August 6th, 2006 04:35 EST
Despite violence Iraq is not sliding into civil war, Rice says
Washington -- With the “turbulent” Iraqi transition from dictatorship to democracy underway, the United States’ best course, according to Secretary of Sate Rice, is to continue to provide security and help with reconstruction in order to give Iraqis “a chance to achieve what they clearly are all trying to achieve.”
Speaking to MSNBC August 4, Rice said despite violent sectarian differences Iraq is not sliding into civil war.
“It’s not civil war when 12.5 million people go out and vote for a government that bridges all the sectarian groups. It’s not civil war when the Iraqis are able to then, on the basis of that vote, form a unity government that is now trying to work both toward reconstruction and reconciliation,” Rice said.
“We know that the dangers of sectarian violence spinning out of control, it’s on everybody’s mind, of course,” Rice acknowledged. But she said she was sure the Iraqis do not want civil war, because despite the dangers they continue to turn up to serve in the security forces and show support for their national unity government.
Rice expressed her confidence in Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s program of national reconciliation, which, in her words, “really does invite people to lay down their arms and to become a part of the new Iraq.”
The secretary noted that the change from Saddam Hussein’s “politics through repression” to democracy in Iraq is a change of historic proportions, and therefore requires patience and time.
“I believe that in fact we are in the midst of this huge historic change, and when you’re in the midst of it sometimes it’s hard to see what’s at the end of the process,” Rice said.
Such an unprecedented process of change is critical to the Middle East region and to the United States’ future security, according to Rice. She stated that continued progress toward democracy demands perseverance.
“What [Iraqis] don’t need is to have doubts that America is committed to them in this struggle in which they find themselves,” Rice said. “What we need to do is to support them in this process.”
SEEKING SUSTAINABLE END TO MIDEAST VIOLENCE
In her MSNBC interview, Rice also discussed the United States’ pursuit of a U.N. Security Council Resolution that would pave a road to a permanent cessation of the fighting in Israel and Lebanon. This plan includes deployment of an international force within Lebanon, rebuilding of the Lebanese military, and helping the Lebanese government extend its authority over the entire country, including the territory controlled by Hezbollah. (See related article.)
“Because Hezbollah is kind of a state within a state, the authority of the Lebanese government to control all its territory, to control all its actors, not to let its territory be used in this way, is really the centerpiece of any future resolution of the crisis,” Rice said.
Rice explained that the international force would support the Lebanese in disarming Hezbollah, but that ultimately disarmament would be a political process led by an empowered Lebanese government.
“The real key here, of course, is to create conditions in the south [of Lebanon] so that [Hezbollah] cannot operate freely in this militia way without the consent of the Lebanese government, without the consent of the Lebanese armed forces,” said Rice.
Focusing on the need for a sustainable peace in the region, Rice noted that “while clearly this terrible spasm of violence has had tremendous cost” in human losses for both Lebanon and Israel, any ceasefire must do more than stop the violence temporarily. The agreed-upon solution must, according to Rice, “not allow this to happen again in several months or even in several years.”
CUBA WILL HAVE U.S. SUPPORT DURING TRANSITION TO DEMOCRACY
Addressing the issue of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro’s failing health, Rice reiterated the U.S. position expressed in her address to the people of Cuba via Radio and TV Marti, noting that in the event of a regime change in Cuba, the United States is ready to provide aid to the Cuban people. (See related article.)
“We’re working with international partners to make certain that the Cuban people know that they would have support and help in what will undoubtedly be a difficult transition,” Rice said.
Asked about the possibility of a mass exodus from Cuba, the secretary said the United States believes Cubans should stay in Cuba and “be a part of what will be a transition to democracy.”
A transcript of Rice’s interview with MSNBC is available on the State Department Web site.
(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)
Source: US State Dept.