WASHINGTON – Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Thursday rejected a bipartisan panel’s recommendation that the United States seek the help of Syria and Iran in Iraq, saying the “compensation” required by any deal might be too high. She argued that neither country should need incentives to foster stability in Iraq.
“If they have an interest in a stable Iraq, they will do it anyway,” Rice said in an interview with reporters and editors of the Washington Post. She said that she did not want to trade away Lebanese sovereignty to Syria or allow Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon as a price for peace in Iraq.
Rice also said there would be no retreat from the administration’s push to promote democracy in the Middle East, a policy that was pointedly minimized by the Iraq Study Group in its report last week but that Rice insisted was a “matter of strategic interest.”
Rice’s remarks indicated that, despite a maelstrom of criticism of White House policies by outside experts and Democrats, the administration’s extensive review of policy in Iraq and the region will not yield major changes in its approach.
Indeed, Rice argued that the Middle East is being rearranged in ways that provide the United States with new opportunities, what she repeatedly called a “new strategic context.”
She said the range of struggles in the Middle East, such as the election of Hamas in the Palestinian territories, the conflict between Hezbollah and the Lebanese government, and strife in Iraq, represent a “clarifying moment” between extremists and “mainstream” Arabs. “This is a time for pushing and consulting and pressing and seeing what we can do to take advantage of this new strategic context,” Rice said.