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Secretary Rumsfeld Interview with Sabine Christiansen, CNBC

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
February 03, 2006

Secretary Rumsfeld Interview with Sabine Christiansen, CNBC

           Sabine Christiansen:  Mr. Secretary, thank you very much for joining us.

 

           Secretary Rumsfeld:  It is good to be with you.

 

           Sabine Christiansen:  People are following with great concern the dispute over Iran’s nuclear program at the moment. The UN’s atomic watchdog IAEA wants to report Tehran to the UN Security Council. Good news?

 

           Secretary Rumsfeld:  There hasn’t been much good news about Iran. It’s been a problem, it’s been building as you know well for many, many months. With the election of their new president and the public pronouncements he has made - a world without Israel and a world without the United States - and the interest he has demonstrated and the threats he’s made with respect to nuclear capabilities,  there hasn’t been much good news.

 

           The European countries have been working with Iran and thus far not been successful. The IAEA has worked with Iran and has been thus far not been successful.  And obviously the concern -- that exists not just in Europe but around the world -- of free people is real and understandable. 

 

           So, I guess that the President of the United States and the leadership here in Europe have decided that they should move this along on a diplomatic track and hope that the interest and concern on the part of free people around the world will ultimately have some effect on the government of Iran.

 

           Sabine Christiansen:  Iran has already warned that it will stop cooperating with inspections now with the Security Council.  Are you worried about provoking Iran to greater extremities?

 

          Secretary Rumsfeld: Well, if you think about it, Iran is, and has been, and remains one of the leading sponsors of terrorism. They support Hizbollah and Hamas. It is a country that has made a practice recently of, a government, a leadership that has made some rather extreme statements, threatening statements.

 

          So there is not much new there except the election of this new president who is making statements that do cause concern. Where will all this lead?  I don’t know. 

 

          The people of Iran are good people and they have a proud history and they are intelligent. They have, unlike some countries, closed systems.  They do have a sense of what’s going on in the rest of the world; and they understand that there are countries, free countries, where people aren’t ruled by a small handful of thugs, where people can say what they wish, and do what they wish, and express themselves freely.

 

          I mean the elections in Iran were kind of a sham.  They were told who can run and then allowed people to pick among those carefully selected people. That is really not a free and fair election. So I think that the people of Iran don’t want to be isolated. I think that they would like to be part of the world community in one way or another, and particularly probably the women and young people; and that over time, their desire not to be isolated will be manifested through their government in one way or another.

 

          Sabine Christiansen: You just mentioned the threats. You mentioned Hamas, Hizbollah. A new U.S. report says that the threat of a terrorist attack is greater than ever. Is stopping Ahmadi-Nejad a key to reducing this risk?

 

          Secretary Rumsfeld: Well, if you have a country that is on the terrorist’s list, and if you have a country that is visibly, actively, openly supporting two major terrorist organizations – Hizbollah and Hamas – and simultaneously making the statements they are making, and simultaneously demonstrating their interest in developing nuclear capabilities, it has to be a concern to, not just people in the neighborhood, but people around the world because there are two risks. 

 

          One risk is that a country that has extreme views – the government has, some in the government have extreme views, if you want to be precise – has that capability is one thing.  But a country that conceivably could transfer those technologies to terrorist networks which they support with finances and with support with weaponry on an active basis, day in and day out, that’s quite a different problem. Iran has a country, a piece of real estate, something to lose, a nation state. Terrorist organizations don’t.  They don’t have real estate to defend.  They don’t have much to lose.

 

          Sabine Christiansen: But, excuse me,

 

         Secretary Rumsfeld: To the extent those technologies were to be transferred to those people that would be particular -

 

         Sabine Christiansen: What does that mean in the last consequence? I mean, President Bush says all options remain on the table. All options?

 

         Secretary Rumsfeld: Well, the President has said what he believes and…

 

         Sabine Christiansen: …that means even military force.

 

         Secretary Rumsfeld:  The President has said precisely what he wanted to say; and it’s not for me, or anyone else who supports the President as I do, to try and elaborate on it.  I think it says exactly what he wanted to say.

 

         Sabine Christiansen:  So is ground force, even a ground invasion, plausible?  The Army says U.S. forces are already over-stretched.

 

          Secretary Rumsfeld: The Army does not say that.  There are people who say that and you may find some stretch or stress in one location, in one country, or in one part of a country, or with respect to one skill set – military police, or something like that. 

 

          But the Army broadly, is -- it’s the most capable army on the face of the earth, and it’s the most capable army the United States of America has ever had; and it is functioning very well, and very skillfully, and very professionally. And I wouldn’t want to leave the impression that the Army has concluded that it isn’t.

 

          As a matter of fact, as you know, we have started pulling down some forces in Afghanistan and Iraq.  We have been re-balancing replacing skill sets.  And we have been increasing the size of our military and we have got, I don’t know 25 or 30 separate things we are doing to find places where there is some stress and relieve that stress by better organization and better balance. 

 

         We’ve got close to 2 million people in uniform and we are only supporting 138,000 in Iraq; so obviously if you are only worried about 138,000 in Iraq and you have got over 2 million, it’s a matter of organization, not total numbers. 

 

          Sabine Christiansen: But at least in Iraq, are you worried that a hard stance with Iran will make the situation for the U.S. troops in Iraq more dangerous?

 

          Secretary Rumsfeld: No. 

 

          Sabine Christiansen: No?

 

           Secretary Rumsfeld: Iran has already been notably unhelpful.  They obviously are trying to influence what is taking place in Iraq. I think in the last analysis the Iraqi people, Shiite or not, will be Iraqis and they will be more nationalist.  Iran obviously has been doing things to support terrorism that are not helpful but I don’t think that it will increase because of anything.  We are not worried about that. We can handle that.

 

          Sabine Christiansen: Let’s look at France. France has said it will use force to fight states helping terrorists. It sounds more hawkish than the U.S. these days, isn’t it? 

 

          Secretary Rumsfeld: You know I never did read the entire statement and I don’t know what benchmark one would test that against in terms of, to determine whether or not it is different from their prior position.  

 

          But their prior position have been somewhat like that.  At least I think so.  I can’t prove that, but that’s my recollection. At least in terms of what I read in the press briefly about what they said recently.

 

          Sabine Christiansen: You mentioned that Iran’s President Ahmadi-Nejad wants Israel to be wiped off the map and now President Bush says he will rise to Israel’s defense.  What does that mean?

 

         Secretary Rumsfeld: It means exactly that, that Israel is a democracy, it is a country that the United States has close relations with.  And in the past, to the extent that Israel has been pressured or in duress, the people of the United States through their government have found ways to be of assistance.

 

         Sabine Christiansen: You are here in Munich to talk about security issues.

 

         Secretary Rumsfeld: Back in Munich.

 

         Sabine Christiansen: Back in Munich. 

 

         Secretary Rumsfeld: Many times now.

 

         Sabine Christiansen: We met several times here in Munich and you are back now to talk about security issues and to talk about the U.S.-European partnership including NATO.  Is NATO -- in its present form -- equipped to deal with the Irans of the world?

 

         Secretary Rumsfeld: Well, I don’t think I would put it that way.  I mean we’ve got 26 countries now in NATO.  It is clearly the premier military organization that exists on the face of the earth, possibly ever. It’s a security organization. And it is increasingly doing things that reflect a recognition that the 21st century is different from the 20th century. 

 

         Instead of static defense against the Soviet Union, we see NATO for the first time participating fully outside the NATO treaty area, outside of Europe -- in Afghanistan where all the countries are engaged in one way or another. 

 

         The 26 countries of NATO are also participating in one way or another in the NATO, in the Iraq Train and Equip program, and that’s a good thing.  What else it might do, of course, it is a consensus organization.  It is adjusting and evolving.  The NATO Reaction Force would give it – if it reaches full capability, which it is designed to do in the near future -- could give NATO the ability to do what the 21st century requires; and that is to be capable of moving rapidly, to be able to follow up before it came a crisis and a more serious problem, and has an expeditionary, agile capability -- and that would be a very good thing. I think that it’s a good thing. 

 

         It’s a capability that NATO ought to have.  Also because it modernizes that capability and transforms it, I think we will win back into the militaries in those respective countries, 26 countries, in a way that will cause the military establishments in each of those countries to transform as well, and to change and adjust in the new century. 

 

         Sabine Christiansen: Do you see this transformation process as a long-term process?

 

         Secretary Rumsfeld: Oh yes, it’s a continuing thing. You don’t start “un-transformed” and become transformed.  It is a process of transforming and adjusting.  Think of the pace at which technology has changed.  We are not, in many cases, we are not really dealing with nation states, we are only dealing with capabilities that can pop up anywhere.

 

         Sabine Christiansen: The Europeans have spent the last three years using diplomacy to deal with Iran.  Has this been a waste of time? 

 

         Secretary Rumsfeld: Oh no, I think it was worth doing.  It hasn’t succeeded in terms of causing Iran to alter its behavior  -- but not a waste of time, worth doing. 

 

          Partly it caused a debate, a dialogue, a discussion to take place in the world.  It was part of an educational process. It’s an educational process for Europe, for the rest of the countries observing and I think for the world to see exactly where Iran is going; and Iran, instead of, over this period of time, instead of moderating its behavior, instead of deciding it did not want to be isolated, they selected a leader who was even more extreme and more determined to proceed towards nuclear capabilities, and willing to use rhetoric that certainly got the attention of the rest of the world. 

 

          So I think that the process ought not to be called a waste of time.  I think that we all need to get to think about things and get used to them and understand better and to try various things and learn from that.  And I think we have all learned. 

 

          Sabine Christiansen: You are meeting the President of NATO’s parliamentary assembly at this conference as well; and he compares Ahmadi-Nejad with Hitler and he says we can’t appease him. Is he right?

 

          Secretary Rumsfeld: I don’t know with the President of Iran. I have read what he has been saying and I guess time will tell.  Certainly the world made a big mistake in underestimating him [Hitler] and not understanding that what he wrote and what he said, he meant and was prepared to act on.  Of course the result of that was many millions of people die. (inaudible) We are on notice.

 

          Sabine Christiansen: Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary.

 

          Secretary Rumsfeld: Thank you.