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US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Iran, 6 August 2008

Interview With Mike Allen of The Politico and Yahoo! News, Secretary Condoleezza Rice, Washington, DC, 6 August 2008.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, thank you for sitting down with The Politico and Yahoo! News to talk about your accomplishments, the last eight years, and what lies ahead. You’re one of the few people who’s been along for the whole ride, so we have a lot to talk about. 

We’ll start with Iran. A big deadline has passed. They were supposed to tell us if they were going to stop enriching uranium. If they don’t, they could build a bomb. Now what’s the latest on what’s going to happen? We understand that there are some new sanctions that are being considered.

SECRETARY RICE: Well, yesterday, the P5+1, the group that has offered Iran this very generous package but has also demanded that Iran stop its enrichment and reprocessing, the political directors met. They agreed that the Iranian answer is not adequate, that it is not a really serious answer. And so we’re now going to begin to consult on how to get back on the second track, which is to move again toward Security Council – toward a Security Council resolution. We’ve always said Iran has a way out if they ever wish, but we will seriously pursue sanctions if they don’t.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, the time is running. Both the National Intelligence Estimate and the Israelis have said that at this rate, by 2010, they could have a nuclear weapon. Do you think that the time is coming when sanctions won’t be enough? What other sort of diplomatic, military options might we have to consider?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, the President keeps all of his options on the table, but we still believe that the diplomatic option can work and that there is time for it to work, because not only --

QUESTION: How much time?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I don’t want to try to get into timelines. The fact is that we’re working at it every day. There is a coalition of states as well as Security Council resolutions that show the Iranians what they have to do. And we have to remember that it’s not just the Security Council resolutions, but a number of other financial measures that the United States, Europe, and others have taken, and a number of companies and banks that have gotten voluntarily out of Iran because of the reputational risk and because of the investment risk. And you have to hope that there are reasonable people in Iran who see this as not the way to run a country.

QUESTION: I mean, you have to hope, but what are the chances? How optimistic are you that it will work?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I think there is a lot of ferment in Iran right now. You read in the newspapers, even in – even in their newspapers, as controlled as they are, a lot of questioning of the policies of President Ahmadinejad. After all, inflation is running wild in Iran. It’s a country that’s experiencing, of all things, brownouts in a country that has as much energy as it does. 

And so this is a – this is something that is being discussed in Iran. And we keep saying to Iran, and the United States has said we don’t have a permanent enemy here. We can move to a better place, but the Iranians have to make a tough decision.

QUESTION: So do you think unhappiness in the population might --

SECRETARY RICE: Well, not necessarily in the population, because unfortunately, of course, this is a dictatorship. But among the elites, that there may be those among the elites who don’t want to see this kind of isolation because of business interests or others, that you have to hope that that might be the case.

QUESTION: Now, Madame Secretary, if Iran were to have a nuclear weapon, what would be the nightmare scenario?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I’m not going to speculate, but I think the very fact that you see countries talk about the need themselves for nuclear energy and a nuclear option in the region, you could see that it could have significant proliferation consequences in the region around Iran. And so the best thing to do is to not let it happen.

QUESTION: Now of course, the country that really worries about a nuclear Iran is Israel, and of course, their air force has even practiced a potential attack on Iran.  Since we’re such a close ally of Israel, do you worry that if Israel were to act against Iran, that we would be blamed?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, we don’t say yes or no to Israeli military operations. Israel is a sovereign country. But we are in very close contact with the Israelis and we talk about the diplomatic track that we’re on. I think they believe that diplomacy – they’ve said that diplomacy can work here. And I know they’re doing their part to talk to all of the countries with which they have good relations to explain why it’s important to have a tough edge to our diplomacy.

QUESTION: Well, Madame Secretary, you’re the diplomatic voice of the United States. Would you use this opportunity to tell Israel that they should not strike Iran?

SECRETARY RICE: As I’ve said, we’re on a diplomatic course and that’s the important thing.

QUESTION: Okay. Now of course, what makes the situation even more difficult and worrisome is Iran’s role in the oil market. Twenty percent of the world’s oil goes through water controlled by Iran. Is oil Iran’s secret weapon?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I don’t know what the Iranians would do without the revenue that they receive from selling oil. And so the idea that they would somehow deprive the world of Iranian oil exports would have to have a pretty devastating effect on Iran itself.

QUESTION: Now turning to Afghanistan, by every measure, things are going badly there. The Taliban has regrouped. Opium production is up. What do you think needs to be done diplomatically and militarily?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, first of all, I just have to quarrel with the premise. I don’t think everything is going bad in Afghanistan. You have to look --

QUESTION: It can’t be what you would like to see.

SECRETARY RICE: Well – well, it certainly could be a good deal worse if you look at where they were in 2001. This is a country that was controlled by the Taliban. They’ve now had the election of a president. They’re about to have other elections next year.

QUESTION: But look at the trendline.

SECRETARY RICE: Well, no, but the trend – but --

QUESTION: The trendline isn’t what you would want.

SECRETARY RICE: But let me – let me finish, Mike – because I think this is – we have to recognize that there are difficulties in Afghanistan. But the idea that nothing is going right in Afghanistan when health is improving for ordinary Afghans, when education is improving, when they’re building roads and infrastructure, when they are training and we’re training and equipping Afghan forces that are operating very effectively, when there is an international coalition there to support them, including NATO troops, much is going right.

Now the problem is that yes, the Taliban has regrouped, but not really regrouped in – as a military force, but rather in kind of hit-and-run terrorist incidents that, in fact, do affect the population. And so a couple of things need to be done. Afghan forces need to be trained in larger numbers and faster. The problems across the Afghan-Pakistan border have to be dealt with. We’ve said many times that when the Pakistanis were here in Washington just 10 days ago or so, we were very clear that something has to be done about terrorists who are using Pakistani territory to run cross-border raids into Afghanistan. 

And of course, government has got to improve. This is a country that’s really never had a very strong central government. But we’re trying to extend the writ of Kabul out into the regions through Provincial Reconstruction Teams. The Afghans themselves need to fight corruption, which is, in part, one of the reasons for that terrible connection between opium production, terrorism, and corruption. 

So these are all elements that need to be worked on. In places where there are good governors who have taken on the opium problem, you actually have, if not opium-free, extremely rapidly declining opium production. And so there are many things that can be done here. It’s just a difficult environment. This is one of the world’s poorest countries that went through almost 30 years of war. And we keep talking about reconstruction; this is really construction in Afghanistan, because in many ways, these institutions would not exist.

QUESTION: Well, there are a lot of signs of resurgence of al-Qaida. And you said that when you went into Iraq, you would be taking the fight to al-Qaida. In fact, there are indications attacks are up. If you look at this graph from a Rand study --

SECRETARY RICE: Now, you know, I’ve seen that same –


SECRETARY RICE: I know Iran very well. I was very active with Iran at one point. 

QUESTION: And the Pentagon helped pay for the study.

SECRETARY RICE: But I – I’m actually a social scientist. And the first thing I would want to see is, what is the definition of attack. Because I do know that al-Qaida is a different kind of organization than the one that existed in 2001. The one that existed in 2001 was a highly centralized set of cells with highly centralized command and control that allowed them to do the kind of major attack against the United States that they pulled off. There is some –

QUESTION: So you don’t think a major attack like that is possible now?

SECRETARY RICE: Well – no, no, of course it’s possible. And I’ve said many times that the United States is safer, but not safe. 


SECRETARY RICE: They have to be right once. We have to be right 100 percent of the time.

QUESTION: Yes, yes.

SECRETARY RICE: But they are a different organization. Much of their leadership and their field general leadership has been eliminated. They have to communicate in far less sophisticated ways. But they have franchised out. And there are multiple, less connected, less hierarchical organizations. 

And so I think I have to look at a notion of what’s an attack and where. In some places, like Southeast Asia, where we were very worried about an upswing in terrorism, the terrorism threat seems to have diminished. In some places like the Maghreb, there clearly is an uptick. 

QUESTION:  Madame Secretary, is it – are there some ways in which a diffuse al-Qaida is more scary?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, it’s different. And so you have to have different ways of fighting it. But in many places, Saudi Arabia, you see that they have really taken on that al-Qaida leadership and they’ve destroyed a fair amount of it. In other places, it’s still more prevalent. But its defeat in Iraq, which – I do believe we will defeat them in Iraq. We’re well in – on our way to making it very difficult for them to operate in Iraq. 

QUESTION:  How close is that? How – how – on what horizon do you imagine?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I – I can’t get -- I just think that we see that this is a much weakened organization in Iraq, in part because Iraqis rose up against them. 

QUESTION:  Much weakened in Iraq. And would you say much weakened globally as well? 

SECRETARY RICE: I think they’re certainly weakened from the point of view of their ability to get a foothold in the center of the Middle East. Had they won in Iraq, they were talking about Iraq as the nestbed from which al-Qaida would generate. Now they don’t talk about Iraq in that way anymore. 

QUESTION:  But doing the hard jobs that you’ve done for this President, how much do you worry hour-to-hour, day-to-day about an attack on the U.S.? Is it imminent?

SECRETARY RICE: Every day. Every day. For us – for those of us who were in responsibility – the – of places of authority on September 11th, you have to understand that every day is September 12th. It’s your greatest fear. And the good news is we have much more robust defensive measures we have here in the country. We have much more robust intelligence and law enforcement sharing between our agencies. And we have a much more robust international net that makes it harder for terrorists to operate, but it doesn’t make it impossible, and therefore, you have to worry every day that they might succeed. 

QUESTION:  Now, Madame Secretary, the CIA says that Pakistan, our theoretical ally in the war on terror, is actually aiding al-Qaida. Is that why Pakistan won’t let the U.S. put more troops inside to fight terrorism? 

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I think we have to be precise. The point is that Pakistan, the government, the entity – and by the way, I would say they’re not our theoretical ally; they are our ally. They are – there are elements in Pakistan that one worries that there are connections to the militants in the region. There are also clearly efforts that we think are not working to have deals, if you will, or negotiated solutions to the militant problem. And the – but the point is that these militants are as deadly and dangerous for Pakistan as they are for – also for Afghanistan. Just witness the fact that one of the networks there was – is widely believed to be responsible for the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. 

QUESTION:  Madame Secretary, isn’t it time, though, for a bolder statement about Pakistan? This is a country that built up the Taliban. This is a country that sponsors terrorism against India. People are wondering, isn’t it about time to take a tougher stand? 

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I think we’re taking a pretty bold stand. And by the way, the Pakistanis themselves understand that they need to take a bolder stand. Again, this is a threat not just to us or to Afghanistan, but to them. And extremism has taken a place in Pakistan, in part because of the transit of the more extreme elements who were coming out of Afghanistan after the defeat of the Soviet Union. 

This has been rooting in in Pakistan for a long time and it’s going to take a while to expel extremism. You have to do it through fighting the extremism, all out. You – there are certain irreconcilables. You also have to do it through longer term ways of providing education, for the people who might now study in radical madrasas, study in schools that will teach them skills. You have to do it through the economic and social development of places like the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, which are deadly poor --

SECRETARY RICE: -- really poorAnd so there are many elements to this. But Pakistan has a now democratically elected government. That’s something that the United States advocated for. And we’re going to be a partner and a friend of that government.

QUESTION:  Madame Secretary, John McCain and Barack Obama have been going round and round about how fast the U.S. should withdraw from Iraq. Do you think that Senator Obama’s policy on Iraq is too rigid, or do you think it’s flexible?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I see people starting to talk about the issues of when will forces come out and timelines, to me, seem to be narrowing somewhat. But nonetheless, the important point is we’re not talking about how to build on success. 

If I had been sitting here a year ago telling you we would be talking about could American forces, as General Petraeus has suggested, be able to continue to come down, because the Iraqis themselves are so much more capable because they’re taking over more and more security functions, because they’re leading and led in places like Basra in a highly successful operation, and you would have said, oh, come now, that’s wishful thinking. 

Well, the very fact that any discussions now of the roles, responsibilities and aspirational timelines for American forces are in terms of how do we protect the success and move it forward is, in itself, a tremendous indication of the President’s decision to surge forces.

QUESTION:  So taking your point, Senator Obama opposed the surge. But if he were president, it sounds like he would benefit from it. 

SECRETARY RICE: Well, America has benefitted from the surge. Iraq has benefitted from the surge. And the whole region has benefitted from the surge. Look, there – I – there were reasons to have questions about the surge. The President asked all of those tough questions himself. 

QUESTION:  Interesting.

SECRETARY RICE: The advisors asked all of those tough questions. What would our forces do? We weren’t just going to surge troops to keep doing the same thing we’ve been doing. And General Petraeus and the generals there, many of whom had been in Iraq before, came back, had a smart counterinsurgency strategy in which there was both political outreach to Iraqis themselves, the enlisting of Iraqi fighters like the Sons of Iraq in Anbar, and additional American forces, along with the role that the State Department played in sending diplomats and aid workers out into the Provincial Reconstruction Teams and building then on the successes of throwing the terrorists out. So this was a very different strategy. And that, together with the additional forces, is what succeeded.

QUESTION:  Now, Madame Secretary, a lot of people have asked you about serving on a ticket with Senator McCain. If asked, you would you serve on a ticket with Senator Obama? 

SECRETARY RICE: I – I don’t need another job in government with anybody. Look, I’m a Republican, all right? Senator McCain is a fine patriot and he’s really the – he would be a great president. But there’s something to be said for fresh blood. And I know that there are a lot of very good people who could be his vice president. 

QUESTION:  Would you feel safe with a President Obama?

SECRETARY RICE: Oh, the United States will be fine. I think that we are having an important debate about how we keep the country safe. I think we are having an important debate about our responsibilities, our obligations, our interests in the Middle East in the wake of the now increasing evidence of success in Iraq. Those are important judgments for the American people to make. 

QUESTION:  Madame Secretary, the President said all along that the United States would withdraw from Iraq when the Iraqis asked us to. Now, they have. So what’s going to happen? 

SECRETARY RICE: Well, the Iraqis have said that they want to take over more security responsibilities and that they want to have an aspiration of the day when they’re completely in control. I think that’s what we’ve always worked for. And so the negotiations that are going on now on how to sustain a presence as long as it is needed are very important negotiations. But again, the United States worked for the day and the coalition worked for the day when Iraqi security forces would be capable of taking on most of these roles themselves. 

They’re not quite ready. I think the Iraqis recognize that there are still things that they need the coalition to do. There’s still training missions that need to be done. There are even still combat missions that need to be done. But the very fact that we are having discussions with the Iraqis about the turnover of these responsibilities is a happy day for America. 

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, as you know, there’s a new Bob Woodward book next month. You all wait for it and we all wait for it. In Bob’s book Plan of Attack, he talks about an exchange between you and President Bush right before New Year’s Day in 2003. Bob says that this is the moment the President decided to go to war in Iraq. I wonder if you could take us into the room, reflect on that moment. What did the final decision come down to?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, the President had gone to the United Nations in September to – September of 2002 – essentially to say that it was time for the Security Council to mean that there would be consequences if Iraq did not live up to the multiple resolutions that had been passed.

QUESTION: But did he say to you – did he ask you for your personal advice or did he tell you where his heart was, or what happened?

SECRETARY RICE: We did talk about the fact that if the Security Council – if the Iraqis did not conform with the Security Council resolutions, then we were going to be left – left with no choice.

QUESTION: So a little bit of a pep talk?

SECRETARY RICE: No, no, no. Look, I’m – the President and I have our moments, and they will always remain private moments. But we did talk about the fact that Saddam Hussein did not seem to be reacting to the demands of the Security Council, and that that would have to be dealt with.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, as you know, there’s a new book by Ron Suskind, which says that the White House ordered the CIA to falsify intelligence about Iraq’s ties to al-Qaida. Is it possible the U.S. Government forged a letter from Iraq’s intelligence chief to Saddam Hussein?

SECRETARY RICE: The United States Government didn’t forge a letter -- the White House in which I was working. And I think that --

QUESTION: And they didn’t direct --

SECRETARY RICE: And I think the people who he – as I understand it, the people that he quotes as being sources for that have denied it.

QUESTION: And so you think it’s impossible that such a letter was created?

SECRETARY RICE: Look, the United States – the White House was not going to ask somebody to forge a letter on something of this importance.

QUESTION: And so you believe it did not occur?

SECRETARY RICE: It did not occur. The intelligence might have been wrong; that’s now clear.


SECRETARY RICE: Not because people weren’t working very hard. But when you have an opaque regime like Saddam Hussein’s regime, that had used weapons of mass destruction before, that had them before, one can understand how the judgment may have been wrong. But the decision to go to war was based on the strategic threat of Saddam Hussein, the fact we’d been to war against him before, the fact that he still threatened his neighbors, and the fact that we were told that he was reconstituting his weapons of mass destruction.

QUESTION: Now, Madame Secretary, you came to government as a Soviet specialist. And the President looked into Vladimir Putin’s eyes and said that he believed he could get a sense of his soul. Since then, of course, Putin has cracked down on his own people’s freedoms; he has turned out to be a very unreliable ally. How did you all so misread this former KBG agent? 

SECRETARY RICE: Oh, no, I’m not --

QUESTION: Were you out-scooped?

SECRETARY RICE: I’m not so sure that anybody misread it. What we – what we understood was this was somebody who was going to act in the interest of Russia, one way or another. And I’ll say one thing for Vladimir Putin: When he said he was going to do something he did it, and when he said he wouldn’t, he wouldn’t – he didn’t do it.

Now, Russia --

QUESTION: And that’s not true of everybody --

SECRETARY RICE: And that’s not true of everybody.


SECRETARY RICE: So you have to give him that. Now, Russia is a country that I think in 2001 was still coming to terms with what its post-Cold War interests were.


SECRETARY RICE: And if you look at the way that they supported the initial Afghanistan invasion by the United States, even so much as supporting our basing needs in Central Asia, you have to say that this was a relationship that was off to a very good start. And it continued to have some real successes on global nuclear terrorism, on the Middle East, on Iran, on North Korea. On issues concerning the internal development of Russia, we’ve been very disappointed.

QUESTION: Very disappointed?

SECRETARY RICE: Very. Because I think everyone believed that Russia was moving to a more democratic path, and that has turned out not to be the case.

QUESTION: I know this is something close to your heart. Madame Secretary, the Russian energy company Gazprom, says that in a few years it will pass Exxon Mobil as the largest publicly traded company in the world. What do you think the next administration should do to deal with this increasingly assertive Russia?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, let’s wait and see whether or not, in fact, Gazprom meets those expectations.

QUESTION: But the Russians --

SECRETARY RICE: But quite apart --


SECRETARY RICE: -- from whether they do, look, it is absolutely the case that Russian oil and gas diplomacy, the kind of Russia, Inc., is a problem.

QUESTION: That’s a problem?


QUESTION: What do you mean by that?

SECRETARY RICE: A problem. Because it mixes politics and commerce in a way that makes oil and gas an instrument of the state.


SECRETARY RICE: And therefore, takes away, in a sense, some of the market constraints --

QUESTION: Absolutely.

SECRETARY RICE: -- on the behavior of these large oil and gas concerns. But you know, there’s a downside to that. Many of the predictions now are that Russia’s oil production, productivity, is actually going down because they’re not receiving the kind of investment in their fields and the ability to recoup old fields that they actually need. And in this sector of the economy, that sector of the economy, oil and gas, and frankly other extractive industries as well – minerals and the like – the more that this becomes state owned, operated, and dominated, they’re going to continue to have trouble getting investment.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, since the Camp David accords, three administrations have tried and failed to make peace between Israelis and the Palestinians. You’re the fourth, working very hard on it. Why are you optimistic that you could do something in the next six months that you haven’t been able to do in the last seven years?

SECRETARY RICE: Look, it’s not the last seven years, it’s the last 40. And you’re right, and you – everybody has tried and it’s – because the issues are very, very hard.


SECRETARY RICE: But the fact is that they have some incentives now that they didn’t have in the past. I do think it’s a very little noticed fact that in the seven years or so that we have been here, you’ve had the broadening of the Israeli base of support for the two-state solution. When Ariel Sharon and Likud, later on to become this Kadima Party, became supporters of the two-state solution, gave up on the notion of the greater Israel, you had a different circumstance in Israel.


SECRETARY RICE: When you had a democratically elected government in the Palestinian territories devoted to peace, you have different circumstances than when you had Yasser Arafat, who had kind of one foot in terror and one foot in politics. So there are some improvements in the situation. I think the Arab states are more interested now in solving this because they see the strategic significance of doing that when the real threats are coming from Iran.

QUESTION: Okay. But you think they’re more interested in solving it for self-interest?

SECRETARY RICE: I think there is a self-interest.

QUESTION: Do you think self-interest is what will solve it?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, self-interest is very often what solves diplomatic problems.

QUESTION: Now Madame Secretary, you’re about to head to the Olympics, probably one of the better parts of your job. There are signs every day that China is not living up to the promises that it made when it got the Olympics. Just yesterday, we found out that the Gold Medalist Joey Cheek isn’t getting a visa, obviously, because of action on Darfur. Do you worry that President Bush, yourself, other leaders who go there, are being played by the Chinese?

SECRETARY RICE: No, I think the Chinese are getting plenty of attention to some of the things that they are doing that disappoint, given the obligations and the representations that they undertook. And I think there’s a spotlight on some of this.

Now, let’s be very clear, it’s a sporting event. And this really needs to be about the athletes. These are people who have trained for their entire lives for this moment. And so I – we all hope that the Olympics are going to be a great success. We also hope that the Chinese are going to handle this in a way that gives some confidence that, going forward, China recognizes that having gotten the Olympics, it’s being recognized as a responsible stakeholder in international politics.

QUESTION: And do you think they’ve been responsible so far?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, in some things they have; in others they’ve not.

QUESTION: Are you surprised? Like, did you think that they would use this as their golden opportunity to treat Christians better or to release prisoners? Like, were you quite optimistic?

QUESTION: Well, I wouldn’t say optimistic. I think there are limitations on what an Olympics can do for a political system that is clearly still a closed political system. Someone said to me, “The nature of China’s political system was well understood when the Olympics were granted there.” Now, you can hope, and I think we have pressed China, not just during these Olympics but before the Olympics, and we will press them after the Olympics, to make progress on human rights, to assure internet freedom – something that we’re all very much concerned about – to begin to open up their political system. There are lots of pressures and strains in that system. They need a more flexible political system.

QUESTION: So, Madame Secretary, even in retrospect, do you think it was the right thing to do?

SECRETARY RICE: The right thing to --

QUESTION: To give Russia – to give Beijing the --

SECRETARY RICE: It was the decision of the IOC. 

QUESTION: Do you think it gave them leverage?

SECRETARY RICE: I’m, frankly, glad that the Chinese have this Olympics. It is putting a spotlight on China in many ways.

QUESTION: And did it give the West leverage you had never had?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, it’s not so much a question of leverage, but it does put light of day on some Chinese practices that, frankly, I think they would rather not have had in the open. 

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, we talked about some problems area. You personally have achieved a lot – achieved some success with North Korea, talking directly with them, something the President said he would not do.

SECRETARY RICE: Well, no, the President never said he wouldn't talk to North Korea. He said he saw no purpose in bilateral negotiations with the North Koreans. And in fact, this is a multilateral negotiation with the North Koreans, because if this was just between the United States and North Korea, we would not be where we are today. This is because China has played its role, South Korea has played its role, and those two countries in particular have a lot of leverage with North Korea. It is because Japan and Russia have played a role. And North Korea can’t do what they tend to do, which is to blame the United States for problems, get a little bit of help from South Korea, a little bit of help from China. 


SECRETARY RICE: They now have to confront all five parties at once. And that’s the reason that the Six-Party Talks are having success.

QUESTION: Do you worry that your willingness to show some flexibility there has undercut your Iran policy?

SECRETARY RICE: Not at all. We would be perfectly willing to talk to Iran if they, like the North Koreans – the North Koreans have at least signed onto a program for denuclearization that is an agreed program for denuclearization. That’s effectively what we’re asking the Iranians to do: sign onto a framework for negotiations that doesn't have you practicing enrichment and reprocessing while we’re talking; freeze that, stop that, suspend those activities; and then we can negotiate.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, I want to be sure I understood clearly what you said about Iran at the beginning. Because of this foot-dragging, are we going to be tougher with them?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, we’ve been pretty tough with them already. We have three Security Council resolutions. We are making a difference in terms of their own financial --

QUESTION: Should they feel like time is running out? Like, should they feel the heat being turned up?

SECRETARY RICE: They should have felt like time was running out quite a long time ago. Because when you are under Chapter 7 resolutions, when you are having trouble getting banks to come in, getting investment, when export credits are going down from around the world, when you have inflation roaring, time is running out.

QUESTION: And do you think that they recognize that? They’re not acting like they do. 

SECRETARY RICE: Well, we’ll see. They – what is happening to Iran is that its isolation is costing them. It’s having an effect. I think that’s one reason that you’re seeing them trying to give half-answers rather than simply saying no. But the fact is we won’t accept half-answers, either. 

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, to pull the camera back here, how do you think historians will look at this eight years in history that you confronted?

SECRETARY RICE: Look, I know enough to know that today’s headlines and history’s judgments are rarely in the same ballpark even. And you – with big, historical events, it takes some time to know how they turn out.

QUESTION: A better question would be how do you look at this eight years holistically?

SECRETARY RICE: I look at this eight years as a time in which the United States faced a fundamentally new and more difficult challenge of the threats to the homeland in ways that I don’t think anybody was prepared for. And I think we’ve helped to prepare the country well. It doesn't mean that there wouldn't be another attack, but when you look at what the President has done in terms of the intelligence agencies, in terms of using law enforcement proactively rather than waiting until a crime is committed, in terms of the international blanket that has been thrown over the terrorists in terms of networks, of intelligence and information sharing; when you look at the insight that is taking form that this kind of hatred has to be bred in hopelessness and in the absence of freedom, and therefore a freedom agenda that has an answer to the terrorists’ hateful vision; and you look at the fact that Iraq in the middle of the Middle East, one of the most important Arab states, is now a multi-confessional democracy – yes, it’s got its troubles; yes, it’s hard; yes, it’s not completely secure – but that Iraq will make a huge difference to what the Middle East becomes.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, would you say that terrorists have more power or less power than when you and I were traveling around to swing states in 2000?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, the terrorists certainly are more of a part of our daily lives because even though we knew about terrorism – we’ve known about terrorism since back to really, if you look at the Iranian revolution, or certainly by the time of the bombings in Lebanon – terrorism was a part of – a part of our lives, but not in the way that it has been since 2001. And I think we’ve responded well.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, I got a five-minute warning, so I have to ask you, you’ve made a series of whirlwind trips around the world. AP said you were grasping for diplomatic victories. Are you a confident Joe Montana driving to the end zone, or are these Hail Mary passes?

SECRETARY RICE: Oh, no, there’s nothing there. We’ve been setting this up for seven years. The Six-Party Talks have been going on now for four years, and they’re starting to bear some fruit as we are putting the North Koreans out of the plutonium business and hope to put them out of the nuclear weapons business. On Iran, we’ve established a framework in which the international community can put pressure on Iran. We have changed completely the nature of our relationship with Libya. The President has put in place relationships with Africa and Latin America, with Brazil, and particularly with India. I think our relationships in Asia have never been in better shape. And so I am going to run hard till the end because we still have a lot to cement. But we’ve been running hard since we got here, and we’ll do it right to the end.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, I know you’ll hate answering one sports question that – we’ll call this the Jim VandeHei question.


QUESTION: Where will Brett Favre be playing when the NFL season begins?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I don’t know where he’ll be playing, but I hope he’ll have a chance to play. I hope that – from all I read, if it doesn't work out with the Packers, I hope he finds a team. And you know, we have to remember, Joe Montana actually ended his career in Kansas City. Nobody really remembers that. They remember him as a 49er. Johnny Unitas actually ended his career in San Diego, Joe Montana in – Joe Namath in Los Angeles. This could work out for everybody.

QUESTION: What do you think could have been done to defuse the situation?

SECRETARY RICE: Oh, I don’t know. I didn’t follow it that closely. 

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, you’re writing a book. I understand this is going to be sort of in the Kissinger mold. Could you talk to us a little bit about the title, what you plan?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I’ll write a book about American foreign policy in this period of time because I think it’s been fundamentally transformed: the role that we’ve played in recognizing the importance of turning weak states into democratically governed stronger states; the role that we’ve played in changing, I think forever, the way that people think about terrorism and what has to be done to defeat it; the role that we’ve played in bringing the insistence on democracy as a core value in our foreign policy, not just for the rest of the world but also for the Middle East. There’s a lot to talk about in this eight years, and I’m looking forward to writing about it. 

QUESTION: And Madame Secretary, as a last question, as you know, Thandie Newton is playing you in the upcoming movie W. I wonder if there’s somebody that you’d hoped would play you.

SECRETARY RICE: (Laughter.) I have no idea. I didn’t know that. And it’s fine. I’m sure she’ll do a very fine job. 

QUESTION: Do you have a leading man that you’d like to play opposite you?

SECRETARY RICE: (Laughter.) I’ll leave that to – leave that to the casters – cast directors.

QUESTION: And who would you say is your Hollywood crush?

SECRETARY RICE: My Hollywood crush? Oh, I’ve got lots of them. I mean, doesn't everybody love Denzel Washington? 

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, thank you very much for making this time for us.


QUESTION: Very nice. Thank you, ma’am.

Source: US Department of State, www.state.gov.

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