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Interview on ABC's Good Morning America With George Stephanopoulos

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Washington, DC
July 13, 2007

(7:00 a.m. EDT)

QUESTION: We're now going to go to the State Department in Washington where Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice joins us.

Good morning, Madame Secretary, and let's begin with that House vote. By next April American combat troops would have been in Iraq for five full years. Why shouldn't they be home?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, American forces have been in Iraq to liberate Iraq from Saddam Hussein and to try and help do something that has never been done in the Middle East, which is to establish a basis for a democratic government that will be a real fighter in the war on terror, and so it's a difficult job. And when the President gets his report from General Petraeus and from Ambassador Crocker in September we can chart a coherent way forward. But we are right now still in the midst of the new strategy that the President announced in January. And so letting that strategy play out and then making the assessment when our people on the ground are ready to make that assessment I think is the wisest course.

QUESTION: But Madame Secretary, back in January the President said that the Iraqis would have to pay a price if they didn't follow through on their promises and yesterday's report shows they have not yet followed through. Look at what the President said in January:

"I've made it clear to the Prime Minister and Iraq's other leaders that America's commitment is not open-ended. If the Iraqi Government does not follow through on its promises it will lose the support of the American people."

The Iraqi Government is losing the support of the American people. It's losing support in Congress. When will President Bush hold them accountable?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, the President is absolutely clear that we don't have limitless patience and, in fact, we all every day practically talk to the Iraqis about the need to do more. But we shouldn't dismiss as inconsequential what they've achieved in this period of time: bringing security forces to the fight. Yes, security forces that still need a lot of help, but security forces beginning to turn the tide against sectarian violence because they're acting in a less sectarian way their security forces are. And something that's not on that list of benchmarks, but may be the most consequential development, and that is that the sheikhs in Al Anbar province, which used to be the most dangerous province in all of Iraq, are turning against al-Qaida. They're taking back their streets from these terrorists and they're doing it in coordination and cooperation with American forces.

And so, yes, we would want to see more progress and there has to be more progress.

QUESTION: What specifically --

SECRETARY RICE: But it is not inconsequential what they've achieved at this point.

QUESTION: What specifically does the Iraqi Government have to do by September to sustain U.S. support?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I think the Iraqis know and -- by September -- we will have a report on where we are in September. But the Iraqis, for their own purposes and for those of their people, who are by the way are paying a heavy toll as well, the Iraqis do need to make progress on some of the legislation that would lay a foundation for reconciliation. They need to decide how they're going to divide their oil revenues, for instance. They need constitutional reform. They're making some progress on those.

But let's remember, George, that this is not easy. This is really hard. When you're talking about trying to do this by consensus not just ramming it down in a majority vote, which they could do but they've chosen not to do, it's very hard and we're trying to support them in it. They also need to get more money out to their provinces and there we're helping them to get the basis, the actual fiscal basis to do that, and they're doing that.

QUESTION: You know, President Bush talked a lot about al-Qaida in Iraq yesterday, but we've all seen these new intelligence reports in the last couple of days that suggest that al-Qaida is reconstituted itself in Pakistan, in Afghanistan. Isn't al-Qaida in Pakistan and Afghanistan a greater threat now to the United States than al-Qaida in Iraq?

SECRETARY RICE: Look, al-Qaida anywhere is a threat. And we have to recognize that this is an organization that has changed since September 11th. Yes, we have killed or captured a lot of the people -- probably most of the people -- who actually carried out September 11th. But this is an organization that is franchising. It is an organization that has tentacles into a lot of places. And so what they're doing in Pakistan -- we are working with the Pakistani Government. That's why you have military raids in the frontier region in Pakistan. That's why we are working with the Pakistani Government on a hearts-and-mind strategy to separate the population from the terrorists.

But we have to recognize that it's an organization that is different. It is an organization that is, of course, still very dangerous.


SECRETARY RICE: But it is an organization that we are also working against, tracking, and doing so with many, many tools that we did not have prior to September 11th.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, we're just about out of time, but President Bush seemed awful conscience of history yesterday. Are you confident the history is going to say that the President made not just principled decisions but smart ones?

SECRETARY RICE: History will judge, but I know enough to know -- myself as an historian -- that today's headlines are rarely the same as history's judgment and I think that's going to be the case here as well.

QUESTION: Okay, Madame Secretary, thanks very much for your time this morning.



Released on July 13, 2007

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