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12 March 2002

National Security Advisor Rice Discusses U.S. Foreign Policy on PBS

(She covered Iraq, the Mideast, nuclear policy, 9/11 terrorism) (3430)
The United States is consulting with its friends and allies about
future policy towards Iraq, but has made no decision on the use of
force against the Saddam Hussein regime, National Security Advisor
Condoleezza Rice said in a March 11 interview on the Public
Broadcasting System's (PBS) Newshour with Jim Lehrer.
In response to a question, Rice said "it's not fair to say that our
friends and allies have said that they're unequivocally opposed to any
particular action against Iraq. What they said is they want us to be
cautious, that they understand fully the threat that Iraq poses, and I
want to be very clear that the United States has not said that the
time has come for the use of force against Iraq. We're in a phase of
consulting with our friends and allies.
"What the President has made very clear is that the status quo (in
Iraq) is not acceptable. We cannot sweep under the rug what Iraq has
been doing for the last ten years. We cannot pretend that this regime
is one that can be trusted not to acquire weapons of mass destruction.
This is a problem that the world had better get serious about very
soon."
The Saddam Hussein regime, she said, "continues to threaten its
neighbors, threaten its own people and threaten world peace and
stability. And so it isn't a situation that can continue forever."
Vice President Dick Cheney, now on a visit to nations in Europe and
the Middle East, "will talk to our friends in the region about what we
might do, but he is not carrying a decision by the President of the
United States to use force against Iraq. That simply isn't the case."
Iraq, she said, is only one of several topics Cheney will discuss
during his ten-day visit to 12 countries in Europe and the Middle
East.
The Vice President's trip, she said, was planned to talk with allies
in the region about several strategic challenges, including the second
stage in the war on terrorism, and the problems of peace in the Middle
East.
Rice said the situation on the ground between the Israelis and the
Palestinians "has worsened considerably over the last several days."
She noted that the United States is sending back to the region retired
General Anthony Zinni to try and get the parties to begin implementing
the security work plan proposed by Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)
Director George Tenet so that the parties can get back to the peace
table.
The United States expects General Zinni "to work intensively with the
parties, and indeed not to be derailed as Secretary Powell said
yesterday, should there be new incidents. It's very important for
people to understand that he is going to stay there for a while and
try to get the parties into a better situation for talks on peace."
Rice said "even though the violence has worsened, we think there's a
little bit of an opening made possible by the initiative of Crown
Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia."
The decision by Israel's Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to permit
Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat to leave his compound
"now that he has made some important arrests, is a good step forward,"
she said.
Asked about the Bush administration's Congressionally mandated
periodic nuclear review, Rice denied that it lowers the threshold for
nuclear war.
"It has long been American policy that the use of a weapon of mass
destruction against the United States, its friends or its forces,
would be met with a devastating response," she said. "And the
President cannot take any options out of his arsenal in making very
clear the pledge that a use of a weapon of mass destruction against us
would be met with a devastating response. That is how you deter the
use of one of these weapons against you.
"But the idea that this somehow lowers the threshold for nuclear war
couldn't be further from the truth. No one wants to use nuclear
weapons, and this President has gone a long way to encouraging and to
pressing the case for things like missile defense, which might make it
unnecessary to worry so much about these weapons of mass destruction."
On the consequences to the United States of the September 11 terrorist
attacks on it, Rice said, "It changed our concept of security, but
fortunately it didn't change our sense of who we are. And, in fact, I
think it really reinforced and strengthened our sense of who we are.
We emerged from 9/11 stronger as one people. We emerged from 9/11 more
cognizant and valuing more the freedoms and the values that we enjoy."
Following is the copyright-cleared transcript:
(begin transcript)
(Permission has been granted covering republication/translation of the
text by Agency/local press outside the United States. Credit as
follows: From the Newshour with Jim Lehrer, March 11, 2001,
co-produced by MACNEIL/LEHRER PRODUCTIONS, at WETA in association with
WNET. Copyright (c) 2002 by MacNeil-Lehrer Productions.)
The News Hour Interview with NSC Advisor Condoleezza Rice
March 11, 2002
The National Security Adviser discusses Iraq, U.S. nuclear policy, the
crisis in the Middle East, and the six-month anniversary of the
September 11th terrorist attacks.
JIM LEHRER: Now to our Newsmaker interview with Condoleezza Rice, the
National Security Adviser to President Bush. She joins us from the Old
Executive Office Building. Dr. Rice, welcome.
CONDOLEEZZA RICE: Nice to be with you.
JIM LEHRER: Today's decision by the Israelis to let Yasser Arafat -- I
just reported it -- to let Yasser Arafat leave his compound, is that
an important development?
CONDOLEEZZA RICE: We do believe that this is a positive development.
The situation on the ground has worsened considerably over the last
several days, and we are sending General Zinni back to the region to
try and get the Tenet implementation going so that the parties can get
back to the peace table, and in that larger context we believe that
the decision by Prime Minister Sharon recognizing that Chairman Arafat
has made some important arrests is a good step forward.
JIM LEHRER: Now, when you say the Tenet proposal, that of course, is
CIA Director George Tenet's proposal. Tell us in a nutshell what that
is.
CONDOLEEZZA RICE: It's a security work plan, the Tenet Plan, that has
a series of steps that would have the parties working for practical
steps to bring down the level of violence, to cooperate and to meet
certain standards along the way to make certain that everybody is
making 100 percent effort to bring down the violence.
JIM LEHRER: It's not a peace plan, per se?
CONDOLEEZZA RICE: No.
JIM LEHRER: It's just one step to stop the killing.
CONDOLEEZZA RICE: That's right. It's really an effort to improve the
security situation so that we can get into the Mitchell Plan, which
indeed is a blueprint for several steps leading to a comprehensive
peace.
JIM LEHRER: Now, General Zinni is going to the area and so is Vice
President Cheney. Should they be seen as both of them being part of a
peace initiative or as one something and one another?
CONDOLEEZZA RICE: Vice President Cheney's trip to the region has been
planned for some time, and it has a broader strategic mission of
talking with a number of allies in the region about several strategic
challenges that we face, including the second stage in the war on
terrorism, talking about the problems of peace in the Middle East will
be a part of it. But it's a very broad strategic look at the region.
The mission of General Zinni is really quite limited to the
Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and he is going with a kind of renewed
mandate to get quickly into the Tenet security work plan, and we
expect him to work in the region, to work intensively with the
parties, and indeed not to be derailed as Secretary Powell said
yesterday, should there be new incidents. It's very important for
people to understand that he is going to stay there for a while and
try to get the parties into a better situation for talks on peace.
JIM LEHRER: Now he's tried that before and he had to come home. Is
there any particular reason to be optimistic this time?
CONDOLEEZZA RICE: Well, we believe that conditions are a little bit
better. First of all, even though the violence has worsened, we think
there's a little bit of an opening made possible by the initiative of
Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, recognizing that out of a peace
of process there ought to be normalization of relations between the
Arab world and the Israelis. We think that even though that is not a
plan, per se, that it is an initiative that says that the moderate
Arab states want to accept responsibility for being part of the
solution and so we want to explore that opening.
As I also said, General Zinni is going with a mandate to implement
Tenet, not just to shuttle back and forth between the parties, not to
get known by them. He went in a kind of an introductory fashion a
couple of times ago, but really to get down to the business of
implementing the Tenet plan.
JIM LEHRER: As I'm sure you're aware people are increasing...people on
the outside are increasingly saying that the hostility and the
mistrust between the Israelis and the Palestinians is so severe that
only the United States can take the steps that are necessary to,
first, stop the violence, and then get something going toward peace.
Do you and the president now accept that as a premise?
CONDOLEEZZA RICE: The United States has always accepted as a premise
in this Administration has always accepted as the premise that the
United States has a vital role to play in this region. From the very
start, the president has been involved on a very intense basis.
Secretary Powell is involved in the region almost daily, in phone
calls to Chairman Arafat, to Prime Minister Sharon, to others in the
region. And after all, we did put forward the Tenet work plan and
really began the work of trying to implement Mitchell. So we've been
very involved in the last 14 months.
What has changed here, we think, is a little opening in which our
consultations with our moderate Arab friends -- Saudi Arabia, Egypt --
suggest that a concerted effort by the parties in the region and also
with the European Union might be needed now to push forward a little
bit what are some positive steps that the parties have taken.
You mentioned that Prime Minister Sharon has lifted the domestic
travel ban on Chairman Arafat. Chairman Arafat did make the arrests.
Prime Minister Sharon said that he was prepared to forego the seven
days of continuous calm before beginning the Tenet implementation. So
there is a lot stirring, and the president made the judgment that this
is a time when General Zinni might be able to make a difference.
JIM LEHRER: As you know also, most immediate past presidents of the
United States have truly gotten personally involved: bringing the
parties to Washington, meeting them, taking them outside of Washington
to meetings, et cetera. Has President Bush considered that?
CONDOLEEZZA RICE: President Bush is prepared to be involved in any way
that is likely to move the process forward. Now, he has had several of
the Arab leaders here. He's had Prime Minister Sharon here a number of
times. He talks frequently to them. And he is very involved on the
phone, in personal meetings, in trying to push the process forward.
We've not yet been in a position where the parties were ready to come
together in a rather high-profile way because conditions on the ground
have just not permitted it.
The important thing right now is to take a step by step process that
gets us first into a better security situation -- and we think the
immediate implementation of Tenet can do that -- and then can move us
into the Mitchell Plan, which is, after all, a blueprint that both
sides have agreed is the way forward. And so we believe we've got some
tools, but the president is prepared to do whatever is necessary when
he thinks that it can move the process forward.
JIM LEHRER: Now, back to the Cheney visit to the area. Taking action
against Iraq is something he's going to be talking to these folks
about, is that correct?
CONDOLEEZZA RICE: He will certainly talk about Iraq, but I think that
people need to get out of their minds the kind of image of Secretary
of Defense Richard Cheney who went in the fall of 1990 in advance of
imminent action against Iraq. President Bush has made no decision
about the use of force against Iraq. The vice president will go there.
He will consult with our allies and friends in the region.
Obviously, President Bush has put the world on notice that the status
quo with Iraq is not acceptable. We have a country that continues to
flaunt its international obligations undertaken in 1991 in the
armistice, that continues to try to acquire weapons of mass
destruction. After all, there is a reason that Saddam Hussein does not
want weapons inspections in Iraq. It's...obviously he's got something
to hide.
And this is a regime that continues to threaten its neighbors,
threaten its own people and threaten world peace and stability. And so
it isn't a situation that can continue forever. And the vice president
will talk to our friends in the region about what we might do, but he
is not carrying a decision by the president of the United States to
use force against Iraq. That simply isn't the case.
JIM LEHRER: How seriously do you take these meetings last week at the
UN between Iraq and the officials of the United Nations about
readmitting inspectors into Iraq?
CONDOLEEZZA RICE: We need to be very clear on the purpose of weapons
inspections. These are not inspections for inspections' sake. They are
instrumental to make sure that Iran...that Iraq is not trying to
acquire weapons of mass destruction. In fact they were supposed to be
the ability to give testimony that there are no such programs.
And so when we focus on weapons inspections in Iraq, we have to focus
on weapons inspections that would be effective enough to be sure that
this man is not trying to do what we know he has tried to do over the
last 20 years. Ultimately, the United States believes that regime
change in Iraq is going to be best for the Iraqi people and for the
region. But clearly weapons inspections that are tough, weapons
inspections that cannot be challenged, weapons inspections in which
Saddam Hussein is not trying to soften the edges of them would be a
helpful step forward.
I have no idea whether Iraq was serious in its conversations with the
Secretary-General, but I will note that the Iraqis, in a fashion that
is typical, tried to put all kinds of other issues on the table
instead of concentrating on their obligation not to have weapons of
mass destruction.
JIM LEHRER: So you don't see that as any kind of hopeful sign that
Iraq has had a change of heart.
CONDOLEEZZA RICE: We've been down this road before, and there is
nothing in Iraq's past or present that suggests that they're serious
about weapons inspections that would make clear that they have no
weapons of mass destruction.
JIM LEHRER: Is it fair to say, Dr. Rice, that all of our major allies
-- at least those who have spoken publicly with a couple of exceptions
-- have come out loud and clear against military action against Iraq?
CONDOLEEZZA RICE: I think it's not fair to say that our friends and
allies have said that they're unequivocally opposed to any particular
action against Iraq. What they said is they want us to be cautious,
that they understand fully the threat that Iraq poses, and I want to
be very clear that the United States has not said that the time has
come for the use of force against Iraq. We're in a phase of consulting
with our friends and allies.
What the president has made very clear is that the status quo is not
acceptable. We cannot sweep under the rug what Iraq has been doing for
the last ten years. We cannot pretend that this regime is one that can
be trusted not to acquire weapons of mass destruction. This is a
problem that the world had better get serious about very soon.
JIM LEHRER: Speaking of weapons of mass destruction, this weekend news
about the US working on contingency plans for possibly using nuclear
weapons against seven countries including Iraq. Has the president in
fact lowered the threshold for using nuclear weapons?
CONDOLEEZZA RICE: If anything, this president has been a president who
believes that a decreased reliance on nuclear weapons is warranted.
After all, he is the one who has talked about missile defense to
defend against these kinds of threats, especially the threat of
potential weapons of mass destruction for rogue states.
He's the president who... and by the way the nuclear posturing view
also says this: That because of our improved strategic relationship
with Russia, we no longer face an imminent threat of nuclear war with
Russia and can talk about reducing our offensive forces by up to
two-thirds.
What this document does is what any military has to do, and that is,
to review the contingencies, review the threats and look at the full
range of options that the president needs to deter the use of weapons
of mass destruction against the United States, its forces or its
friends and allies.
Now, it has long been American policy that the use of a weapon of mass
destruction against the United States, its friends or its forces,
would be met with a devastating response. And the president cannot
take any options out of his arsenal in making very clear the pledge
that a use of weapon of mass destruction against us would be met with
a devastating response. That is how you deter the use of one of these
weapons against you.
But the idea that this somehow lowers the threshold for nuclear war
couldn't be further from the truth. No one wants to use nuclear
weapons, and this president has gone a long way to encouraging and to
pressing the case for things like missile defense, which might make it
unnecessary to worry so much about these weapons of mass destruction.
JIM LEHRER: Finally, Dr. Rice, we're going to go from you in a moment
to a discussion about 9/11 and how it's changed America and Americans.
How would you answer that question, from your perspective?
CONDOLEEZZA RICE: Clearly 9/11 changed the way that we think about our
vulnerability. It was a shock to us, I think, that our own openness,
the fact that we are a society that welcomes people into our midst and
that we move openly and freely was used against us in the way that it
was. We became very clear... it became very clear to us that we were
not going to be able to remain invulnerable to attack as we had
thought we were and that in this case the best defense is probably a
good offense, that is, to go after these terrorists where they live.
It changed our concept of security, but fortunately it didn't change
our sense of who we are. And, in fact, I think it really reinforced
and strengthened our sense of who we are. We emerged from 9/11
stronger as one people. We emerged from 9/11 more cognizant and
valuing more the freedoms and the values that we enjoy.
So as the president said on that very day, out of the horrible tears
that we shed for those who lost their lives, for the wounded and maybe
for the loss of innocence of America about its vulnerability, we
gained a stronger sense of just how very strong the fabric of this
society is.
JIM LEHRER: Dr. Rice, thank you very much.
CONDOLEEZZA RICE: Thank you.
(end copyright-cleared transcript)
      



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