WASHINGTON – This is a partial transcript of Special Report with Brit Hume, June 20, that has been edited for clarity. Click here to order the complete transcript.
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JIM ANGLE, HOST: The president said this week that the international community will not tolerate Iran developing nuclear weapons. What does he mean by that?
NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER CONDOLEEZZA RICE: The president was simply sending a strong signal to the international community that the upcoming IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) report should give everyone pause about the activities in which Iran has been engaged.
And the U.S. has long suspected that under the cover of the civilian nuclear program, that the Iranians were trying to develop a military useful nuclear program
And this was just an effort to mobilize the international community. We've got a very good statement out of the IAEA. The world is now going to have to decide what it can do to make certain that Iran takes the obligation that it has as a member of the NPT to allow inspections and to answer the very important and very troubling questions that came out of the IAEA report.
ANGLE: Now you say to mobilize the international community — there were some people, as there always are, who interpret this as the statement that the president of the U.S. would not tolerate Iran developing nuclear weapons and with the suggestion that there might be more to it than just a diplomatic effort.
RICE: Well, the course that we're on at this point is to work with the IAEA and to work with others to do what really needs to be done here, which is to get into Iran in a more intrusive way, for inspections to make sure that the Iranians are living up to their obligations and that's the course that we are pursuing
This is a difficult relationship with Iran and there is no doubt that we have a lot of differences with the Iranian government.
The president has said that it is important to be associated with the aspirations of the Iranian people
They have had a chance, unlike many places, to express those aspirations a number of times through elections. They always expressed them in favor of democracy and liberty. And so the president also said that was important that the unelected few in Iran, not simply ignore those aspirations, trying to frustrate those aspirations. We have a lot of problems with the Iranian government.
ANGLE: Well in fact, the president said that America those people should know, those who are protesting, should know that America stands squarely by their side. Is the president trying to just recognize the rightness of their cause or to encourage them in those efforts?
RICE: It's very important to recognize the rightness of their cause and to let them know that there are those in the international community who care that they are expressing their rights.
We really do believe that the Iranian leadership needs to be responsive to its own people
ANGLE: But this a tricky business. As you know there is a tortured and sad history in this regard. Former Pres (George H.W.) Bush encouraged Shiites in the south of Iraq to rise up against Saddam (Hussein) in '91. When he came in and slaughtered them, the U.S. did nothing. Go back all the way to 1956 when the Eisenhower administration seemed to encourage Hungarian opposition to the Russians. Again Russian tanks came in to crush them, the U.S. did nothing. Isn't this a pretty tricky business in encouraging anti-government opposition in other countries?
RICE: Well clearly it's important to be responsible. It is important as part of that responsibility, nonetheless, to recognize these aspirations and to let people know that they're being noticed around the world
But the United States does not have to do this alone. Every freedom-loving country in the world should be saying to the Iranian government, "You have to recognize the aspirations of your people. You cannot be a responsible, integrated member of the international community if you don't recognize the aspirations of your people."
We have a number of friends and partners, allies, in the world who chose and have chosen to have an engagement strategy with Iran.
Part of that engagement, if there is going to be engagement, ought to be about the rights of the Iranian people, about the things the government of Iran is doing to frustrate those rights. And so it really is raising the visibility of that internationally.
The president also said that these young people needed to be treated with respect. The world is watching how Iran treats its own people.
ANGLE: Is the U.S. considering a greater engagement, contemplating a greater engagement with Iran?
RICE: I believe we know the Iranian government all too well right now. And the key here is not a matter of engagement. It's a matter of the Iranian government finding a way to deal with myriad problems we have in the relationship. Those include support for terrorism. The Iranians are an outlier on the Middle East peace process supporting the rejectionists who are trying to scuttle this very good opportunity for peace that we have.
That has to be spoken to, and by the way, it has to be spoken to not just by the United States, but by others as well.
We've talked already about the Iranian nuclear program. That has to be addressed. Iranian efforts to support subversion in Iraq, southern Iraq, where the Iranians sometimes seem to be interested in trying to import Iranian-style theocracy into Iraq.
Those issues have to be addressed and from time to time, when it's important, when we have something to say to the Iranians, we talk to them. But there isn't any chance this relationship is going to get better on a broad scale until the Iranians change their behavior.
ANGLE: Let me ask a you broader question about the president's foreign policy. I am often struck by the extent to which, when the president points his finger at someone or raises a problem with someone, the extent to which so many pundits immediately assume the president's next act would be to launch military action. Some conservative pundits encourage it, liberal pundits criticize it, but they all seem to assume that the administration is ready to go to war at a drop of a hat. You even hear people saying we've got troops in Iraq, they can just go over and take care of Iran, right after they finish with Syria and just before they go to North Korea. What do you make of all that?
RICE: It's a little hard to understand, because from the very beginning the president has said that different circumstances require different solutions. And we have a broad array of policy instruments that we use.
In the case of North Korea, for instance, even though he's taken no options off the table, the president's been very clear that he believes this is something that can be resolved through diplomatic means, particularly if the international community and the regional powers will send a strong consistent message to the North that their behavior is unacceptable. We've talked about an Iranian circumstance in which the international community needs to come together to deal with the Iranian nuclear program and the implications of that.
We have lots of different instruments. Iraq was a pretty unusual circumstance, a serial abuser of international obligations, U.N. resolutions that he signed on to after he lost a war of aggression, someone who had weapons of mass destruction and weapons of mass destruction programs going back into history that every administration had worried about. Iraq was an unusual circumstance and people need to understand this. Even though the president maintains all his options in any given case, the president understands that different circumstances are going to require different solutions.
ANGLE: Let me ask you about the weapons of mass destruction. The intelligence communities, the intelligence committees, rather, are now investigating, or at least looking at the intelligence leading up to the war in Iraq. Does this come down ... as credibility ... who talked about this intelligence?
RICE: It's simply revisionist history for people to suggest there was no reason to believe the Iraqis had WMD ... the U.N. report in which they talk about large quantities of missing anthrax ... you only have to go back to 1998 when the Clinton administration used military action ... because they were worried about WMD there. The fact is there is a long intelligence record with many many data points that suggest that the Iraqis not only had WMD, intended to conceal them ... and were making efforts to improve their capabilities. That's a long history ... I'm often struck that people said we should have connected the dots to 9/11. But you have thousands and thousands of dots about the Iraqi program ... and you're not supposed to connect those dots ... I think its revisionist history.