November 29th, 2006 04:39 EST
Interview With Eberhard Piltz of ZDF
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, the two most important items on this major conference are of course related: the increasingly global role for NATO and Afghanistan. There are many in Germany who do not accept the notion that their freedom has to be defended and they even push for (inaudible).
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I think it`s very clear that we are indeed in a global struggle and we don`t have the luxury of sitting home and allowing the threat to come to us. We had a very clear demonstration of this on September 11th when terrorists who had been training in Afghanistan, when Afghanistan was a failed state after the collapse of Soviet power there and a civil war. Those terrorists came to kill 3,000 Americans. That same organization has organized terrorist attacks as far away as Spain and Bali in Indonesia and Jordan. There are terrorist attacks in Russia in Beslan against children, in London against people standing in a subway stop as they try to get to work. And so we don`t have the luxury of sitting and allowing the terrorists to come to us. We have to fight back on the offense. And if NATO is to have a proper role in the 21st century, it will have to meet those threats where we find them.
QUESTION: NATO has some problems in Afghanistan. There are some countries like Germany who have national caveats and are not allowing the troops to be deployed as commanders on the ground would like to have it. Does this hamper or endanger the mission?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, first of all, we respect what Germany is doing and we respect what all of the Allies is doing. This is a new role. We understand that. And it is an evolving role for NATO and I think four or five years ago, were we to be sitting here talking about an expanded role for NATO in Afghanistan, people would not have believed it. And so we have to celebrate how far NATO has come in meeting the new challenges of the 21st century. And that said, this role has to evolve further because the alliance needs the flexibility to meet the threats as the military commanders see them. But this is something that I think we will work out over time and there will be discussions of it tomorrow.
We recognize that there are different histories, different capabilities within the alliance, but NATO is changing, NATO is evolving, and if we are all to remain secure and free, NATO is going to have to evolve. It`s the premier security organization in the entire world. It is the bedrock of security for the free nations of the transatlantic region. And we want it to be vital and capable and it`s making quite a remarkable transition, even in just the last few years.
QUESTION: And this last point in Afghanistan, would you say you are urging the German Government to rethink?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I think we all have to rethink about how much of the work we can do because we have to meet these challenges and we have to meet them as an alliance, to meet them as unified alliance where everyone does his part, where everyone is contributing fully. But again, we understand that there are differences in capabilities, differences in history, differences in constitutional and political structures. But I`m quite certain that working together on the very clear understanding that we have to meet these challenges, that this is now NATO`s role, that we will overcome any difficulties that we currently have, just as we`ve overcome what I think would have been several years ago even an expectation that we might be fighting together in Afghanistan.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, in Iraq the situation seems to be worsening dramatically. In Washington, it`s rethinking time -- the Baker-Hamilton commission, the Pentagon, U.S. State Department -- is that to say that the Administration is rethinking the possibility of victory?
SECRETARY RICE: No, the President has been very clear that our security and indeed that of the Middle East, which is a that place is definitely in need of change, is very much linked to this global war on terror, and Iraq is very much linked to success in the global war on terror.
It is true that we are in a phase now where we face a new kind of problem really since the Samara bombing last February where the level of sectarian violence has grown and has grown as a new challenge.
The thing we have to recognize that this was a plan by Zarqawi and al-Qaida to try and stoke that sectarian conflict and violence between Iraqis. But we also have to recognize that Iraqis, including the political leadership, but also most Iraqis want to live in a unified Iraq. They want to live in peace. They went out in large numbers to vote for a democratically elected government, and our responsibility now is to figure out and to determine how we can better help the Unity Government of Prime Minister Maliki to meet this challenge of sectarian violence as well as continuing to fight other terrorist elements.
QUESTION: So you don`t have -- have the impression that the central government is crumbling?
SECRETARY RICE: Oh, quite the contrary. I think that if you meet these leaders of the central government, you recognize the challenges that they have, you will be quite impressed with what they have achieved and continue to achieve. They have a severe security problem, particularly in Baghdad, and they do not yet have the full complement of forces that they need to meet that challenge.
What they do have, when you see them, is a will to have a democratic and unified Iraq. And I am quite certain that if we continue to work with them, if we, as the President will when he meets Prime Minister Maliki, when we get a better sense of how they view the situation or how they see the capabilities that they have, that they will be able to meet this challenge.
QUESTION: There`s a hope to enlist some other states of the region in this process, also Syria and Iran. Would you be prepared to refuse any --
SECRETARY RICE: The Syrians and the Iranians can at any time follow policies that help in the stability of Iraq. They don`t need us, the United States , to tell them what will help stabilize Iraq. Syria needs to stop permitting the flow of foreign terrorists across their border, many of whom are suicide bombers. Iran needs to act as a respected neighbor that will not stir trouble in the south.
The Iraqis, by the way, are reaching out to their neighbors. Let`s remember that the Iraqis are a sovereign government, and for the Iraqis to reach out to the Syrians and reestablish diplomatic relations as they have, for the Iraqis sent their president to Tehran to talk with the Iranians about how Iran can be helpful, and this is a perfectly logical thing to do. But let`s not fool ourselves. Let`s not here recognize that -- not recognize that Iran is quite capable of engaging in diplomacy that will help stabilize Iraq if that`s what they choose to do. QUESTION: Is that the precondition for America to enter into direct negotiations?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, let`s remember also that it`s not a question of talking; it`s a question of action. Now, with the Iranians we did reach out to Iran on another front concerning the nuclear program. We along with Germany and the other members of the six said to the Iranians suspend your enrichment activities so that we know that you`re not trying to develop a nuclear weapon, we will help you develop civilian nuclear power, and the United States is prepared to reverse 27 years of policy and sit down directly with Iran to talk about their nuclear program and whatever else is on their minds.
But the Iranians have not taken us up on that offer and I suspect that that means that we have a course in the Security Council that we will complete toward a resolution for sanctions. But it`s not as if the Iranians haven`t had opportunities to engage the United States if they wish to do so.
QUESTION: Which is more important in the Security Council -- unity of the community of states or the promulgation of sanctions?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, we have to have both. The Security Council, if it`s to be taken seriously, has got to live up to all requirements. We should remember that in July of this year we had Resolution 1696, which said that if Iran did not suspend enrichment activities by August 31st there would be action under Article 41 of Chapter 7. Now we have got to follow through on that, or what is the credibility of the Security Council? When it speaks, it has to act. And so we are working with our European-3 colleagues and -- Germany, France, and Great Britain -- also with China and Russia, but the international community needs to act or we are going to encourage proliferators to believe that the Security Council`s word means nothing.
QUESTION: Thank you very much.
SECRETARY RICE: Thank you.