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Hearing of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations: "Securing America's Interests in Iraq: The Remaining Options: Iraq in the Strategic Context"

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Location: Washington, DC


Hearing of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations: "Securing America's Interests in Iraq: The Remaining Options: Iraq in the Strategic Context"

SEN. BIDEN: (Sounds gavel.) The hearing will please come to order.

This morning we are privileged to have with us former Secretary of State Dr. Henry Kissinger, whose name is synonymous with effective diplomacy, effective American diplomacy, and I think few would argue with the fact one of the best strategic minds in the country.

Before we begin, I'd like to take a moment to present some of the key findings, in my view, that we've found in the last four weeks, where there is consensus. While no unanimous prescription has emerged thus far from our hearings, there's remarkably broad cons SEN. BIDEN: (Sounds gavel.) The hearing will please come to order.

This morning we are privileged to have with us former Secretary of State Dr. Henry Kissinger, whose name is synonymous with effective diplomacy, effective American diplomacy, and I think few would argue with the fact one of the best strategic minds in the country.

Before we begin, I'd like to take a moment to present some of the key findings, in my view, that we've found in the last four weeks, where there is consensus. While no unanimous prescription has emerged thus far from our hearings, there's remarkably broad consensus, in my view, on three points.

First, our troops can't stop the sectarian warfare in Iraq. Only -- only -- a political settlement can do that.

Second, we should be engaging in intensive regional diplomacy to support such a settlement among the Iraqis.

And third, the United States military should focus in on combating terrorists -- i.e., jihadists and al Qaeda -- keeping Iraq's neighbors honest and training Iraqis, not policing a civil war. Indeed, combat troops should start to redeploy and redeploy soon.

Since a political settlement is so critical, we've examined some of the likely components. We've discussed the benchmarks the president has proposed -- the oil law, de-Ba'athification, reform, constitutional reform and provincial elections.

But the divisions are so deep and the passions are so high within Iraq that I believe that we are well past the point of implementing such modest measures in order to make a meaningful difference in stabilizing Iraq. I believe some bolder moves are necessary.

A colleague of our witness and our next witness, the former secretary of State, Dr. Madeleine Albright, Les Gelb, put forward such a proposal with me nine months ago. It is premised on our conviction that the heart of the administration's strategy, building a strong central government, cannot succeed. There is not enough trust within the government, no trust of the government by the people, and no capacity of the present government to deliver services and security.

Instead, we must bring Iraqis' problems and the responsibilities for managing them -- in my view and our view -- down to local and regional level, where we can help the Iraqis build trust and capacity more quickly and more efficiently.

We have proposed that Iraqis create three more regions -- three or more regions -- consistent with what their constitution calls for, and we call for oil to be shared equitably with a guaranteed share going into Sunnis enshrined in their constitution.

We also call for aggressive diplomacy and the creation of a contact group, consistent -- by bringing in -- consisting of Iraqis' neighbors -- Iraq's neighbors -- and the other major powers necessary for a political settlement, not unlike we did, I might add, when we went into Afghanistan.

We believe that we can redeploy most, if not all, of our troops in Iraq within 18 months under this plan, leaving behind a small force in the region to strike at terrorists and keep the neighbors honest, while training Iraqis.

I believe this plan is more relevant than ever. It takes into account the harsh realities of self-sustaining sectarian violence. I believe it's consistent -- I know it's consistent with the Iraqi constitution, and it can help produce, I hope, a soft landing for Iraq and prevent a full-blown civil war that tears the country apart and spreads beyond the region.

I found it interesting that one of the leading columnists in The New York Times, David Brooks, referred to it as "soft partition." I never thought of it -- his words, not mine.

It may be too late for our plan or any other plan to work, I have to acknowledge. The Iraqis may be too blinded by their sectarian hatred and revenge to see their own self interest. And if that's the case, then we need to consider more rapidly how we disengage and contain the war within Iraq. And that will not be easy.

But we have -- we don't have the luxury. We don't have the luxury, as you've heard the chairman and others say, of walking away. Confining the violence to Iraq and preventing a regional war, proxies or otherwise, is going to require an awful lot of heavy lifting if we don't get it right inside Iraq.

I hope that you will share with us what you think we need to be doing now to put in place such a strategy if you agree that that may come to pass, Mr. Secretary, and I'm not suggesting you do, if all our efforts within Iraq fail. One of the things I've noticed in my long years of having an opportunity to learn from you is that we should always have alternative plans. Whether they're announced or not, we should always be prepared to deal with the possibility that the present strategy may not work. And I am absolutely convinced that the present strategy of this administration is not going to work.

So I'm eager to hear your testimony, Mr. Secretary. Again, I know you had to go way out of your way to be here. You're kind to do this. You will find a receptive and friendly audience here. We're anxious to hear what you have to say.

And I now yield to my colleague, Senator Lugar.

SEN. RICHARD LUGAR (R-IN): Well, I thank Chairman Biden for holding this hearing.

I welcome our distinguished former secretaries of State.

The United States has vital and enduring interests in the Middle East, including preventing terrorism and proliferation, protecting the free flow of oil and commerce, ensuring the security of our friends and our allies. Our intervention in Iraq has dramatically changed the geopolitical landscape of the Middle East with unpredictable consequences.

Today we'll explore our strategic options for advancing our interests in this evolving region.

Secretary Rice has recently outlined what appears to be a shift in emphasis in United States policy toward countering the challenges posed by Iran. Under this new approach, the United States would organize regional players -- Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, the Gulf states and others -- behind a program of containing Iran's disruptive agenda in the area. Such a realignment has relevance for stabilizing Iraq and bringing security to other areas of conflict in the region, such as Lebanon and the Palestinian territories.

Moderate states in the Middle East are concerned by Iran's aggressiveness and by the possibility of sectarian conflict beyond Iraq's borders. They recognize the United States is an indispensable counterweight to Iran, and a source of stability in the region. The United States has leverage to enlist greater support for our objectives inside Iraq and throughout the region.

Quite apart from the military, diplomatic surge in Iraq that has been the focus of so much attention, we are now seeing the outlines of the new, United States regional approach: a more assertive stance by our military toward Iranian interference in Iraq, a renewed diplomatic effort on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, substantial U.S. security assistance to Palestinian President Abbas, and a U.S.-led effort to bolster the Lebanese government against Hezbollah.

In The Washington Post yesterday, I noted that the United States should recalibrate our reference points in Iraq. We should not see the president's current Iraq plan as an end game, but rather as one element in a larger Middle East struggle that is in the early stages.

The president's Baghdad strategy is still aimed at an optimal outcome: the creation of a democratic, pluralist society that will cooperate with us in achieving regional stability. At this stage, that is a goal with pursuing, but our strategy in Iraq must be flexible enough to allow for changing circumstances.

Even as the president's Baghdad strategy proceeds, we need to be preparing for how we will array United States forces in the region to defend oil assets, target terrorist enclaves, deter adventurism by Iran, provide a buffer against regional sectarian conflict, and generally reassure friendly governments that the United States is committed to Middle East security. Such a redeployment might well involve bases inside Iraq that would allow us to continue training Iraqi troops and delivering economic assistance but would not require us to interpose American soldiers between Iraqi sectarian factions.

One of the ironies of the highly contentious debate over President Bush's new Iraq plan is that it's focused on the strategically narrow issue of what United States troops do in a limited number of multiethnic neighborhoods in Baghdad that contain only about 7 percent of the Iraqi population, what General Jack Keane has called the key terrain.

Undoubtedly what happens in those Baghdad neighborhoods is important, but it's unlikely that this mission will determine our fate in the Middle East. Remaking Iraq, in and of itself, does not constitute a strategic objective. The risk is that we will define success and failure in Iraq so rigidly that our Iraq policy will become disconnected, or even contradictory, to broader regional goals.

It's important that the Congress and the public fully understand any strategic shift in our policy. The president should be reaching out to the Congress in an effort to construct a consensus on how we will protect our broader strategic interests regardless of what happens in Baghdad during the next several months. The worst outcome would be a wholesale exit from vital areas and missions in the Middle East, precipitated by United States domestic political conflict and simply fatigue over an unsustainable Iraq policy.

We look forward, Dr. Kissinger, to your thoughts on these questions, your advice and counsel on the best way forward for the United States in this important part of the world.

I thank you, Mr. Chairman.

SEN. BIDEN: Thank you.

Mr. Secretary?

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA): Mr. Chairman? If I could just have one minute, I'd appreciate it.

SEN. BIDEN: Just one minute, Senator, or we'll have everybody else --

SEN. KERRY: Oh, no, no. I just wanted to make my excuses to the secretary --

SEN. BIDEN: Oh, please.

SEN. KERRY: -- because I have to go chair another hearing, and I wanted to apologize for not being able to be here to listen to your testimony.

I'm going to take it with me; read it. I hope to get back before the end of it, but I just wanted to welcome you here and thank you for taking time to be with us, and we really look forward to the advice and counsel you'll give us.

Thank you.

SEN. BIDEN: Thank you, Senator. That is necessary.

And I -- in a moment, Mr. Secretary -- I will wait for your testimony to be finished --Senator Hagel is not here because he's attending the funeral of a young lieutenant who was recently killed in Iraq who he appointed to the academy and whose younger brother is at the academy. But I want to have the young man, in honor of the young man, I want his name for the record and which I'll -- I will submit that for the record. I don't physically have that in front of me now. But that -- he wanted me to express his apologies as to why he's not here.

Please proceed, Mr. Secretary.

MR. KISSINGER: Mr. Chairman, I have submitted an article I wrote a week ago in lieu of a statement, but I will make a few extemporaneous remarks to begin the discussion.

The fundamental issue in the region is not the tactical issue that we -- that has received so much attention, namely the specific deployment inside Baghdad. The fundamental issue is the one that has been identified by you and by Senator Lugar about the long-term role of the United States in the region and the basic challenges that it faces.

The United States has been involved in military actions in the region now since the 1950s. In Lebanon in 1958; in the (alert ?) over Jordan in 1970, and (alert ?) over the Middle East war or the conclusion of the Middle East war in 1973; over the evacuation of Lebanon in 1975; with a military force in Lebanon in the 1980s; military action over Iraq and Kuwait in '91, and several air attacks on Iraq in the late 90s, and then again in the war in which in we (face ?) -- (inaudible) -- must reflect the judgment of a succession of presidents of the vital importance of the Middle East and of stability in the Middle East to the United States.

Now the current situation in the Middle East adds some features that are relatively unique. Most of the -- (inaudible) -- that I described earlier were between states and arose out of the conflict of states or out of the Palestinian issue. The current crisis arises out of the fact that the state, which we take for granted as the organization of international affairs, is weakening all over the region, because in most countries it is a product of the post-World War I period that was introduced into the area by Western nations, and in many countries it is not tied to the nation as it is in Europe, the United States and many other parts of the world.

The borders were artificially drawn, and indeed, this is one of the dilemmas of Iraq, that Iraq was created out of three provinces of the Ottoman Empire in order to provide a strategic buffer between French and British zones, that themselves were artificially created. So the disintegration of that system is one of the factors of the region.

One of the attributes of such a disintegration is that ideologies trump traditional loyalties, and so the Islamic religion and the radical aspect of the Islamic religion is -- goes across borders. One result is the existence on the territory of what we consider sovereign states and what international law has considered sovereign states of units that have the character of states but are not really states, like the Hezbollah, like the Hamas, like the Mahdi Army in Baghdad -- organizations that on the one hand participate in the government but on the other are tied to loyalties that go beyond the national borders and (to its ?) outcome. It cannot be defined by national interest as it has been heretofore conceived.

So we are dealing with an upheaval that goes across the whole region, and given the fact that much of it receives its impetus from the Islamic religion and from the attempt to restore the significance of the Islamic message, the impact of what occurs in that region will be not confined to the region. It will go from Indonesia, which is a Muslim -- which is the largest Muslim state; to Malaysia; to India, which has -- it's the second largest Muslim state, even though its 160 million Muslims are a minority; to the suburbs of Paris, where there are large Islamic populations. So this is what is at stake in that region and in terms of which the impact must be considered.

Now, the United States has been attempting for 50 years to contribute to stability and progress and peace in the region by leading negotiations, by intervening militarily, and it's in this context, Mr. Chairman, that I look at what we are now facing in Iraq. Major mistakes have been made. We have reached a very difficult situation because we have not found it easy to bring the traditional American premises in line with cultural and regional realities.

But I will confine myself to where we are today. In Iraq, we face a number of only partially connected problems. We face the impact of neighbors from across the border: Iran with respect to the Shi'a south; Turkey indirectly with respect to the Kurdish north; Syria with respect to the Sunni west, and others that have an interest, partly because Iraq is also the tipping point for Shi'a- Sunni confrontation that it's taking its most acute form precisely on the territory of Iraq.

Secondly, we have the insurrection of the Sunni population against the shift in power from its traditional dominance to a democratic principle of majority rule, which empowers the Shi'ites and, to some extent, the Kurds.

Third, we have the al Qaeda influence that is a cross-border assault, but not on a national basis but an ideological basis.

And then we have the Shi'a-Sunni conflict, and they're all merging together in a sort of amorphous explosion of violence.

The American interest is in preventing the radical Islamic element from achieving a domination that will then infect the other regions that I have already discussed. America has no interest in the outcome of a Sunni-Shi'a rivalry, as long as it is not achieved by ethnic cleansing and genocidal practices.

So I would say that if we are talking about long-term strategy, we should move into a position from which our forces can intervene against the threats to the regional security that I have identified and becomes a lesser and lesser element in the purely Shi'a-Sunni struggle.

The only -- the principal relevance of the current debate about Baghdad is the judgment -- whether suppressing the militias in Baghdad can make a contribution to this process. And this is where opinions divide.

I lean towards the fact that they did something that should be attempted. There will be two possible outcomes: that it succeeds, in which case the government could pursue preferred policies of reconciliation if it is able to, and (we/re- ?) concentrate on the strategic issues that I have mentioned before. If it fails, our strategic mission will still be the same, except we will then have to take care to separate ourselves from the sectarian civil war that will emerge.

Now all this needs to be conducted within the framework of a diplomacy that permits other nations to participate increasingly in the political future of the region. And I would -- I have to define my perception of diplomacy, which is not always identical with others'.

I very often hear the statement that something could be left to a political solution rather than a military solution. In my view, diplomacy is an amalgam of penalties and rewards. And it cannot be segmented into a political phase and into a military phase. But by the same token, the military actions -- the political actions require some understanding of the military element. So the military element has to be geared to a possible political outcome.

There has been much discussion about whether to negotiate with Iran and Syria. I would separate those two countries. The Iranian issue is -- the Syrian concern is primarily one of national interest. Its primary concern is Lebanon and the Golan, and its influence in Iraq is relatively marginal.

The Iranian problem is one that will beset us for many administrations, because it is not only the strongest country in the region, but it is also, at this precise moment, developing nuclear weapons in defiance of the Security Council plus Germany. And if an outcome emerges in which Iran has nuclear weapons and vacuum in front of it in Iraq, that would be a potentially disastrous outcome for the peace in the region.

I have always had the view that the issue of whether one should negotiate should not be a central issue. We should always be prepared to negotiate. The fundamental issue is what to negotiate about, and what the purpose of the negotiation should be.

I see little incentive Iran has to help us solve the Iraqi problem unless it occurs in a constellation in which they can also -- in which they cannot achieve their maximum objectives by themselves. And therefore, a diplomacy has to include, as Senator Lugar pointed out, a creation of a group of states that have their own interests in preventing Iranian domination.

And to make the matter more complex, all of this has to be in the context of a willingness to talk to Iraq. That has to take into -- but that has to be phased, in my opinion, on the following scene.

I don't think Iran will help us in Iraq, as such. And therefore, we cannot avoid creating conditions in Iraq that make it unattractive for them. But the challenge that Iraqi leaders -- Iranian leaders will have to face at some point is that we have no quarrel with Iran as a nation. We can respect Iran as a major player in the region, with a significant role in the region.

What we cannot accept is an Iran that seeks to dominate the region on the basis of a religious ideology and using the Shi'a base in other countries to undermine stability in the region, on which the economic well-being of such a large part of the world depends. Under the previous Iranian government, the United States had excellent relations with Iran. And they were not tied to the personality of the ruler but to the importance of the country.

So, the question before our diplomacy and before the Iranian diplomacy is: Can we define objectives that bring peace and progress to the region?

And that gets me to my final point.

If all of what I've said is correct, or most of it is correct, then the United States must be present in the region for a foreseeable future. It cannot be ended in one administration because even total withdrawal will have consequences that the next administration will have to live with.

So the key question is: What kind of a presence, in what manner, and for what outcome in Iraq? And it's in this spirit, Mr. Chairman, that I've taken the liberty of stating some semi-philosophical points, in anticipation of your questions.

Thank you very much.

SEN. BIDEN: Well, Secretary, thank you very much.

Quite frankly, that's the very reason why we wanted you and Senator -- Secretary Albright and three former national security advisers to close this first initial set of hearings.

Mr. Secretary, I've had the opportunity to speak to you in private over the last couple months, and you've always been available to all of us, I know, for your counsel. And it seems to me that the case you make is a fairly compelling philosophic case as well as a reality check of what's happened on the ground.

You have, essentially, a nontraditional state, where ideology is the dominant, competing, unifying element within it. That is, it's causing it to split the country as well. You point out that in Iraq, the impact of the neighbors -- the Sunni insurrection; they're dealing with their lack of dominance; the al Qaeda ideologically driven on non-state actors, and the Shi'a difficulty in coming to grips with their now being in the ascendancy.

And you said these all merged together, and the greatest concern is they create an explosion that could result in radical domination -- a radical notion dominating the region and spreading.

What that adds up to me -- and I don't disagree with what you've said, and I also don't disagree that there is a need -- that the military force is necessary but not sufficient to solve this, and we're going to have to be in the region a long time, which leads me to, if I understood you correctly, to this question: A number of witnesses have testified that in nontraditional states who are infected by this ideology and this competition, that one of two things works: You either have a strong man, or a dominant power, an imperial power dominating; or you have federation, where in order to keep this country intact, although it was an artificial construct, you have to give breathing room to those elements that you've outlined -- Sunni, Shi'a, et cetera -- to prevent the very explosion.

So why does it not make sense, consistent with our military presence, to be accommodating what history seems to dictate, as well as what their constitution calls for? And that is, allowing more local control over the physical security and safety of their ideologically defined and/or tribal-defined areas, while at the same time promoting a central government that has broad responsibilities, instead of insisting on a strong central government, which seems to me to be -- to use a slang expression -- like pushing a rope, right now?

MR. KISSINGER: I'm sympathetic to an outcome that permits large regional autonomy. In fact, I think it is very likely that this will emerge out of the conflict that we are now witnessing.

Now the conventional wisdom of many experts in the region is that we must not be perceived as bringing that about, because doing so would inflame the Shi'a community and enhance Iranian influence, and also because of the danger of Turkish intervention in the Kurdish area. And I think that's an opinion we should take seriously.

I neglected to mention one thought I have which, actually, I think is very central -- I got so carried away, I didn't get to it -- which is this: Somewhere along this process in which we're now engaged there is the need for an international conference on Iraq, because Iraq has to be reintegrated into the international system, and because other nations have to be brought in to assuming the responsibility for the political future of the region.

It may be premature at this moment, but in the process that we foresee, over, say, the rest of this year, there should be some such concept. And in my view, that should include the neighbors, the Security Council, and countries like Indonesia, India, possibly Pakistan, and that would be a rather large and unwieldy party that could then form subgroups for certain regional issues. But the importance is that only in such a framework can you really deal with the issue of autonomy, because you have then to create a wider legitimacy for what is emerging and against intervention from outside countries.

SEN. BIDEN: I would argue it's the only thing that will lead the bordering countries to conclude that intervention is not in their interest. But I fully agree with you.

I have a minute left in my time, but I will yield to my friend, Senator Lugar.

I thank you very much, Mr. Secretary.

SEN. LUGAR: Well, thank you much, Mr. Chairman.

Secretary Kissinger, I appreciate your opening comments about the importance of the region, the continuity, in a way, of American foreign policy and its interest in the area over a long period of time, and now your mention of an international conference or something that in my judgment would strengthen Secretary Rice's attempts to make certain that other countries know of our continuing interest in the area and might be prepared, under various circumstances, to work with us, for the moment, out of fear of Iranian domination of Iraq but, more importantly, because there are conflicting interests among the group, and we have been a stabilizer.

With regard to the current situation in Iraq, I want to ask for your judgment as to what are the possibilities for the Iraqi parliament, or its government as constituted now, to reach an oil agreement that in essence, in some way, parses out the revenues and the development rights, other aspects of that situation, to various parts, and secondarily, the possibilities for the constitution of Iraq, which permits, or even suggests, autonomous regions, for that idea to proceed. And with Shi'ite autonomous areas coming together, likewise the Kurds, who are very, very strong on that subject, and acceptance by the Sunnis predicated on their sharing the oil wealth.

I ask those two questions because very frequently, as senators and members of the House discuss this problem, they talk about so- called benchmarks for the prime minister, Mr. Maliki, or his government. The suggestion is that they need to get on with this rather swiftly, that the United States is losing patience in their inability to come together, to get a quorum in the parliament, for example, and to act.

But as a practical political matter, what is your prediction or what comments did you have on the potential for their making these solutions, and even if they make them, how does that fit into the overall testimony you've given about Iraq's place in being reintegrated with the rest of the countries around?

MR. KISSINGER: The difficulty of the democratic process in multiethnic societies is that the democratic process is predicated on the possibility of a minority becoming a majority, and therefore, the minority can accept the decisions of the majority in the hope of reversing it later on. The essence of multiethnic societies is that minorities are permanent and that therefore the democratic process to the minority appears like just another form of domination. Therefore, it is first difficult to come to an agreement, and secondly, difficult to implement the agreement, even if it should be made because the parliament does not have the same legitimate quality in the whole country that the American Congress or British Parliament have in our country or in Britain. That is an inherent problem

Usually civil wars are ended with a victory of one side or the other or of an exhaustion. I know no civil war that has been ended -- but I may be wrong -- by a -- at any rate, very rare -- or to take the dominating figure like Mandela in South Africa, who rises to spiritual heights.

I'm not very optimistic, even if this is achieved in Iraq as a parliament; it is -- (inaudible). We are (right ?) to support it. It would be the best outcome if it could be achieved, but there may be a thousand years of history against it. But it has to be our objective.

SEN. LUGAR: Well, let me just follow by saying that you say you're somewhat pessimistic about this outcome, or at least it might be partially achieved. What I fear in the current argument some of us are having is that some would say if this is not achieved, if certain benchmarks are not arrived at by the current government, then the suggestion is this is the last chance; we're out of there.

Now, this is one reason why I appreciate so much your statement this morning. And I made an opening comment which indicates that we are -- we cannot be in a situation in which we say we're out of there; rather, we are talking about 50 years of history in which we have been in there, maybe not in Baghdad in nine police districts, but somewhere in the area where we could be effective in terms of American security and American interest.

In talking about the war against terrorism, it's very important to be effective and to be working with these other nations who otherwise might have some terrorist tendencies of their own or be subverted by such persons. So I think we're on the same page, but I just take advantage of your testimony to make these comments and to ask for your comment.

MR. KISSINGER: I believe very strongly that we cannot withdraw from the region and we should not conduct a debate with the expectation of a total withdrawal of American forces from the region. We can discuss, and should discuss, the deployment of our forces in such a way that it can serve the strategic objectives that we have discussed earlier or other strategic objectives that might be defined.

And with respect to the government in Iraq, I think one should distinguish two aspects. Is it as efficient as it can be within its capabilities? Probably not, but will its capabilities ever be up to -- in the foreseeable future -- for what we would consider adequate by American standards? Also probably not because it is, after all, a collection of ministers.

The prime minister doesn't have a militia of its own. Others have access to militias. So it's a balance of forces without the authority that we associate with government, and therefore, one has to have some understanding for what it is possible to do.

But to sum up my answer: I do not believe we should set benchmarks, the penalty for which is our withdrawal. There may be other penalties, but withdrawal should not be one of them.

SEN. BIDEN: Thank you.

SEN. LUGAR: Thank you.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: The American people voted to bring the troops home. End the war in Iraq now!

SEN. BIDEN: The committee will stand in recess until the police please remove the demonstrator.

(Recess.)

AUDIENCE MEMBER: We voted for the troops to bring (sic) home from Iraq. I was in -- (off mike) -- American people. We voted to end the war in Iraq now!

SEN. BIDEN: The committee will come back to order.

I'd just like to ask one point of clarification, taking advantage of the minute I didn't use. Do you make a distinction between the region and Iraq, Mr. Secretary? Can you picture the circumstance where we may have to have most of our troops out of Iraq but still in the region, or do you make that distinction?

MR. KISSINGER: I would have difficulty defining exactly where in the region they could be in substantial numbers, especially if we withdraw from Iraq in a way that is considered a major withdrawal, but I would put this in relation to time. There's certainly no magic number of American forces that must be in Iraq forever or for a long period. We should be flexible about this.

SEN. BIDEN: Almost every plan that's been put forward contemplates some American forces being left in Iraq in a totally different -- with a totally different mission, but I thank you.

Senator Feingold?

SEN. RUSSELL FEINGOLD (D-WI): Thank you, Mr. Chairman, very much.

And Dr. Kissinger, it's always good to hear your views.

I want to sort of follow on what both Senator Lugar and the chairman were getting at, this question of not so much whether we withdraw from the region -- I certainly agree with you that we cannot disengage from the region -- but what about redeployment from Iraq, leaving aside the question of whether it's a good idea, when it should begin or end. Maybe you can help us with, what are some of the key diplomatic steps in the region that we have to do to ensure that Iraq's neighbors are sufficiently engaged to deal with Iraq's challenges? And how can we best prepare that aspect of whatever kind of withdrawal we will ultimately engage in?

MR. KISSINGER: An important step would be if the militias in Iraq could be eliminated or sharply reduced because they constrict the ability of the government to take actions that we have identified with government; secondly, the development of a national Iraqi army that can deal with some of the problem that I have described, like cross- border incursions, acts by al Qaeda.

Third, the development of -- we have, up to now, carried the political responsibility for the future of Iraq entirely by ourselves. I believe the time has come to engage the international community, to some degree and to an increasing degree, in the political future of Iraq without raising the question of what participation they might have in military actions. And therefore, I believe that a diplomacy should start, and probably it's being started, to begin consultation on the manner in which this can be brought about in such a framework.

Of course, significant American forces can be withdrawn. What we should avoid is a redeployment of a nature that creates the perception that America separates itself from the region and from its interests that we have defined here. And so the staging of these metrics is of great importance.

SEN. FEINGOLD: I understand the answer with regard to the international community as a whole, but what I was especially interested in is Iraq's neighbors. How do we engage Jordan, Kuwait, others in a more serious way in the steps that need to occur?

MR. KISSINGER: One of the great dangers, when you talk about Iraq's neighbors, it's that Iran pursues its objectives and that then the Sunni states will organize to create a counterweight and that we'd see a recurrence of the Sunni-Shi'a wars, the traditional Sunni -Shi'a wars, on Iraqi soil. And that would have extraordinary consequences for the whole region.

So -- but the question of how to engage Iran: One of the unfortunate aspects of the concentration on Iraq is that the issue of proliferation of nuclear weapons to Iran is sort of being swept under the table, and yet, for the peace of the world, nuclear proliferation to Iran could be of an even greater significance because it may really be the country which will then trigger a whole series of other countries. And after, that the calculations of deterrence as we have known it will no longer be operational.

SEN. FEINGOLD: Dr. Kissinger, that really relates to my next question. You've just sort of indicated a problem with the great emphasis on Iraq vis-a-vis our attention to Iran. Many observers, in my view, even some very good ones, tend to make the mistake of looking at Iraq in isolation. Obviously this doesn't apply to you, but many will say, "What will happen to Iraq if we redeploy our troops?" But I don't hear them asking very often, "What will happen in Somalia or Afghanistan or many other trouble spots in the world if we remain bogged down in Iraq?"

Do you share my concern that we're devoting too many of our resources to Iraq and not enough to other areas or to the clearly global fight against al Qaeda?

MR. KISSINGER: We should not be bogged down in an inconclusive operation in Iraq. I supported the original decision. It has taken forms that went beyond many expectations, but we should deal with that new situation in a way that does not accentuate the dangers that you mentioned, because we have to balance our presence in Iraq against the impetus to radical self-confidence that might be achieved if we suddenly withdrew from Iraq. So a staged withdrawal geared to specific criteria along the lines we've discussed here -- that is a strengthening of the central government, some relationship to the outside world -- would of course be helpful.

SEN. FEINGOLD: Thank you, Dr. Kissinger.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

SEN. BIDEN: Thank you very much, Senator.

Senator Coleman?

SEN. NORM COLEMAN (R-MN): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Thank you, Dr. Kissinger.

SEN. BIDEN: And again, I want to emphasize -- excuse me; don't start the clock yet -- that it was very important to Senator Hagel that you know that this young man, Lieutenant Fritz, who was killed in the Karbala action recently, he is flying to his home state to attend the funeral. Thank you for the interruption.

SEN. COLEMAN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

A key point, Mr. Secretary, that you keep getting back to is the danger of Iran having a nuclear weapon. We could almost work backwards from that, and tying in with some of my colleagues where I think there's some agreement, bipartisan, about the impact of what we do in Iraq, not just on Iraq but upon the region.

And you used the phrase "radical self-confidence." It's a concern. People talk a lot about American standing and how it's being impacted by what we're doing in Iraq. Is it your belief that a precipitate withdrawal, which the Iraq Study Group warned against, that that would generate a radical self-confidence that would have a greater negative long-term impact on the U.S. standing in the region and to peace and stability in the region?

MR. KISSINGER: That is my conviction. A withdrawal geared to American internal debates and not to the local situation would have some of these consequences.

SEN. COLEMAN: The other issue, just so I can kind of get a clear understanding, is -- maybe again, this is where there's agreement. I think we talk a lot about redeployment, and what I heard the chairman say, that doesn't mean absolutely outside of Iraq, but in a way that perhaps doesn't have us in the middle of sectarian civil war. So I think you indicated it may not end until there's an exhaustion, till folks are tired of killing each other.

But my question, just so I can be clear: Secretary Baker said yesterday that we're going to be in Iraq for a long time. Is it your belief that we're going to be in Iraq -- not just in the region, but in Iraq -- in some capacity for a long time?

MR. KISSINGER: I agree with Senator (sic) Baker -- with Secretary Baker.

SEN. COLEMAN: And the concern, the issue that also I think where there's agreement, about reintegrating Iraq into the international community -- but here's my question: Maybe it's, what is Iraq? In other words, if Iraq is seen as simply being a tool for protecting the Shi'a militia rather than a national state, but as a religious state, my sense is is that the governments like Egypt and Saudi Arabia and others where the Sunni population is dominant, they're going to have less of an interest in any kind of resolution of what goes on there because of fear that the Iranians are really directing.

So my question is, does there have to be -- do we have to see out of the Iraqi government a clear sense that this is a national government and something that's not being directed by Iran or dictated to by al Qaeda in order to get anything out of this international gathering of confidence that you've talked about?

MR. KISSINGER: The best outcome would, of course, be if the Shi'a government that is now dominant in Baghdad created a truly national government and if the Sunni part of the population felt that there is such a thing as an Iraqi nationality and that they're being dealt with fairly.

And when you look at what Mandela has done in South Africa, something along that line would of course be -- with all the shortcomings that one might see in South Africa -- would be a very desirable outcome. The likelihood of this is not great, but we should certainly encourage it, and it may come about if the Shi'a realize that they will not be able by themselves to impose a theocratic state over the whole country.

And if we do not participate in a effort to create a theocratic state, we have to walk a fine line. On the one hand, there's the danger you describe, that we do not want to demoralize our Sunni potential allies, and we want to have them in a position where they're willing to -- where they want to resist Iranian domination.

On the other hand, we want to leave open the possibility of an ultimate settlement with Iran if it can put its nuclear program into some framework that the international community can accept and if it confines itself to objectives of a national state.

So we have to maneuver between those two extremes.

The Sunni states must know that we will back them against Iranian domination, but not on a jihad of their own, and the same it true for the theocratic Shi'a part.

SEN. COLEMAN: But if the Iraqis themselves are either not ready, not able, to do that right now, what is it that we can do that we're not doing? This whole discussion of benchmarks, I think, is to say that we need to you to show us that you're doing this because of the consequences you're talking about.

MR. KISSINGER: I do not believe that American withdrawal is a way of importing benchmarks. They must be other ways of the degree of -- the degree of aid we give, and it may be that there is nothing we can do beyond a certain point.

From some of the verbal things that I've seen, it seems to me that the Iraqi prime minister, at least, has taken aboard some of the principles that we have put forward. We have now to see whether he will execute them.

SEN. COLEMAN: We talk about a regional conference about Iraq. Should there be a regional conference about Iran? In other words, if we don't deal with Iranian issue, how do you all get stability in that part of the world?

MR. KISSINGER: In a way there is a regional conference. There's an international conference about the nuclear program of Iran, and I believe that if that ever makes progress, as it should, it could merge into a discussion of the political role of Iran in the region. Because if Iran is really interested in security and not in fulfilling old imperial order -- (inaudible) -- then this ought to be an element of the discussion with respect to nuclear weapons.

SEN. COLEMAN: And the consequence of Iran getting a nuclear weapon would be disastrous not just for the region but for the world.

MR. KISSINGER: The consequence of Iran getting nuclear weapons is disastrous, and we must keep the diplomacy focused on that.

SEN. COLEMAN: Thank you, Mr. Secretary.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

SEN. BIDEN: Thank you very much, Senator.

Senator Boxer.

SEN. BARBARA BOXER (D-CA): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Mr. Secretary, welcome. And I do agree with your call for a regional conference. It's long overdue, and I think one of the most disappointing things for me is that the Iraq Study Group was so clear in their call. They issued an urgent call. They said by the end of last year, right now, and it never happened. And what happened is the American people went to the polls. They voted for, in my opinion, a new strategy to end the war in Iraq -- to end the war in Iraq. And instead what they're getting is a military strategy to have a surge. And many Americans believe, and I agree with them, that it's time for a political solution.

Now, I want to probe what you said to my chairman, because if I heard you right -- I want to make sure I heard you right; it's hard to hear you -- so tell me if I heard you right.

Senator Biden has been working -- the chairman of the committee, Senator Biden, is working with Leslie Gelb and they have come up with a proposal, which has been out there for quite a while now, to have semiautonomous regions -- Kurd, Shi'a, Sunni -- and a -- not three separate countries, but one country with semiautonomous regions to essentially separate the warring parties and have a -- still have, of course, a national government be involved in redistributing the oil and tax policy and other very important functions.

Now, when he asked you about it, I think, I heard you say this, so please tell me if I heard you right: "That may well be the outcome at the end of the day." Is that approximately what you said?

MR. KISSINGER: That's correct.

SEN. BOXER: Okay.

Now, but then you went on to say, "But we shouldn't be perceived as pushing this forward." Is that correct?

MR. KISSINGER: That's correct.

SEN. BOXER: Okay. Well, I'd like to challenge that, because as I see it, every option has its drawbacks, but it seems to me either we're in the middle of a solution or we're in the middle of civil war. And what Senator Biden, I think, has been pushing is, yes, let's get in the middle of a political solution and out of the civil war. So I know the diplomats, because I've been around here a long time -- and as you know I could never be a diplomat. (Laughter.)

SEN. BIDEN: Oh, don't -- Madame Chairman, I'm not sure that's true.

SEN. BOXER: I said --

SEN. BIDEN: You got "Fritz" Hollings to want you on this committee. You surely could be a diplomat.

SEN. BOXER: Well, all I can tell you is, I respectfully admit that.

But I think what happens is sometimes diplomats get stuck in a kind of "think" and their "think" is, "Well, we have to be careful; we have to sit back, in this case, not go out there with a political solution." I think given events on the ground -- and I would urge you -- you don't have to even respond to this, but I want to urge you to please break free from this diplomatic "think," because I think at this stage all you have to do is read the details of what's coming out of Iraq on the ground.

For our beautiful men and women thrust in the middle of a civil way, I don't think anyone who voted for that resolution -- and I thank God every day I didn't -- ever dreamed that that would be the end result, that our troops would be in the middle of the civil war, there'd be 3,080 dead, 22,000 wounded, half of those never come back to the military again, many, many more with post-traumatic stress and all these problems.

And so, it seems to me at this stage of what a lot of people are saying has been a failure, including people in this administration admitting it, that we shouldn't worry so much, that we may be perceived as pushing one political solution or another. And I think if just one establishment diplomat came out and said, "You know, normally I wouldn't say this, but given where we are" -- I hope you'll think about that.

Mr. Secretary, you said -- you were quoted in "State of Denial" here, and I'm assuming it's an accurate quote; it's in quotation marks. "In early September '05, Mike Gerson went to see Kissinger in New York. 'Why did you support the Iraq war?,' Gerson asked him. 'Because Afghanistan wasn't enough," Kissinger answered. 'In the conflict with radical Islam,' he said, 'they want to humiliate us and we need to humiliate them.'" And that's a quote.

Now, a year before that Peter Bergen, CNN analysis, said: "What we have done in Iraq is what bin Laden could not have hoped for in his wildest dreams. We invaded an oil-rich Muslim nation in the heart of the Middle East, the very type of imperial adventure that bin Laden had long predicted was the United States long-termed goal in the region. We deposed the secular socialist Saddam, whom bin Laden had long despised., ignited Sunni and Shi'a fundamentalist fervor in Iraq, and have now provoked a defensive jihad that has galvanized jihad- minded Muslims around the world."

And this is what he said: "It's hard to imagine a set of policies better designed to sabotage the war on terrorism."

So I juxtapose these things. This is terrorism analyst Peter Bergen in '04. And in '05 you say, you supported the war in Iraq because we need to "humiliate radical Islam."

So could you please -- I mean, I think, what we see here is what Peter Bergen said looks to be happening. And I wonder if you could comment on who do you think is right at the end of the day at this stage.

MR. KISSINGER: Well, it's alleged quotation. It's a kind of journalism that uses a quotation that somebody may have made and then spins a whole theory around it. It's true out of a conversation I had with Mr. Gerson, a speechwriter of President Bush, who then reported his version of the conversation to Woodward. I've written a lot of articles on the subject, and I've never said anything like this.

SEN. BOXER: Okay.

MR. KISSINGER: And so whether phrases like this floated through the conversation, I wrote an article in August 2002, prior to the war, in which I stated my view on the subject. I did believe there was geostrategic reason for doing it, based on the fact that here was a country with the second largest oil revenues that had violated the U.N. cease-fire 16 times, that was believed to have weapons of mass destruction. And I thought that if those resources would be put at the service of a terrorist or even of a regime that was undermined, undermining our interests, it would be too dangerous and the American Senate had voted for regime change.

But what I also said in that article was that if we did it we should move it to international control as quickly as possible and not try to run it on a unilateral basis. So those two have to be put together. And those are my views, not what Woodward reports having heard from Mr. Gerson, even if fragments of such sentences floated through a conversation. I've only met Mr. Gerson once for less than half an hour.

SEN. BIDEN: Last time you'll help him write a speech, huh? (Laughter.)

MR. KISSINGER: He wrote a good speech on it. (Laughter.)

If I may make a point on your first thing, your first observation, which, I mean, it's an important observation. They had -- (inaudible) -- in pushing for the solution it's that one has to think of the impact on Turkey of a Kurdish independent state, on the temptation it may create for an Iranian push into -- so one has to stage it in such a way that a significant Iraqi support for it exists and where we are not perceived as doing this in order to break up an Arab state for our own purposes.

But if the Iraqis cannot solve the problems that have been described, I've told the chairman privately, that I thought that this was a possible outcome and at the right moment we should work in the direction for maximum stability and for maximum chances of peace. But it's -- unfortunately, everything in that region is so flawed with implications that one has to move with care and thoughtfulness.

SEN. BOXER: Mr. Chairman, I know my times up; could I have just 10 seconds to warp up?

What I think we heard here is good, because I think that when you look at what our chairman is talking about it's not three separate countries; it's semiautonomous regions within Iraq. So I think that he and Mr. Gelb have looked at that. But I do appreciate, because I think even what you just said now moves us just a little bit more toward maybe pushing harder for a specific diplomatic solution.

Thank you.

MR. KISSINGER: I also think it would occur more naturally as part of an international conference --

SEN. BIDEN: That was the point.

SEN. BOXER: Yes.

MR. KISSINGER: -- than as an American national policy.

SEN. BOXER: I think you're right.

SEN. BIDEN: Mr. Chairman, I apologize for speaking.

Since the plan has been discussed, I'm glad the secretary added the last point of our private conversations. I think if we're -- there was -- and that's what we call for, an international conference -- that it was in the context of that it doesn't appear as to be us enforcing.

I think we should start to call this the Boxer Plan, because you're more articulate than I am about pushing it. And I really --

SEN. BOXER: I'm not a diplomat.

SEN. BIDEN: No, no, well, you're doing pretty well. And I thank you for it.

SEN. BOXER: (Laughs.) Thank you.

SEN. BIDEN: Thank you, Mr. Secretary.

Senator.

SEN. JIM DEMINT (R-SC) (?): Mr. Secretary, thank you for your testimony.

And I think what I'm seeing here is someone testifying and almost everyone on this committee agreeing with much of what you have to say, and it's an interesting thing to watch here.

You've talked a lot about the long-term issues that we're going to be dealing with, the fact that we've been there for 50 years and that we're going to be there for many more years down the road.

One of the concerns that I hear debated a lot privately is that so much focus has been placed on this surge, which is really not a strategy but a tactic, something that you said, you even leaned towards. But the fact that we focus so much on this surge that many people who do believe we're going to be in Iraq for many, many years and in the Middle East for many years, are concerned that with so much focus on it, so much discussion on it, that if nothing good comes out of that in the next five or six months that what's going to happen is going to be a reaction, an adverse reaction, if you will, that really does affect our actions in the Middle East for many, many years down the road. And I think there's a concern that if something -- if no positive comes out of this, there's going to be a greater push, if you will, to withdraw from the region.

And I wonder if you could respond to that -- in ways that would not be beneficial to our national interest down the road.

MR. KISSINGER: Well, under present conditions, as I've said, I would -- I think the surge is the better option. But we have to keep in mind that at whatever point we decide whether it has succeeded or failed, it's a tactical move to give us the maneuvering room to move through the strategy on which, it seems to me, a considerable consensus has emerged to me out of what I've heard in front of this committee, and what I believe needs to be done.

I do not believe we can withdraw from Iraq. That is the key question. We can discuss the kind of deployment, size of the deployment, but it could be done in relation to the conditions on the ground and to our national objectives and not to abstract timetables.

SEN. DEMINT (?): This may not be the kind of question to ask someone coming before our committee, but because you do feel sort of a consensus around much of your testimony and because you see a sense of the Senate wanting to express itself out of frustration, and because you have said that you don't think benchmarks predicated on not being met, or benchmarks not being met causing withdrawal, that that's the penalty, what would be a resolution, if one has to be, the Senate has to express itself on this matter, what would be some of the components of a resolution that you think might be sensible?

MR. KISSINGER: I'm very flattered. That's not the sort of question I'm usually asked. And I would think that a resolution that states the concept of national objectives, that is not in -- (inaudible) -- but indicates a direction around which the country could rally I think would be important, because I don't think we can go on with the appearance of such basic divisions, because whichever way it is interpreted abroad, it's not helpful. And so if it were possible to -- I would not have recommended it to begin with, but I think any solution that states a direction, which hopefully the administration would join too, would then create a benchmark for everybody.

And on (deceptions ?) when we separate the (sewage ?) from it and where to go afterwards, I think there is more of a coming together than there is on the surge option itself, at least from what I've read.

And it's my strong view that it cannot include a time limit for withdrawal, or a withdrawal geared to our domestic calendar.

SEN. DEMINT (?): Would you state the last phrase again? "Or a withdrawal based on" --

MR. KISSINGER: Our domestic calendar.

SEN. DEMINT (?) Would to expand a little bit on who the audience really is as it relates to these resolutions, the audience that really matters most as it relates to these resolutions?

MR. KISSINGER: Of course. (Laughs.) You all are running for election at some point so you know your audiences well, at least those of you who are here.

But I would say, of course, a principal audience has to be the American people. And one has to keep in mind there not only what the American people think today but what they will think two years, three years from now when the consequences of some decisions become apparent, and when it could happen that they will not approve of decisions, even if those decisions seems to reflect the mood of a moment, which has happened before.

So, of course, one has to think of the American people first. But one also has to think of the actors internationally who gear their action to their expectation of an American performance, and how they interpret actions in terms of their own judgment. And that, I think, is a major responsibility as well in drafting a resolution.

SEN. DEMINT (?): Thank you.

SEN. BIDEN: Senator Obama?

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL): I'm going to defer to --

SEN. BIDEN: -- you're going to yield to Senator Menendez.

SEN. ROBERT MENENDEZ (D-NJ): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I'd like to thank my colleague from Illinois.

Mr. Secretary, I appreciate your testimony, and I just want to explore some areas with you. Let me ask you: Isn't it -- would you agree that every course of action at this point of time, every alternative carries with it some rather grave risks and the potential for even deeper and wider strife?

MR. KISSINGER: Absolutely.

SEN. MENENDEZ: Would you also agree that success -- or I should say, not success, but that each of those alternatives for success depends far more on what others are going to do, or can do, than what we can do by ourselves?

MR. KISSINGER: I'm not sure I would agree completely with that. I think it depends on what others can do, but that will be heavily influenced by our actions.

SEN. MENENDEZ: Well, listening to Secretary Baker and Congressman Hamilton yesterday and others, listening to the administration about how the Iraqis themselves have to make some hard choices, compromises, negotiations for a government of national unity; how the security forces have to be built up in a way that they can respond and stand up for their own country; the context of regional partners, some of your own testimony, it seems to me that, while we may lead, at the end of the day, success in Iraq depends to a great deal upon what others -- the Maliki government, the Iraqis, the regional partners -- on what others will or will not do than what we will do just by ourselves.

MR. KISSINGER: I would turn it around. We cannot do it all by ourselves, but we can act in such a way as to evoke actions from others that create the maximum chance for success.

SEN. MENENDEZ: Now let me ask you: You say in the testimony that the United States, quote, "must not involve itself in the sectarian conflict for any extended period, much less let itself be used by one side for its own sectarian goals."

MR. KISSINGER: Right.

SEN. MENENDEZ: Now, I listened to that, and I say, isn't that in essence what we're doing? Aren't we largely involved in a sectarian conflict?

The Sunnis want us to protect them from the Shi'ites; the Shi'ites want us on the sideline so they can consolidate power; both are divided among themselves.

How is it that we will not be seen -- the escalation -- I've heard some of my colleagues here talk about the escalation and sending a very significant amount into Anbar province where the Sunnis -- and the concerns about al Qaeda -- but where the Sunnis -- it seems to me that I've heard other testimony from other witnesses who suggest that we need to break the back of the Sunnis so that they stop their insurgency and come to a realization that they need a political process. At the end of the day, though, isn't that taking sides?

MR. KISSINGER: Well, of course we're taking sides against some of the groups that I have mentioned. And to some extent, what you say is quite valid in the sense that if the government is primarily a Shi'a government and it won't extend its authority, that will not be appreciated by the Sunnis.

So, what we should attempt to do, and what I think we are attempting to do, is to make this attempt to break the back or reduce the impact of the militias, both the Sunni militias and the Shi'a militias.

At that point, the national government could then perform the police functions with its own forces, and our effort will be directed against terrorism and outside forces, recognizing that the dividing line is not absolute.

If the effort does not succeed in reducing the militias, then we have to draw the dividing line between sectarian violence and the American participation much more sharply, because -- and then our deployments should reflect that.

SEN. MENENDEZ: Mr. Secretary, let me ask you this: I listened to you talk about withdrawal, but is there not a difference between withdrawal from Iraq at a certain point of time -- even under your own statement that we cannot involve ourself in a sectarian conflict for an extended period -- is there not a difference between withdrawal from Iraq and withdrawal from the region?

One can, over time, withdraw from Iraq but not withdraw from the region if certain -- if it doesn't go in a certain way that we believe that our success there would not be better transformed by having a phased withdrawal. And how do we get the Iraqis to come to the conclusion that they have to make the hard choices, compromises and negotiations necessary if it's possible for a government of national unity if they believe that we are there in an open-ended commitment?

And, lastly, how do we get the regional partners that you yourself describe as desirable to participate in, when in fact, what's the incentives of some of them? We know that an unstable Iraq is an incentive, but there's been some testimony here that it hasn't gotten so bad, that other regional partners are willing to participate at this time because they believe that in fact we will continue to stay there with our blood and our national treasure, and therefore it's not necessary for them at this time to engage.

How would you respond to that?

MR. KISSINGER: With respect to your first point, of course the danger is that withdrawal from Iraq of a certain time could trigger withdrawal from the region because everybody will then accommodate, or may accommodate to the dominant trends.

In addition, it's not easy to see where one would deploy in the region after a debacle in Iraq.

I've forgotten your second point.

SEN. MENENDEZ: How do we get the Iraqis and the regional partners to understand that they have to move in a different direction and move, in the case of the regional partners?

MR. KISSINGER: Much of the discussion around the table here is of a regional conference. I differ somewhat with -- I prefer an international conference, in which countries that have broader interests and that also have a direct experience of the Islamic challenge participate, because if you take the countries of the region only, they are either threatened, some of them; or aggressive, some of them; or potentially aggressive, some of them.

So their conflicting interests may be so great that it is difficult to distill them into some kind of consensus, while I think a wider international conference might create some criteria which then can be guideposts to the more immediately involved countries. But that, of course, would require careful exploration by the secretary of State and others.

But how do we get them to do it? That's, of course, our challenge.

SEN. BIDEN: Senator, I apologize, but we promised the secretary that we'd have him out of here by 11:30 because he's got to catch a flight, and if we do it -- if we can try to get that done, I'd --

SEN. GEORGE VOINOVICH (R-OH): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

SEN. BIDEN: Senator Voinovich.

SEN. VOINOVICH: Secretary Kissinger, I'd like to say that this is the best paper that I've seen in all of the hearings that we've had with various people that have come before us. It's concise; it's relevant; it's comprehensive; it explains how important that region is to world peace, to peace in the region, and to our national and economic security.

And the thing I really like about it is we've been talking about Plan B, and we haven't really defined what Plan B is.

Starting on Page 2 of your paper, you say: "The purpose of the new strategy should be to demonstrate that the United States is determined to remain relevant to the outcome in the region, to adjust American military deployments and numbers to emerging realities, and provide the maneuvering room for a major diplomatic effort to stabilize the Middle East." That lays it out.

I'd like you to comment on two things.

First of all, do you believe that the president of the United States has done a good enough job of explaining to the American people how strategic our involvement in that part of the world is to our national security and to our economic security? That's number one.

And number two, if you were secretary of State or the president, how would you go about speaking to the Arab League, the U.N. Security -- international community and saying, "Hey guys, here's a reason why you should be interested in what's happened here, and it's in your best -- here's why it's in your best interest to come together to help us try and stabilize that region"?

MR. KISSINGER: I've seen the president on television, on many talk shows in which one normally hasn't seen presidents before, in recent weeks making a major attempt to explain his position to the American public, and I think it would be presumptuous for me to tell somebody who's been elected twice by the American public in what form he should present his case.

He's certainly doing it in a dedicated and serious manner, and he should be listened to carefully.

SEN. VOINOVICH: Pardon me, but would you agree that we haven't done a good enough job in talking about Plan B, that in concert with what we're doing in Baghdad and the surge, the big picture about where we're going in the region?

MR. KISSINGER: I think the focus has been on the surge. My focus is the other way around, to explain the surge in terms of the strategy to which we should go.

Whatever happens in the surge, I look at the surge as giving us maneuvering room to go to what you call Plan B, and what I called a necessary strategy.

SEN. VOINOVICH: How would you convince people to go to an international conference or regional conference, what would you say to the --

MR. KISSINGER: I think the secretary of State is extremely articulate and she should certainly -- I mean, once the concept is established, I have every confidence in her being able to do this.

SEN. VOINOVICH: Well, when? We had Lee Hamilton in here yesterday, and the Iraq task force, they came back and said that we should begun diplomacy and engaging our partners in the region immediately.

When? Tomorrow? Next week? Six months from now?

MR. KISSINGER: Now.

SEN. VOINOVICH: Well --

MR. KISSINGER: I think you cannot segment policy. If you have a concept where to go, you ought to start preparing the ground for it as soon as you have agreed on what you're going to do.

SEN. VOINOVICH: Well, our problem is, I think we have a big public relations problem with the American people because I don't think they understand what we're really doing there and how important the region is to our future.

And I think that's why there's a lot of people that are taking the position that they are that says we have to get out of there.

I mean, I don't think -- for example, they're not aware of the fact that we've been protecting oil interests in that area for years. I didn't find out until I was a member of this committee how much, how many billions of dollars that we spend every year to protect the oil interests there that are crucial to the economic security of the United States. It starts back from President Roosevelt. I never even knew that, and the American people are not aware of that. We've been spending money there for years to protect oil. If that place disintegrates, our economy could come to its knees.

MR. KISSINGER: We have permanent interests there. The situation is changing rapidly in directions which are unfamiliar to Americans because we are not used to dealing with people who are willing to kill themselves for -- in this manner, and we have to understand the conditions in this area, and not act impulsively at a moment that will effect the next decade.

SEN. BIDEN: Thank you very much, Senator.

Senator Obama.

SEN. OBAMA: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Mr. Secretary, thank you for your testimony.

I have to ask just a couple of questions based on sort of the interaction here, because from what I understand, the implication of your testimony, and some of the responses to your questions is that you think the only way to express our understanding that there are permanent interests in the Middle East is to maintain our troop levels in Iraq, or in fact increase them, and that if we did not maintain current troop levels or increase them that somehow would be abdicating responsibility and suggesting that we didn't have permanent interests in the region.

Is that my understanding of your testimony, or did I misunderstand it?

MR. KISSINGER: No. I believe that at this moment, if the option proposed by the administration is the best way to get the maneuvering room to the changes in deployment and strategy that will be required by the evolving situation. At that point, we can decide what levels we should have, and in what mix. But it should not be debated in terms of are you for withdrawal or for an increase? In the present situation you have correctly characterized my view, but not as a permanent view --

SEN. OBAMA: Let's focus on this, because I completely agree with you that the argument about additional 20,000 troops, in and of itself, is not the central issue.

The central issue -- what is this grand strategy in Iraq? Now, you suggest that this is a precursor to a grand strategy. You indicate that this will provide us maneuvering room to pursue this strategy. Do you know what the strategy is? Has the president articulated what this strategy is -- this grand new strategy? Because, as far as I can tell, nobody on this committee knows what this grand strategy is --

MR. KISSINGER: I'm speaking here --

SEN. OBAMA: -- and the American public doesn't seem to understand what it is. So --

MR. KISSINGER: I'm speaking here on my own behalf.

SEN. OBAMA: No, I understand, but I just want to establish for the record, is there -- because the notion is that this is a precursor, this lays the groundwork -- the foundation provides the maneuvering room for a grand strategy that will stabilize the situation there.

Is there any place that you're familiar with where the administration has articulated this strategy?

MR. KISSINGER: I don't know any place where the administration has articulated this particular strategy. From my acquaintance with some of the people, I think it is possible that they will come to this strategy. But I'm not here as their spokesman.

SEN. OBAMA: Well, I understand that. But I think it's important, I guess -- obviously, Mr. Secretary, you know, you have enormous experience in this field and are very well respected. What I gather, then, is that you're presuming that there's a grand strategy in which will justify the escalation of troop levels, or at least preclude withdrawal, and yet, what I'm hearing is that in fact there is no articulation of that strategy that you're aware of right now, and you're presuming that somebody, somewhere must have one.

MR. KISSINGER: I'm making two points. I'm saying that if we now act out of frustration, we may start a process that prevents a grand strategy and that will drive us into an outcome that nobody wants. If we do this, we should do it in the expectation of a grand strategy.

And as I've said before, I would not object to a statement that outlines a grand strategy, especially if it were done on a bipartisan basis --

SEN. OBAMA: Well, let me suggest that within your --

MR. KISSINGER: -- especially one that the administration would then join.

SEN. OBAMA: I'm sorry. Let me suggest that within your -- the papers that you provided us, I think your approach in terms of a regional diplomatic strategy makes perfect sense. I think that the Baker-Hamilton commission recommended this as well.

As far as we can see -- and I think your interaction with Senator Voinovich indicates this -- the administration doesn't seem to be embarking on this particular strategy. It's not clear to me that we could not pursue that strategy, even as we were initiating a phased redeployment, as opposed to a precipitous one; which brings me, I guess, to a critical point.

In your estimation is there anything that can get the Iraqi factions to change their behavior, other than an ongoing occupation with perhaps increased forces -- U.S. forces -- for an indeterminate period of time? What would change the political dynamic on the ground, where the Shi'a, the Sunni, the Kurds to a lesser extent, have a different set of calculations that they would be making?

MR. KISSINGER: I -- look, the Sunni-Shi'a conflict has lasted 1,400 years, and has been bloody and brutal. So one should not pretend that one can solve it --

SEN. OBAMA: It won't be easy in any event, right?

MR. KISSINGER: -- in the American polity, or quickly.

We can only do what we think is right and most likely to produce a desirable result. It is clear that there's a limit to what the American public can support, or will support. And all of these issues that we are discussing are based on assessments you cannot prove when you make them. That's what makes them so difficult.

My assessment is that the debate about the surge exaggerates an essentially tactical move. The real issue is the long-term role of the United States. I agree with Secretary Baker that we are likely to be in Iraq for a long period, but that does not mean it has to be, or should be, at the present level, or in the present deployment.

This is what our next discussion should be about. And whatever happens, it will go on for the next few administrations, the impact of what we are deciding now. It can't end with one administration, no matter what we do.

I think that the best course is to attempt to deal with the militias, and whatever else happens, whatever happens in that, and while that happens, prepare ourselves for what I describe as the grand strategy. I hope that it's done in accord between the executive and the Congress, because that will be best for the long-term health of the American public, no matter what happens in the future.

SEN. OBAMA: Mr. Chairman --

MR. KISSINGER: That is what I'm trying to contribute to -- I cannot speak for the administration, but I would be disappointed, and surprised, if they did not accept some of the elements of what has been discussed here.

SEN. OBAMA: Well, let me just close -- and I know I'm out of time --

SEN. BIDEN: It's okay. You're making a very salient point.

SEN. OBAMA: -- by simply saying this: I think the American people are disappointed. I'm disappointed with the manner in which, over the last several years, we have proceeded in Iraq. And I just -- I want to dispute this notion somehow that the American people aren't clear about interests in the Middle East.

I think the majority of the American people understand that we have significant interests there. That is the reason that they were willing to authorize, or at least a number of the members of the Senate were willing to authorize going in. I think they perfectly understand the severity of the Islamic threat.

What they don't understand is how, after all the commitments that we have made, all the lives that have been lost and the billions of dollars that have been spent, the situation seems to deteriorate, and we are actually less safe and the region is less stable, and we have less leverage with the players in the region. That's what they don't understand. That's what they're frustrated with, is the fact that they've made an enormous investment in blood and treasure, and the outcome is worse than when we started.

And so I just think it's important, Mr. Chairman, for the record, to indicate that if in fact -- I completely agree with the secretary that the surge, or escalation, whatever you want to call it, in and of itself is not the salient issue. The issue is: Is there a strategy to stabilize Iraq that prevents us from establishing a permanent occupation in that region that further destabilizes it and further inflames anti-American sentiment? And that strategy has not been forthcoming from this administration.

And I don't -- I understand, Mr. Secretary, you don't speak for the administration. But I -- to the extent that you are suggesting that they have some secret strategy that we have not been made privy to, and that's why we should not speak out against it, I would strongly differ with you, recognizing that you have far more experience in this field than I do.

SEN. BIDEN: Senator --

MR. KISSINGER: No, I think -- I'm not saying you shouldn't speak out on behalf of the strategy that should be pursued --

SEN. OBAMA: Well, I think the concern you expressed was --

MR. KISSINGER: I'm hoping --

SEN. OBAMA: -- that we should not -- that there should be some sense of cooperation between the administration and Congress, so that we don't send a message that we are divided to the world. I completely agree with that.

We had the opportunity to do that with the Baker-Hamilton commission, which has essentially been ignored by this administration. And so, the frustrations that many of us have is: If we have an administration that does not seem willing to listen, and we have a strategy that, to all eyes, is not working, at some point, we have to make some decisions in terms of getting it on track.

I'm way over time, Mr. Chairman.

Thank you for your --

SEN. BIDEN: Thank you very much.

I let that go because I think it's such an important exchange.

The problem, Mr. Secretary, is, in a nutshell, that most of us view the president's projection of forces as his strategy, and he's explicitly rejected the strategic suggestions you and others have made. It's been explicit.

I'll not take the time to read in the record, but I ask unanimous consent to read into the record the comments by the secretary of State and other administration officials with regard to the larger strategic notion you're laying forward.

But having said that, let me yield now to Senator Isakson, and we'll be finished

SEN. ISAKSON: And I will be quick.

Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary, for your years of service to the United States, and I really only have one question, which relates to the most recent exchanges, and so I'll state this question and then allow you to respond. But thank you so much for your service, and for this paper.

My memory is that the United States of America went into Iraq and had three specific goals. The first was to enforce U.N. Resolution 1441, because the entire world, 176 countries, thought there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and there was no confusion on that, and Hussein gave us no comfort that that wasn't true. The second goal was to allow the Iraqi people to hold free elections and write a constitution.

Now, we accomplished both of the first two goals. The third stated goal by the president of the United States, in his speech prior to our vote, was that we would train the Iraqi military in order for them to keep the peace and allow that fledgling government to survive. I believe I'm right, that those -- those are not the same words, but those are the specific goals.

The strategy to accomplish those was a military strategy because it took a military strategy to accomplish goals one, two and three. Our current dilemma is our failure in number three, which has come about because of the rise of sectarian violence, in addition to all the other violence that is precipitated by other interests in the region, and al Qaeda.

Here's the question: You state in your -- where Senator Voinovich was -- "It should be seen as the" -- "it" meaning the current move by the president in terms of Anbar and Baghdad -- "It should be seen as the first step toward a new grand strategy relating power to diplomacy for the entire region, ideally on a nonpartisan basis." And then in the next paragraph, the last conjunction in that sentence says, "and to provide the maneuvering room for a major diplomatic effort to stabilize the Middle East."

That's a lot, I'm sorry. But my question is this: My hopes and promise for the president's strategy, currently, is that it would produce enough stability in the current violent neighborhoods where the sectarian violence is going on, where some reconciliation can take place and you can begin diplomacy. Am I wrong in that hope?

MR. KISSINGER: I believe that the objectives that I've stated, and the objectives you have stated are compatible with what the president is intending to do.

And certainly, mistakes have been made. Some of these mistakes derive from an overestimation of the ability to apply American domestic experiences to the Iraqi situation. In our country, elections are a way of shifting responsibilities. In Iraq, they were a way of deepening ethnic rivalries. That's hard for Americans to absorb right away.

I am convinced, but I cannot base it on any necessary evidence right now, that the president will want to move towards a bipartisan consensus, and that the things I have said here are not incompatible with his convictions. And I have confidence that he will attempt to do this. It's, of course, your responsibility to determine to what extent that has been done by the administration. I cannot.

But I think that to spent the last two years of an administration in a sort of civil war between the executive and the legislative should be avoided by both sides, and we should be able to evolve a position on which so much depends, for such a long time, as a joint national enterprise. That's my plea. But if I were before the president, I'd say the same thing to him.

SEN. ISAKSON: Well, I appreciate the answer because that, too, is my goal.

You know, Mr. Chairman, every one of us prefers a diplomatic solution to a military solution. But we can't forget those three goals which -- and nobody disputed what I said -- that we went into Iraq, went into Iraq because diplomacy had failed. Worldwide diplomacy at the U.N. had failed in terms of Iraq refusing to comply with those resolutions. That meant the strategy had to go to a military one, or a look the other way, and if you ever look the other way when you're telling people there are going to be consequences, then you have no diplomacy.

So I think it's very dangerous for us to be talking about there being no consideration of diplomacy. We are there because diplomacy failed, and what will ultimately succeed will be diplomacy.

But my belief in this is that quelling the sectarian violence and stabilizing the conditions long enough for the beginning of reconciliation can be the first step towards regional negotiation, and diplomacy working.

And I won't make any more speeches, but I want to thank the Secretary again. He's given me a lot of good lines for the remarks I'm going to have to make on the floor in a few days, and I appreciate it a lot.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

SEN. BIDEN: Thank you very much, Senator.

Mr. Secretary, thank you very much for being here. I want to make it clear to you: We're waiting for the invitation from the president to discuss this. We have tried. I have tried, and I respectfully suggest a lot of people here have tried.

We're also waiting for a strategy. The president has explicitly rejected international involvement, and has -- the disagreements we have with them is no international involvement and the definition of the Iraqi mission. But I want to make it clear: I stand ready, as just one of a hundred senators, to work with this president. I have privately told him that, publicly told him that, and we're waiting for both an invitation and a wholesome discussion, a fulsome discussion about what the strategy should be. What is the strategy?

And everyone I have talked to thus far -- there may be exceptions -- from his former secretary of State, to you, to Democrats involved -- to the best of my knowledge, no one can come forward and say how we can get from here to there absent engaging the international community, and that's been flatly rejected -- flatly rejected. Involving the U.N., involving the Permanent 5, involving a larger construct of Muslim nations, as you suggested, has been every time flatly rejected.

So, I'm not quite sure, Johnny -- I'm ready to work, and I'm sure everyone is. And so, again, I don't want you to leave, Mr. Secretary, thinking that we're looking for a fight with the president. We're looking for the president to engage us -- not Democrats -- Democrats and Republicans -- looking for him to engage us.

And I'll conclude by saying, Mr. Secretary: I suggested, and others suggest the same thing on the Republican side, that what the president should have done after the last election, invite those of us on both sides that he thinks have some modicum of influence here, to Camp David -- no staff, no telephones, no nothing -- just to sit down and have a real discussion.

I have found, at least my experience thus far, there's not really a desire to do that. I think it's best for the country; I think it's best for the region; I think it's best to respond to the American people that way. But in the meantime, this is all about responding to a tactic masquerading as a strategy that changes a mission that many of us think is not able to be accomplished by what he's suggesting.

But again, your contribution is significant; it always has been. I thank you very much, and I hope you will remain available to us, both publicly and privately.

MR. KISSINGER: Thank you for the spirit in which this session has been conducted.

SEN. BIDEN: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. You're well respected by everyone on this committee.

Okay. I thank you, Mr. Secretary.

While you are -- our next witness is a equally distinguished former secretary of State, and I understand she is in the anteroom, and we'll get her to, escort her in.

(Recess.)

SEN. BIDEN: This hearing will come back to order. And again, I want to thank Secretary Kissinger, but welcome enthusiastically as well, Secretary Albright.

Staff has pointed out to me I should make a clarification so no one misunderstands.

There has been an invitation to the White House to work on a group called the Lieberman -- not called -- the Lieberman and others antiterrorism group. But that is not the invitation I'm talking about, so I don't want anybody to misunderstand. The White House is always generous in their invitations for us to come down and talk, but I think we need to have a real sense of where they want to go.

At any rate, having said that, Madame Secretary, welcome. It's a great honor having you here, and I want to publicly thank you for your continued involvement, in a very detailed way, in engaging with your former colleagues who shared foreign ministers. And you put together a group of -- talk about bipartisan; it's multinational -- as well as sharing every ideological stripe, and you've kept that group together.

It is a very influential group of individuals you continue to meet with, and the collective input is, I'm sure, as welcomed in other capitols as it is here, so I thank you.

I made an opening statement earlier, so I'm not going to go any further other than to say that you're very welcome here, as you know, Madame Secretary. We're anxious to hear what you have to say.

Senator Lugar?

SEN. LUGAR: I'll simply follow you, Mr. Chairman, and we're looking forward to hearing the secretary's testimony.

SEN. BIDEN: The floor is yours, Madame Secretary.

MS. ALBRIGHT: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, and Senator Lugar, members of the committee.

I am delighted to be here and to return to these very familiar surroundings and have the opportunity to testify.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for saying what you did about my former foreign ministers group. It grows by virtue of what it is --

SEN. BIDEN: (Laughs.)

MS. ALBRIGHT: -- and so we have a lot of interesting discussions and good hopes that some of our words will be taken seriously.

I am very glad to testify, and I will speak both plainly and bluntly. There are no good options. If there were, many of us, including many of you, would not have been issuing such urgent warnings for the past four years.

Those warnings were ignored; the result is that every available alternative now carries with it grave risks. Each raises moral and practical questions about our responsibilities, and each depends for success far more on what others do than on what we do, which is another way of saying that despite our power, we have lost control of the most important U.S. national security initiative of this decade.

I desperately want General Petraeus and our forces to succeed. Those troops are the finest in the world and will accomplish any mission that is within their power, but it is the responsibility of civilian authorities to assign them missions that make sense.

Instead, we have put our forces in the absurd position of trying to prevent violence by all sides against all sides. The Sunnis want us to protect them from the Shi'ites. The Shi'ites want us on the sidelines so that they can consolidate their power. Both are divided among themselves.

Al Qaeda is using the turmoil to recruit the bin Ladens of tomorrow. And Iran's regional influence is greater now than it has been in centuries.

If I were a soldier on patrol in Baghdad, I wouldn't know whom to shoot at until I was shot at, which is untenable.

I agree with the president that it would be a disaster for us to leave Iraq under the present circumstances, but it may also be a disaster for us to stay. And if our troops are not in a position to make a decisive difference, we have an overriding duty to bring them home.

The Iraq Study Group recommended a more limited role for the United States troops. Their view, which I share, is that Iraqis must take responsibility for their own security, because although we can assist, we cannot do the job for them.

We do not have enough people. We do not speak the language. We do not know the culture well enough, and quite frankly, we do not have the recognized legal and moral authority to go into Iraqi homes and compel obedience. Each time we do, we lose as much ground politically as we might hope to gain militarily. And that's why the president's current policy should be viewed less as a serious plan than as a prayer.

It is not about reality; it is about hope, but hope is not a strategy. The truth is that Iraqis will continue to act in their own best interests as they perceive them, and we must act in ours.

Today in Iraq, three nightmares come to mind: first, an Iraq that serves as a training and recruiting ground for al Qaeda; second, an Iraq that is subservient to Iran; third, an Iraq so torn by conflict that it ignites a region-wide war.

We may well end up with one or all three of these nightmares. There is no easy exit, and I expect this year to be brutal. Accordingly, I offer my recommendations with genuine humility, for they are designed simply to make the best of a truly bad situation.

First, we should do all we can to encourage a political settlement that would reduce the violence. Americans are united on this. We favor an arrangement that would recognize the Shi'a majority, protect the Sunni minority, and allow the Kurds a high degree of autonomy.

In recent days, there has been some movement in the right direction. The overall violence, however, remains at a record level, and the prospects for a real breakthrough are tenuous at best.

My second recommendation supports the first, which is to increase diplomatic activity. Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, we both know that we can talk to governments without endorsing them or overlooking past actions. Talking to governments about hard problems is why diplomacy matters. It's actually what diplomats do.

The case for talking to Syria is strong, if only to warn its government about the dangers of the supporting violent elements either in Iraq or Lebanon. Further, we have cooperated with Syria in the past on some issues, including Iraq, and might well be able to do so now.

As for Iran, there are many serious people with whom one might talk. The problem is the president, Ahmadinejad, is not one of them. We should do nothing that might bolster his standing, but we should indicate our desire over the long term to have good relations with Iran's people.

More broadly, U.S. efforts to put diplomatic pressure on Iran with regard to its nuclear program deserve the support of every member of this committee, and those efforts may still work.

I do, however, urge the committee to ask detailed questions about every aspect of the administration's intentions towards Iran and to demand credible answers. It would be interesting to know why the statements have gotten more bellicose. It would be interesting to know why there are aircraft carriers in the region. It would just be interesting to know where they're going.

We have learned the hard way what happens when this administration decides on a policy without putting its assumptions to the test of legislative scrutiny and informed debate.

Third, we should do all we can to revive a meaningful Arab- Israeli peace process. This is important for the Israelis and Palestinians themselves. But I also say this because U.S. prestige in the region has suffered due to our inactivity these past six years, but more important because peace is the right goal to pursue.

As shown by her recent trips, Secretary Rice has begun to engage. I only worry that it is too little, too late. Middle East diplomacy is a full-time job, and a road map does no good if it is never taken out of the glove compartment.

Fourth, both in Iraq and in the region, we must avoid the temptation to take sides in the millennium-old Sunni-Shi'ite split. We must be mindful of the interests of all factions and willing to talk to every side, but our message should not vary. We should pledge support to all who observe territorial borders, honor human rights, obey the rule of law, respect holy places and seek to live in peace.

Fifth, Congress should continue to support efforts to build democratic institutions in Iraq. As chair of the National Democratic Institute, I'm not neutral about this, but it was always unrealistic to believe that a full-fledged democracy could be created in Iraq overnight. It is, however, equally unrealistic to think that a stable Iraq will ever be created if democratic principles are not part of the equation.

One of my great fears is that our nation's experience in Iraq will cause Americans to abandon efforts to build democracy over the long term. That would be a mistake. There are wise and unwise ways to go about the task, but the goal of supporting democracy is the right one. It is intimately connected to America's role in the world, both historically and in the future, and if we give up on democracy, we give up not only on Iraq but also on America.

Six, we should make one more effort to encourage others, especially our NATO allies, to expand their training of Iraq's military and police. Every country in Europe has a stake in Iraq's future; every country should do what it can to help.

Finally, we should call on religious leaders from all factions to take a stand against the violence in Iraq. Everyone is so convinced they have God on their side; we should at least make the case that God is on the side of peace.

At the same time, we should reiterate our own pledge on moral grounds to minimize harm to civilians and guarantee humane treatment of prisoners. An element of confession in this would not hurt.

The bottom line is that there must be an evolution in the political situation in Iraq that will curb sectarian violence and reduce the level of insecurity to something that can be managed. With a settlement, we could withdraw gradually with nightmares avoided. Without a settlement, our troops cannot make a decisive difference and might as well begin to redeploy.

Mr. Chairman, America's own War Between the States lasted about as long as the current war in Iraq, and it went on so long that Abraham Lincoln said in frustration that the heavens were hung in black. We might say the same today.

I see profound problems ahead, but I have confidence in the resilience of our nation. We can in time regain our balance, restore our reputation -- and all that is required is that we respond creatively to change, live up to our own principles, and ensure that America becomes America again.

Thank you very much, and now I look forward to responding to your questions.

SEN. BIDEN: Thank you, Madame Secretary.

I'm going to yield to Senator Boxer and then to -- I'll go last in this round.

SEN. BOXER: Thank you so much, Mr. Chairman, I so appreciate it.

Madame Secretary, thank you very much for your clarity. And I think you're the first person in a long time that came before us and used the word "peace" a few times, and I like that because it's a vision.

And I remember during the darkest days of the Vietnam War, there was a bumper sticker that appeared, Mr. Chairman, on some cars and it said, "Imagine peace."

And at first, I looked at it because here I was, definitely in the antiwar camp, and saying, "What does that mean?"

And then I realized that we had almost gotten to a point where we couldn't imagine what it would be like not to turn on the TV and see dead soldiers -- Americans -- as we're seeing now every day, so we need to always think ahead to the day when we will have that. And we need to have action now to get to that place.

Here's where I'm worried: I see paralysis setting in, in the political sector of our own country. And it's almost -- it's a fear of what's happening now, but a fear of how it could look -- it could be worse, and I think when you get into that place where you're fearful of what's happening now, but you fear the unknown of what could be worse, you're stuck.

And I think we're stuck, and I think we need to start talking about a vision. We have to think diplomacy and talk about diplomacy. We have to think about peace and talk about peace. We have to challenge al-Maliki, who -- and now, I apologize to him in advance. I have never heard the man stand up in a speech and say, "I am calling for a cease-fire in my country that I love so much."

I haven't heard that. I want to hear that.

And it's one thing to talk about the American Civil War where Americans versus Americans. It's another thing to have an Iraqi civil war, where Americans are paying a huge price. And you quoted in your written statement, your longer version, of a soldier, and you name him -- that was from The New York Times story -- who said, "Who the hell is shooting at me?" They don't know.

And to this we're going to escort another 21,000 of our beautiful children, and some of them are fathers and mothers. We're putting them into that hell. So, I'm glad that you're using the words "peace." And I want to talk to you about something I've been pushing and -- (laughs) -- chairman knows I have. Because I said most people are paralyzed -- not everyone.

Our chairman has come forward with a vision of how this thing can end up in a place where people will stop killing each other and yet keep together the country of Iraq -- to do the things a country has to do, including making sure the oil is shared in a fair way. It's not three separate countries -- he's gotten a rap on that -- never was, always semiautonomous policing by your own people, trusts built up in that kind of -- it's just what's happening in Kurdistan.

Now today, we had a breakthrough, I think, with Dr. Kissinger. Dr. Kissinger said, essentially -- and I am being fair in what he said -- he said: "You know, I think that's where it's going," he said in answer to my questions, "going to the Biden plan. It's moving that way, but we have to be careful not to put the American stamp on it, because that wouldn't be good," to which I said, "I'd rather have us in the middle of a diplomatic solution than in the middle of a civil war."

And I'm asking you the same question. Now I'm not asking you to endorse the Biden-Gelb plan, or the Gelb-Biden plan, however it is. But isn't it time now to think -- not only think diplomacy, but act as if that is where we're going? The American people voted to get us out of there, in my opinion.

If they're cautious, none of our plans -- I'm on the Feingold bill, Feingold-Boxer. We say it's going to take six months, and we're going to leave anti-terror forces there; we're going to leave training forces there. Not one plan says we're walking away from the region. But the American people want us to get out, want our soldiers to stop dying, want a diplomatic solution. What did the president give them? A military strategy: a battle plan for 21,000 troops.

So, I'm asking you because I get frustrated sometimes with diplomats, of which I readily admitted before, I'm not one -- you know that -- because I'm afraid that diplomats sometimes, by nature, are cautious in what they say because that's your job. You have to keep everybody moving, and you can't shut off any ideas, and I get it.

But if we could agree that now is the time to think diplomacy, rather than keep talking about surges and so on, is it not time for maybe a consensus to develop around this notion of a meeting, whether it be regional, international, where everyone comes to the table with their plans. You know, yesterday I had an all-day hearing on global warming. It was the most interesting thing.

And Mr. Chairman, I missed you desperately -- you were here. But we had -- a third of the Senate came, a quarter in person; the rest wrote.

Why was it important to do that? Because we want to see where everybody is, and we want to envision -- not the catastrophe of global warming, but how we're going to solve it. And so we came together as the United States Senate yesterday. It was a fascinating thing.

And I think we are way past the time where we have to be much more aggressive about demanding a kind of a conference where the ideas to solve this problem all come on the table. And I'm wondering if you feel that sense of urgency for diplomacy and specific solutions?

MS. ALBRIGHT: Thank you, Senator.

And I think that I have sometimes been known for being fairly blunt while I have been trying to be diplomatic.

I think we need a surge in diplomacy. That is what is essential here. And what has troubled me is that there has not been any kind of a comprehensive diplomatic approach to what is happening in the Middle East specifically, but generally. Comprehensive diplomatic plans is not a hallmark of this administration, and I think that that has been very much missing.

So I would agree that what has to happen is a big diplomatic push. I was interested in what Dr. Kissinger had to say. I think -- he and I obviously talk fairly frequently, and we have talked about the idea of a regional diplomatic approach where, in fact, you actually talk to everybody, where you might begin by having a contact group of the immediate powers; the Permanent 5 of the Security Council, and then the regional countries.

But I believe that what is happening in the region is in the national interest of a number of different countries, and they should be at the table. So I think that there needs to be a very comprehensive diplomatic approach.

On the idea of what happens to Iraq, I think that -- I do think it's essential to talk about the territorial integrity of Iraq, which both you and Chairman Biden have talked about. What I am troubled by is that this administration lost time after the invasion to discuss with the political people in Iraq the concept of federalism. That is something we happen to know something about -- when there was a time when they were searching for particular ways to run a country that clearly is composed of a variety of different sects, groups, religious approaches.

And so, I think the idea of the -- as the constitution of Iraq is written, which allows for, and mandates, in fact, a great deal of regional autonomy, is appropriate. I think there are certain central powers that a government needs. Some of it has to do with the oil revenue and various other parts.

So without endorsing any plan, I do think reality here sets in that there will be regional autonomy. I do think we have to be very careful not to pursue or precipitate a breakup of Iraq as a country, because I think, as all of you have described, it has knock-on effect in the rest of the region. But it is time for us to have a surge in diplomacy.

SEN. BOXER: Mr. Chairman, could I just finish in 30 seconds?

Thank you.

Senator Biden's plan never called for breaking up the country into separate countries, so I have to say that a hundred times -- never, ever did. It's always been the type of system that is allowed in the Iraqi constitution. I just think sometimes, you know -- no one that I know of is suggesting it, at least not in the Senate. So I wanted to clear the point on that.

But I just want to thank you very much. I don't know how many people saw in the news this weekend -- there was a conversation with the people who were close to al-Sadr. And what al-Sadr said is as soon as the American troops are ready to go after him, he's gone away. And he and his boys are going to other parts of Iraq to increase their organization. They're not going to stand out there and be killed. And so while we're searching, he's going to expand his influence in the rest of the country.

So how this surge, in the long run, is going to help us resolve things is beyond me. And the only way is what you say: a diplomatic surge. And ideas such as the chairman's and others, on the table, to give hope to the people that there is a peaceful way out of this nightmare.

And I just want to thank you for continuing to come forward because it's very charged, and it's very hard, and I thank you for your words today.

MS. ALBRIGHT: Thank you.

If I might just comment, I have, when asked about Senator Biden's plan, I have said that, in fact, it is an attempt to keep the country together --

SEN. BOXER: Good.

MS. ALBRIGHT: -- which I do believe is what it is about. I'm just talking about in the long-run what might happen that we do have to watch out for. But I think it is very clear from my reading of the plan that it is done in order to keep the country together. And I do think that is an essential point.

I also do think that a point that you make is, our troops are in a very difficult position. They are there -- their presence is necessary for security, but their presence is also a flypaper attracting everybody who hates us. So there are no simple solutions here, which is why I think that we have to have a discussion, such as you all are initiating, and why we need to do that.

Next, on Iran: I would like to know what is going on with our government's policy towards Iran.

SEN. BOXER: Thank you.

SEN. BIDEN: Thank you.

So would I, Madame Secretary.

Senator Lugar.

SEN. LUGAR: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Madame Secretary, let me ask you a question based upon your longtime, extraordinary leadership with the National Democratic Institute and your interest in democracy generally.

We had a panel the other day, which included a witness who had been working for the National Endowment for Democracy, but also included the son of President Talabani -- two other persons with roots in Iraq.

Now, the thing that I took away from that panel was a description, essentially, of Iraq after our military operations were concluded -- namely anarchy. They described a situation in which there was very little policing in most of the areas of the country. As a result, bandits -- common criminals -- preyed upon people -- not simply in Baghdad, but really throughout the country. And therefore, the interest to people there, quite apart from our interest in democracy for the country, or some central government, was simply protection for themselves, for their property and so forth.

From all of this grew many militia, not simply the well-known ones that involve thousands of persons, or those identified with sectarian causes, but local groups of people who exercise some political authority. Now out of the midst of this, the United States worked with some authorities in Iraq to have elections -- elections with regard to people in the parliament, one with regard to the constitution.

But some of our witnesses said these elections confirmed about the number of Sunnis there are in the country, how many are Shi'ites, likewise, and how many Kurds, so we almost took a census. And Shi'ites, as the most numerous group -- 60 percent -- predictably, got more representatives than the others.

Now, Secretary Kissinger this morning, made the point that in a situation which there are not well established institutions which recognize minority rights, which have these checks and balances, and human rights and so forth -- in essence, a democratic vote may simply confirm that one side is dominant. And if there is a sectarian feeling, that dominance may then be enforced by a government which comes from all of this.

What I'm asking of you: Was our pursuit of democracy, in the stages that occurred there, appropriate? If it was not, was there at any point an opportunity for these institutions to grow that buttress democracy? Or, in the sectarian situation, is there going to be a sense, for a while, of minority rights, rather than winner takes all? And finally, if in this current situation, the Maliki government -- the Shi'ite government -- feels that somehow it is being undermined and seeks assistance from Iran so that it preserves at least the Shi'ite side of it, as well as maybe some civil authority in Iraq, how are we to respond to that?

MS. ALBRIGHT: Well, we've hit on my favorite subject, so -- but I think that the issue here is that I think we're all alike, and people want to be able to make decisions about their own lives. Therefore, I do believe that democracy is not just a Western whim but something that does fit across the world.

But you cannot impose democracy. Imposing democracy is an oxymoron. And what the National Democratic Institute has done, in various places -- we're in over 60 countries now -- is to support democracy in various places where there are ideas, and people want to participate in their own government.

I think that many mistakes were made early on in Iraq, in terms of not understanding what had to be done with a political structure. We talked about the federalism issue -- also, that elections would in fact make clear that the Shi'a were the majority population. But, it is possible to have elections in which the majority is elected, while minority rights are also honored.

And I think that we have learned that democracy is not an event; democracy is a process. And there have been, I think, initial feelings about democracy in Iraq. I do think when we saw the purple fingers and everything, it was a legitimate movement. There were people who took great risks to go out and vote at that time.

NDI has been on the ground. We have been training a lot of people. Very sadly, we lost a person last week -- Andrea Parhamovich, who was from Ohio, who was a wonderful young woman.

But the truth is that we can't give up on Iraq. We will not have a functioning Jeffersonian democracy, or Jacksonian or any other for the time being. But I do believe in the idea of democracy support. I do not believe in the possibility of imposing democracy on Iraq, which I think was really part of what was happening there.

SEN. LUGAR: Well now, one question you've raised about Iran brings in this international context. There are fears on the part of some Sunni nations surrounding Iraq that the Shi'ite government might ally with Iran. Therefore, Secretary Rice is gaining some traction as these governments think about how they're going to deal on behalf of Sunni brethren. What are the dangers there?

MS. ALBRIGHT: Well I think that we have to be very careful about a long-range trend in the region, which is an Arab-Persian war -- Sunni-Shi'a, if you want to describe it that way. And I think that it is of great concern.

And we should try, in many ways, to hope that we're not in the middle of it, and also to do everything to try to mitigate such a problem. That is not done, frankly, by deciding that we're never going to talk to Iranians. And the relationship between the Shi'a in Iraq and the Iranians exists; it's there.

And I do think that our main problem is trying to figure out how to develop an area within the Middle East where these shifts can be absorbed peacefully -- where we are part of some kind of a new security framework and are able to deal with what I think could be a disaster, which is a Persian-Arab war.

SEN. BIDEN: Thank you very much.

Senator Menendez.

SEN. MENENDEZ: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I appreciate your courtesy as well, throughout the hearing.

Madame Secretary, it's great to see you again, and we appreciate your service, and I want to thank you for your candor.

You know, I read your testimony before Secretary Kissinger finished his testimony -- used some of it to ask questions, so there's some degree of unanimity on one or two of these issues.

Part of your testimony talks about that there are no good options -- do the best of what there exists. And that the result is that every alternative now carries with it great risk and the potential for even deeper and wider strife. Secretary Kissinger agreed with that.

But then you go on to say, "Each depends," talking about the alternative, "for success far more on what others do than on what we do, which is another way of saying that despite our power, we have lost control of the most important U.S. national security initiative of this decade." And he had a little bit of a different view of that. He felt that we could still drive the effort by our leadership, to try to get others to do -- admittedly, that others were critical to achieving success, but to do what we would hope them to do to achieve that.

How do you see that? At this point, how do you see us being able to drive, or to change that dynamic, so that while we may have lost control, as you say, of the most important U.S. national security initiative of the decade, how do we seek to regain some of that control? And how -- in another part of your written statement, you talk about and say, "An arrangement must be worked out that will give each side more than they can obtain through continued violence."

The question is, how do we get to that set of circumstances? How do we make, in other words, Iraqis love their children more than they hate their neighbors?

MS. ALBRIGHT: I have to say it's going to be very difficult for me to say what I'm about to say, which is that I am very troubled by America's reputation at this point.

I very much thought and continued to say often when I was secretary that the United States was the indispensable nation. I have fully believed that and I have thought -- believed in the goodness of American power. I continue to believe in the goodness of the American people and our overall direction. But rather than being in a position where we can drive something now, when we get involved in something, people are very suspicious about it.

I just came back from West Africa and East Africa where people were saying, "Well, you know, America's position on Sudan is really basically some kind of a reaction to what they're not doing in the Middle East." And everything is viewed with suspicion. And that troubles me incredibly because the world needs America to have ideas, to put bridging proposals on the table. And yet at the moment we are -- our motives are suspect everywhere.

Therefore, I think that what is essential is for us to begin to use the diplomatic tool much more, which is why I thought that working through some kind of a contact group would be a good idea -- also, trying to see the Middle East as a regional issue.

Secretary Kissinger spoke at length about history, and I think -- feel very strongly -- that people need to look at the Middle East in a historical way. President Clinton told me to read one particular book called "The Peace to End All Peace," (sic/"A Peace to End All Peace") which provides the history of how the modern Middle East was created after the end of the First World War. And the short version was that it happened because the British and French bureaucracies were lying to each other. When the British left the area, the United States became the kind of governing power.

And what is viewed in the Middle East now is that we are all colonial powers. And there is a massive shift going on in the region. I think we have to recognize that. We have to be there to support those who want to live in peace and live in countries that make sense.

But I'm sorry to say that at this moment, it's a little hard for the United States to put down a plan and say, "salute," because our motives are suspect. I do think that is the reason that there has to be very active diplomacy -- a regional plan.

And I also would say the following: We have to be interested in our national interests. The United States did not begin World War I or World War II. But when we saw that it affected our national interests, we went in there and fought.

The Europeans, and others who did not favor this war and have criticized it, need to understand that what is going on in the Middle East affects their national interests, and they need to get in there and help. They have to help in the training of a lot of the Iraqis. They have to help in a lot of the reconstruction -- it means we have to share the contracts a bit -- but they need to understand that they also have a national interest in this. And therefore internationalizing this issue -- understanding the shifts in the Middle East -- is where I think we need to go.

But I don't want anybody to misunderstand me in terms of my respect for what our troops have done, the support that the American people have given and the necessity that ultimately America continues to play a vital role in the world. But at the moment our moral authority is seriously damaged.

SEN. MENENDEZ: Would you care to offer, under the heading of the part of your statement that says, "An arrangement must be worked out that would give each side more than they can obtain through continued violence," what would you envision some of that being?

MS. ALBRIGHT: I think that the violence is just -- I can't visualize what it's like to live in Baghdad or Basra, or places where people are terrified to go to meetings and have arrangements where they can help to deal with the problem. So violence is getting them nowhere.

And I think that what needs to be done is to really work on -- as everybody has said, there have to be political solutions to this, there are no military. And therefore -- an overall picture -- there will be majority rule. But as many people here have learned, minority rights are also very important. And so there has to be a structure which permits that, which recognizes the difference of the various groups in Iraq, where they gain by not killing each other but in sharing what is a pretty resource-rich country, actually.

That has a -- and Baghdad's history is very rich and important in terms of the Islamic world. And I think also that the religious leaders need to play an important part in this -- that can find common ground. None of it is easy, believe me. And it has been exacerbated by the fact that, as others have described, there is routine killing and gangs. But they can gain more by a political solution in which minority rights are recognized, and resources are shared.

SEN. MENENDEZ: One very last question: Do you believe -- Lee Hamilton was here with Secretary Baker, and he basically said he had little faith in Prime Minister Maliki in terms of having a series of benchmarks -- chances to meet them and not achieving them. What's your assessment of that?

MS. ALBRIGHT: Well, I don't know Prime Minister Maliki. I think that it is very hard for us to say -- they are a sovereign government -- and then expect them to do exactly as we want them to.

On the other hand, if our forces are there helping, then we do have, I think, a capability of laying out that there are certain -- benchmarks is the best word, not a timetable but a benchmarks -- in terms of what they need to achieve in moving forward on getting the oil legislation passed or in working together on developing some of the political institutions.

We cannot leave this as open-ended. I think that's an essential part. We also have to make clear that we don't want to have permanent bases there. And we have to make clear that we need to see some progress here.

So, I would agree with the general thrust of the Iraq Study Group on this and some others who have testified.

SEN. MENENDEZ: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

SEN. LUGAR: The chair has asked me to recognize Senator Nelson.

SEN. BILL NELSON (D-FL): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Madame Secretary, thank you for your public service and your levelheaded approach to foreign affairs. And thank you for the great accomplishments that you personally had while heading up our diplomatic efforts.

The Iraq Study Commission reported and said we ought to open up to Syria. Now, I understand you've already discussed this issue here earlier today.

I went to Syria. We did have a little crack in the door after a very sharp exchange between myself and President Assad on things that we disagree on. But he did open the door, as he did three years ago, to cooperation with the Americans on better control of the border, and he followed through on that over the last three years. Albeit sporadic, there was cooperation. And then the cooperation precipitously stopped a couple of months after the assassination of Rafik Hariri. He's now opened the door again.

What would be your advice to us in order to continue to keep this dialogue going if the executive branch refuses to have anything to do in the way of engaging in dialogue?

MS. ALBRIGHT: Well, first of all, my general belief is that one gains by communication with countries with whom we disagree. In fact, it is even more important because we need to know what's going on and what their thinking is. And I certainly met with people that I didn't agree with -- Milosevic or Kim Jong Il -- but I think that it is a way to learn a lot and to deliver some pretty tough messages.

I think that we need to take advantage of openings that President Assad provides for a number of reasons. One, we need their -- we need Syria's help in terms of the way you have talked about the border issues. But also, I think it would be very useful to somehow separate a bit this kind of peculiar new alliance or relationship between Iran and Syria.

I also -- without breaking any laws in terms of negotiations -- I think that there are ways for various parliamentarians to meet for dialogue through private channels -- Track 2 diplomacy -- and a way to try to indicate that Americans are interested in learning what is going on in Syria.

We also learned through the newspapers that there were some attempts to restart the Israel-Syria talks. So there are any number of avenues, I think, where it would not hurt. And I think it would be in U.S. national interest to try to find out more what President Assad is thinking, which in no way would lessen our interest or our desire to find out what happened on the assassination of Prime Minister Hariri.

I think we're able to do both things at the same time.

SEN. NELSON: I raise the issue of Iran with President Assad and raised it in the way of, "Would you not realize, Mr. President, that down the line that your interests are opposite those of Iran, and that Iran ultimately would like to have a Persian domination of the Arab countries in the region? And yet you're establishing a relationship right now that ultimately is going to haunt you." He disputed that.

What would you advise us, as someone who is extraordinarily experienced in these matters of diplomacy, of an avenue of trying to get Syria, specifically Assad, to understand that Iran is really not his friend?

MS. ALBRIGHT: Well, I think you've pointed out the whole value of having these kinds of conversations because there are not a lot of people around President Assad who, I think, are willing to challenge a lot of his thinking.

And therefore, it is important for people with historical background and an understanding of the long-term problems to sit there with him and point up what you have said you did. It doesn't mean he's going to agree with you overnight, but if enough people deliver the same message -- I dealt with President Assad and having also dealt with his father before that -- and I think that repetition works and that it is important.

And that's the reason to open up a variety of channels to be able to point up what is happening in the whole Middle East. That Syria can, in fact, ultimately take its position within the Arab world but that it has to behave responsibly, and it has to understand what the threats to its national interests are, too. And that's why an outsider that can point these things up, I think, is very useful.

SEN. NELSON: Given the fact that there is a schism in Iran -- we've seen it in the local elections recently; we've seen other evidence that Ahmadinejad is being reined in -- how would you advise us that this is an opening for the United States in some kind of dialogue that may ultimately bring about more moderation in the what is extremist kind of statements and views coming out of the President of Iran?

MS. ALBRIGHT: Well, let me start out by saying, none of this is easy.

Iran is a very complex place. Our history with Iran is equally complex. And during the Clinton administration, we tried a number of ways to push and delve when President Khatami was in office, and one had to be very careful. They, in fact, did not respond, and I have it on pretty good authority that some of them are sorry that they didn't.

But again, I do think the statements that President Ahmadinejad has been making are preposterous and do not deserve a face-to-face meeting, then, with an American official leader. But there are a number of different groups in Iran.

We do know -- I found Tom Friedman's column this morning very interesting, where he points up how many people are educated in Iran, what the problems are in terms of dissent, the fact that people feel that they are not getting rewards for the richness of Iran's oil wealth.

And I think that there, again, are ways that there can be Track 2 diplomacy and that there are other people in Iran that can be spoken to by Americans as well as non-Americans.

And so, for the same reason, I would try to parse that situation and make -- it's interesting to me that in fact, there has been criticism of Ahmadinejad for the statements that he's made both on the nuclear issue and others. And I think we need to be able to work within that through a variety of other groups in Track 2 diplomacy as well as official context.

SEN. BIDEN: Do you have any -- do you want to follow up with anything, Senator? You're welcome. Otherwise I'm --

SEN. NELSON: Well -- I'm so shocked.

SEN. BIDEN: Well, you're here and even more shocking, I haven't asked any questions yet. So I'm going to -- the secretary has been very gracious with her time, and the good news is, there's not a lot of people left here at this moment. And if you --

SEN. NELSON: Well, I would like to ask one more question.

SEN. BIDEN: Please. You go right ahead.

SEN. NELSON: I went to Saudi Arabia specifically at the request of General Hayden, the head of the CIA, who had said that there hadn't been a lot of congressional delegations going to Saudi Arabia, and personal relationships are important in that part of the world. So again, this idea of dialogue -- building the relationships and so forth.

But as I pushed in my talk with the king -- and then a number of his nephews who were responsible, in the various ministries, for the different functions of the government, of which I met with many -- I didn't get the straight feeling that what I was requesting -- that they really get involved in Iraq and help us through their Sunni tribal contacts, to start getting some kind of diminishment from the Saudi point of view.

Clearly, a more stable Iraq is in their interest. But I didn't get the warm feeling that they were really, foursquare, going to get in and do it. And that's not even to bring up the issue of would they help fund some of the rehab of Iraq.

Can you give me an insight into the Saudi mind as to why, and does that portend things that's going to be very, very difficult to get all the rest of those neighboring countries to come together and help move Iraq toward political compromise?

MS. ALBRIGHT: Well, I think one of the more difficult things, even when one has access to all the intelligence, is to know exactly what's on the Saudi mind. And when we were in office, I found actually that often the Saudis were more helpful than the public ever knew. So I don't know whether that's going on now or not.

I do think that they are very concerned -- I know King Abdullah pretty well from when he was crown prince, and I do think that they are concerned about changes within their own country. And as you point out, a number of different sects and divisions there, and a slowness to reform, and obviously that is their major concern.

I think that they should be really, in many ways, influenced or -- suggestions made that it would be good, also, for them to try to help in what is going on in Iraq.

On the other hand, I don't think we want them all of a sudden to be full of their stories in the papers, all of a sudden "the Saudis are going into Iraq," and there is a kind of a concern that that will broaden everything.

So the question is, how to get their help in terms of understanding that the Sunnis should be a part of the entire system and that they also need to help ultimately with the large funds that they have, and that all the countries, with the Saudis in the lead, would benefit if there were not such turmoil in the region.

But that, again, is part of what the job of diplomacy is. You can't just kind of all of a sudden decide that the vice president is going to Saudi Arabia. You need to have very constant contact. You need to know what is on the Saudi mind. As I read, there is about to be a new Saudi ambassador here.

And I think, again, it is very important for all of you and many of us to go to Saudi Arabia on a regular basis and talk about things with them. I find my trips there always very enlightening, and we need to know more about Saudi Arabia and about Jordan and Egypt and all the countries because, as I said earlier, there is a massive shift going on in the region. And it behooves us to understand that we are in the middle of a systemic change and that our role there will be different.

And I hope that we think more about some kind of an overall security system for the region, which is why I talked earlier about a comprehensive diplomatic approach to this area.

SEN. NELSON: Do you think after 1,327 years of hatred between Sunnis and Shi'ites, that we have a chance of bringing those two together in the sectarian violence?

MS. ALBRIGHT: Well, I don't think we do because most people don't even know the difference between them. So I do think, however, that we should be in a position that we can to encourage and I never -- I wrote a book about the role of God and religion in foreign policy -- it's got a good title, "The Mighty and the Almighty" -- and I had trouble even there trying to figure out the adjectives and the nouns and to say "moderate Muslims" because moderate Muslims don't believe moderately. So I think that moderates need to be passionate about what they believe in.

But I think that there are elements within Islam that are more capable of helping in this than we are. And that is one of the reasons that I believe that it's essential to get religious leaders involved in this.

SEN. NELSON: Thank you.

SEN. BIDEN: Thank you.

Senator Casey. And then I'll wait till the end here.

SEN. BOB CASEY (D-PA): I guess --

SEN. BIDEN: Unless you want some time, Senator.

SEN. CASEY: My timing is better than it normally is.

Madame Secretary, thank you very much for your testimony today and for being with us and for your public service -- remarkable public service at then a difficult time in our nation's history and I think today as well.

One of the areas that I've tried to focus on, in the midst of the great panels that Chairman Biden and Senator Lugar have put together for us -- they come from the perspective of military strategy and the questions that surround that -- the political and governmental challenges that we face in Iraq and that they face, of course. But I've tried to focus, as many of us have, on diplomacy, and sometimes, in my judgment, the lack thereof or the lack of a strategic commitment to diplomacy.

And I know you may have covered this today, but I wanted to get your thoughts in terms of: A, what's gone before us since 2003, in terms of what I think is a lack of a strategy in diplomacy, and, B, I guess more importantly, what we should be doing, what our government should be doing: the president, the State Department and certainly this committee and the Congress and its oversight role, to foster a strategic diplomatic surge, if you will, as opposed to what I seem to see as a kind of tactical -- in responding to changes on the ground or public pressure as opposed to a strategic effort that's sustained, and there's kind of sustained engagement over time.

But I don't know if you can answer that in terms of what's gone before us and what's ahead if you had the ability to directly impact it.

MS. ALBRIGHT: Let me just say this: There's nothing easier than to be on the outside and criticize those that are currently involved in American diplomacy, especially when they criticized what we had been doing in American diplomacy. But I will try to contain myself.

I do think that what has not happened is to have any kind of a comprehensive approach to diplomatic solutions. To a great extent, one of the most interesting things that's happened in -- from the perspective, now, of a professor -- of the struggles between the State Department and the Defense Department is, what is the role of diplomacy? To what extent is there a real partnership between force and diplomacy? It is one of the things that was very much on my mind when we were dealing with the issues of Kosovo.

Chairman Biden mentioned this former foreign ministers group that I pulled together. We are the people that worked all together through Kosovo, which is how we began to understand how force and diplomacy work together. And I don't see that happening, particularly here. Diplomacy really is taking very much of a backseat. To the extent that one has seen it, a lot of it is ad hoc rather than being part of a larger comprehensive plan.

I believe that it is absolutely essential to begin to see the issues of Iraq within the region and to understand that diplomatic efforts have to also involve the other countries in the region and then other countries in the world, because what is happening in Iraq is definitely affecting their national interests.

People often talk about diplomacy as a chess game between two people. It's not a chess game. In chess, you have a lot of time, you sit there between moves, and it's relatively quiet.

I think it's more like a game of pool, where in fact there are balls on a table, you pick up a cue stick, you hope very much you can get the ball into the pocket on the other side, but on the way you hit a lot of other balls. And that's what's happening, and we are not considering enough the horizontal aspect of diplomacy and getting enough players involved in it.

I think also we need to consider, for instance, that it isn't just the issues in the region. As we talk about Iran and what they're doing on their nuclear program, or not doing on their nuclear program, you can just bet that Kim Jong Il in Pyongyang is listening also.

So, I think we have to understand much more the interaction of all of this and to understand that diplomacy is not appeasement -- that it is the vehicle for delivering some pretty tough messages -- and to get the help of others in trying to resolve some of these problems. So, I'm very glad that you are focusing on that -- also very glad to see you here.

SEN. CASEY: Thank you.

And I was thinking as well about the -- I think it helps those of us in government, and you've dealt with a lot of us over the years -- we're better if we have lists that are very specific. And I'm just wondering whether there's a -- and you may have covered this earlier, and I had one of those five different hearings in one morning days, so it's not an excuse; it's just an explanation for where we've been today.

But I guess if you were thinking of the next -- maybe not even six months, but three to six months -- if you had a short list of things we should do diplomatically, very specific steps, what would they be?

MS. ALBRIGHT: Well --

SEN. CASEY: If you could -- boiling it down.

MS. ALBRIGHT: -- I think that one which has to be done for its own sake, as well as obviously, the effect in the region, is for very strong concentration on the Israeli-Palestinian issue.

I know that there are those who want to make it central to resolving what's happening in the Middle East, and I think that linkage is not correct because it's important to understand that issues there have to be dealt with for their own sake, but they have to be dealt with.

And so I was very glad to see Secretary Rice go to the region. I understand the quartet is going to be meeting in Washington on Friday so that there is some activation of that. And I think that would help not only the immediate issue, but also show American interest that has been lacking.

I then also would work on trying to pull together this contact group of countries that have an interest in the region: the Permanent 5 of the Security Council plus the countries that surround Iraq. And, we did that when we were dealing with the Balkans, and it creates kind of an executive committee, or group, that deals with this issue on a day-to-day basis. And then they are able, each one as a part of that, to broaden the circle by having relationships with other countries. So that would be one thing.

I also would try, through diplomacy, to get other countries to help in the reconstruction of Iraq and in the training of Iraqis, because the only way that we're going to get out of there, which I believe we have to do, is if the security situation is dealt with. And the only way the security situation will be dealt with is if the Iraqis themselves begin to deal with it.

So I could make a longer list, but I think if they did that much, that would be a big step forward.

SEN. BIDEN: And keep them occupied for a while. (Laughter.)

SEN. CASEY: Three is a good list for the Congress; I know that. (Laughter.)

But I know my time is almost expired. And I just want to reiterate our thanks to you for your public service and for your continuing public service, in addition to which your testimony today gives us a lot of food for thought, and I'm grateful.

MS. ALBRIGHT: Thank you, Senator.

SEN. CASEY: Thank you.

SEN. BIDEN: Well, Madame Secretary, thank you. It's kind of like the old days. I get to sit down with you alone, and I quite frankly miss your energy and your insight.

Madame Secretary, I just want to make a couple of things clear. I believe that had the president come up to the Congress, and to the leadership here in both parties, and said, "Look, I have a comprehensive plan, which includes the need to temporarily alter force in Iraq, but here's the whole plan," he may have gotten a very different reception.

The problem with the president's plan -- it's a tactic. It's a tactical change in mission inserting our troops in the midst of a civil war, in the single most white-hot portion of that civil war: a city of 6.3 million in the middle of Baghdad.

And so that's what most of us are reacting to. And now, as Senator Lugar has said, we share the view that the concern is that you have friends like my good friend Senator McCain, who supports this, saying this is the last chance.

Now, what I'm worried -- and I've been saying -- you and I have had discussions about this -- my great worry is, as this administration continues to mishandle Iraq, the American people are not going to be prepared to act even in those areas where there is an overwhelming rationale to need to have forward-based forces, have forces engaged in certain circumstances.

So I'm worried the president's proposal here is not only going to fail, but in its failure, the American people will walk away from what everybody acknowledges, from Senator Boxer to Senator Isakson, which says that we have interests in the region.

And so that takes me to the next point that I want to discuss with you. I realize that I was warned by many very smart people you and I both know not to put forward a specific plan months ago. It's been the only specific plan out there. It's not because I'm so smart -- everybody else is a lot of very, very important people -- but it's a dangerous thing to put out a specific plan as we know in this town.

But I was so convinced from my experience in Bosnia, as you and I well know -- I don't think it's an exaggeration to suggest, Madame Secretary, other than you, from the outside, I was most consistent, pounding voice to get us engaged in Bosnia and stop the genocide, and in Kosovo. But it was your leadership -- your leadership inside that got that done.

And I learned a lot of lessons from Bosnia. The sectarian violence in Bosnia for 800 years, from Vlad the Impaler on, equaled anything that has occurred in the Balkans overall, which we've seen in Iraq.

And I noticed what you did. I noticed what -- at least with a little nudging and a little bit of help from the outside by me, what -- it would be an exaggeration of what we did. You did it -- but I was rooting you on and making every bit of -- using every bit of influence I could to move it.

What did you do? You had Dayton. And what did you do in Dayton? You not only brought in the regional players. You brought in Russia, you brought in all the major players, and you locked everyone in a room, and you came up with something far, on paper, more divisive than anything I've suggested with regard to Iraq.

You set up the Republic of Srpska with a separate president. You set up Bosnia with two presidents, one Croat and one Bosnian -- a Muslim. And you were right, because the only way there was any possibility to keep that country from shattering, even though all of your interlocutors from France to England -- I need not remind you, I know -- said no, no, no, no, no, no, no.

But where are we today? The genocide is stopped. They're working like the devil to unite the country under a different constitution. Things are not all, as they say, hunky-dory, in Kosovo. But guess what? They're not killing each other, and there's hope.

Now, what I had been amazed at is why everyone thinks when I took the Iraqi constitution -- I was there that day and put my finger in the ink -- and I read the constitution that we helped write. It calls for -- it sets out explicitly that Kurdistan is a republic, is what they call a region. They define what powers regions have, what the powers of the central government are.

I met in my seven trips with as many people as anybody in this government has, I suspect. I've been to Basra, I've been to Fallujah, I've been even out into al-Ahram (ph) Air Force Base in the middle of god knows where. And guess what I found out? If you're going to keep this country together, you better give it some breathing room.

The idea you're going to take a country, with all due respect to everyone, that has been a construct of the postwar era -- World War I -- that put together groups of personages who would never have been together as a unified country, and say, "By the way, now Saddam's gone, the wicked witch is dead, you're going to have a strong central government," is beyond my comprehension -- beyond my comprehension.

And so now we're down to a situation that the only two plans being debated are the Biden plan -- the Biden-Gelb plan -- and the president's non-plan. No one else has a plan.

If you look at the Iraqi Study Group -- God love them -- they have the proposals, but what do they say? They say national reconciliation. U.S. forces can help provide stability, but they cannot stop violence; they cannot contain it. The Iraqi government must send a clear signal to the Sunnis. And it makes recommendations -- totally consistent with what I laid out nine months ago.

But what I can't understand is why this administration will not do what you and every one of us suggested. A year ago I wrote an op- ed piece. You did, Secretary Schultz, Secretary Kissinger -- calling for an international conference -- not just the regional powers -- what you did in Dayton.

And so what we've called for here is to get the Islamic countries involved. Get Iran involved, but also get France, Germany, the Permanent 5 -- Germany is not one -- the Permanent 5 of the United Nations. Bring in Indonesia, possibly even Pakistan, India. Bring them in. Create a circumstance where there is incredible pressure to accept a system arrived at by the Iraqis that will be honored by the immediate partners -- excuse me, neighbors.

And so, what I don't understand is why do we continue to talk about something that I've not found a single solitary person thinks can happen in your lifetime or mine? And that is a strong, united central government in Baghdad whose purpose is to rule the country and have the ability to get trust from all the warring factions, to trust they'll distribute the revenues fairly, to trust that everyone will be treated equally.

It's not going to happen. I've been around as long as you, Madame Secretary.

It is not going to happen in anyone's lifetime in this room.

So, I appreciate you suggesting that my plan -- our plan -- is to hold Iraq together. But I'd like to ask a central question: Do you see any possibility -- and if you would, would you outline it for me -- within the next 10 years of a strong central government without constitutional guarantees relating to energy and guarantees relating to local -- local security forces protecting security forces.

I ask this question to everyone, which is, can anyone picture the possibility of the Iraqi National Police Force -- that's what it is now -- ever patrolling the streets of Fallujah? Can anyone imagine that happening? You know and I know you're not even allowed -- those forces are not even allowed to set foot in the Kurdish area under the constitution without their permission.

What is it that makes anybody think we're going to get a strong central government that will allow our troops to come home and not continue to be sacrificed to a sectarian cycle of revenge?

MS. ALBRIGHT: Mr. Chairman, I agree with what you have said. In terms of the actual impossibility, I think at this point to get a kind of dominated, centralized government -- and if it comes, it will come at great expense of all minority rights and therefore will continue the fighting.

I appreciate all your kind words about the Balkans, and I do think we developed a great partnership, and we did manage to get all those people -- we had to lock them up at Dayton -- but we did manage to get something done.

Every situation is slightly different, but I do think that the concept of having an international conference where others participate in the solution is what is necessary. And I must say I regret the extent to which your ideas were misinterpreted up front because some people just talked about it as a partition. It is not a partition.

And I agree also with you that there has to be breathing space for the various regions. I do think there is a problem in that some of the neighboring countries might then take advantage of it, and there also might be elements within some of these regions who would then move for some kind of independence. But the bottom line is, that is not the necessary outcome of it.

I think the reason that it is not -- that an international conference is not being considered is that this administration is not exactly big into international conferences or partnerships or trying to work a problem out. And it is an issue because as powerful as we are, the issues that are out there cannot be dealt with by the United States alone. And it is not a derogation of our responsibilities in order for us to share this problem with other countries, which leads me to say what you started out with: I am deeply concerned that when this war is over -- and it will be over -- that the American people will basically say, "We've had it."

We have enough problems in this country -- and we do -- it's what I call the Katrina effect. If you can't pay attention to what's happening at home, then people are not eager to help abroad. But we have to be engaged. The world could not exist without American engagement, and I hope that we do not allow that to happen.

And further, Mr. Chairman, I'm very troubled about what has happened to the word "democratic." This administration, because it has militarized democracy in Iraq, is giving democracy a bad name. And the United States cannot be the United States if we do not understand that we are better off if other countries are democratic. If we support democratic movements, we can impose them. But I hope very much that we all do not turn away from the concept that democracy is the best form of government.

Thank you.

SEN. BIDEN: Well, Madame Secretary, I appreciate your testimony. The reason I waited to go last was to be able to raise that broad context with you, and you and I, as I say, go back a long way. And I appreciate your input in response to my larger question.

I'll conclude by saying that it's about time we acknowledge reality: what's happening on the ground. It's about time we get about a political solution, not just calling for one, suggesting one. And it's about time we get the international community who I believe is ready to embrace it.

And I assure you, in my view -- I can't assure anyone -- Turkey will not move on the Kurds if the Kurds understand, which they do in my discussions, that a disintegration of Iraq -- which may happen, putting them in the position where they are de facto independent -- is the very thing that will bring the Kurds in.

The only way to keep the Kurds safe and not have that expression they have -- "the mountains are their only friends" -- is to make sure there is a united Iraq, loosely federated. Absent that, we have a war on our hands, in my humble opinion. But I believe this is becoming inevitable.

I think we'll find a lot of people coming around to -- if not exactly what I proposed and Les Gelb -- something closer to it because the reality is 3.5 million people have already fled Iraq. The cleansing is well under way, and the rest of the concerns that we have is Iran is getting involved. The Syrians are indirectly involved. The Saudis are threatening to become more involved.

So the question is, how do you stop the thing that we're all saying we don't want to have happen? And I would respectfully suggest, if not the only way, one of the ways is as I've suggested.

I mean what I said about your leadership on Bosnia and your leadership in Kosovo. It saved a serious, serious, serious dislocation -- and not just in the Balkans, but all of Europe. And you, in my view, your tenure will go down in history for having avoided that.

I thank you very much. We are adjourned.

MS. ALBRIGHT: Mr. Chairman, could I just --

SEN. BIDEN: Sure.

MS. ALBRIGHT: -- thank you for having these hearings. I have very carefully followed and read the transcripts. I think you have in fact provided a forum for a truly serious discussion of the issues in Iraq, and I hope, Mr. Chairman, that you do the same for Iran.

SEN. BIDEN: I will.

MS. ALBRIGHT: You made very clear that the president does not have authority to expand the war into Iran, and I hope very much that as chairman of this committee, that you will also proceed to give this kind of a discussion on that.

Thank you so much for asking me to come.

SEN. BIDEN: Thank you.


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