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Condoleezza Rice to CNN's Hala Gorani: U.S. should help arm rebels in Syria
August 29th, 2012
04:27 PM ET

Condoleezza Rice to CNN's Hala Gorani: U.S. should help arm rebels in Syria

On Wednesday former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice sat down with CNN’s Hala Gorani to discuss whether the U.S. should arm rebels in Syria and why she believes America’s voice is “muted” under U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration. Speaking to CNN at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, Rice is expected to speak Wednesday evening at the 2012 Republican National Convention.

RICE ON ARMING SYRIAN REBELS:
“I think the United States should be participating in...the arming of those rebels, because we have to remember, and you know this region as well as anyone, there are regional agendas by the outside powers that are essentially confessional agendas. Sunnis arming Sunnis, Shia arming Shia. The United States and Europe bring a more balanced approach to the region. And so, yes, we should be participating in it.”

RICE ON AMERICA’S ‘MUTED’ VOICE:
“I do think that this is a time when people are questioning American leadership. You hear where is America? Where does America stand? In part, we've been pretty muted with our voice. I think there was a hope that if we were quieter, people would join us. Well, actually, that doesn't seem to be the case. We have the president of Egypt going to China as his first stop. When has that been the case? And so I think it's a combination of too muted a voice and also our troubles here at home.

**Any use of this material must credit CNN.**

VIDEO LINK: http://on.cnn.com/NXf4vi 

FULL TRANSCRIPT AFTER THE JUMP:

HALA GORANI, ANCHOR, CNN INTERNATIONAL: Something for you. The origins of that where U.S. presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, will make his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention right here behind me in Tampa on Thursday.

But tonight, his vice presidential running mate, Paul Ryan, will take the podium. Ryan is very popular among Tea Partiers. He has a very hawkish stance on economic policy.

Former presidential candidate and current senator, John McCain, will also take the stage. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, a major favorite in the party, was supposed to speak, as well, but he is in his home state right now. He said he wouldn't be traveling to the convention. He is dealing with Hurricane Isaac.

Former American secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, is also scheduled to speak tonight. Of course, associated with the two terms of George W. Bush.

Her speech is likely to focus on Romney's foreign policy credentials.

You may remember that Rice served as President George W. Bush's national security advi - adviser before she became secretary of State.

I asked Rice how she feels now about the Bush administration's decision to invade Iraq in 2003.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE:
Let's remember, this is somebody who had actually used weapons of mass destruction against his own people, against the Kurds, against the Iranians. And so we know that he had a history with weapons of mass destruction.

And I'm very glad that we're not talking these days about an arms race between - a nuclear arms race between Iran and Iraq.

I will also note that, again, yes, it's messy in Iraq, but the Iraqis have a chance to elect their own government.

GORANI: So you have no...

RICE: I'd - I'd rather...

GORANI: - regrets, essentially?

RICE: - I would rather be Iraqi than Syrian these days.

GORANI: Right. Let's - we're going to talk about Syria in a second.

RICE: Yes.

GORANI: But one of the questions was any regrets?

If you had to redo one thing, what would it be?

RICE: Oh, look, absolutely. There are things that we would do differently in Iraq, that I would do differently in Iraq. I would still want to overthrow Saddam Hussein, because he was a cancer in the region.

But, yes, I think we could have built - tried to help build Iraq from the outside in.

GORANI: Right.

RICE: We didn't work as well with the provinces, which we might have. Frankly, we probably didn't have enough forces on the ground to really help in those immediate times after the invasion.

GORANI: Um-hmm.

RICE: But would I overthrow again?

Yes, absolutely.

GORANI: Let's talk about Syria.

RICE: Yes?

GORANI: What would you do differently from what the - what the Obama - specifically, the Obama administration is doing now?

RICE: Well, I think we've wasted a lot of time in the Security Council.

GORANI: OK.

RICE: Russia and China clearly were never going to go along with an international response. I'm sorry that the mission of Kofi Annan, for whom I have a lot of respect...

GORANI: Yes.

RICE: - died as - as well it should have, as he said. And so the United States needs to help rally the regional powers...

GORANI: Yes.

RICE: - to put together a political framework for a post...

GORANI: But military intervention?

RICE: No, no, well, for a political framework...

GORANI: Yes, right.

RICE: - for a post-Sad - Assad regime. And then to help vet and arm the opposition so that somebody can stop the slaughter of the...

GORANI: Sure.

RICE: - Syrian people. When people say if you arm the opposition, it might get worse?

GORANI: Yes.

RICE: Look at what Assad is doing...

GORANI: But what's the...

RICE: - to his people.

GORANI: - time frame for that, because vetting of political opposition and then vetting...

RICE: Well, you know, if we'd been...

GORANI: - armed opposition...

RICE: - if we'd been doing...

GORANI: - takes time.

RICE: - if we'd been doing this for the last year...

GORANI: Yes.

RICE: - maybe it would be done by now.

GORANI: Right.

RICE: But we waste a lot of time in the Security Council.

GORANI: But what do you do from now on...

RICE: From...

GORANI: - going forward?

RICE: - from now on...

GORANI: Right.

RICE: - I would hope, by the way, that some of that vetting has been done...

GORANI: We're hearing reports that it is happening.

RICE: Yes. Then in that case, arm the opposition so that they can resist the terror of the Assad regime, so that they can resist the Iranian interference in the affairs of the Syrian people, so that we can do something about the terrible spillover that's starting to happen to Lebanon and Turkey and Iraq.

GORANI: And would you say the U.S. should be arming...

RICE: I - I think...

GORANI: - (INAUDIBLE) rebels?

RICE: - I think the United States should be participating in...

GORANI: Right.

RICE: - the arming of those rebels, because we have to remember, and you know this region as well as anyone.

GORANI: Right.

RICE: There are regional agendas by the outside powers that are essentially confessional (ph) agendas.

GORANI: Right.

RICE: Sunnis arming Sunnis, Shia arming Shia. The United States and Europe bring a more balanced approach to the region. And so, yes, we should be participating in it.

GORANI: OK, will you, by the way - and this is one of the big questions. We saw you with the now presidential nomination, Mitt Romney, li - listening to his wife, Ann Romney's speech yesterday.

Are you going to work for a Romney administration?

RICE: Look, I wrote a - a memoir called "No Higher Honor" because I considered it the highest honor to serve in my government. I've done that. I'm not doing it again.

GORANI: You're done?

RICE: I loved (INAUDIBLE)...

GORANI: Can you be persuaded?

RICE: No, I love being a professor at Stanford. One has to - to know to move on in life. And I'm very fortunate to have been the secretary of State and that's enough.

GORANI: All right, well, let - let me ask you, we talked about Syria, we talked about - we talked about Iraq, let's talk about Iran.

RICE: Yes.

GORANI: We saw Mitt Romney in Israel. He spoke to Benjamin Netanyahu, the - the prime minister.

Israel is making no secret of the fact that at least it's considering and making plans for a solo attack on Iranian nuclear facilities.

RICE: Yes. Yes.

GORANI: Should they go ahead?

RICE: Well, Israel will do what it believes that it needs to do to secure itself. It's a democratically elected government and I think Israel will do what it needs to do.

My own view is that we are getting to the point that it's obvious that the Iranians are playing games. They're - they're stalling for time while they learn to enrich and reprocess. And, you know that the longer...

GORANI: Yes.

RICE: - they do this, they're going to get closer and closer to a bomb and no one can afford a nuclear-armed Iran.

GORANI: And so is that a yes, Israel should go it alone?

RICE: As I said, Israel will have to do what it has to do. I would hope that the United States is also considering what other options we have. President Obama said, I have a military option and I am not afraid to use it.

GORANI: Right.

RICE: The Iranians need to hear that loud and clear and not with all of the chatter that then sometimes one hears, well, it would be so difficult and this and that. The Iranians need to hear...

GORANI: (INAUDIBLE).

RICE: - that there is a military option and the United States will need it - will use it if it's necessary.

GORANI: Would a President Mitt Romney be more likely to take military action...

RICE: I'm...

GORANI: - against Iran...

RICE: - I'm not going to speculate on...

GORANI: - than Barack Obama?

RICE: I'm not going to speculate on that. I just know that the United States...

GORANI: Yes.

RICE: - of America is ultimately the guarantor here for security in the Middle East. And that means that Iran cannot be allowed to get a nuclear weapon.

GORANI: Do you think America is losing some of its credibility, some of its superpower status in regions such as the Middle East?

RICE: Well...

GORANI: If so, why?

RICE: - well, I do think that this is a time when people are questioning...

GORANI: Yes.

RICE: - American leadership. You hear where is America?

Where does America stand?

In part, we've been pretty muted with our voice. I think there was a hope that if we were quieter, people would join us.

Well, actually, that doesn't seem to be the case. We have the president of Egypt going to China as his first stop.

When has that been the case?

And so I think it's a combination of too muted a voice and also our troubles here at home.

GORANI: Yes.

RICE: We need to deal with our problems here at home if we're going to be strong enough to lead abroad.

GORANI: OK. And I'm going to ask you, lastly, about the Augusta National Golf Club.

RICE: Right.

GORANI: You made history as the first woman alongside another very accomplished woman...

RICE: Right.

GORANI: - to join an all male club.

RICE: Right.

GORANI: So this is a historic thing.

What - what did you make of that?

RICE: Well, the Augusta membership does things on its own time and that's the way private clubs operate.

GORANI: Yes.

RICE: I'm honored that the members of Augusta would like me to be one among their - their number.

GORANI: Yes.

RICE: I am looking forward to playing golf there. It's one of the most beautiful places in the world to play golf. And I'm working on my short game so that I can hold those greens.

GORANI: But, you know, some people said it was - it was just a little bit condescending. You now have a man head of a national golf club, that we have to wait for his approval for two women to finally be admitted. And some have said this is just going to be tokenized women. They're not going to open their doors wide.

RICE: Oh, Augusta is a private club.

GORANI: Yes.

RICE: And it chooses its members. And this time it chose me. It chose Darla Moore. I think we're both very pleased to be here.

GORANI: Who will be your first guest?

RICE: Well, I haven't decided that yet, but I can assure you, I have a long line.

GORANI: A woman, hopefully?

RICE: Well, I...

(LAUGHTER)

RICE: - I hope so.

END

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Topics: CNN International • Egypt • Hala Gorani • Iran • Iraq • Syria
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