15 September 2005
Rice Urges World Community To Reject Iran's Nuclear Program
Calls for united response to Tehran's violation of Paris Accord
Iran’s nuclear program is a danger for the Middle East and should be a source of concern for the entire international community, according to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
“[A]nytime you have a nontransparent government that has hostile intentions toward our interests and those of our friends in a region as volatile as the Middle East, it's dangerous,” Rice told the Fox News editorial board September 14.
“And Iran is not just a normal state.," she said. "Iran is the largest supporter of terrorism worldwide and certainly in the Middle East. Iran has a terrible human rights record. It's a state whose political circumstances are going backwards, not forward… and you say now, after that, that they are engaged in suspicious nuclear activities. You have a serious problem.”
Rice expressed particular concern over Iran’s recent abandonment of the November 2004 Paris Accord in which it agreed to suspend all nuclear fuel cycle activities. Iran resumed uranium conversion in August in violation of that agreement and over the protest of the International Atomic Energy Agency. (See related article.)
“I do think that the Iranians have to get a message that they can't just break out of the Paris Agreement and have everybody say, well, okay, we'll move to the next stage,” she said.
Iran signed the agreement with France, Germany and Great Britain, collectively known as the EU-3, as part of broader negotiations aimed at providing it with economic and political incentives to abandon its nuclear-fuel-cycle program. The international community is concerned that the process used to produce fuel for civil nuclear power reactors can also be used to produce weapons-grade nuclear material.
Rice said there is broad international consensus that Iran should not be allowed to pursue nuclear weapons. She pointed out that the Russians, who are building a nuclear reactor in Bushehr, Iran, have made clear that they will demand the return of all used fuel. “[T]he best proliferation safeguard that you can put in, if you put a civilian nuclear power plant in somebody's country," she said, "is to take back the fuel. It then can't be reprocessed and used for building a bomb.”
She said the entire international community must place constraints on Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
The secretary also called on the international community to put pressure on Syria to change its policies with regard to the rest of the Middle East, particularly its interference in the internal affairs of Lebanon and its support for terrorists in Iraq and the Palestinian territories.
“[T]he Syrians are frustrating the hopes of the Lebanese people. They're frustrating the hopes of the Iraqi people. Literally, their activities are helping to kill Iraqi people. And they are frustrating the hopes of the Palestinians by supporting Palestinian rejectionist groups that are causing trouble for [Palestinian President] Mahmoud Abbas,” she said.
Following is a transcript of the secretary’s interview:
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Office of the Spokesman
(New York, New York)
September 14, 2005
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice With The Fox News Editorial Board
September 14, 2005
1211 Avenue of the Americas
New York, New York
(3:30 p.m. EDT)
QUESTION: Okay, would you like to start off with anything?
SECRETARY RICE: No, I think since we don't have that much time, why don't we just go around?
QUESTION: Well, we told them you had O'Reilly coming up so their job was to get you ready -- (laughter) - (inaudible) keep interrupting you. (Laughter.)
SECRETARY RICE: That's one way to do it, if you want to get ready now. But whatever is on your mind. I think we'll just start with questions.
QUESTION: Well, you've just been over to the United Nations, obviously, and that's a place of some interest to Fox News.
SECRETARY RICE: Sure.
QUESTION: Been over there and found it not entirely ship-shape. I just wondered what your reading of the place is.
SECRETARY RICE: Well, let me go first to the question about reform because, obviously, this is an institution that is badly in need of reform. And part of it is it's 60 years old and the institution that was there 60 years ago is not the institution that should be there now. On the other hand, it just has a lot of problems and bureaucracy and lack of accountability that are something we have to get fixed.
The process of trying to get a high-level document that would launch the reform was, I would say, a moderate success. I actually think it was not the disaster that people are describing because, from our point of view, we got pretty strong language directing that there shall be management and Secretariat reform. It doesn't say precisely what that will take because there are states that are blocking a strong Secretariat, which is really what you need. I mean, when you look at what the Secretary General is actually capable of doing, nobody could run an organization with those kinds of -- with 191 nations having to practically approve everything.
And so I think on the management reform issues it's a chance to keep that agenda alive. We got rid of the Human Rights Commission and established a human rights council. It's still going to be a struggle for what the rules are for getting on it. But I think everybody was generally embarrassed that Sudan, at the same time that they were being accused of genocide, was actually elected to the commission. So we're probably doing all right there.
So I think there are some good things about this document and, you know, we'll just have to keep pressing the reform agenda and we will keep pressing the reform agenda. Because what I've been saying to the UN and to my foreign minister friends is that you don't understand in the Congress there are bills that would actually cut U.S. appropriations to the United Nations if reforms don't take place; and while the Administration doesn't support those bills, we do, in fact, believe that reform is an absolute necessity in order to be able to certify to the American taxpayer that these are dollars well spent. So we're going to keep pressing the reform agenda.
On the other hand, we had two really terrific experiences over there today. One was the Security Council meeting on terrorism where I thought there was some just powerful, powerful statements made about terrorism, especially Prime Minister Blair, who said we need to stop letting the terrorists make excuses, use as an excuse for their extremism; they are the problem, their extremism. He said they say it's Iraq, they say it's Afghanistan. If it weren't Iraq or Afghanistan, it would be because we're in the Middle East. He said let me remind you that September 11th was well before Iraq or Afghanistan. It was a very, very powerful statement, language that now, I think, will give cover to some countries that need to get laws against incitement and the like. But I found that session far more energizing than I really thought I would.
And then we went from there to a Democracy Fund creation. The President called for this two years ago and it was the Indians who came and said, you know, we're the world's largest democracy, we'd like to lead this effort. So Australia, the United States, India have each committed $10 million. Various countries have committed different amounts. And this will be a fund for places post-election to be able to get money from the UN to build democratic institutions, press institutions, party institutions, civil society. And what was really encouraging to me is, for all of its problems -- and the UN has many -- you can have some effect on its agenda if you are purposeful and you're tough about it. And the President has been purposeful and tough about it and the UN is now talking about terrorism and talking about democracy in ways that it just was not two or three years ago and that's pretty welcome. We had around the table Georgia and Mongolia and Iraq was there at the democracy roundtable, so it was great.
QUESTION: Has the purpose of the UN changed since its inception?
SECRETARY RICE: I would say, Roger, that the purpose of the UN was never fulfilled. You know, it had -- it was supposed to be -- if you look at its charter, it's a pretty good charter in terms of promotion of human rights. Really, it's a charter that could support a democracy agenda very easily. For a variety of reasons, mostly having to do with the Cold War, it never got there.
After the end of the Cold War, I think it drifted for a while. And was its agenda going to be development? Was its agenda going to be continuing to say hostile things about Israel? And what was its agenda going to be? And I do think, as I said, you know, it's not easy to bring 191 countries together around anything, but the post-Iraq phase, where I do think people have to confront the question what happens when you cannot take corrective action, has been a period where I think that agenda is slowly changing. And it's one reason that for all the frustrations, for all of the, you know, you can't get reform, it's hard to get things through, it is an institution that could be moving in ways that are quite favorable to our agenda.
And, you know, I'm around a lot of UN skeptics. I can be skeptical of the UN myself. But when I look back on the last year and I look at the passage of Resolution 1559 that basically laid the groundwork to get the Syrians out of Lebanon, I look at the creation of the Democracy Fund, I look at the creation today of the resolution on terrorist incitement, we are winning some and the President is beginning to change that agenda.
QUESTION: How great is the threat from Iran and how confident are you in our ability to monitor that threat around the world?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, anytime you have a nontransparent government that has hostile intentions toward our interests and those of our friends in a region as volatile as the Middle East, it's dangerous. And Iran is not just a normal state. Iran is the largest supporter of terrorism worldwide and certainly in the Middle East. Iran has a terrible human rights record. It's a state whose political circumstances are going backwards, not forward. When you look at where Iran was just a few years ago, it looked like there were some reform seeds in Iran. Now it's gone back.
And then you put on top of that Iran's stated insistence that Israel should be driven into the sea and you say now, after that, that they are engaged in suspicious nuclear activities. You have a serious problem.
I still think that there is a quite a bit of room and scope to put enough pressure on Iran diplomatically to at least constrain Iranian activities significantly. I didn't say halt Iranian activities because you never know what you don't know in a society that is that closed. But if, for instance, you could keep the Iranians from enriching and reprocessing and learning how to do that, that would be constraint. The fact that internationally now when states like the Russians say that they're going to sell a reactor to the Iranians, they say they're going to back the fuel, that's a constraint.
And the world is not perfect in international politics. You can't always get a 100 percent solution. But what you can do is to put a lot of constraints and barriers to an Iranian nuclear weapon if you can get the international community to be tough about doing exactly that. And that's the struggle. I think the European 3 have actually been good. We are going to see what will happen, if we get a referral on September 19th, that will be good, but I think the issue of a referral is something that we'll be working for a while. I'm not so concerned about exactly when it happens because I don't think this matter is so urgent that it has to be on September 19th.
I do think that the Iranians have to get a message that they can't just break out of the Paris Agreement and have everybody say, well, okay, we'll move to the next stage. This is more about a political message to Iran right now than anything else.
QUESTION: But there are people in authority in Iran who, if they had a nuclear weapon, might be willing to use it.
SECRETARY RICE: Yeah. And, well, I don't know, given that there are still significant deterrents to anybody using a nuclear weapon. You know, your final refuge is that a state that uses a nuclear weapon takes a risk that it's going to pay a very high price, maybe that it's going to cease to exist. So you still have deterrence working for you. But I would not want to test the proposition quite that way, so I think you have to do everything that you can to prevent the Iranians getting a nuclear weapon. And on that, you have a lot of consensus. The problem is you can have consensus on a goal and have a lot of differences about tactics, and I think that's what emerges. But, in fact, the world has hung together fairly well given that the Iranians have not been transparent in what they have been doing.
QUESTION: You were very, I thought, candid with the New York Times after the last Board of Governors meeting when you said we and the Europeans have agreed that this should be a two-step process; that there would be a call for the Iranians to come back, in part, to build consensus within the Board of Governors, then there would be a report from ElBaradei and a referral.
SECRETARY RICE: Yeah. And --
QUESTION: Are the Europeans going to keep to that aspect of it?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I don't think this is an issue of whether the Europeans believe that they have a grounds for a referral. I don't think this is an issue with the Europeans. The question is how much support can you bring that is non-European support. That's really more the issue.
QUESTION: Can we switch to China for a second?
SECRETARY RICE: Could I just say one other thing?
QUESTION: Yeah, go ahead.
SECRETARY RICE: The French Foreign Minister again today in his comments mentioned referral, so I don't think we're having a problem with Europe, actually.
QUESTION: I'm talking to people coming back from China who were optimistic or more optimistic a year or so ago about the ability to do business in China, about our relations with China, and they're more pessimistic today. Is that real? Are you feeling that? Is there more going on that we see? The Chinese seem to have gotten a lot tougher on business over there and so on.
SECRETARY RICE: I do think it's a mixed picture and it's complicated. I don't sense that it's that much harder today than it was a year ago, but the problem is that every year that goes by that China doesn't make certain reforms is a problem for the international economy and it becomes a cumulative problem because the trade balances get bigger -- or trade imbalances get bigger and intellectual property rights becomes more of a problem.
And the way that I'd put it is that it's not that we don't want the Chinese economy to grow. My goodness, a growing, robust Chinese economy is terrific for everybody. It gives impetus to more markets, it gives impetus therefore to better jobs, it gives impetus to goods that can come into the United States at reasonable prices, and all of that's good. The problem is that it's a very big economy that is growing outside of the rules of the international economy, like protection of [intellectual] property, like a currency that makes sense in terms of its flexibility in terms of the market, market rate.
I'll give you another example of one that's been troubling but it hasn't yet gone into effect. There's a law that is sitting there that would prohibit sales of foreign software to government entities in China. Now, given how much of the economy is still in the public sector in China, that would be a very protectionist measure against software. So we've been fighting that pretty hard. But sooner or later, the fact that the Chinese economy is not yet reformed in the context of the way market economies work, and yet it has a huge position inside the international economy, is going to be a problem. I think that may be what you're sensing is that the reforms are just not moving as quickly as they probably should.
QUESTION: Whenever there's a gathering like this in New York, we hear a lot about the universal anti-Americanism from everybody who has come. Is that the feeling that you are getting now, especially in relation to the Administration?
SECRETARY RICE: Oh, I think the United States is, you know, the biggest, most powerful country and some of that comes with being the biggest and most powerful country. I'd just say I find the atmosphere pretty good. It is certainly better than it was a couple of years ago in the immediate aftermath of Iraq. I don't, frankly, think that it's anything we did. I think the fact that you had 8.5 million Iraqis go to vote made a lot of states that had thought that leaving Saddam Hussein in power was okay wonder about what they were really saying about their own values.
And I think you now see that, you know, there's a lot of saying, oh, you know, Iraq will never work and so forth, but there's also -- not never work. You know, we have to make Iraq work but it's very tough and it's brutal. But you don't hear anybody saying any longer that it was somehow illegitimate to overthrow Saddam Hussein. And the best spokespeople for that are the Iraqis themselves. Talabani said something yesterday that really struck me. He said there was a war going on before you came to liberate Iraq. He said it was going on inside Iraq. Saddam Hussein against the Iraqi people. And that's why so many people ended up in mass graves and so many people ended up being gassed and chemical weapons used against them. And the more it becomes too a clear divide that this is not -- these are not resistance forces, this isn't somehow Ho Chi Minh, you know, if you wanted to --
QUESTION: He was overrated, too.
SECRETARY RICE: Yeah, yeah, especially in what happened afterwards. But, you know, this isn't a national resistance force. These are bloody terrorist thugs who blow up little children standing in line waiting to get candy. And so is anybody going to associate theirselves with that?
So with all due respect to what people have said is our charm offensive, I actually think what's changed is that circumstances on the ground have changed. And you also have to say that the emergence of Lebanon from Syrian yoke, the fact that the Israelis have withdrawn from the Gaza, they were not perfect by any stretch of the imagination but the fact that the Egyptians had elections, the fact that women were given the franchise in Kuwait, if people step back, and I think they're beginning to say, you know, maybe there is something to this democratization agenda and so it's -- the atmosphere is somewhat better.
QUESTION: Is Syria out of Lebanon, I mean, or has it sort of gone underground? Is the question can Lebanon sustain itself?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, Syrian forces, military forces, are out and their overt forces are out. When I was in Lebanon, you just feel the dead hand of Syria. You just feel it. But what is happening now with the Mehlis investigation, where pro-Syrian Lebanese generals are being hauled up for interrogation because they may have been involved in the assassination of Hariri, is a very new dynamic. And people who have known Lebanon for years tell me that one of the most remarkable things, from their point of view, is that it was Lebanese magistrates who issued the order for these guys to be (inaudible). Unheard of.
It means that fear -- there's a piece this morning, David Ignatius had a piece -- fear is shifting. And you see it in when totalitarian systems come under strain. You know, we've seen it all over the world, that, you know, at one point the fear of the population is like this and there's no fear in the coercive apparatus and then it starts to shift. And I think that's what's happening in Lebanon. I think people are less afraid. And what we have to do is we have to keep the international pressure on Syria so that they can't revert to the kinds of coercive tactics that they've used against the Lebanese.
QUESTION: What about Syria in terms of Iraq? Talabani also said yesterday that he was still concerned and still wants to have our backing in terms of keeping those borders shut down.
SECRETARY RICE: Yes.
QUESTION: And the desperation that Syria feels when it watches itself slip out of Lebanon and, you know, the success of Iraq would undermine it even further.
SECRETARY RICE: Yes.
QUESTION: How much stronger can we be, can our hand be, with regard to Syria in that way?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I think we have -- you know, we've got to keep pressing the Syrians and we have to try to maintain -- right now, Syria is pretty isolated internationally because of Lebanon principally, but I have been making the argument to people that, yes, it's Lebanon but it's also, if you think about it, the Syrians are frustrating the hopes of the Lebanese people, they're frustrating the hopes of the Iraqi people, literally their activities are helping to kill Iraqi people, and they are frustrating the hopes of the Palestinians by supporting Palestinian rejectionist groups that are causing trouble for Mahmoud Abbas.
So I think the way to increase international pressure on Syria is to make clear this isn't about the United States and Syria; this is about Syria's being so out of step with events in the region that they are actually frustrating the hopes of Arab peoples who want to make progress. And so that's been the argument about Syria.
The other thing is that, you know, the Syrians might want to be careful. The way that Pakistan got such an extremism problem is it was a transit point during the Afghan war. And it's not at all clear, the Syrians should be reminded, that when this war is over and the Iraqis expel all of these people that these terrorists are going to go home and then they'll have a heck of a problem in Damascus. So they may want to be careful about playing this game, and I think between the Iraqis and pressure that we can put on and the isolation, I'm hopeful that this is going to get better. Because it's not -- this is something the Syrians can stop. When they wanted to cut off trade to the Lebanese, they strangled 47 percent of the trade into the Lebanese, they did it like that. They can control their borders.
And these people are not Afghan or Pakistani style crawling across the border. They're coming into Damascus airport. So this can be stopped. And we just have to keep putting international pressure on Syria that says this is not just about Lebanon; it's about the way you're treating the entire Middle East.
QUESTION: Does the military on the, you know, nuclear relationship between Iran and Syria and Russia concern you, you know, in terms of what Russia is telling them and the fact that they're all sort of -- all three of them are kind of underdogs in some ways in that region who might seek, you know, some kind of brotherhood of strength in that way?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, the Syrian-Iranian link certainly is concerning and it's concerning not just because they have a link, but they also have a common client in Hezbollah, which is a problem.
The Russians are not always as helpful as we would like them to be. I think they're not actually playing that triangle. I think that they recognize that instability here would be a problem as well. And on Lebanon, for instance, they've been right with the international consensus. I don't think the Russians will want to be outside the international consensus and just allied with Iran and Syria. And in fact, on the Iranian nuclear program, while we may not have precisely the same kind of tactical sense of what needs to be done when, what the Russians have done is to demonstrate that they have concerns about the Iranian program because that's why they won't let the Iranians keep the fuel that they're going to run the civilian power plant with. The best nonproliferation -- the best proliferation safeguard that you can put in, if you put a civilian nuclear power plant in somebody's country, is to take back the fuel. It then can't be reprocessed and used for building a bomb.
QUESTION: How satisfied are you with Pervez Musharraf, especially when it comes to the hunt for bin Laden?
SECRETARY RICE: I think Musharraf is remarkable. I really do. Look, it's not perfect. There are a lot of things that I would love to see be done more or differently. And we continue to press on those, you know, and not just on the hunt for bin Laden and al-Qaida but on, you know, efforts to make sure that there are democratic elections in 2007 and all those things. But I am a big proponent of looking at -- not looking at international events in a snapshot, but rather looking at where they were and where they're going. And Pakistan in September of 2001 was on the wrong side in the war on terrorism, flat on the wrong side. A lot of Pakistani links, intelligence and others, to Taliban. (Inaudible) support for Taliban, were one of only three countries that recognized the Taliban. Intelligence links to al-Qaida. Enormous extremist presence inside Pakistan. A.Q. Khan on the loose. The northwest frontier up there, no Pakistani forces had been in there ever and foreign madrasas growing like topsy. If you've now looked at where they are in 2005 - oh, and by the way, I spent Christmas Day 2001 on the telephone with Colin Powell and Jack Straw of Great Britain and my counterpart at the time from Great Britain David Manning, trying to figure out how we were going to run people in and out of India and Pakistan so they wouldn't go to war. You know, in December 2001.
Now, if you look at where you are in 2005, you have rapprochement between India and Pakistan. That isn't perfect but it's moving along and it's largely because the two sides have been willing to take some risk. You have Musharraf trying to undo the madrasas problem, including not taking any foreigners into their madrasas. It's got a large-scale reform of the madrasas. You've got them with, you know, tens of thousands of troops up in that northwest frontier area trying to hunt down al-Qaida and I think making it a lot harder for bin Laden and his people if that's where they are. You've got a Pakistan that is helping the Afghans to root out the Taliban. I mean, on and on and on. It is an - and by the way, A.Q. Khan under house arrest and many of his associates in jail.
So it is not perfect but this is a man who has taken enormous risk to start to turn Pakistan around from the extremist haven that it became after the Afghan War and I think he's an enormously valuable ally.
QUESTION: How much control does he have of Pakistan?
SECRETARY RICE: Most people think that he's got control.
SECRETARY RICE: Yeah. And he's moved smartly, you know, with his allies and so forth. He's also a very good politician. But, I mean, they tried to kill him twice.
SECRETARY RICE: (Inaudible) has tried to kill him twice.
QUESTION: They got pretty close, didn't they?
SECRETARY RICE: Right. They did.
QUESTION: Is the relationship with Musharraf such that he can tell you and whoever he talks to - that he can tell you, "Look, I can help you with this but don't press me on this one. I can't do it for you. It's not going to play locally." Or is it more subtle and opaque?
SECRETARY RICE: He will talk about his internal political situation, I think, pretty candidly. But he's not somebody who makes a lot of excuses, you know, he isn't. And it's impressive what he's done. I think if they can get through the next couple of years and get through elections in 2007, this will be a very different state than it was.
But they've got still a fairly delicate course ahead of them. And we and our policies have to stay focused on the fact that whole region, South Asia, we have a chance to take what Zbigniew Brezezinski once called the "Arc of Crisis" and make it a real platform for American interests going forward. If you think about where Afghanistan was four years ago, where Pakistan was four years ago, where our relationship with India was four years ago, things really have moved on a very fundamentally favorable direction for us and we just have to keep our eye on that ball.
MS. STEVENS: Ten more minutes.
QUESTION: Do you think the American people feel that way? Do you think they're getting that message?
SECRETARY RICE: It's a really good question and I think the hardest job we have is that, from the communications perspective, is that we are in the midst of a huge historical shakeup and change. And all people, including the folks around this table, have to report on a daily cycle. And so it's hard to say to people, "Okay, you cannot judge where this is all going to end up by where it is when you look at this little snapshot," because there's so much swirling around and it is so complicated and there are going to be so many ups and downs.
It's that way with Iraq, too, that it's a lot easier to see the violence than to see the kind of quiet political process that's going on along side it. And I don't blame anybody for that. It's just that when you're in the midst of big historical changes, they're messy and they're violent and they are up one day and down the next. Over the summer, I was reading, and I love biography, I was reading biographies of the Founding Fathers. By all accounts, the United States of America should never have come into being. It just shouldn't have.
QUESTION: It was a mess.
SECRETARY RICE: It was a mess. But the most powerful state in the world at that time, the most powerful empire, military power, you know, they were squabbling and you know, Alexander Hamilton got left by the rest of the New York delegation because they got fed up and went home during the constitutional convention so New York couldn't vote because they didn't have a quorum. You look at it from kind of inside and you think, how did this ever happen that the United States not only came into being but survived another great crisis in civil war and ended up to be the United States that we know today.
Or you look at Germany and you look how the Reconstruction was going at this point in time; or Europe where Communism seemed to be on the march; and, you know, the Chinese Communists were winning their civil war -- and how did it all happen?
Well, in retrospect, it all looked like it happened in a fairly orderly fashion. But, of course, it didn't and we're in the middle of that now and it's like being inside, I think, in the eye of a storm. You can't really, you know, tell what's going on around you.
QUESTION: Does Chris Hill need to do laundry again or is he - (laughter.)
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I hope they'll let him come home relatively early this time. We'll know pretty soon whether or not the North Koreans are ready to deal or not and I don't think we're prepared to stay there forever this time.
QUESTION: Was the President kind of making policy yesterday when he said, what I thought was pretty striking, that governments have a right to want to have a civilian nuclear process?
SECRETARY RICE: I think he was just stating what we see, which is that they have a right. Now, the question is do they have - they also have obligations. So if they have not exercised those obligations and responsibilities, do they forego that right or should they exercise that right? And yet, that's really kind of an argument that we're having with the North Koreans. They say, "Well, we have a right to peaceful nuclear use." Well, actually, states have a right to peaceful nuclear use when they are in good standing in the NPT. And these people didn't just break out of the NPT, they kind of shredded it, you know, and kicked everybody out and - theoretically, do they have a right? Of course. The question is should they exercise that right at this particular point in time. And I think that's what that's going to come down to.
QUESTION: In your present role, and knowing what you know about history, the United States has always spoken about democracy but we've supported some pretty shady types over the years. But we seem to be in a major shift toward exportation of democracy and in a kind of drawing a line in the sand about who we are and who the world should be. Is that a fair comment? And do we have enough allies to make that stand because it's a global shift if it works, but it's a big gamble.
SECRETARY RICE: Yes. I do think it's a shift and I think the President's Second Inaugural was not the shift, the shift came well before that, but I think the Second Inaugural probably said it in such a vibrant and clear way that everybody kind of got it, all of a sudden.
And I think it comes directly out of an analysis of the Middle East because I think I would argue that what happened is that we've always stood for democracy and the promotion of democracy. If you look at the way we dealt with the Soviet Union versus the way most of the world dealt with the Soviet Union, we were always -- human rights and democracy were issues for us.
But we had this carve out for the Middle East because we somehow believed that authoritarian regimes -- the world without authoritarian regimes, would you have stability? And so - and maybe the Middle East weren't quite ready for democracy - there are whole host of excuses. I think that's what's really changed is the view of the Middle East.
And it is, in fact, a risky policy but I would say it is less risky than any other option before us because even riskier is letting the - believing that the status quo is going to hold, which it's not, and leaving the ground to the extremists where the only legitimate political discourse is al-Qaida. What you do have to do is you have to start to create the space for legitimate political channeling of interests and democracy does exactly that.
So when people say, "You know, well," - and I hear it from my European - I used to hear it all the time from my European counterparts, you know - "Well, but the risks are very great. What if the Muslim brotherhood wins? Or what if this or that?" I always say, look, right now, the extremists are winning. Right now - before you start getting - the extremists were winning.
Now, they're in a fight. They're in a fight against something that we know works. They're in a fight against free -- the desire of people to be free. They're in a fight against the ability of people to use democratic institutions to resolve their differences peacefully. They're in a fight against empowered and more vocal voices of moderate Islam for the first time. Now, they've got a fight on their hands; before, they had the playing ground to themselves. And it's going to be hard and it's going to be pretty tough for a while because we are, depending on what you think either at the beginning of that fight or in the middle of it, but now it is at least a fight that has been joined and we have not any longer just ceded the ground to them, which is essentially what led to September 11th.
QUESTION: Speaking of democracy -- and you are variously speculated as a candidate for California Governor some day or a Senator from California, the President of the United States, so will you rule any of those out?
SECRETARY RICE: (Laughter.) I do not want to run for office. You know, I didn't run for class president. I really didn't. I mean, people don't believe it but I really didn't. I was busy being a piano major and a figure skater.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) County Rotary Club, that's not going to be on the schedule?
SECRETARY RICE: No. Not any time soon - well, I might speak at the rotary club but it'll probably be about how, you know, we need to understand better what we're doing in Iraq. I really am - I really hope that if I want to leave anything, you know, and I hate to think about "leaving" things because I still think I'm too young to think in those terms - but -
QUESTION: You are. (Laughter.)
SECRETARY RICE: But we've got a little more than three years now -- three and a half years. And this President, who did not come in office intending to leave the world as he found it, has set in motion enormous historical forces. They were there and one way or another they were going to be set in motion. I mean, and to be fair, I think September 11th set these forces in motion. But the response of our President that September 11th was not a limited engagement; this was now the challenge of our time. We are now talking about a struggle between civilization and darkness. That, having been set in motion, has touched off enormous changes around the world.
When I look at the Middle East, you've really got now tremendous changes going on within the Muslim world, within Islam, within all of these countries. The dictators are being challenged everywhere. I don't think anybody thought you would see Syrian forces out of Lebanon. They're gone. And now Syria is under pressure itself because it may have had, you know, knowledge of what went on in Lebanon.
I think we've got three and half years to try and lay some of the foundation and fundamentals so that when this clay dries, it dries in a way that is supportive of American interests in the spread of democracy and liberty. And that's going to be really hard work for the next few years because making sense of all of this, and it's not just us, of course, I think we do have allies. Prime Minister Blair was unbelievable in the way he talked about -- I mentioned it -- in the way he talked about terrorism today. But he is somebody who gets it, who understands that this is not a limited engagement. There are others who are like that.
And then, there are new allies in places that have had recently thrown off tyranny. You listen to the Poles or the Georgians or the (inaudible) talk about these issues. They know what's happening here. And then you look at new allies like Afghanistan and Iraq and they are the ones that have the most at stake, of course, right now, but they are a part of this story. And trying to help, given that the United States is the most powerful state, trying to help to kind of organize the forces that could on top of these ruins of the old systems begin to build the foundation for a fundamentally new order. That's a pretty tall order over the next three and a half years so I'll keep my mind on that. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: We'd like to thank you, Madam Secretary, for coming and speaking with us.
SECRETARY RICE: Thank you.
(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)
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