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Interview With The Washington Post Editorial Board

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Washington, DC
January 12, 2009

QUESTION: We’re on the record?


QUESTION: Well, I’ll take the privilege of starting with our favorite subject. What do you think – what have we learned from the latest pipelines discussion between Russia and Ukraine and Europe? And is this one different from the last one, and do you see the Russians learning anything different?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I think we, and perhaps more importantly, Europe, have learned the (inaudible) fundamental fact again, which is energy independence is going to be very key for Europe. Europe shouldn’t be treated as a pawn somehow in disputes, whether commercial or otherwise, between Ukraine and Russia. And as long as Ukraine is so dependent on Russian and/or Ukrainian gas and oil, then unfortunately I think you’re going to have these spikes from time to time.

I think we also see that the pattern that has been there for a while of Russia using oil and gas as a kind of political weapon has not subsided. In fact, maybe it’s intensified. I suspect that they’ll get through this and they’ll find some resolution, although it’s been up and down the last couple of days as to whether there is a resolution or isn’t a resolution.

But long-term, if there is not going to be the capacity for what should be purely commercial transactions to have a political cast and a political character, then there’s going to have to be greater energy independence by the Europeans, which would then incent Russia to be less aggressive in the use of oil and gas as a political element to their policy.

And so I don’t think the lessons are new, but they’re just reinforced by this latest situation.

QUESTION: And do you think – some people posit that lower gas prices will make Russia less aggressive, or as in some, the opposite, with trouble at home they may be more aggressive. Do you have any --

SECRETARY RICE: I’m not sure that – I know that there’s an argument that there’s a causal kind of relationship between high oil prices and aggressive Russian behavior, and low oil prices and non-aggressive Russian behavior. I’d love to do the actual social science experiment and see if you could demonstrate that over time in a way that is systematic, because I don’t know that that’s the case.

I do think that there’s a very strong link between internal Russian policies that are more authoritarian and external Russian policies that are more aggressive, if that’s the word that you want to use. And that link, I think, is established over a long period of time. And to the degree – in other words, it may be a second-order link. To the degree that higher oil and gas policies tend to push Russia toward more statist policies internally, which tend to have a more authoritarian cast, a kind of Russia Inc., then I think you’d probably start to see a link between internal policies that are – that have an oil and gas element, and external policies that are not more liberal or more reaching out to Europe in the way that we had hoped. But it may well be a second-order link. I really do think – maybe it’s that I’m getting ready to go back and be an academic that I’m not willing to make the link so definitive because I do think there are potentially other arguments for Russian external behavior that clearly, to me, do link to how Russia’s internal course is (inaudible).

QUESTION: If I can ask you on North Korea.


QUESTION: Given the stance till now of North Korea, is it fair to say that we would have been better off to have retained the Agreed Framework with all the plutonium under lock and key, rather than having to now be in the position of trying to offer concessions to see what they did with that plutonium?

SECRETARY RICE: First of all, no one is offering concessions to see what they did with that plutonium. We have a framework that is a Six-Party framework, which I think is the only way that you’re ever going to have a resolution of the North Korean issue is if China, Russia, Japan, South Korea, and the United States are all at the table, all with a mix of incentives and disincentives that they can bring to bear on the North to come clean about its nuclear programs.

If you look back at the time of the Agreed Framework, it was very heavily loaded toward benefits for North Korea up front and, in fact, just froze the North Korean program. And when we learned – and I’ll return to the HEU issue. But when we learned that the North was pursuing another road to nuclear weapons, the development, I think it was only fair you were obliged then to not continue in a framework that was going to permit that.

Now, the Six-Party framework has indeed arrested the North Korean production of plutonium. It has brought about significant, though not complete, disabling of the reactor itself and the facilities associated with it. It has, for the first time, begun the process of getting an accounting for what the North produced through the 18,000 or so production documents that we have. And we have agreement with the North on a verification protocol, but there is still work to do to make sure that that verification protocol covers all North Korean nuclear programs and that it will have the scientific procedures that are needed to really, fully account for what is going on there. I would say we’ve concluded 70-80 percent of it, but that other 20-30 percent is essential.

Now, what we’ve been able to do through the diplomacy of the Six-Party Talks, I think, is to begin to understand a little bit better what is happening there. And frankly, it’s heightened our concerns about the HEU portion of the program. I think the intelligence community now believes that there is an undisclosed either imported or manufactured weapons-grade HEU in North Korea. That’s a problem.

QUESTION: These are the particles that were found on the --

SECRETARY RICE: Yeah, but that suggested something more is there, either manufactured or imported. We can’t tell. We would never have known that without the Six-Party engagement on the North’s programs. But it is why the verification protocol becomes even more important then to establishing what the nature and status of the HEU program is and what they’ve done with it and what they might do in the future.

So I think the framework that we have, the Six Parties, to recap: it’s arrested the plutonium program and had significant disablement; it has begun a verification process that is really beginning to give us a clearer picture of what was going on there and is going on. But it’s a picture that gets, if anything, more concerning and therefore pushes us to have a verification protocol that can really get at those issues. The North needs to come clean.

But until they do, to speak to the last question about concessions – until they do, they have gotten fuel oil shipments up to a certain point; they’re not going to get them further. We have the South Koreans, who after all in some ways are the most important in this, refusing to – or tying aid to denuclearization. And we have, going forward, the fact that this is still by far the most heavily sanctioned country in the world. And taking them off the terrorism list, we did in order to try to let the process on the verification protocol go forward. But they get no benefit in terms of the lifting of sanctions from the delisting in terms (inaudible).

QUESTION: I mean, just to follow it up, all things being equal, isn’t – wouldn't it have been better if that plutonium was not reprocessed? I mean, aren’t we in the position of now having to negotiate with them to get what they’ve turned into bomb material?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, eventually you had to not just shut down the plutonium piece but start to disable and then get at the other elements of this program. And that’s what the Six-Party framework has allowed me to do.

Yes, it’s unfortunate that they reprocessed in that period of time, creating some stockpile of plutonium. But frankly, given the attention that is now there on their program in terms of proliferation, in terms of manufacture, in terms of disabling, and the fact that it’s everybody who really has capacity – other countries that really have capacity to do something about it, I think is a very good development. So I think the Six-Party process has put us in a much better place to ending their nuclear weapons programs, and I mean all of them, where we were in a position at one point to simply freeze plutonium production but, as we found, they could open and do plutonium anytime they wished. That’s not where you want to be, and this process has moved them closer to being unable to do that.

QUESTION: Before we leave North Korea, do we have an accounting here directly from them or from other indirect sources of their dealings with Syria and how that reactor-like facility came to be built in Syria?

SECRETARY RICE: It is another set of issues and questions (inaudible) I think will have to be resolved within the process of verification. Now, the Chinese agreed shortly after the events surrounding the Syrian reactor that there should be a proliferation working group within the Six-Party Talks. Proliferation had not been a part of the – explicitly a part of the original Six-Party framework. I think everybody understood you would probably try to deal with proliferation when you talk about all nuclear programs, but it was not an explicit part of the program – part of the framework.

The Chinese, obviously recognizing the import of what was transpiring, then agreed not just to form one but to chair it. And I think it’s in that context that you’ve got to ask hard questions about North Korean proliferation and whether it – you know, to how many states and under what circumstances.

Is that all the North Korea issues? (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Maybe on to the Middle East?


QUESTION: I’d be interested to know as you look forward at the challenges facing the next administration, could you sort of game out what you think might plausibly be a path towards some kind of long-term peace and sort of – way too far down the road, but to some kind of accommodation which you think is likely?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I think that, first, frankly, unlike when we arrived, those elements are now pretty clear. Everybody’s known that there had to be a piece that somehow exchanged – or gave land to the Palestinians (inaudible). But the President was the one who talked about a state of Palestine to live in peace and security with Israel, and made the Palestinian state a declared part of American policy. That’s important, but more important is that he focused us not just on the borders of that state, which, frankly, I think can be resolved– it’s not too difficult to imagine two or three different possible outcomes concerning the borders of that state.

But the real issue that we’re seeing played out now in Gaza is what’s going to be on the other side of that boundary. It is going to be a capable state that is able to deliver security and well-being for its own people and willing to fight terrorists in its midst? That’s really the essential question.

And the last year of Annapolis has focused as much on that question in the West Bank as it has focused on what the boundaries of the state will be. They’ve been co-equal parts. That’s why Palestinian security forces are more professional now and more capable now than they were in 2001, ‘2, ‘3, ‘4, ‘5 or ‘6. It’s because there’s been a concerted effort to make those forces professional and capable, not a bunch of armed thugs running around with cell phones calling themselves security forces in nine different organizations paying patronage to Yasser Arafat. That was the nature of Palestinian security forces in the past. These are professional security forces, trained in Jordan, that are taking up their security responsibilities in places like Hebron and Nablus and Jenin.

Secondly, Salam Fayyad often says that he is building the state even under occupation, though he would be the first to say – and I would agree with him – the occupation has to end in order for that state to really emerge. But that’s why he is focused on good governance, on budget control, on a social system for the people, on an educational system that doesn't incite. The institutions of a Palestinian state are, in fact, coming into being.

So I think there’s been a lot of work done to deal with what probably ultimately is going to determine both the creation of that state and its well-being, which is its internal character. It helps, too, that Salam Fayyad and Abu Mazen are devoted to democracy as their – the basis of their legitimacy.

Now, Gaza, unfortunately, is under quite a different kind of regime. It’s under Hamas, which shows us what it could look like if you’re not very much focused on what the internal character of the state is. It could be a launching pad for terrorist activities against Israel, which Israel, rightly, will not countenance. It could be a place where the schools are being turned to a hard Islamic – Islamist agenda. It could be a place where gangs and thugs run the streets smuggling weaponry in from Iran. And it could be a place where the people can’t receive basic goods and services because it is isolated internationally. That’s the alternative. So again, working on the internal character of this will help.

Now, it is my hope that a durable ceasefire in Gaza will begin to reverse some of the difficulties that Hamas’s illegal coup d’état in Gaza brought. First of all, that there will be a way to deal with the smuggling so that arms are not flowing in; secondly, that there will be a way to put pressure on Hams to stop firing rockets against Israeli citizens; third, that there will be a reasonable opening of crossings, particularly Rafah and Kerem Shalom under the 2005 Movement and Access Agreement; and fourth, that there will be a process of Palestinian reconciliation that is based on the principles that are embodied in the November 26th Arab League resolution that effectively says there need to be elections for both the PLC and the presidency, but until then Abu Mazen ought to govern. And what is more, any government has to be – to adhere to prior agreements that the PLO has signed. That, I think, is the way ultimately out of Gaza. And if you get that in Gaza, then you have a West Bank and Gaza that you could imagine becoming constituent parts or that would become constituent parts of a Palestinian state that would work.

They’ll continue, I’m sure, to negotiate the borders and precisely what’s the refugee formula and exactly what do you do about security arrangements, and of course, there will have to be an answer for Jerusalem, which is difficult. But this hard state work of really creating reasonable and viable institutions should not be ignored.

QUESTION: And do you see any evidence that Israel’s military campaign is leaning toward any of those goals in Gaza?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I think that a durable ceasefire would lead precisely toward those goals. But let’s be clear. Israel’s military campaign is a direct response to Hamas and the way that they have targeted Israeli cities. It was Hamas that broke the tahadiya that Egypt negotiated. And so yes, we want to see a ceasefire, but those rocket launches have got to stop, too – or the launch – the rocket launches have got to stop so that there can be a ceasefire.

QUESTION: I mean, given the bloodshed right now in Gaza, do you regret encouraging the Israelis to leave Gaza or encouraging the Palestinians to hold legislative elections?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, certainly not – in terms of legislative elections, those were going to take place. The question was --

QUESTION: Or I guess regret letting Hamas be part of those elections.

SECRETARY RICE: First, it was Palestinians who believed that everybody had to participate. And once Hamas said they wanted to participate, what were you going to say? That no, they couldn't? Now, in retrospect, I will tell you that we were this close in a Quartet statement to saying that there had to be an expectation that you lay down your arms as the --

QUESTION: I remember that being --

SECRETARY RICE: Yeah, as we required for Afghan warlords when they participated or (inaudible). And yeah, in retrospect, I wish we’d pushed that harder, because I think there was an international consensus around that point – not that Hamas shouldn’t participate, but – and not, frankly, that Hamas had to participate based on the Quartet principles, but that Hamas needed to have – there needed to be a commitment to nonviolence and to lay down your arms. I think that was a legitimate demand for the participation in its elections. And it was felt at the time that perhaps that would be sent as a signal that you were just – that Abu Mazen was just trying to keep Hamas from participating, and that’s why it didn’t happen. But no, I think, you know, if you’re going to have elections, probably anybody who wants to participate needs to be able to participate, that stipulation being the only one.

In terms of Israel leaving Gaza, I think that the Israelis did the right thing in leaving Gaza in 2005. But unfortunately, the efforts to build up Palestinian institutions in Gaza really didn’t keep pace, and maybe that’s something that we should have paid more attention to. I think Abu Mazen was focused on it, but frankly, they didn’t yet have a governmental structure. It was a while before you get Salam Fayyad and his government, which is – you can say that these things should happen, but if you don’t actually have people who can execute, it’s difficult. And you now have a Palestinian government that can execute. You really didn’t have that in 2005-2006.

QUESTION: In the “do you regret” category --

SECRETARY RICE: Aren’t you going to say, “Aren’t you thrilled that? (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Well, I should rephrase that. A Senior Administration official said that our policy of isolation towards Syria has failed, which leads to the question, since it’s been obvious for some time that policy was failing, why the Administration didn’t move sooner into an alternative track, and specifically, why by late last summer in August/September when it was clear that the Syrians wanted U.S. endorsement of their indirect negotiations with Israel, why the Administration held back. And that turns out to have been consequential. You can argue that had we taken that up (inaudible) move forcefully in that direction, among other things, the Gaza war might not have happened. But just let me put it to you straight up. Why didn’t you move in September towards some formal public endorsement of negotiations that Israel was conducting and strongly support it?

SECRETARY RICE: David, first of all, for quite a while those negotiations were confidential. We knew about them from the very beginning. We never said that, you know, we wouldn't support them if they began to bear fruit. But they were confidential for quite a long time, if you remember.

Secondly, when it became more public that they were there, I think we said that – I know I said that we supported an additional track, that – the Syrian track. We did not want it to detract from the Palestinian track because we felt that one was more ripe. But we also said that if at any time it was appropriate and useful for the United States to become involved, we would. But they remained indirect talks between Israel and Syria for a variety of reasons, and I think the United States sort of trying to plunge in and become a party to them really wasn’t in the cards.

But there’s a view out there that --

QUESTION: Why wasn’t it in the cards? It wasn’t in the cards, or you decided it wasn’t (inaudible) there was no reason? There were requests from a number of parties that you do precisely that.

SECRETARY RICE: Well, not from the Israelis or the Syrians, actually.

QUESTION: There was a request from Syria.

SECRETARY RICE: No, the Syrians said that at an appropriate time the United States should become involved. And we said at an appropriate time the United States should become involved. But when they are in indirect talks – one sat in a hotel room here and one sat in a hotel room there – it didn’t seem the appropriate time for the United States.

Now, as you know, David, when we came to Annapolis there was a question of whether or not we would signal that we thought that the Syria track ought to be taken up. And in fact, we did. And I actually personally invited the Syrians to that meeting because we did not want to signal that we thought there should be no Syrian track.

So if you say should we have taken it up, made them direct talks, the United States becomes mediator, I suppose that was one course. But we didn’t think it appropriate given where the really kind of feeling out between the Israelis and the Syrians was, through Turkish mediation, because it’s been too often the case, particularly on that track, that there was a lot of misunderstanding about what was possible. We saw that in 2000. Everybody thought it was perfectly ripe, and than at the last second Asad pulled out. And so rather than have that happen again, why not have it explored in this confidential and quiet way? But every time that I got the chance, including when I met with the Arabs as a group, I expressed hope that that track would, in fact, mature. What we didn’t do was plunge in and start negotiating ourselves.

But I want to say something about the – in all due respect to the Senior Administration Official, about the Syria policy. We kept – you know, we kept trying to determine when and if a more comprehensive approach to the Syrians (inaudible). We had a number of barriers. One was the foreign fighters issue in Iraq. The second one was trying to keep leverage so that Syria might ultimately permit or stand back so that the Lebanese could have their presidential elections. The third was support for what the Egyptians were doing in terms of Palestinian unity and the like.

One thing that is not yet clear, and maybe it will become clearer over time, is the degree to which Iran’s hand in Gaza is the real story here. I tend to think it is. I don’t know enough – I don’t think any of us knows enough – to lend much credence to the “there are splits in Hamas” argument that you get out there. But I will say this: There is clearly a faction or a segment of Hamas that is armed by and sustained by Iranian weapons and influence. And so I wouldn't jump to the conclusion that better relations with Syria would have led to no fighting in Gaza. But that said, I think we – I don’t think there was ever a time when comprehensive engagement with Syria under the circumstances made very much sense, although we did have engagement with Syria on discrete issues – Annapolis, the foreign fighters issue, and ultimately through others on the Lebanese issue.

QUESTION: How do you think the Iranians are likely to respond to an effort by the new administration to reach out in some way and to open up some kind of dialogue? And if you’re advising them, would you suggest they do that before or after the Iranian elections? Are there any particular way you think they should go about it (inaudible)?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, again, I’m not going to give him advice now or later. Privately I’ll tell him what I see. But I – but aside from giving advice, the Iranians are paying a cost in terms of their nuclear program. It’s not yet a cost that has led them to believe that they ought to suspend. But if you look at the state of the economy and you look at the flight of capital, you look at the inability to use the international financial system, you look at the lack of investment in their oil and gas infrastructure, they’re not doing very well.

I think those pressures are growing or likely to grow more over time. And that’s in real contrast to 2005. But frankly, after that first trip to Europe, I thought the United States had gotten itself into a peculiar position where the Europeans thought they were mediating between the United States and Iran, and that’s really not a good place to be. So one thing that we set out to do was to put the end to the circumstance, where everybody knew that Iran was the problem. And I think that’s been achieved.

Iran, I think, has also learned the limits of its influence in Iraq by the defeat of its friends in Basra and by the willingness of the Iraqis to go forward with the SOFA and SFA against just extreme Iranian pressure not to do so. It means that Iranians are learning an age-old lesson, which is that Iraq is indeed a barrier to Iranian influence, undue influence, in the Middle East, has been historically, is still. But this time, instead of being a barrier through Saddam Hussein, who put people in mass graves, attacked his neighbors, actually tried to – did absorb Kuwait, sought weapons of mass destruction, fought three wars against the United States, you now have a multiethnic, multiconfessional Iraq that is not going to seek weapons of mass destruction, won’t attack its neighbors, the Egyptian foreign minister goes there for the first time in 30 years, the Jordanian King – I actually saw Iraqi flags flying in Kuwait voluntarily. And it’s a friend of the United States. This is a trade up for the United States and a trade down for Iran. And I think that that will take its course.

So I know that there is a kind of common wisdom that Iran is on the march. I think if you actually look at Iran’s geostrategic position and its economy, and the criticism that is starting to emerge of the Iranian leadership, particularly Ahmadinejad, from a lot of elite quarters about what he – the isolation that he’s causing, you have to wonder whether the elections are going to be a kind of denouement for the ultra hardliners. I don’t speak about moderates in Iran, but just responsible or reasonable people versus the implacable hardliners. And those elections are going to be very important.

Now, I think there are lots of ways to play the tactics – engagement, not engaging, so forth. But I think keeping in mind that Iran is under a great deal of pressure both domestically and internationally, and that it is important not to allow Iran to get on the cheap what it can’t get through hard-earned effort, is very important. We had an extremely important meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council plus Iraq, Egypt, and Jordan with a couple of members of the P-5, and they made very clear that any discussion of a role for Iran in the region should not be offered by the P-5+1 but rather should involve the Arab states that have so much at stake.

QUESTION: Do you think there’s any – there’s any purpose or any advantage to separating out, for example, Afghanistan as an issue on which there can be conversations with Iran, as (inaudible) Europeans have suggested? Some people in the new administration have said maybe that’s the way to go in terms of engagement. Do you think there’s, again, any advantage to that? And do you – what pitfalls do you see to doing that?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, we’ve had some discrete – as you know, we have discrete --

QUESTION: But not for a long time.

SECRETARY RICE: Well, at the beginning, significant ones. And then even on Iraq we had some discussions. Look, I think this isn’t an issue of talk to the Iranians, don’t talk to the Iranians. It’s a question of what price are the Iranians trying to extract for engagement. Are they trying to extract a kind of grand bargain in which Iran is acknowledged as a regional power without having given up the very policies that are destabilizing the region? So do you import into the emerging Middle East an Iranian role that is steeped in support for Hezbollah, support for Hamas, nuclear weapons ambitions, and an un – a way to influence Iraq to the – to the negative side? That’s really the problem. What are you talking to them about?

QUESTION: Well, in this case, you’d be talking to them about Afghanistan.

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I – that’s what I said, Karen. I don’t want to talk about any specific case. I think discrete – there may be opportunities for discrete engagements with Iran. We’ve had discrete engagements with Iran. But --

QUESTION: Were those helpful?

SECRETARY RICE: -- the question is what do they lead to.

QUESTION: Is that discreet e-e-t or e-t-e? (Laughter.) You’re talking about these discussions that the Ambassador --

SECRETARY RICE: Limited. Let me use the word “limited.” Not as in secret. Limited.

QUESTION: You’re talking about the discussions that Ryan Crocker would have, or would, I guess.


QUESTION: Did they – were those at all productive in any way?

SECRETARY RICE: Early on, I think the argument is – some would make the argument that on things like counternarcotics they were marginally effective. And maybe they would be again. I think one of the problems is that when you enter into these discussions, you have to ask yourself, “Have the Iranians actually made a decision that they do want to see a stable X, Y, or Z, or are they using these contacts as a way to solidify and justify their destabilizing role?” That’s really the question that I think you have to ask.

And I think there’s some evidence that, at the beginning, they were more interested in an effort to try and help the Afghans in terms of – because the counternarcotics problem is a problem for them. You know, the stuff is going into Tehran. Some of their behavior in Afghanistan over the last couple of years would suggest that they’re not very committed to a stable Afghanistan. So I think that’s what you have to weigh.

QUESTION: But it also – isn’t part of the problem with Iran that you don’t know who has the upper hand?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, that’s right. It’s a very opaque system. It seems to me that there are several voices coming out of Iran. Unfortunately, the policies don’t change much no matter how many voices you see. And one thing that the elections may do is it may sort some of those voices.

QUESTION: Have we learned more about the Iranian hand in Gaza as a result of Israel’s operation? And as long as we’re on Gaza, can you help us understand what brought you to abstain on the ceasefire --


QUESTION: -- resolution when you yourself negotiated it?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, first of all – well, we had decided that we were not going to be – we would not like to be in a position of having to veto a resolution. And frankly, the circumstances in the West Bank and in the region as a whole had to be kept in mind in that issue. And it became pretty clear that there was going to be a vote of some kind on probably the Libyan resolution, which was unacceptable. And so we worked to see if we could get to something that was more acceptable.

But I was strongly of the view and had let it be known that we still felt this premature because there was a lot going on in the Egyptian-Israeli track. As a matter of fact, Amos Gilad was back on his way back from Egypt and we thought that it was somewhat premature. There was, frankly, also the point that I – and I made this point with my Arab colleagues – one has to be really careful with a ceasefire resolution when you’re not talking about, as you were with 1701, two member-states, Israel and Lebanon, but a member-state and a terrorist group. And so this process of coming to a resolution was pretty fraught on a number of sides.

We had a discussion about it. I talked to Steve Hadley about it. I talked to the President about it. I talked to my colleagues about it. And abstention was a way to allow the Council to go ahead and speak on this issue at a time when a number, particularly, of moderate Arab states felt that they needed to speak. We had a text that we thought was acceptable, if not ideal. It even had some good elements, like the condemnation of all terrorist acts, and a kind of sequencing about durability that was important.

But in the final analysis, abstention was a way to signal that it would have been preferable to have this – to have the Israeli-Egyptian track go forward a little bit more because you might then have been using a resolution to do something else, which was to move the process forward toward a more normalized Gaza. So that was the thinking behind it, and you know, it was not an easy decision but the right one, and it allowed the United States to let things go forward, because it’s not as if we didn’t agree with the text.

QUESTION: Was this your recommendation to the President or was this the President’s recommendation to you?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, first of all, you know that, Glenn, I’m not going to talk to you about what the President and I talked about. But you know --

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

SECRETARY RICE: You know that the President and I have the kind of relationship in which we go back and forth and come to a decision.

QUESTION: We have – I had heard that you had actually recommended voting for the resolution and that Prime Minister Olmert spoke to the President and was quite hot under the collar about that, and that was where the abstention decision came from.

SECRETARY RICE: The abstention was an option that the President and I discussed, and I’m not going to talk about anything more than that but to say that I think you know my relationship with the President. And the President and I have a relationship in which we can discuss these things and come to the best option, which is what we did.

QUESTION: In your conversations with President-elect Obama, whether on Gaza and some of the briefings and what you observed, what would you – what are your impressions that have been formed about his leadership style, and maybe contrast that to President Bush’s --

SECRETARY RICE: I don’t know enough about his leadership style. I – because, you know, it’s a completely different relationship. I can tell you what I know of him as a person because he was also a member of my committee on Senate Foreign Relations. And from the very beginning, he was somebody who asked probing questions, good questions, but in a very, you know, no polemics, no fireworks, very kind of even keel, really soliciting information, not speaking for the camera. It was just really impressive. The first time I went there for my confirmation hearings, that was my very strong impression.

And when I talked to him about various issues, it’s the same thing. He’s eliciting information. He’s asking where this is going. You know, it’s a – I’m impressed with his style and I’m impressed with the way that he goes about gathering the facts. And I’m not party to his decision-making style, but I think those are characteristics that bode well.

QUESTION: On these sort of general topics, you’ve spoken a lot, as have – as has Secretary Gates, about the need to improve civil-military cooperation, how you want to build up the State Department’s ability to be a more forceful presence in a lot of places. I wonder, in retrospect, as you’ve looked back on the progress you’ve been able to make there, if you see, as the military has expanded its own role in a lot of countries, and even as the military in some ways speaks very openly about having co-ambassadors as they have in Iraq, as they feel they would like to have in Afghanistan and Pakistan, where do you see this issue going as long as there is such a huge imbalance of resources that actually has increased rather than decreased over the past number of years?

SECRETARY RICE: You know, again this is an interesting question for analysis because I know the defense budget pretty well and I know that – I think it’s almost 50 percent of it goes to personnel, some other significant portion goes to weapons systems, some extremely large portion of it goes to benefits that extend over many generations. So actually, you know, you don’t – you shouldn’t look at the $583 billion and say, oh, that’s the Defense Department budget for diplomacy. It’s not. And I think Bob Gates would be the first to tell you that.

Look, we are in a different kind of world now. And I think that the key is for the Secretary of State, who is chief – not just foreign policy officer – but really structures and puts in place the framework for American foreign policy, that as long as the direction is there from the Secretary of State, from the President through the Secretary of State, then all kinds of agencies of the U.S. Government can contribute to the furtherance of American foreign policy goals. And Defense brings certain very specialized capabilities, like for instance, the ability to get to a tsunami or the ability to do the Mercy off the coast of Guatemala, as does, you know – my colleague Mike Leavitt in Health and Human Services has made multiple trips to Latin America to do health programs. And I’ve never felt that somehow this was encroachment on the State Department’s mission. Rather, why shouldn’t we be able to take advantage of the full range of U.S. Government capabilities to further the goals of American foreign policy? It’s more a matrix kind of organization, a networked organization, not one in which we should split into stovepipes.

Now, when it comes to something like Afghanistan or Iraq, the fact is that this is just a very difficult, different circumstance. It used to be that you got – there’s a war, you win in the war – World War II – then you do the peace; the military does the war and the diplomacy, the Department of State, does the peace. But of course, what we see in Iraq or Afghanistan is it’s a continuum. You’re fighting a war at the same time that you’re trying to make the peace. Counterinsurgency strategies, by their very nature, means that you might go into a village, clear it of terrorists, bring in governance and reconstruction right there on the spot, train the police right there on the spot to hold the area.

So the idea that you can neatly divide these responsibilities between the State Department and the Defense Department, I think is just wrong. And that’s why Bob Gates and I – and it really started with Don Rumsfeld – had developed a number of mechanisms and strategies that allow us to meet this challenge, whether it’s the Provincial Reconstruction Teams which are a wonderful innovation that gets you out into the field as a unified military – civilian-military unit, or the counterterrorism – sorry, counterinsurgency training that we’ve done together through FSI and the National Defense University, or the 1206-1207 authorities, these pots of authorities for the use – expenditure of funds from Defense for certain near-term, very short trigger kinds of efforts like arming the Lebanese armed forces and getting equipment to them during the Nahr al-Bared event. I think this is the way it’s going to work. And it means the military has to work better with us, and we have to work better with them. And I was just down at – with the Navy SEALs with the President down in Norfolk, and our political officer down there, a pol-ad down there, said to me, “Thank you for letting me have this position.” Now imagine a State Department with the Navy SEALs – why is that? A diplomat with the Navy SEALs? Because the whole counterinsurgency approach is one in which you have to marry these – this cast.

So I don’t know if (inaudible) the President’s put plenty of resources into the Department. The Department budgets have been going up during this entire time. The President has requested 1,100 new Foreign Service officers and 300 new USAID officers. I think that will continue to grow.

The one thing that we didn’t have that we now will have, I think, the Civilian Response Corps, is an important innovation, because there there’s no single department of the U.S. Government that is capable of doing the kind of reconstruction efforts that we are doing in Afghanistan, did in Iraq, and we didn’t have the right mechanism. Defense wasn’t the right place for it after Iraq, but we didn’t have another option.

QUESTION: I guess my – I guess I will ask the question more from the point of view of the recipients rather than – rather than us. If you have a situation where you have, as we now have for the next three years, a $300 million military contract for what amounts to public diplomacy and information spread in Iraq, when you have in Kenya soldiers doing humanitarian work that far outnumber other U.S. Government civilian personnel there, what kind of message are you sending?

SECRETARY RICE: I’ll tell you, on the first, the public diplomacy, there are public diplomacy efforts that are directly linked to the counterinsurgency fight, and that’s principally – and you’re right, there you can get some bleeding effect if you’re not careful between roles and missions. And we’ve tried to be very careful, but those efforts are really addressing, for instance, the kind of terrorist activities, public diplomacy – their own version of public diplomacy that are endangering the fight. But you’re right, it could bleed.

I think that, frankly, on AFRICOM we had to go back and do some readjustments. We didn’t get that message quite right. So I don’t mean to suggest that it’s not – it doesn't have potential downsides. It does. But when it’s managed well, you get very good synergy between what State can do and what Defense can do.

In terms of people seeing a soldier, you know, a medic come and do dental exams in a school in Guatemala, which is what I saw, I don’t think there’s any problem. It’s a good face for the American military. You know, how many people have you heard who, after World War II, say that their first encounter was with an American GI in Germany who gave them candy for the first time? This isn’t new.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.) (Laughter.)

SECRETARY RICE: Well, in 1945, candy wasn’t known to have the corrosive effects on molars that it now is known to have.

QUESTION: Now we do sugar-free candy.


QUESTION: Can I follow on a related--? The incoming administration and the incoming congress are – if they’re sure of anything, it’s that they’re going to restore America’s moral standing and they’re going to restore diplomacy and the place of diplomacy in America. The President spoke a little bit this morning to the moral standing. I wonder how you feel when you hear the second one, or what you think or --

SECRETARY RICE: I, frankly, don’t know what it means.

QUESTION: If only we could record your facial expression. (Laughter.)

SECRETARY RICE: Yeah. You know, I really don’t know what it means. Diplomacy is not getting in a room and talking. I think that people who are (inaudible) understand that. These are seasoned professionals. And yeah, the work that we’ve done to – to the degree that U.S.-European relations with certain European allies were frayed after 2003, it’s just not the case anymore. It’s not the case. We have very good relations with our European allies and I’ve sat through many, many a diplomatic meeting (inaudible). I mentioned where I thought we were with Iran in 2005 and where I think we are now. We have worked together on Middle East peace, on the Gaza circumstance. There’s constant discussion and work between the United States and Europe and our Arab allies. And so I think, you know, we’ve been very, very active on the diplomatic front. We were talking earlier about North Korea. That’s a diplomatic effort. We – and I think if you look at some of the big relationships around the world, U.S.-China relations have never been better. And it’s come not at the expense of other relationships. So U.S.-Japan relations are strong. U.S.-South Korean relations have never been better. We developed a fundamentally different and deepened relationship with India. You’re not supposed to be able to do India and China at the same time. We’ve done that. There is no single country in Northeast Asia, or for that matter you can look at Southeast Asia, places like Vietnam, where the relationships have been fundamentally strong. And so – and I could go on. And you don’t even need to speak of what we’ve been able to do in Africa with the combination of quadrupling of foreign assistance, PEPFAR, Millennium Challenge, dealing with the crises – the civil war in Liberia, the CPA between Southern Sudan and northern Sudan. Look, there’s been – opening relations to Libya for the first time. Really plenty of diplomacy that we’ve done. And yes, we’ve been doing this in a post-9/11 context, which really does make you look at American strategic interests somewhat differently. It makes you focus on the power of failed states, failed and failing states, to undermine your security. And so a lot of what we’ve done has been at that.

But I think you’ll find that maybe there will be outreach to countries that we’ve not done that with, and that’s all well and fine. But it will be in the context of a strong international consensus about whose behavior actually needs to change here. And on an Iran, for instance, it’s not the United States. On North Korea, it’s not the United States. Those are very important --

QUESTION: If I could just follow up – to sort of follow up, I think when those kinds of statements are made, they’re not necessarily talking about our diplomatic relations or

government-to-government relations. They’re talking about the opinion in which the United States is held in other countries. And to the extent that’s not very good, it’s not over Korea and not really over Iran. It’s over Middle East policy. It’s over Iraq. And I wonder if you could just address that question, because my impression is that that’s what’s is being spoken about, not necessarily that we’re not getting along with other presidents and prime ministers.

SECRETARY RICE: Sometimes the United States has to do things that are not popular. We do. Sometimes we do things that I think are not well understood. But the outcome here is not what the latest Gallup poll says about what somebody thinks of the United States. The outcome is: What kind of world is this going to be in 20 or 25 or 30 years, and what has this President, this Administration, done to set up that world? Do you think we were very popular in South Korea in 1984 or ’5, or ’86 or ’87?

Karen, you as much as anybody, will remember women chaining themselves to Greenham Commons to protest American missile deployment. You will remember the million people in the streets in Germany to protest the SS-20 – sorry, the Pershing II deployment in response (inaudible). Does anybody think now that it was a bad idea to deploy the Pershing II’s, force the Soviet Union to come to terms, end up in the collapse of the Soviet Union with Ronald Reagan’s policies helping to goad that along, and end up winning the Cold War? No.

So you know, history has a long tail, not a short one. And if you get very focused on whether somebody thinks your policies are popular, you won’t do the right thing, and then, in 20 or 30 years, people will be talking about missed opportunities. So in Iraq, it will be much more important what Iraq becomes, and if it becomes the Iraq of which we are suddenly seeing glimpses, an Iraq that is multiethnic and multisect – multiconfessional and democratic and signs a long-term agreement with the United States despite Iranian pressure, and declares Christmas a national holiday, that will be more important than what anybody thought in 2003 and 2004.

Now, that’s not to say that it didn’t come at great cost. Look, I myself will always be haunted by the lives that were lost. I will always think about the people that I visited at Walter Reed or at Bethesda and wonder what their lives were like. I also know that nothing of value is ever won without sacrifice. And if that Iraq emerges – and I think there’s now a good chance that that Iraq is going to emerge – that’s what will survive in history. And that’s what the President of the United States needs to be concerned about.

QUESTION: Just to focus this same question at a very particular example, your friend, I want to say, Fuad Siniora, the prime minister of Lebanon, said to me in December, talking about the view of the United States, kept saying many complimentary things about the Department’s trying to keep faith (inaudible). The Americans say so many nice words, but in the end, they just don’t deliver, and they don’t deliver because, in the end, Israel – what Israel wants is always more important to them. And he then cited a couple of specifics, but the most important is the Shebaa issue, where you gave him (inaudible) public statements believed that the United States should take a position (inaudible) and support the Lebanese Government and try to recover this territory. Israel did not want to do that. And in the end, in the perception of Siniora, I think most Arabs would probably say pretty much the same thing, it was Israel’s desire that was decisive.

Let me put the question to you – I mean, among the many things that you studied as Secretary, the relationship between the United States and Israel is (inaudible). It’s really complicated (inaudible) every Secretary in modern times has really grappled with this. So let me ask you – and I’d love to hear your response (inaudible) you know, more in sadness than in anger (inaudible). But more broadly, what you take away from this really complicated relationship.

SECRETARY RICE: Well, first, in Lebanon, Shebaa Farms, as you know, David, was a complicated issue both legally and politically. We kept trying to get the demarcation of that line so that it was clear, and a UN decision whether it was Syrian or Lebanese. Because as you remember, when Israel withdrew from Lebanon, it was declared Syrian. So I know that Fuad wanted very much to have the UN move in and then we could settle it later. That wasn’t in the cards, and I told him from the very beginning that wasn’t in the cards. The question was: Could we move this forward with the UN Secretary General doing the cartographic work to determine what the history showed and then get the Syrians to agree to a demarcation and move it forward?

We weren’t able to get it done, but hopefully it will get done, because I, frankly, do think that this would have an effect on – I think Hezbollah will find another excuse, by the way, but I think it could have a positive effect. But it’s not so simple as just declaring, well, Israel needs to withdrawal from Shebaa. This is wrapped up in the entire negotiated solution to the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon, so this is something on which to try to make sure that the homework was in place.

I would note that if America just talks, there would have been no 1701 without the United States of America. In fact, there would have been no 1701 without me, because at the time that we were trying to get the war in Lebanon finished, it was really David Welch who sat in Siniora’s office, and I sat in the Waldorf-Astoria on the phone trying to get a resolution. So there would have been no 1701. And, by the way, without Kofi Annan, whose role in 1701 should really be underscored. He was terrific.

Secondly, 1701 put the Lebanese army in the south of Lebanon for the first time in decades. And the Lebanese army is actually emerging as a strong national force in Lebanon. Third – able, by the way, to take on Nahr al-Bared for the first time (inaudible).

Third, when they took on Nahr al-Bared, it was the United States that got ammunition to them in lightning time so that they could survive and fight and defeat the Palestinian terrorists. And I could go on and on. The $770 million dollars that the United States put on the table in Paris that really did make a lot of others finally put real money on the table. Jacques Chirac gave the United States credit for that. So I feel very good about what we’ve done for Lebanon, and I think Lebanon has done it for itself, because despite the difficulties, it is able now to see forward to elections next – this year, which I think you have, for the first time, a strong, democratic, friendly majority that has a good chance. It’ll be like Lebanese politics. It’ll be a little bit here and a little bit there.

But those – none of those conditions existed in 2005. And you know, it doesn’t just happen by accident that that is where Lebanon is today. So yes, I’m sorry that Shebaa didn’t get done, but I do think that the story of Lebanon is one that is far better than the one in 2005.

As to Israel --

QUESTION: Well, what about the fundamental question (inaudible), which is --

SECRETARY RICE: Yes. Israel --

QUESTION: (inaudible) when the United States comes up against Israel’s strong political will, America accedes.

SECRETARY RICE: That’s simply not true. The fact is that – have we defended Israel’s right to defend itself? Yes. Do we believe that there is a – that the only answer here is the two-state solution? Yes. Did we work with our Israeli friends, who are our friends, to find a way to get the Israeli body politic more solidly behind a two-state solution through the Roadmap and through work with Ariel Sharon? Yes. Do we believe that the terrorists, Hamas and Hezbollah, are of the same ilk because they kill innocents wantonly, as any other terrorists? Yes. I admit those aren’t popular positions in quarters in the Arab world. But we don’t take them because they’re Israeli positions. We take them because they are American positions. I don’t think any Secretary has actually been more outspoken about the settlement issue. And I’ve been very outspoken about it and I think we’ve been very clear that Israel ought to stop its settlement activity, which is provocative.

But it’s simply not the case that if Israel wants it, the United States does it. There are very often times when American and Israeli views of interest are congruent. There are also times when they are not. And when they are not, we act (inaudible).

QUESTION: Thank you very much.

SECRETARY RICE: Oh, is that it?

MR. MCCORMACK: That’s it.

QUESTION: I could have stayed all day. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: When do you get back to California?

SECRETARY RICE: I get back to California February 8th. I am going to go to the Super Bowl and then have a little fun in Tampa and play golf in Tampa. And then I’m going back to the Hoover Institution and write a foreign policy book, but also a book about my parents, who were really extraordinary people. They were kind of average middle class black people. You know, they – my mom and dad probably between them never made $60,000, and yet there was nothing that I felt I didn’t have a chance to do or experience or – and they came from an historically – a kind of important crack in time. You know, they were born on the other side of Jim Crow, probably thought that they would live their lives in it, but raised their daughter as if she was going to live in a completely different world. And I think in 1963 and ’64 found, to their great surprise and their great delight, that, in fact, it was a different world. And they and their friends in that little community had prepared us to be ready to compete in that different world. And how you did that under segregation so that when that different world came about, these were kids who did all the things and were able to do all the things that they needed to compete, I think is pretty remarkable story. So I want to write their story, too.

And I’m a big advocate for K-12 education issues, have been since 1992 when I founded a nonprofit after-school and summer academy. And there are now five of them in the Bay area. So I’ll do some work on that, too, because, you know, it’s been – there’s no greater honor than to represent the United States of America as Secretary of State. George Shultz told me that it’s the best job in government. And he’s had every other job; he should know. But he was right because you don’t just represent our military power, which is feared and sometimes resented; you don’t just represent our economic power, which even in difficult times is astonishing to people; but you represent a country where people come here because they really do believe that there aren’t any barriers to succeeding if you work hard enough and you’re good enough. And you know, whether it’s the immigrant who comes at the low end, you know, to crawl across the desert to be able to make five dollars not fifty cents, or Sergey Brin who comes from Russia and founds Google, that’s why we attract people. But it has to be true for people born here, too, that it doesn't matter where you came from, it matters where you’re going. And that directly will be true or not true depending on what happens in our public schools. I’m pretty concerned about it, have been for a long time. And from the former provost of Stanford and former Secretary of State, I think I can advocate for those issues as a national security priority. So that’s what I’m going to do, but not before I’ve gone to the Super Bowl and watched --

QUESTION: You’re not going to any balls?


QUESTION: You’re not going to inaugural balls?

SECRETARY RICE: Been there, done that. (Laughter.) They’re large stand-up cocktail parties anyway. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: One more chance --

SECRETARY RICE: Nobody dances.

QUESTION: -- to wear a long dress and --

SECRETARY RICE: Oh, yeah, just what I need, Karen. Just what I need.

Thanks, everybody.

QUESTION: Thank you.

SECRETARY RICE: And really, thanks very much for – over all the years. It’s, you know, sometimes been not exactly what I wanted to read, but I know you do it in the best spirit of the country, and I really want to thank you for that. It’s a remarkable thing, the American press. Thank you very much for exercising those obligations.


Released on January 14, 2009

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