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This Can Be Done Through Diplomacy

3 minute read
Elaine Shannon

On Jan. 30, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice spoke with TIME State Department correspondent Elaine Shannon about Iran, Iraq and the Middle East. Here are excerpts:

TIME The Iranian ambassador in Iraq says that Iran plans to adopt a more active role in Iraq. Should that worry the U.S.?

RICE If they were actually engaged in reconstruction in a useful way for Iraqis, that would be fine. But, of course, we don’t believe that’s what the Iranians recently detained by the U.S. were doing … This is all about making sure that Iranian networks that are building or assisting people in building these highly explosive IEDs can’t do it. Nobody challenges that [Iran] can be a part of reconstruction. In fact, it’s one reason they’re included in the international compact. That would be fine. But that’s not what these agents were doing.

TIME Some people say that we’re going to be sucked into a military confrontation with Iran–or that we’re trying to suck the Iranians into one.

RICE The President absolutely believes this can be done through diplomacy. But it requires a couple of things. It requires the international community to remain united and strong. It requires tools like the [U.N. Security Council] resolution. It requires [financial tools], so that you have leverage to bring the Iranians to the table. The point here is to get the Iranians to change their behavior, to get them to change their strategy, to get them to negotiate in good faith on their nuclear program. I’ve heard people say, “Well, you’re escalating.” Well, this is responding, really, to a series of Iranian moves that are dangerous for American interests and dangerous for the international system. TIME Some Arab leaders say they were relieved you didn’t make calls for democracy on your most recent trip to the Middle East. Has your agenda changed?

RICE We will definitely continue to press the democracy agenda because we think it’s in our interest to do so. I’ve done it in public. I’ve done it a lot in private. That will continue to be the cornerstone of our policy because we believe it’s the way the Middle East is going to change. Now, that doesn’t mean that you can’t enlist countries with which you are continuing to press for reform … in what is also a very clear struggle, a struggle between extremists and more responsible states.

TIME Who are you rooting for in the Super Bowl?

RICE Indianapolis. [Laughs] I’m fine either way. I like Chicago. I like Lovie Smith. I like Indianapolis. I like Tony Dungy. But, for me, I’d like Peyton Manning to get this done. Great quarterbacks ought to have the Super Bowl.

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