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Fulbright Scholars Attend Talk by Condoleezza RicePhoto by Linda A. Cicero / Stanford News Service. Used by permission.

Fulbright Scholars Attend Talk by Condoleezza Rice

Fourteen UCLA Fulbright scholars attend breakfast talk where National Security Adviser appears to depart from the administration's script on rogue states and multilateralism.

By Anson Musselman

"stealthy, small terror networks can wreak untold damage without warning, anywhere in the world"

Fourteen visiting international scholars in UCLA's Fulbright program boarded a bus on the Westwood campus at 6:00 in the morning June 14 to take part in a Los Angeles Town Hall breakfast to be addressed by the Bush administration's National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice. Arriving at the Faculty Center bus stop before dawn, the scholars, from Australia, Russia, Korea, China, Spain, France, and Egypt, were joined by Middle East lecturer and Fulbright coordinator Ann Kerr and myself for our trip to the Bonaventure Hotel in downtown Los Angeles.

Reading between the Lines: A Difference on Approaches to Rogue States

Filing into the large room we found ourselves among some 500 other breakfasters. Dr. Rice, though a loyal functionary of the Bush government, is generally perceived to be in the more moderate State Department, Colin Powell, wing, which has had a running conflict with the Rumsfeld-Wolfowitz forces in the Defense Department. Rice's most quoted remarks from the Los Angeles breakfast address afterward were that there would be "no pass" for the Palestinians on terrorism, that they would be expected to crack down on extremists in their ranks. Nevertheless there were several points in her morning briefing where she seemed to be conducting a pointed discussion with the more conservative faction in the government.

One was on whether going after rogue states was likely to do much to defeat terrorists, which had seemed to be the view of President Bush and the Defense Department. For example, a major reason given by the Bush administration for the invasion of Iraq was that it was a sponsor of terrorism. This idea has generally underlain the administration's thinking from the time of Bush's "axis of evil" State of the Union address in January 2002, which posed the idea that terrorism is rooted in rogue states and that threatening or attacking rogue states can deter terrorism.

In a speech at West Point on June 1, 2002, President Bush had declared, "We must be prepared to stop rogue states and their terrorist clients before they are able to threaten or use weapons of mass destruction against the United States and our allies and friends." More recently, in the president's national security policy of September 2002, deterrence was in general subordinated to a new call for preemption, but rogue states were still seen as the principal sponsors of terrorist groups. Condoleezza Rice in Los Angeles June 12 seemed to depart from that view when she declared that "stealthy, small terror networks can wreak untold damage without warning, anywhere in the world" and that these small networks "have no territory or assets. They cannot be deterred. . . . They can only be destroyed."

This could have been just a turn of phrase, but her evident attempt to separate terrorist groups from the so-called rogue states could also be read as part of the ongoing debate in the administration over how confrontational to be with Syria and Iran. There were numerous reports after the fall of Baghdad to American forces in May that Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz advocated pursuing military action against Syria and Iran, a proposal the administration finally decided to put on hold. The Bush administration did accuse Iran and Syria of harboring terrorists, and Syria seems to now be on the Bush administration’s second-tier axis of evil list.

Condoleezza Rice at the Los Angeles meeting distanced herself from the Defense Department's bellicose stance toward Iran. Rather surprisingly she stressed the elements of democracy within the Iranian Islamic system: "Iran is one of the few places in the Middle East where people have actually had a chance to express what those aspirations are. And when they have an election they express them quite clearly. They are toward pluralism and democratic development -- and that's absolutely clear."

She implied that it is a mistake to view Iran as an enemy, especially at a time when the pro-democracy movement seems to be gathering momentum. She did warn Iran not to permit Al Qaeda to operate on its territory, not to interfere in the Shiite areas of southern Iraq, and not to pursue acquisition of nuclear weapons. But her remarks clearly pointed to a long-term dialogue with the Iranian Islamic leadership rather than any call for their overthrow:

"Iran is a key piece in the Middle East. We do believe that if you have a stable and democratic Afghanistan and a stable and democratic Iraq, and if you can associate with the aspirations of the Iranian people, which are clearly toward democratic development, that sooner or later the Iranian leadership is going to have to listen."

The Israel-Palestine Roadmap

The National Security Advisor gave a clear and generally orthodox presentation of the administration's view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, stressing the importance of the new Palestinian leadership and the need for mutual concessions by Israel and the Palestinian Authority. But there was a stronger note of multilateralism in her talk than is commonly heard from the Defense Department, looking to both the Arab states and the European Union to provide aid in getting the road map to work:

"The Israelis must deal with the settlement activity, dismantle outposts and ease the daily humiliation faced by ordinary Palestinians. The Palestinians must fight terror and end incitement. But real progress requires all of us to recognize that there are more than just two parties with responsibilities in this conflict. The Arab states, the neighboring states must be partners in that peace. They have influence with the Palestinians and they must use it to encourage reform and promote peace. They, too, have responsibilities to fight terror and incitement among their own people."

She added:

"We need help from the Europeans, we need help from the Arab states. Hamas has just said this past week that they want to destroy the 'roadmap,' so now is the time."
On specifics, Condoleezza Rice pointed to efforts to pressure the Saudi leadership to do more to cut off funding for terrorist organizations, particularly Hamas.

"We had a very good discussion with the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia when we were in Sharm el-Sheikh, about the need for the Saudis to do more on the funding of terrorism. And they certainly understand that task. So it's an all-out program to try and deal with terrorist financing. I think it will succeed. It is going to have to have, though, the cooperation of the whole world. And particularly on Hamas, people are going to have to take a hard look at what they're doing and ask if they are prepared to continue to treat Hamas as something other than a terrorist organization. We already treat it in that way; others should as well. . . .

"The Arab states need right now, today, to say that Hamas and the other rejectionist organizations -- which have said that they intend to destroy the road map -- are not speaking for the Arab world. That has to be said, and it has to be said clearly."  Of course, this was before the shaky cease-fire that Hamas has since agreed to.

Accomplishing a Two State Reality

Rice placed some stress on the "Quartet," US, UN, Russia, and European Union, which was put together by Colin Powell to facilitate acceptance of the road map. She insisted that the U.S. intended to hold Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and the new Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas accountable to carry out their recent pledges of concessions:

"It was Ariel Sharon recently who said that the time has come to divide this land between Palestinians and Israelis. He said at Aqaba that he understood that it had to be a contiguous and viable Palestinian state. The principles are coming into place that will make it, we believe, not easier, but more possible to resolve some of the longer and more difficult final status issues about final borders."

However, she warned, "We've asked the Israelis to recognize that there are consequences to the way they fight terror."

"Prime Minister Sharon pledged to improve the humanitarian situation in the Palestinian areas and to begin removing unauthorized outposts immediately. He recognized the importance of territorial contiguity for a viable Palestinian state. And he said: it is in Israel's interest not to govern Palestinians, but for the Palestinians to govern themselves in their own state."

Regarding the new Palestinian leadership's reluctance to dismantle terrorist organizations, Rice said "there is not going to be any pass for the Palestinian leadership on fighting terror."

Trusteeship in Palestine Off the Table

Condoleezza Rice was asked whether Washington was considering imposing a trusteeship over the Palestinians which would involve U.S. troops separating the warring parties as well as assisting in stamping out terrorist groups.

She rejected the idea, but interestingly posed the alternative if the road map begins to break down as an appeal to the Europeans and the United Nations: "The Palestinian people need new institutions that will lead to a state. I don't think they need a trusteeship. . . . We're on the right course, and the right course is to encourage the Palestinian leadership, along with all of its partners -- and that includes an Israeli partner, it includes Arab partners, it includes partners in the EU and the U.N. and the United States -- encourage them to take on the important task of statehood -- fighting terror, having security forces that are accountable, having financial affairs that are transparent, where they've made a lot of progress, and making life better for their own people."

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