many priorities in this budget season, and so I want to assure you that we are trying to do everything that we can at the State Department to make certain that we are not just standing still but rather that we are transforming ourselves to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

That has meant that we have made some changes, too, to the way that we are positioning our diplomacy. I've called it global repositioning. It's a bit the counterpart to the repositioning of our military forces that the Pentagon has done. But it means that we're asking our officers to serve in places that are of growing interest to us, places like India and China and Brazil, and that we are moving some people out of places where we have very fine relationships but where the demands are just different, largely in Europe.

So it has been an eventful year for the Department. I want you to know that the men and women of the State Department are some of the finest people with whom I've ever worked. They are dedicated. They are unafraid. They are on the front lines. They're working very, very hard. Many times they're working in places without their families for more than a year, places like Islamabad and Baghdad and Kabul. And they do it without complaint because they know that this moment in history is a critical one and they want to be a part of this moment in history. But I'm very, very proud of the men and women of the State Department, I'm very proud of what the United States is doing in the world, and I am humbled to be the Secretary of State of this country.

Thank you very much.

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