Secretary Condoleezza Rice
January 12, 2007
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I'm now making my third trip to the Middle East since, I believe, October and at the time of Ramadan when I was in Cairo for the Iftaar, went into the territories and to Israel and then in Jordan at the end of November, and now out to the Middle East again. I think it's important to see all of this as a process of building relationships, building a sense of consultation and getting a strong sense of where people stand on important issues.
A lot has actually changed. The trip that I made out at the beginning of the fall was really the kind of post-Lebanon war trip. I think that despite the trauma of that war, the region has now begun to move on past that war and a lot has happened. We've had an important speech by Prime Minister Olmert. We've had the Olmert-Abbas meeting. I think you know that we worked very hard to help to bring about the Olmert-Abbas meeting and was delighted that it took place and that it went so well.
Abu Mazen continues to work to try and resolve the Palestinian political crisis. I think you know from the last trip that he didn't hold out much hope for a national unity government, but he continues to keep that door open and I think he will continue to keep that door open because it would obviously be the best outcome.
They continue to make some, albeit slow, progress on issues of access and movement. In fact, I think if you look at the record now, Karni is working relatively well, and so on the ground things are happening.
And of course, we continue to work on how to help Abu Mazen and how to help the Palestinian people to create governing structures and security forces that can actually secure the Palestinian people. And so the work that we're doing, or that Keith Dayton has been doing on reform and equipping of the Palestinian security forces -- a good piece this morning about our request to the Congress for assistance for the Palestinian security program.
But I want to note that of course this is a train-and-equip program so it goes over an extended period of time and it is also in the context both of our assistance to the Palestinians on the humanitarian side and in the context of an international effort to train and equip the Palestinian forces. This isn't an American program. Keith Dayton has really been putting together an international program and I think we'll have a chance to talk more about that when I meet with the Quartet. In I think the next several weeks we'll probably have a Quartet meeting.
I expect this trip to really be one in which we have intensive consultations. I think you'll see that just as a kind of little measure the meetings will be longer. But I'm not coming with a proposal. I'm not coming with a plan. I've as an academic spent a good deal of time reading about past efforts to try and make progress on the Israeli-Palestinian issue and a couple of things are crystal clear: If you don't lay the groundwork very well, then it's not going to succeed. And I think no plan can be made in America. There are too many important stakeholders and any progress on the Palestinian-Israeli front is going to require all of the parties.
I've also been working in this series of trips as well as with the UNGA meeting that started the GCC+2 to solidify this alignment of these states that are really fighting extremism and are concerned about the rise of extremism. I expect to spend a good deal of time with them on Iraq, on the President's plan. I had consultations with them before about Iraq. I think that some of the things that the President talked about actually have been informed by those discussions that we had with the GCC+2 and I also talked with them briefly -- the foreign ministers -- prior to the President's speech. And so I look forward to having a discussion with them about how these states can support the Iraqi Government.
Finally, there are other issues that are of interest. Obviously, we will talk about Iran, talk about Somalia. But I just want to note that the last conversations that we had on Sudan I think really have had an impact because the Arab world has been much greater on Sudan since those discussions and, in fact, the coming together of the Arab, African, European, U.S. and UN positions at Addis Ababa, I think was really aided by the discussions we've had on Sudan. So this is a very, very useful grouping for consultation, very useful grouping for I think even the resolution of problems, and I look forward to meeting with them.
So that's the trip and we'll break it down more and more as we go through the trip.
QUESTION: Secretary Rice, you say that no plan can work without laying the groundwork first and it sounds like you're saying that we can't expect any major step on Palestinian-Israeli peace for some time, if it does come. Is that a fair conclusion?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, as I said, I think there are openings now that are there as a result of this alignment, there as a result of the obvious desire of Prime Minister Olmert and President Abbas to move forward. Their meeting, which went very well and talked about a lot of near-term issues, also talked about their desire to move forward on bigger issues. So I think the opening is there, but I can't really judge until I've had a chance to really talk to all the interested parties how we can accelerate the roadmap, how quickly we can accelerate the roadmap and how we begin to talk about the political horizon that everybody is interested in.
I wouldn't say that it's going to be a long time. I also wouldn't say it's going to be a short time. I think we have to -- I'll have to judge that.
QUESTION: The President talked about searching and destroying the lines of supply from Iran into Iraq and there's been a lot of testimony and conversation in recent days, including today with Secretary Gates and General Pace -- I'm sorry. There's been a lot of conversation and testimony in recent days about how the Administration intends to do that. What is the Administration's position on cross-border raids or ways to implement his promise in his speech Wednesday night to stop the claims of Iranian supply? And can you give us more details on the attack in Irbil and whether it's the position of the Administration that that was not a diplomatic facility and what it is that we intend to do about the protest from both Kurdish leaders and from Tehran?
SECRETARY RICE: On the second point, Andrea, it was not a consulate. It was some kind of liaison facility, but it was not a consulate. We take very seriously our Vienna Convention obligations and it was not a consulate.
Now, on the question of Iranian activities and particularly those that are causing danger for our troops, I think the President was very clear that we're going to have to deal with that problem. But when Pace was asked have the troops ever asked for permission or to plan to go into Iran, he said quite simply no, that this is something that we believe can be done in Iraq. You know, obviously the President doesn't take options off the table, but I think that it's really fair to say that we believe this is something that can be done in Iraq.
QUESTION: Can you reassure people here in the United States and in other capitals that there is not some intended buildup or warning to Iran of military action by the United States?
SECRETARY RICE: This is a matter of, first of all, being very clear that there's certain activities, those that are endangering our troops, that just can't be tolerated. And I think there is plenty of evidence that there is Iranian involvement with these networks that are making high-explosive IEDs and that are endangering our troops, and that's going to be dealt with. But there is -- this is a kind of new phase, I think, in our diplomatic efforts also to get the Iranians to change behavior that is detrimental for instance on the nuclear issue, detrimental on terrorism, for instance the work that the Treasury has been doing on the financial measures. We're going to keep designating Iranian banks. But, Andrea, we think that there's a lot that can be done through the diplomatic channel.
QUESTION: What do you -- getting back to the Israeli-Palestinian issue. What do you think about this idea or this proposal of sketching some sort of vision of a Palestinian state? I'm not talking about the Bush parameters or something like that, but there is this notion that if there is some sort of outline or vision of a Palestinian state that that is something that Abbas could then take to his people, would help him in terms of bolstering his position against Hamas. Is this something that you're seriously looking at?
SECRETARY RICE: I think we ought to consider all the options, but I think we also have to recognize that there are certain conditions that we're also going to have to be creating on the ground and we don't want to lose sight of those for a vision that then can't be fulfilled. And so I think we have to work it at both levels. But I think when the Palestinians talk about a political horizon, we need to explore what does that mean. How detailed a political horizon do they need? I know that Abu Mazen continues to say that the Palestinian people need a political horizon. I take that as a given from his point of view. I think we have to explore what that means. But I wouldn't rule out any option at this point.
QUESTION: When the President spoke the other night, he said that Prime Minister Maliki understands that America's commitment is not open-ended. But both he and then you yesterday stressed repeatedly that failure isn't an option. I guess I don't understand quite how those two things reconcile. If at some point failure is upon when -- you know, how do you then say, you know, failure isn't an option?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, to say that your patience isn't limited is simply to say that the Iraqi Government needs to start to show results. And the only way that this plan -- the plan for Baghdad is going to work is if, in fact, they are showing results. But this is a comprehensive plan. It has elements other than Baghdad and I want to focus for a moment on what has gotten a bit obscured by all of the talk about Baghdad, which is the decision to decentralize and diversify outside the capital as well through the Provincial Reconstruction Teams. Because that allows you to have, if you will, multiple points of success rather than just Baghdad.
So the progress that we're making in Anbar, for instance, is really not the result of policies in Baghdad, but policies that we are pursuing with local tribesmen, local sheikhs in Anbar. One of the reasons the President has surged 4,000 troops into Anbar is that we think that there's a chance to really help with a positive trend there. And so there will be a need for diversification of our efforts.
Look, we're going to get an opportunity to see whether or not this is working, whether or not the Iraqis are living up to their obligations. And obviously as a first order, you'll want to go to them and say you are or you are not living up to your obligations. So you know, the notion of just kind of -- and which sometimes there -- are you just going to pull the plug, well, we're not pulling the plug on Iraq. This is a very important, as the President said -- hello? This is an enterprise -- pardon me?
SECRETARY RICE: That was the plug being pulled, yeah. You know, this is an important -- this is too important to American security. But there will be time and the ability to adjust as we see how the Iraqis are responding.
QUESTION: If I can -- may I follow up. I mean, one other option would be a Plan B. If the Iraqis don't step up, then -- and failure still isn't an option, then what is Plan B?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I think we'll worry about making Plan A work for now. And obviously, if it doesn't, then you know, we're not going to say, oh my goodness, that didn't work, there's nothing that can be done. That's why I emphasize that this is something that's going to evolve over a period of time and where there's time to make adjustments as the plan unfolds.
QUESTION: Thank you, Madame Secretary. You're obviously going off to the Middle East at a time when the Administration's Middle East policy is under rather sustained attack at home and you faced yesterday what had to have been one of the more skeptical Foreign Relations sessions in quite a few years, it would seem.
But my question is: Does it weaken your hand diplomatically when you arrive in capitals in the Middle East to be bringing a policy to the region that has increasingly little support at home?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I heard skepticism. I didn't hear alternatives that are really -- that one can really pursue. And so I -- no, I don't feel that our hand is weakened. I do feel that an aggressive, sustained effort in the Middle East is what's very much needed at this point. I think we've laid a lot of groundwork really over six years, but I feel that I've personally laid a lot of groundwork over the last 18 months or so, and perhaps it's now time to start harvesting some of that groundwork. But one thing that you can't see if you don't follow this every day or if you're not doing it every day is that over time you build a set of outcomes and then you build on those outcomes for further outcomes, and at some point you have the ability to make a strategic shift.
The kind of work that we've been doing with the Palestinians, the kind of work that we've been doing with the Israelis, the kind of work they've been doing together is leading toward a place at which I think we're going to be able to make real progress in a more strategic way. But it takes building it over time. It doesn't happen overnight.
QUESTION: Are you concerned about the ebbing support in Congress or for that matter within the American people? And do you see that there's a possibility of turning it around or is there a kind of vindication in a way of just going it alone, so to speak, no matter what the opinion polls might say?
SECRETARY RICE: On Iraq?
QUESTION: On Iraq. On -- yeah, primarily on Iraq.
SECRETARY RICE: What will convince the American people that there's going to be a good outcome here is changes on the ground. And that's why the President recognized that and has set us on a different course. No amount of polling -- or no polling is going to -- no poll is going to change until there is something to show on the ground. Now, I think that there has actually been a lot achieved. You know, it's very interesting. When Senator Durbin began his rebuttal the other night, he started by saying we've overthrown a dictator, we found him in a hole, we've brought him to justice, we've given the Iraqi people their elections, we've given them their constitution. And I thought that's a pretty good list. And now we have to deliver further on stabilizing and solidifying that.
So it's not as if this Iraq -- the Iraq war has led to nothing good. It has led to a lot of good. But the progress that they're making, have been making, is really threatened by this sectarian violence in Baghdad. And I think everybody sees that and understands it, and it's why helping them to get control of it is a very high priority.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, the Europeans have launched the idea of enlarging the Quartet to Arab countries like Jordan and Egypt and Saudi Arabia, the very countries you are consulting on Iraq. Do you think it's a good idea?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I think the Quartet has a certain logic on its own as an international body that in a sense stands outside of the region. I think that has a logic of its own. But I've found very useful meetings from time to time where we have met with the states that -- informally I think people call them the Arab Quartet. We've met very -- not very frequently, but when we've met I think it's been to very good effect. And so one option might be to use that model from time to time. But I think the Quartet as the Quartet has a certain logic of its own, having been set up by the UN in that way.
QUESTION: Have you considered at all laying down some parameters for a Middle East peace settlement in a way similar to what President Clinton did at the end of his term? And also, how confident are you that the security work you're doing, the arms that are going to be provided to Abbas, to Fatah, will be used in the proper manner? Are you concerned that you might be increasing the likelihood of a full-scale civil war between Fatah and Hamas?
SECRETARY RICE: As I said, Barbara, this is a train-and-equip program that is going to move over time, so it's not as if you simply arm the Palestinians on day one and then have no input or control over what happens from then on. It's a much more gradual process than that, and I think as a result you can maintain some control on what is being done.
But going all the way back to Oslo, it was envisioned that the Palestinian Authority would have security forces. The problem is those security forces broke into essentially personal militias under Arafat. They broke into too many that were often warring with each other. And what first General Ward and now General Dayton have done is to help the Palestinians, with international help, to create a strategy, a plan for security forces that can be part of the solution, not part of the problem.
And this plan is not just to equip them and train them, it's also to professionalize them, to unify them, to put them under a single command. I would expect that we would be very concerned about issues of human rights and the like, much as we are in all of our train-and-equip programs.
So I think that this is a more comprehensive program than is sometimes communicated or is sometimes seen as just kind of you're sending arms into the Palestinian territories. But one thing is certain: Hamas is armed and the worst outcome would be that the Palestinians who are, in fact, devoted to the roadmap and devoted to the Quartet principles are the ones who are unarmed and Hamas is armed.
SECRETARY RICE: As I said to Glenn, you know, I'll consider anything, but I think we -- I think at this point what we want to do is to get a better sense of where the parties are and what's possible.
QUESTION: When you speak of accelerating the roadmap, do you mean that the whole thing can be achieved in less than the three-year span that was envisaged in the first place?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, one thing to realize is that some elements of the roadmap have actually already been achieved. For instance, the Israelis were supposed to start removing settlements. They're out of Gaza. And so I think we want to look at what is still to be achieved. The roadmap is a useful document because it does have reciprocal responsibilities, but I do think that if you want to get momentum of the kind that came out of the meeting between Olmert and Abbas that you don't want to be in a position of doing this at such a slow pace that you lose the momentum of the broader political relationship that is developing there. So when I say accelerate, we want to look at it and see how fast you can move. But it doesn't -- I don't have really a particular timeframe in mind. That's not the idea.
QUESTION: Is it a change in the Administration's outlook in the Middle East to say that democracy in the region isn't necessarily an end goal in and of itself, that perhaps in certain places like Iraq and the Palestinian territories that you need security or certain other preconditions in order to have democracy?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, that's not what we're saying. Obviously, security and -- security is needed for democracy to function and function properly. But you certainly need to pay attention to the democratic process as well. The Iraqis have a very, very difficult set of circumstances, but at least they have institutions that give them a chance to try and resolve their differences in a political way rather than in a repressive way. That's what democratic institutions are for and that's what they do.
But in any place, whether it's Iraq or the Palestinian territories, we continue to emphasize the importance of democracy because otherwise what are you saying? You're saying that, all right, it's all right for one group of people to repress another or for one person to repress others. We know that that's false stability, not actual stability, because we've seen the impact that it's had throughout the Middle East over 60 years. And so I think democracy has to go hand in hand, but when we talk about democracy it also obviously has to be able to deliver for its people, it has to be able to keep its people secure.
QUESTION: You talked earlier about the GCC+2. The reactions in the region to the new plan the other day were not exactly as harsh as those in Congress, but they weren't glowing either. What do you think these neighbors in these countries in the region in the Gulf can actually do to help you, first of all, with the military strategy in Iraq with the 20 that the President outlined, and secondly with the political process, even the -- on the economic issues they're having?
SECRETARY RICE: The principal help that these countries could give is in the latter category. First of all, on the political process where I think they have been helpful in working with Sunnis to engage them in the political process, working with tribes, working with local leaders. There are a lot of, as you know, cross-border ties between tribes and I think there's been a lot of work done with those.
They could also help Iraq to reintegrate into the Arab world. I think it's important that Amr Moussa went there. I think it's important that they have missions there, at least charges or perhaps ambassadors. The commitment to this new democratic government in Iraq should be one that all these states are prepared to take because if the consequences of failure for the United States are very great, the consequences of failure for these states in the region are even greater.
And when I hear the argument from time to time that people are concerned about Iranian influence in Iraq, the surest way to deal with Iranian influence is to have a unified and strong Iraq that is able to integrate with and be supported by its Arab neighbors. The surest way to make sure that Iraq is a bridge for Iranian influence into the region is to isolate it from its Arab neighbors and not to work for its unity and stability.
All right, see you at another stop.
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