Transcript: Senator Lugar Talks Mideast Peace on Fox News Sunday

The following is a transcribed excerpt from Fox News Sunday, June 15, 2003.

TONY SNOW, FOX NEWS: The American public, having seen peace efforts fail repeatedly during the last four decades, understandably harbor doubts about the prospects for peace in the Middle East. Our latest Fox News-Opinion Dynamics poll offers proof: Only 23 percent of those surveyed believe the two sides will ever achieve peace. But despite that pessimism, a solid majority of the public supports President Bush's activism in the region.

What should the president do next? Here with his take, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Richard Lugar, who next week will lead a congressional delegation to Jordan and Iraq.

Senator, let's start by talking about one of the key points of contention, which is the tactic of targeted killings on the part of the Israeli government. The Palestinians say they are not going to take any steps until targeted assassinations cease.

Do you support the policy of targeted killings?

RICHARD LUGAR, SENATE FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN (R-IN): No, I don't support that policy. But let me just say at the outset that after the Aqaba summit, each of the three parties, including ourselves, has been tested.

The dilemma for the Israelis is that it's possible that Abbas simply does not have security forces that are adequate to take on Hamas, quite apart from even the territories being suggested for his security now. And pragmatically, this may mean down the road -- and this will come after a good number of talks -- there has to be some fill in.

At this point, Kofi Annan of the U.N. has suggested U.N. peacekeepers, maybe even armed peacekeepers. There have been suggestions that NATO may be involved, that the United States may be involved. At that point, the polls turn very sharply south, with regard to United States involvement.

But I would just say after one week of it, in which much of the press, much of the public says, "Here we go again" and sort of back to this. Never underestimate President George Bush. Once his teeth are into this situation, there are likely to be unforeseen circumstances, and the security situation may change.

And what our government is trying to counsel, that is Condoleezza Rice and her calls to Sharon, is, "Don't overstep. Don't get into a posture in which clearly you do some things that ought not to be done."

SNOW: All right. You've laid out a whole lot of stuff. Let's try to pick it apart. First, overstep. Abdel Aziz al-Rantisi, he was targeted the other day. He survived.

There you saw a guy who said, "Cease-fire is not in our vocabulary." Hamas has distributed literature saying, "Kill all the Zionists and Jews."

Again, let us suppose that Israel, having seen the failure so far of the Palestinian Authority to crack down on such people, says, "Look, we've got to defend ourselves."

The United States said that it had to defend itself using preemptive action against Iraq. Why is that not appropriate for Israel?

LUGAR: Well, the United States, on sort of the second pass at this, indicated that Israelis are fully up to the task of dealing with Hamas, and they should. Now, that may mean targeted assassination. It may mean a more comprehensive strategy. How do you deal with a group of people that, in an existential way, want the end of all Jews and Israel? That's totally unacceptable.

At Aqaba however, we sort of laid on Abbas, the prime minister of the Palestinians, the security problem to go after them. He is simply incapable of doing that. He indicated it would be civil war. He doesn't have the forces.

We're going to have to think through how do we do this collectively.

SNOW: OK. As a matter of reality, Hamas has to be disabled in order for there to be peace. You cannot have peace talks between one party that wants to acknowledge the statehood of another and another party that wants to eliminate...

LUGAR: Yes, I'd agree with that, and I think it may not be just Hamas, but clearly Hamas is right in the gun sights. Now, there were two other organizations that I understand participated.

SNOW: Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

LUGAR: Yes, in the bus blowup and the suicide situation.

The terrorist aspect really has to be dealt with. And this is why I say don't underestimate President Bush. I think he understands this. So do the Israelis. So, really, does Abbas, who understands the intifada has been a disaster.

SNOW: The intifada was the armed uprising instigated by Yasser Arafat.


SNOW: That raises the other question: Can there be peace, in your opinion, while Arafat is perceived as a leader of the Palestinian people?

LUGAR: I don't know whether he'll be continued to be perceived that way. But nevertheless, it is not good news.

SNOW: While he holds power, can there be peace?

LUGAR: Probably not. The leadership really has to be clearly centralized in the prime minister so he is credible as a negotiator down many, many steps in the days and years ahead.

SNOW: You have said that the president may surprise people, people should not underestimate George W. Bush when it comes to these things. The president has made it pretty clear that he wants Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian prime minister, to be the in-charge guy. What can the United States do to ensure that he becomes credible as a leader?

LUGAR: Well, that I think we're going to find out in the next few days. And Mr. Wolf is on the ground now with the American group. Secretary Powell will be going to Amman next Sunday for a meeting with the quartet group. And then, as he says, undefined, he has some flexibility in his schedule.

LUGAR: But my guess is a lot of attention is going to be given to Abbas, to his leadership situation and to the credibility of security.

SNOW: We've talked about his inability to have armed forces. Should the United States lend some sort of military aid, directly or indirectly, so that he is capable of dealing with Hamas, dealing with the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, the third group that was involved in the bombings earlier in the week and, by the way, which answers to Yasser Arafat.

Is that a possibility?

LUGAR: Well, it's always a possibility. But having said that, I would just say this is down the trail. We have to be very, very careful about the use of American forces, whether they are to be all by themselves, whether with NATO, whether with the U.N., with WHO.

But clearly, if force is required, ultimately to rout out terrorism, it is possible that there will be an American participation.

SNOW: You have mentioned that Kofi Annan has suggested either NATO or U.N. support, and you have just talked about American participation. Do you believe it is going to be necessary for some international armed force to intervene to keep the two sides from going at each other?

LUGAR: It may be. And even more important, is to rout out the terrorism which is at the heart of the problem.

SNOW: So in other words, international forces ought to be going after Hamas, ought to be going after some of these groups?

LUGAR: That may be the conclusion. Now, I don't want to race ahead of a lot of talks that must take place that set the stage for this, because clearly to the extent the Israelis and Abbas can settle the situation, clearly we ought to allow them.

I'm just saying that failure, really, is not a possibility here, if we pursue it avidly, which I think the president will do.

SNOW: You mentioned the quarter before. The quarter is the United States, the Russians, the European Union, the United Nations.


SNOW: We know that the European Union, many of those, have been supporting the Palestinians primarily, and furthermore, some have led aid and comfort to terrorist groups. We know that that is also true of some partners within the United Nations.

Isn't it really the fact that the peace operation now is not a quartet operation, but a United States one?

LUGAR: Well, I hope not, because -- granted all you have said, some people may need to get over their past tendencies, including Arab nations, who still are aiding and abetting Hamas. That sounding note the president made in his face-to-face meeting with them.

A lot of people need to change their attitudes in the process. So I'm not negative at all on the process of an international cooperation here.

SNOW: U.S. forces, coalition forces, this week found an Al Qaida camp, what appears to be an Al Qaida camp, in western Iraq near the Syrian border. Is it your sense that Al Qaida is actively trying undermine U.S. efforts in Iraq?

LUGAR: Probably. But the evidence of this is not clear. And so we suppose, given the international participation of people who seem to be involved in the harassing of our troops there, that if not Al Qaida, at least somebody else who is trying to shovel them in there.

SNOW: You were highly critical of U.S. efforts right after the combat phase of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Do you think L. Paul Bremer has done a better job?

LUGAR: Yes. I think that he has brought some decisiveness to the process, some order. He has a long way to go, but nevertheless, give him credit where credit is due. It appears to me that he is on the right track.

And I look forward to having the chance to visit with him a week from now, so I will be better able to evaluate how he is doing.

SNOW: Student demonstrators in Iran this week finally were quelled by a series of militants associated with the regime in Tehran.


SNOW: The administration has said, in its own way, to cease and desist.

Would you like to see a regime change in Iran?


LUGAR: Not necessarily.

SNOW: Why not? This is the number-one terrorist force in the world.

LUGAR: Well, a regime change that comes through the democratic processes of Iran, through the students and the young people taking charge -- now, how all that comes about, I don't know. But I think it has to be an Iranian process, which we can assist.

SNOW: We can assist.

There is an Iran Democracy Act floating around the United States Senate, talking about putting some money together to lend aid and comfort. Do you support that act?

LUGAR: No, but I am sympathetic with Senator Brownback's objective.

I'm trying to work closely with the administration. I would admit the administration's policy on Iran, in my judgment, has not yet been formulated. I want to leave some running room for that formulation to occur rather than interjecting...

SNOW: So the...

LUGAR: ... some things that the administration doesn't want. They don't really want that act, for the moment. But, on the other hand, it may be helpful down the trail. So it's sort of out there in reserve.

SNOW: All right. So you expect to see Congress spending some money trying to support the pro-democracy forces?

LUGAR: Yes, I think that's clear.

SNOW: Also this week, in Thailand, a man named Nae Wong Panainam (ph) -- I don't know if I pronounced his name properly -- was arrested with 66 pounds of cesium-137, possibly for use in making a dirty bomb. Talk about that story.

LUGAR: Well, it indicates that the tentacles of terrorism, whether this is another manifestation of Al Qaida or some relative organization, Thailand has been afflicted, as have been the Philippines and others with indigenous groups, with maybe some outside aid and training. It's a serious business.

SNOW: How serious right now, in your estimation, is the threat of Al Qaida acquiring and using weapons of mass destruction?

LUGAR: Well, it's a very serious threat. That is the existential threat for us that has to be averted. So a great deal of all of our time ought to be spent making certain that that connection does not occur.

SNOW: Are you satisfied that the administration is devoting enough time and resources to that? Bob Graham, former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, says the administration and the United States, in many ways, looked the other way during the war in Iraq.

LUGAR: Well, enough is never enough, I suppose. I'm enthusiastic about that particular cause of containing materials and weapons of mass destruction. I feel this really is the threat to the United States.

SNOW: Do you believe that there needs to be more attention and...

LUGAR: Yes, of course. And so some of us, who are advocates of that, really need to keep pressing, and more attention will be paid.

SNOW: And is the White House expressing cooperation with that?

LUGAR: Yes. They're supportive. Not all members of Congress are. The White House right now more supportive than some of my colleagues in the Senate and the House.

SNOW: All right. Senator Richard Lugar, thanks for joining us today.

LUGAR: Thank you, Tony.