The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Surreal Rice interview on Egyptian TV

There is something surreal and weirdly compelling about this interview with Condoleeza Rice that appeared on Egyptian state TV:

QUESTION: Just before you came, you said no FTA, you pushed for more reform and called for turning down Hamas. What's in it for us?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, in fact, on the FTA, we will continue to talk about the FTA. The timing's not right just now, but we want to have an FTA with Egypt because we believe that it will make a difference to economic reform and ultimately to the economy here in Egypt. FTAs are a good thing and we will continue to discuss them.

QUESTION: Of course.

SECRETARY RICE: The United States and Egypt share a common vision of a Middle East that is at peace, a common vision that Egypt has sacrificed greatly for when Anwar Sadat decided to make peace. He led the world in peace and, of course, paid for it with his life. And now we have a situation in which we can, I think, have peace between the Palestinians and Israelis, but in which we need the new government of the Palestinian territories to be one that accepts the responsibilities of peace, that accepts the requirements of peace, that accepts that on behalf of the Palestinian people there will have to be cooperation with Israel. That means that there has to be a recognition of Israel's right to exist. So I think this is a common vision that we and Egypt share.

QUESTION: When will this timing of the FTA, in your opinion, be correct?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I can't predict, but I think that we will continue to discuss it. We've had very good discussions with Egypt about economic reform issues. We've had progress on qualified industrial zones that Egypt has participated in in the region and so our economic relationship is moving forward. At some point, we'll return to negotiation of the FTA.

QUESTION: We hope to see that absolutely. Why are you excluding Israel from efforts to keep the Middle East free from weapons of mass destruction?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, we certainly hope that one day there is going to be a Middle East in which no one needs to contemplate a weapon of mass destruction. It will take a Middle East that is more democratic, a Middle East in which --

QUESTION: So it's all depending on democracy first?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I think it's the issue of a Middle East where everyone feels that their security concerns can be met is one that is going to be helped very much by a more democratic future. But let me say that we are working very hard with Egypt on issues of nonproliferation. Egypt took, I think, a courageous decision in the IAEA to support the international consensus -- by the way, a consensus that included India and Russia and China -- that Iran's case should be referred to the Security Council.

QUESTION: I see. You said your trip would be to continue to push for political reform. American calls for democracy have unwittingly brought unprecedented support for the Muslim Brotherhood, but you're not happy with the Muslim Brotherhood in power. Is this some kind of designer's democracy then, Dr. Rice?

SECRETARY RICE: No. The United States is going to stand for the principle of democracy. It stands for the principle that people have a right to choose those who are going to govern them. Sometimes there will be outcomes that we don't like, but we can't have a policy that says you can only vote if you vote in a way that the United States prefers. We will stand for the principle.

Now, once people are elected to power, they have a responsibility then to those who elected them to rule democratically, not to rule by fiat or not to rule undemocratically. They also have a responsibility to give up and to renounce violence and terrorism, because you can't on the one hand be in the political process and on the other hand continue to pursue violence.

QUESTION: Excessive meddling has brought the Shiites in Iraq to power. Their neighboring Iranians are Shia. The Sunnis are compromised. America's trusted Arab allies are Sunnis. There's a brewing civil war in Iraq. What have you done?
Madam Secretary, what have you done?

It gets better (the phrase "Egyptian coolies" pops up) -- worth reading entirely.