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Interview With Michael Winiarski of Dagens Nyheter

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Stockholm, Sweden
May 29, 2008

QUESTION: Okay, let’s get on to our – you said last week in a CNBC Closing Bell interview that if we leave Iraq prematurely, then we are going to empower Iran. Isn’t that what – exactly what has been happening after the U.S. invasion? And I mean, when Iran’s worst enemy was removed, then the winner is Iran.

SECRETARY RICE: Well, the Iraqi people’s worst enemy was removed in Saddam Hussein, and I think we first have to keep that in mind. Secondly, a great enemy of the region was removed in Saddam Hussein, because he had, indeed, gone to war against Iran but he had also invaded Kuwait and he had repeatedly refused to deal with resolution after resolution after resolution. And so it was very important to deal with the regime of Saddam Hussein.

Now, Iran will only be empowered if Iraq does not emerge as a strong, unified Iraqi state that plays its natural role of being a multi-religious state with Shia – now Shia-majority government. But Iraqi Shia are not Iranian. They are Iraqi nationalist. And I think you’ve seen, particularly since the events in Basra, that the Iraqis have no intention of having Iran have undue influence in Iraqi affairs. And in fact, I think you could say that it will be just the opposite: Iraq will be a block against Iranian influence in the region.

QUESTION: So you are basically optimistic right now?

SECRETARY RICE: I am. I think that, look, it’s a hard road and they have a long way to go. And I’d be the first to say that it’s much harder than I would have thought. But the Iraqis are beginning to build a decent society. They’re beginning to build functioning institutions of government. They have security forces that are fighting on behalf of all Iraqis to expel terrorists and criminals from various parts of the country. They’ve passed important reconciliation laws like their amnesty law and their justice and accountability law, so-called de-Baathification. They are looking to their second set of elections sometime before the end of the year. The security situation has improved. And so yes, this is a country that has a great deal going for it, and if it can learn to manage its politics by – or manage its differences by politics rather than by repression or by violence, it’s going to be a very good thing for the Middle East.

QUESTION: Prime Minister Maliki has been in office, I think, really two years, something like --

SECRETARY RICE: Let’s see, 2006. Yes.

QUESTION: What is the most important thing you expect him to do in the nearest future? I mean, you will meet him today?

SECRETARY RICE: Yes. Well, the most important thing that he can do is to continue to demonstrate that the Iraqi Government is going to be a government for all Iraqis, for Sunni, for Shia, for Kurds, for Turkomen, for the Christian minorities. And in terms of the use of the Iraqi security forces, that has really begun to happen. And this is going to be hard because Saddam Hussein didn’t leave much room for people to reconcile by peaceful means. But that is – I think is the most important task.

And then also, delivering for his people. The Iraqis have resources. The very important International Compact meeting that we’re having here – and I want to thank the Swedish Government for hosting it – is not a donor conference, because the Iraqis do have resources. What they need is the capacity to execute their budgets, to get that money to places so that they can deliver electricity for their people, that they can rebuild agriculture. So the Iraqi Government has got to build functioning structures.

QUESTION: And then when everything is getting fine, you will get out? Or how long do you plan to stay militarily?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, we’re there at the invitation of the Iraqis, and we’re there to help them protect themselves against determined enemies like al-Qaida, to help them train their forces, to help them to provide population security, although they’re doing more and more of that themselves. And the United States isn’t looking for permanent bases in Iraq. We’re not actually looking for permanent bases anyplace in the world these days. But we are determined to help the Iraqis finish the job that they’ve begun, and that’s building a stable and decent society.

QUESTION: Iran is always coming up, but no wonder because you are – I mean, it’s the worst – worst nightmare or worst enemy or threat in the region, according to your statements. How do you comment on the recent reports in the U.S. media? I just read the other day that there is – there are plans to launch an airstrike against Revolutionary Guard Corps in August.

SECRETARY RICE: I don’t know where these reports come from. They – you get reports all the time that really bear no relationship to reality. And the President has been clear that he believes that the diplomatic course that we are on is likely to produce the right result. There have to be reasonable people in Iraq – Iran who don’t want to endure the level of isolation that Iran is now experiencing. Obviously, the President will keep all of his options open. You want the American President to do that. But these reports are simply not true.

QUESTION: All the options on the table. That’s one thing. But there are – I mean, in the presidential campaign right now there are some expressions like, for instance, like Senator Clinton’s about obliterating Iran in some case. What’s your feelings when you hear that?

SECRETARY RICE: I don’t want to comment on anything that anyone specifically said in the campaign. But the United States has made clear that it will defend its interests and it will defend the interests of its allies, and that the Iranians need to understand that. We have longstanding interests in the Gulf. They go back to Franklin Roosevelt. And we have important allies in the Gulf, and we will defend our interests and theirs. But we believe that the best way to defend not just our interests, our allies’ interests, but, frankly, those of the international community, is through the approach that we are currently taking. We will confront Iran, for instance, in Iraq when they engage in training or equipping militias that are endangering our soldiers. We will confront them in Iraq. When we see that they are trying to acquire technologies that could lead to a nuclear weapon, we will confront them through the two-track approach that we are using, UN Security Council sanctions as well as offering them a different path. And we will make it harder for them to fish in troubled waters by strengthening the Lebanese Government, the young democracy there. We will try and bring about a Palestinian state because the Palestinians deserve a state, but also because it gives a sense of hope to decent people rather than to extremists.

QUESTION: But you don’t want to talk directly to the – your Iranian counterpart that is here in Stockholm, and you could – you will be in the same hall as he.

SECRETARY RICE: I have told the Iranians that when they do the one thing that the entire international community is demanding that they do, that is suspend their enrichment and reprocessing, we can meet anytime, anyplace, anywhere and talk about anything. So I don’t think the question is why won’t we talk to Tehran. I think the question is why doesn't Tehran want to talk to us.

QUESTION: You don’t think they would accept an invitation to talk with you?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I’ve issued the invitation repeatedly. Now, I don’t think that they should be allowed to use talks and negotiations to cover and to stall as they continue to perfect the technologies that could lead to a nuclear weapon, which is why suspension is important. And by the way, this condition of suspension for negotiations goes back to the European-3, well before the United States entered this process.

So again, I’m – the United States doesn't have any permanent enemies. We’re prepared to talk. But the Iranians need to do what the last three Security Council resolutions have required of them, which is to suspend their enrichment and reprocessing.

QUESTION: Okay. Correct me if I’m wrong, I believe a couple of years ago you said that democracy was a piece that was missing from American foreign policy in the Middle East and that you want to turn to this freedom agenda. What’s the outcome after – I mean, three, four years ago, it was – looked rather optimistic. In Egypt, Lebanon, even in Palestine there were going to be elections. But now, all this mainstream and moderate forces there are going down, it looks like at least. And at the same time, it looks like it’s more about power balance than democracy from the U.S. Administration right now.

SECRETARY RICE: Oh no, not at all. First of all, you can’t judge the forward march of democracy in three or four year segments. If you did that, then there are any number of countries that wouldn't have made the hurdle after four or five years as well-established and stable democracies now. I think you could even ask the question as whether the United States four or five years after our terrific Constitution came into being with my relatives as three-fifths of a man, would we have made the hurdle after four or five years? It takes time.

And – but yet, the stirrings of democracy in the Middle East that, frankly, were not there for a long, long time, for a long time, 60 years or more, it was about stability in the Middle East. But if you look – let’s take a couple of those situations. Lebanon. Was it more – was there a greater chance for democracy when Syrian forces occupied Lebanon for 30 years? I don’t think so. And yes, there is a back-and-forth between Hezbollah and the March 14th forces and the March 8th forces, but it is a democratic process in which people are looking to the elections that will happen next year and in which, frankly, I think Hezbollah has done itself great harm by taking up arms against its own people. This is supposed to be a resistance movement, not a movement against its own people, and I notice that Hassan Nasrallah went to great lengths to try to explain that, actually, Hezbollah was not a movement against its own people. Well, he’s got a lot of explaining to do for all of those Lebanese that Hezbollah killed in recent weeks.

So that is a process that has a much better chance at a stable democracy, and it still has a democratic government in place.

QUESTION: But you actually say that it’s – the situation from your point of view – is better now than after this Doha accord?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, it’s certainly better than it was when Syrian forces occupied. And I would argue that they have a president now in Michel Suleiman. I think that he will be somebody who will defend their independence and their sovereignty. They apparently are about to have Fuad Siniora again as prime minister, who we know is a fierce defender of Lebanese sovereignty and of democracy. We will help them to build the institutions like their army, which is stronger today than it had been in really decades.

QUESTION: But they didn’t use it.

SECRETARY RICE: They didn’t use it against their own people. They did use it against terrorists in Nahr al-Bared. And they now have a dialogue internally about the need for all arms to be under the hands of the state.

So again, these things take time. And if you try to judge them in a one-day snapshot or a one-week snapshot or even a one-week – one-year snapshot, it’s very difficult to know where they’re going.

And just finally, on the Palestinians, you really do for the first time have a decent, democratically elected government that is committed to peace through Abu Mazen and Salam Fayyad.

QUESTION: But they don’t control more than – a little bit more than a half of the territory.

SECRETARY RICE: Well, was it better when Yasser Arafat was stealing the Palestinian people blind, had one foot in terror and walked away from a peace deal that would have given him a significant Palestinian state on the West Bank? I think I’ll take – we’ll take our chances, and the Israelis are prepared to take their chances in negotiating with decent people.

QUESTION: Do you still believe in the end-of-the-year deal of two states?

SECRETARY RICE: I think there is certainly a prospect that they can do it. It won’t be easy. But they have a functioning peace process; we have a functioning peace process for the first time since the launching of the second intifada by Arafat in 2001. And they’re negotiating seriously. I’ve been with them and I can tell you that they’re negotiating seriously. It’s hard. If this had been easy, it would have been done before. But these are decent people who are trying to come to a solution.

QUESTION: One year after the terror attack 9/11, you said in CNN – I read my homework – now al-Qaida is on the run, Afghanistan is no longer base of operations, Afghan Government is a friendly government that is trying to bring democracy to its people. And the next month, the U.S. Government turned attention to Iraq instead. And I mean, it was (inaudible) and now the situation in Afghanistan, isn’t it getting much worse now?

SECRETARY RICE: No, it’s not getting much worse. First of all --

QUESTION: I mean, Taliban has control --

SECRETARY RICE: No, no, it’s not getting much worse. First of all, the United States didn’t turn its attention away from Afghanistan to Iraq. The United States can well do two things at once, and it has been doing two things at once.

The Afghan situation is complicated by the fact that this is a very poor country that has been more than 25 years in civil war, and it is not going to be resolved immediately. And yes, the Taliban regrouped and came back somewhat stronger in 2006 than I think people expected, but ever since the enhancement of the security presence of NATO as the Afghan forces have gotten stronger, the Taliban has had, actually, very great difficulty if they ever mass, as they did try to do last year; they are destroyed in large numbers.

Where they can make some inroads is in the cowardly way that they do, which is to attack innocent people with a suicide bomb here or there or to hit and run in a neighborhood. There is an unhealthy relationship between the poppy problem in a province like Helmond and the Taliban, and that hold has got to be broken.

But you have an Afghan Government that, again, is about to have its second set of elections next year. You have an Afghan Government that is extending its writ out into the countryside. You have an Afghan Government that’s finally building roads. This is a country that essentially had no roads that is trying to extend electricity, that is building its armed forces.

And it’s slow. It’s very slow progress. But they are making progress and they are – you have now most Afghans with access to healthcare, access to education in ways that was unthinkable under the Taliban.

QUESTION: What do you say about the standing of the United States in the world, I mean, eight years of Bush Administration? Many Swedes ask -- are very concerned, for instance, about the reports on the special interrogation techniques and (inaudible) torture and – in this war against terror. What can you say to them? Do you support those methods?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, what I would say first is that the United States has been and continues to be the strongest proponent and defendant of human rights – defender of human rights at home and abroad. And nothing has changed about that. We have been in a different kind of war where intelligence and information is essential, because if you operate as if it’s law enforcement and you allow somebody to commit the crime first and then you try to find out what it is they did, 3,000 people die. And so it is an obligation of the American President to use every means that is legal to try and get information to stop attacks.

Now in the United States, when we began in this war on terror, the President was determined and made it very clear that any American, whether – for whatever agency they worked for, would operate under American law and under our international treaty obligations, and that they would not be violated and that he would not condone torture. The fact is that a lot has happened since 2001, 2002. We have had, in our own country, decisions, including a Detainee Treatment Act by our Congress that has frankly changed some of the elements of the way that we deal with detainee issues.

But I want to be very clear, even when we were in a different place, it was never the Administration nor the President’s view that Americans could, in any way, violate any of our obligations, whether national or international. But yes, things are different now. We’re in a different place. We know more. And so there has been an evolution in some of the issues concerning detainees.

QUESTION: But things happened and clearly you must have been aware of this.

SECRETARY RICE: The things that happened, as I said to you, the President always asked, are we doing the things that are legal under our international obligations and under our national law. And that was always the standard. But yes, things have evolved over time. But I just want to remind people, again, that when you’re dealing with terrorism – and you’re not dealing with common soldiers here -- you’re dealing with hardened criminals, hardened terrorists, hardened killers – they have one purpose, which is to kill innocent people. And if you don’t use the legal means at your disposal, and I emphasize legal, to get what information you can, then thousands of innocent people die. There is a responsibility to protect the innocent.

MR. MCCORMACK: All right. Michael, you have one last question.

QUESTION: One last – yeah. Now you’re a little more than a half year left in the Administration, I believe. Are you thinking about what to do after January ’09? Maybe you don’t have time to. Maybe you’ll return to music, more? Or --

SECRETARY RICE: (Laughter.) Certainly, that.

QUESTION: -- will you consider a political post?

SECRETARY RICE: No, no, no. I – first of all, I don’t have much time to think about it, but when I do, I know very, very clearly that I belong west of the Mississippi, which means I’ll return to California, probably to – most likely to Stanford. And I want some time to reflect on what has been an extraordinary eight years in American history. And I’d like to write a book, I’d like to teach and lecture again, and then we’ll see from there. But there’s no doubt in my mind where I belong geographically.



QUESTION: Thank you very much.

SECRETARY RICE: Thank you very much.


Released on May 29, 2008

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