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A Conversation with Stephen J. Hadley [Rush Transcript; Federal News Service]

Speaker: Stephen J. Hadley, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
Moderator: Thomas R. Pickering, Vice Chairman, Hills & Company
September 19, 2007

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THOMAS R. PICKERING: Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. Would you please take your seats?

We're pleased and privileged to have Stephen J. Hadley with us tonight, assistant to the president for national security affairs. I want to welcome you all to this Council on Foreign Relations meeting. I want to ask you please to turn off all your cell phones, BlackBerrys, and other electronic paraphernalia.

I'd like to remind you tonight that this meeting is on the record.

Steve Hadley was sworn in as national security adviser to the president on January 26, 2005. Prior to that he had served as assistant, or deputy, national security adviser. He's had a number of significant and important posts with the United States government over the years, including assistant secretary of Defense for international security policy, from '89 to '93, where he spent a good bit of his time dealing with NATO, Western Europe, nuclear weapons, ballistic missile defense, and arms control. He also served as Secretary of Defense Cheney's representative in the talks led by Secretary Baker which resulted in START I and START II.

He's had many other important jobs too numerous to mention, but you will find in his biography, which has been distributed tonight, he received a B.A. degree from Cornell University and a law degree from Yale Law School. And Steve, tonight, without further ado, the platform is yours.

STEPHEN HADLEY: Thank you. (Applause.)

Thank you, Ambassador Pickering. Thank you, Carla Hills. Nice to see you both again. I appreciate the opportunity to spend some time with you here at the Council this evening. I'd like to make a few comments and then throw it open to questions you might have or advice you would like to proffer. (Laughter.)

I'd like to start, if I could, by expanding very briefly on some of the points that the president made in his address last Thursday with respect to Iraq. In his address to the nation, the president outlined a way forward in Iraq. He placed Iraq within a broader regional context, and he outlined a policy of strength for our country in the broader Middle East.

And I would hope that one of the things that Republicans and Democrats could agree on is at least the objectives and the need for a broader regional strategy. Seems to me the elements of that strategy are pretty clear. We've got to defeat al Qaeda; it is a threat to our country. We need to counter the destructive ambitions in Iran, whether its pursuit of nuclear weapons, its support for terror, and -- and a fairly lengthy list.

We must help the Iraqi and Afghan governments increase their capacity to defend their people and to serve them effectively. We need to work to advance the two-stage solution for the Israelis and the Palestinians so they can live side by side in peace and security. I think we ought to be able to come together behind that broader agenda at the same time that we debate the specifics about Iraq. And we ought to also be able to agree that failure and chaos in Iraq will potentially undermine the stability in the region and will also threaten our nation's interests.

I want to talk a little bit about Iraq first and the security aspects. I think most people would acknowledge that the reinforcement or the surge, so-called surge that the president announced last January has improved the security situation. I want to remind what it was going to do and what it was not going to do. It was focused on sectarian violence and getting the level of sectarian violence down in Baghdad, where about 80 percent of the violence was occurring because the Iraqi people and the Iraqi government were about to lose control of their capital. It was also to exploit the opportunity presented in Anbar province as Sunni sheikhs rose up and turned against al Qaeda.

And while it was focused on those two areas, and while, I think, if you listen to General Petraeus it's pretty clear that we have made success in both those areas, it is interesting that it has had a bit of a broader impact. General Odierno, our commander there, told the president today via a secure video meeting we had that security incidents nationwide for the week of September 8 to 15 were the lowest country-wide since January of 2006. Any time you say something like that, it's a heavy knock-on-wood. We hope it continues; it is a challenging security situation. But we have seen some progress, and I think most people would agree and acknowledge that.

The problem, if there is one -- and you heard it in those discussions and those debates last week in the testimony of Ambassador Crocker, in particular -- is the issue of political progress. We've talked a lot about the bottom-up progress in Anbar. This is where Sunni sheikhs and Sunni tribals had come together, joined with the coalition and the central government and are moving vigorously against al Qaeda. And it has dramatically brought down the violence and pushed al Qaeda out of almost all the major cities.

The security progress has resulted in political progress in those areas that have been secured. The district and provincial governments are coming to life. In the wake of the improved security, they are beginning to provide security and services to their people. Better yet -- or in addition, they are also beginning to demand and receive assistance from the central government. And they're beginning to push the central government and, we think, ultimately will affect national politics.

Now, there is an issue that people have raised; a number of people have said, "Well, that's Anbar province." I think one should not dismiss too quickly what is happening there. What has been the source of violence on Iraqis and against our coalition forces in 2004, '5, '6? It was Sunni extremists centered in Anbar province. And the fact that Sunni extremists have now decided that al Qaeda is the enemy rather than the coalition, and are increasingly coming over to side with the coalition and the Iraqi government against al Qaeda, is a remarkable development in terms of dealing -- what has been the principal element of violence for a long time with Sunni extremists.

So I think we cannot discount it, and it also didn't just happen. It was a lot of work by our men and women in uniform, supported by, I think, the fact that al Qaeda overplayed their hand and offered a vision to the Iraqi people that, in Anbar province, they rejected. The issue is will it spread outside Anbar province, and will it spread beyond Sunni tribes turning against al Qaeda and do something about Shi'a violence, particularly Shi'a-on-Shi'a violence?

What are we seeing? In terms of the Sunni tribes, we're beginning to see similar mobilization of tribes in Diyala and parts of Baghdad. They're clearly behind Anbar; they will need to be nurtured, but we are seeing it in those areas. And what we're beginning to see -- and I want to emphasize beginning to see, because I don't want to oversell it -- but we are seeing, in Shi'a areas, Shi'a tribals coming together against, particularly, special groups and other elements of the -- of the Mahdi Army, the JAM forces, particularly those that are being supported by Iran. And it's driven really by two things: In some sense, the JAM elements have made the same mistake that al Qaeda has done. The people are getting sick of the violence and increasingly concerned about Iranian influence in JAM and through JAM in the government and into Iraq.

And what I think we can hope and try to encourage is that in the same way Sunni tribes have turned against al Qaeda and has become a rallying point for Sunni tribes to work with us and work with the government, what we need to encourage is for the Shi'a tribes to see these Iranian-backed JAM elements in the same way, and see if we can make them a rallying point for Shi'a tribes to go against those elements.

Finally, we need to get the central government to see both of these developments not as a threat, but as an opportunity which they can seize, and encourage these activities and provide assistance and other things so these tribal groups, as they come forward, cooperate with us, clear -- and increase the security in these areas, that life will get better for the men and women, the Iraqis that air in those areas. That is the opportunity we see in this so-called "bottom-up" political reconciliation.

The problem, of course, is the so-called "top-down" reconciliation, what's going on in Baghdad. And it's clear that the Iraqi leadership and the parliament did not adopt the very legislation that they set for themselves as an objective to adopt. There are some mitigating factors that you can make, and the president mentioned them. In some sense, to our surprise, some of the things the legislation is -- was -- sought to achieve are happening anyway. Oil revenue is coming to the center; it is being shared and allocated to ministries. It is being allocated to provinces, even without a formal revenue-sharing law.

Even without revisions to the de-Ba'athification law, former Ba'athists are coming forward, joining security forces, being vetted, getting immunity, and becoming part of the Iraqi security forces. But the fact is that the central government did not perform on a major undertaking that they made. What's the problem?

I think the problem is we thought that the passage of legislation would be a cause of reconciliation and political maturation, and I think it's going to turn out to be an effect of increasing maturation. What is missing is the leaders of the major parties -- Sunni, Shi'a, and Kurd -- to reach a basic understanding about how they're going to share power under a democratic constitution and then take these issue areas and come up with the basic deal that is going to be embodied in the legislation, and then put together in the Council of Representatives a functioning coalition that will put that legislation through.

Our sense is that that is what is missing. That has been the focus of our efforts over the summer, and on August 26th you began to see some of the fruits of those efforts as the five key leaders of those groups sat down and entered into a document in which the prime minister and the presidency council said that they would be working together more as a unit, that they developed a -- an internal Cabinet to try and streamline and make more effective the operation of the government, and they began to put together a caucus to try and push legislation in the Council of Representatives. Lots more to do, and the process is going to take time.

And as the president said the other night, it is going to have to extend well past his presidency, if it's going to succeed. And as he also -- as the president also suggested, it is going to require a continued U.S. engagement in Iraq after his presidency in order to give the various sectarian groups some reassurance that we will be there, that the situation is not going to come apart, and that they ought to, and it's in their interest, to make some of these basic compromises, difficult compromises to make, on basic constitutional issues. And that's why the president, in his speech, talked about the need for an enduring presence in Iraq.

It's interesting that that's what the Iraqi leaders have asked for. Their phrase was "a long-term U.S. presence -- political, economic, and security." The president mentioned in his speech, his formulation was "an enduring presence." We don't know what that's going to look like. That's going to be something we're going to have to work out with the Iraqis. It is their country, after all. It's clearly going to involve far fewer troops than we have there now. It's going to increasingly, obviously, have to emphasize the political and economic aspects. It's going to have to be in a form that is acceptable to the Iraqi people who want to take more responsibility -- want to, in some sense, be visibly taking more of a role in their country as the U.S. role declines.

It is going to have to be politically acceptable to the American people. We're going to have to decide that, difficult though it is, and as long as this war has gone on, we need to continue our involvement in Iraq in order to protect our interests. And it's going to have to be sustainable. It's going to have to be something to -- the military piece is going to have to be something that our military can sustain, and is something that our budgets can support.

It is a strategy to protect our interests in the long term. It's going to be -- have to be something that Republicans, Democrats both come together, look hard at, and work out. But we think it is a critical element in a policy and a strategy of strength and stability in the Middle East, which is something we think that in the interests of this country we need -- we need to have, in the way that I described earlier.

So that's a bit of the highlights and some of the things I wanted to emphasize about his speech. Tom, I'd be delighted to get some questions from you and then hear from -- hear from the audience.

PICKERING: Steve, thanks very much. I'll use the moderator's prerogative to start out the questioning.

You've focused us very heavily on Iraq, and I think probably we should stay there for a while.

HADLEY: Good.

PICKERING: If that looks like it's getting to be a drug on the market, I'll try to shift some of the focus. (Scattered laughter.)

HADLEY: (Inaudible.)

PICKERING: Anyway, it doesn't look like, from this crowd, that will probably happen.

You've given us what I think is probably the best face on a very difficult situation. The political side of this equation is something you emphasized, but constantly we hear that. We've heard it from General Petraeus. But there are no significant steps that I can see. Where is the political surge?

I can recall just a few years ago that Zal, when he was there, made a major effort with others to put together a new government. We've been criticizing -- quietly, but very firmly -- al-Maliki. What is it that you're doing now? How can we see progress on the political side to match the military, or is there only a military solution, in your mind, to Iraq?

HADLEY: No -- certainly everyone recognizes there is not a -- only a military solution to Iraq. It has to, in the end, be a political solution. But it is also true that there will not be a political solution without security. And that's why, in some sense, that's been a false choice.

In terms of the political strategy and the political surge, if you will, part of it -- let me distinguish between the center and the provinces. One of the things the president announced in January was an expansion of the provincial reconstruction teams and the embedding of those teams with the brigade combat teams that are in -- in the country. Now, the president had a secure video today with both brigade commanders and PRT leaders from Baghdad, Fallujah, and Wasat -- three different parts of the country.

It -- it's early, but the theory of this is so that experts in the politics and the economics, civilians, work hand in glove with the military to help stand up local governments, but also to help guide them in this outreach program to tribals and other elements to do this, as we call it, "bottom-up" reconciliation. It's new. They're not fully deployed. On all of these things there are -- there are pluses and minuses. The net-net sounds pretty good. This seems to be working. The military people are comfortable with it. Our civilians there are comfortable with it, and it seems to be having an effect in helping district and provincial governments stand up and provide services and security to their -- to their people.

In terms of the center, you know, there's lots of discussion about the government. Look, it is a government that came out of a -- elections pursuant to a democratic constitution adopted by the Iraqi people, put together by Iraqis. It is their government, and it is a democratic government, and we need to support it. That said, we are -- have put and will continue to put enormous pressure on them to make this basic bargain. And -- and one of the things I'd like to talk a little bit about, if I could just extend the answer here, because I think this is the heart of it.

We have some discussion to do in this country on this issue, as well. I think one of the things that people have not appreciated was -- enough -- was that after we overthrew Saddam Hussein, there was a discussion about what are our obligations at that point to the Iraqi people. Was it enough for our interest to overthrow Saddam and let it go at that? In some sense, the Saddamism-without-Saddam option; let a strong man handle it. And the president decided that that was not consistent with the American tradition, that having removed this tyrant, we had an obligation to give the Iraqi people a chance at a democratic government.

But from the very beginning, we saw and believed that because of the strength of the three communities, it was going to have to have a fair amount of autonomy; it was going to have to be a federal system; it is why we urged the Iraqis to -- to create what had not existed under Saddam -- provincial administrations and district administrations -- to set up a more decentralized approach.

So this notion that there needs to be autonomy is not new. It's in the architecture; it was in the concept; it's in the constitution. What has happened, the Kurds loved it and took it early. The Shi'a were interested in forming a regional administration in the south of the provinces, and they slowed down because it was of concern to the Sunnis. Oddly, the group that one would have thought had the most to gain from autonomy was most opposed to it and viewed federalism as a threat to a unified Iraq.

And I think that one of the problems we have is that we -- we do not yet have, among Kurds, Shi'a, and Sunni, a consistent vision that a federal Iraq with substantial autonomy for the communities is the right way to go, and they have not worked through what form that is going to take. The outlines are in the constitution, but there's obviously more to be done. That's why this legislation of the relationship of the powers between the center and the provinces is so important. In some sense, this is the prior question to the oil law, to de-Ba'athification, to the constitution reform -- all of them are another way of restating the same basic issue: What is going to be the underlying relationship among those three communities? What is the vision?

We bridle at this a little bit about soft partition. You can ask my why -- because of the word "partition," which the Iraqis don't want. That's a formulation for "not one Iraq, three Iraqs." Interestingly, none of the communities want that. But I think the task for us politically, and for Ryan Crocker politically, is to work with these three communities to get a common vision of what that federal Iraq is going to look like, how it's going to operate, and at that point you're going to start seeing this legislation come through.

It is a difficult issue. These are big constitutional issues. Think, you know, our own Constitutional Convention. It's hard for a system that has come out of 30-plus years of a brutal dictatorship. I'm not making excuses; they need to step up. They need to step up soon. We are buying them time to do so, with blood and treasure. They have a responsibility to us, and most of all to their own people, to do it. But I think that is the political discussion that Iraqis are going to have, and we're going to have to help them through it.

PICKERING: Many will ask -- and I won't; I just say it -- why has it taken us four years to discover this, and why has it taken us four years to begin -- just to begin to think about the political (conviction ?).

But let me leave that aside --

HADLEY: Well, I need to answer that, because we didn't. As I said, this was the conception in '03. This is what is in the constitution, and this is an issue that we've been working actually very hard, consistently. But if you ask -- but -- you know, I think when the books on Iraq are going to be written, it's going to turn out that the long pole in the tent was development of political life in Iraq post-Saddam. And I would give you the contrast.

You know, when -- when Saddam was overthrown and we set up what was called the -- the first institution, the governing council, the president had been asking at this point, "Who is going to lead this country?" So we went to the governing council, and we said, "Give us a president of Iraq." And they said, "We'll give you eleven presidents. It's us. We'll each serve for a month."

PICKERING: (Laughs.)

HADLEY: And it was really dysfunctional politics. And I think if you've tracked the elections, the constitution, the successive governments, what you've seen is the awakening of political life in Iraq. And that turns out to have been a difficult process, given the history of Saddam, given the fact that nowhere in Iraq's history and nowhere in the region have these three communities ever tried to work together when one wasn't on the top and the other on the bottom, but in a democratic framework. It's very hard.

PICKERING: Steve, you lost your leader in Anbar, Sheikh Rishawi.

HADLEY: Yeah.

PICKERING: You're under growing pressure from al Qaeda on some of these areas. Odierno's statistics aside, (we'll see if they're ?) the whole time. The Shi'a are very fractionated. The Sunni are barely holding together. The Democrats want to take us out, with really uncertain results in terms of where this is. How long is this going to take? What's the end state? And is there anything different that we have to do to get there, except this constant patience and waiting? Surges with small results? Where is this going to all end up? You're leaving it to your successors, presumably. Some think that'll be a Democrat. Is that really what you started out to do, and is this where we have to have kind of patience to go?

HADLEY: When I was a lawyer I was told and learned never to accept the premise of the question --

PICKERING: (Laughs.)

HADLEY: -- and there are a lot of premises in that question with which I strongly disagree.

PICKERING: (I wish they ?) could ask those questions all the time. (Laughs.)

HADLEY: But I won't force the question. Let me try and give you the answer.

PICKERING: Good.

HADLEY: It is hard. It's going to take a long time. It is -- it is -- what the president is trying to do, contrary to the reports of some -- you know, this is not 130,000 troops for 10 years. It is not 130,000 troops until January of '09. The president really believes, and said very clearly, it is important how Iraq comes out, for our interests. We can disagree on how we got in; there are a lot of things that people say about how the administration's conducted the war.

I think the reason we are, in some sense, still in this debate with the American people, they're sick of this war. It's gone on for four years. All the opinion polls say that. But the opinion polls, interestingly, also say that Americans get it, that how things go forward matter, and that this can go south in a way that can damage our interests. And the president agrees with that.

The president also, as he said very clearly, this is going to take a while to run. It's difficult; it's hard. We have -- we have learned, the Iraqis have learned, there is more to do. But rather than, as some have said, dump it on his successor, what he's trying to do -- because he does believe we need to be engaged after his administration -- he is trying to get Iraq, between now and January of '09, in a position where we are making progress; we have in some sense persuaded increasing portions of the American people we have a plan and that it is working; that our role in that plan is down, as I said before, and in a form that's acceptable to Iraqis and Americans and sustainable in terms of our forces. And so that a new president who comes in in January of '09, whoever he or she may be, will look at it and say, "I'm persuaded that we have long-term interests here. It's important we get it right. This strategy is beginning to work. I think I'll leave Iraq alone." And so that a new president coming in doesn't have a first crisis about "let's pull the troops out of Iraq," which I think lots of Americans believe would be a mistake.

So that's, yes, where we're trying to go. That's where we are trying to leave it -- not to dump a failed Iraq on a successor, but to pass a succeeding project in Iraq that continues to require attention even after this president has left office.

PICKERING: So for a final question from me, if you could do it all over again, would you really go into Iraq?

HADLEY: The reasons for going into Iraq are the same. I thought it was -- Alan Greenspan today gave us another one -- (laughter). But the reasons to go into Iraq really were the same. This was a tyrant who had acquired and used weapon of mass destruction, who had invaded his neighbors, who had oppressed his people, who'd defied the international community in a way that really put at issue whether the international community and the United Nations was going to be an effective force. That was the reasons why the president went in, and I think the answer is the president would have done it all over again. And one can only speculate what the Middle East would look like today, given where Iran is, if Saddam were still in power.

PICKERING: Your loyalty is admirable, Stephen. (Laughter.) I commend you.

HADLEY: It's called conviction, I have to say. The right -- (cross talk) -- the right decisions.

PICKERING: I'm now -- I'm now going to invite members of the Council to join in the discussion. Please wait for the microphone and speak directly into it. Please stand and state your name and affiliation before your question. Please keep your questions and your comments as short as my last one.

Ken Bacon.

HADLEY: Is it better -- if I stand up?

PICKERING: You can stand up if you like.

HADLEY: Is it easier for you if I stand up?

PICKERING: By all means.

HADLEY: Okay.

QUESTIONER: I'm Ken Bacon of Refugees International. Thank you for your comments.

The Washington Post today highlighted Ryan Crocker's concerns about our treatment of refugees, Iraqi refugees.

HADLEY: Yeah.

QUESTIONER: And in an unclassified cable, he basically said two things. One, we have to accelerate the resettlement process, and two, we have to do more to help the governments that are hosting over 2 million refugees now. Do you agree with those assessments? Do you think our policy is right or it needs to be improved? And secondly, what's the president's concern? How concerned is he about this flood of refugees, and also the internal displacement?

HADLEY: Yes, yes, yes, and he's concerned. We -- we've got to do better. I talked to Secretary Rice about it this morning. It's complicated; we have done better -- she's been working at this for a while with Secretary Chertoff. We're doing better on those Iraqis who were employees of our Embassy. That process is accelerated. The problem is the other refugees who were not employees which, post-9/11, we have a pretty rigorous screening process before people can come into the country, and it is lots of backlog and delay.

She talked to Secretary Chertoff today. I think they have come up with a couple, I think, useful ways to try and address and accelerate the addressing of these issues. I'll let her and Secretary Chertoff announce it. It was the first thing the president asked me about this morning.

I think the other piece of it is -- and I had a couple folks, senators and congressmen, come back from Jordan and talk about the strain that Iraqi refugees are putting on Jordanian infrastructure. They're trying to do the right things; bring them into the educational system and the like -- and, of course, Jordan can't afford that kind of effort. So one of the things we, the executive branch, and Congress need to think about and take action on is what can we do to help these countries that are trying to do the right thing by these refugees? And it is -- it is an important item, and we've got more work to do on it. We've got to do better.

PICKERING: Bernard Kalb.

QUESTIONER: Steve, thanks very much for being here. Compared to the U.S. involvement in Iraq, isn't Afghanistan being shortchanged in the U.S. effort to move against growing terrorism in -- Afghanistan, I mean. What you've given us is a very vivid portrait of a civil war, seems to me, with America trying to defuse the tensions in the country. We didn't -- I didn't hear much from you about international terrorism, linking the outcome in Iraq with terrorism, and I keep thinking of the -- what I see as a kind of silent incubator in Afghanistan, with the threat of terrorism emerging there, not being combated by the United States the way it is in Iraq.

So the question is, are we shortchanging Afghanistan and the threat emerging there silently, the -- how shall I put it? -- the silent incubator of terrorism, while the focus and the headlines are all on the U.S. effort in Iraq?

HADLEY: There are a lot of people who would say you are right. I'm not one of them. We have been engaged in Afghanistan now for five years. There are well over 20,000 American troops; there are well over 20,000 NATO troops. We are building to 70,000 Afghan troops.

One of, I think, the successes of our diplomacy was to get the -- get NATO in under the rubric of ISAF to take increasing responsibility, both in the military side and in terms of this provincial reconstruction teams concept, which I talked to you, which we actually started in Afghanistan and are now using in Iraq.

The other thing that people don't, I think, recognize is that in terms of al Qaeda, the area we're most concerned about, of course, is up on the Pakistani border. And that is where it is not -- while ISAF has responsibility for the whole country now, that is where, under Operation Enduring Freedom, the U.S. forces, particularly Special Forces, are concentrated, going very hard after al Qaeda.

The problem in the rest of the country is mostly Taliban. That's not to minimize it; it's a serious threat. It is, though, one which we are dealing with. It is partly a military problem, security problem; it is partly a political problem for the Afghan government to be able to get -- and extend its reach into the outlying provinces of the country. And that is a challenge. It is -- it is part security, but it's also building up the capacity of provincial governments and the like to do it.

So I would say it is a -- it is a big challenge. It is not one that we have ignored. There is -- you know, there is, I think, a strategy in place that makes some sense. We are emphasizing the -- the poppy problem is an enormous one, particularly in Helmand province, which is where the British are located. They are concerned about eradication efforts. We're going to have to solve that problem. Poppy production, actually, in the rest of the country is trending down, in some places dramatically down.

So there -- there has been progress, but there are also challenges that remain, and we're going to be struggling with that problem for a while.

PICKERING: Next. Can't see faces, but please, back in the middle here. You just -- who looked around.

HADLEY: (Laughs.)

QUESTIONER: Thank you. Fred Tipson with Microsoft.

HADLEY: Hi, Fred. How are you?

QUESTIONER: Good. How are you?

HADLEY: Good.

QUESTIONER: Steve, as -- as and if the security situation stabilizes in the country, how do you see the reintroduction, let's say, of the international community in political and economic development? What do you see as the optimum role of the United Nations organizations, for example?

HADLEY: Yeah. When the president gave his speech in January, I went up to talk to a number of members of the Congress and the Senate and -- House and the Senate. And they said, "Where is the diplomatic surge that accompanies the military surge and the political surge?" And it was the right question.

And what we've basically done is we've got kind of a three-legged stool. First is the International Compact, which people have not, I think, paid enough attention to. It is a contract between the international community and the Iraqi government, not only what they're going to do economically, but partially what they're going to do politically. There are benchmarks, and if you talk to some of the folks at the Treasury Department, talk to Bob Kimmett, Bob Kimmett would say the -- the benchmarks he looks at look pretty good for Iraq, at a macroeconomic level. Of course, economic life is lived at the micro level, and that's -- requires a lot of -- lot of continued work.

So one is the International Compact. There will be a meeting on the margins of the U.N. General Assembly, chaired by the secretary-general, to try and reaffirm the international commitment to helping Iraq on that.

Second is the neighbors meetings. There have been two. This is basically to establish an ongoing forward forum, led by Iraqis, of their neighbors and other representatives of the international community to try and provide a framework to do two things: one, to provide external diplomatic support for the hard decisions and compromises Sunni, Shi'a, and Kurds need to make within that country. And secondly, quite frankly, to -- to push and encourage some countries, particularly Iraq Sunnis' neighbors, to recognize they have a stake in stability in Iraq and to make an investment commensurate with their interests and, at the same time, be a forum to put pressure on Iran and Syria to play a more constructive role.

We think this is something that should be an ongoing program. We have actually proposed that there would be a secretariat that would meet periodically. There are now three working groups that have operated and met, addressing security and economic issues. We think this is a framework for an international involvement.

And finally, the United Nations piece. There is an -- an expanded mandate for the U.N. mission in Iraq. There is a new person designated to head that mission. We have encouraged the U.N. to both expand its presence and expand its missions, particularly so we can get provincial elections up and running, which is something we think is important.

So there is a greater international role required. We recognize it. We think that the trend lines are up. Some people should say -- will say we should have done it earlier or should be doing it faster. We think it is an element of trying to help stabilize the situation.

PICKERING: Clayton?

QUESTIONER: Mr. Hadley, My name is Clay Swisher, and I'm a new term member. And I'd like to ask you about the very obvious and very noisy incubator of terrorism, and that's the unresolved conflict between Arabs and Israelis. Now, the president has said in July that he plans to convene a conference this fall to address the issue. How, specifically, will the conference involve, if at all, Hamas and Syria? And more importantly, do you think that Arab governments other than Egypt and Jordan -- and I'm thinking Saudi Arabia -- do you think there's a strong likelihood that they'll attend?

HADLEY: The meeting that the president called for, he called for states that accept some basic principles, that accept the two-state solution, recognize Israel's right to exist, and oppose terror. In some sense, shorthand is, you know, accept the -- the roadmap. But those are really the three elements of it. And if -- Hamas, obviously, is -- has not accepted those elements and so, in some sense, Hamas is going to select itself out.

I think if you -- the second -- one of the things that the president said and announced in the speech was a program for helping the Palestinians build an infrastructure of a Palestinian state, economic and political.

That's very important, and the president called this meeting in November, in part to review the progress being made in helping the Palestinians build those institutions, but also he said to support the bilateral dialogue that is now going on between President Abbas and Prime Minister Olmert. And a lot of what can be accomplished in November, in some sense, will depend on how mature that dialogue has become. Again, the notion is that the international community can support the parties as they try to lay out some kind of set of objectives or vision for how to move towards a two-state solution it cannot substitute for them.

There's a lot of work to be done between now and then to prepare for that meeting. As I say, part of it is going to depend on how this dialogue that is going on between Prime Minister Olmert and President Abbas goes. We're cautiously optimistic, but it's not something that we have a lot of visibility into. And the secretary of State is heading over to the region, and I think she'll get a much better sense of what our potential is.

I think -- finally on the Saudi Arabia issue, a number of states, including the Palestinians who said they will come to a meeting if it is substantive and advances the cause towards establishing a Palestinian state. So it's a test and I think if we meet those objectives, I think you'll see countries like Saudi Arabia coming. And our hope is that we will.

PICKERING: Judith?

QUESTIONER: Judith Kipper. Thank you for being here. It's a privilege.

I'm wondering why the administration has not been able to say over these many years that we don't desire having permanent bases in Iraq. One assumes that we are -- or at least this administration is planning permanent bases in Iraq, and a long, long, long term presence. It's an extremely inflammatory subject for people whose sovereignty is in question, and we have military installations in all of the Gulf states -- in Turkey, we have relations with Pakistan and almost every other state except Syria in the Middle East.

Wouldn't it help to ease peoples' concerns in Iraq, considering that, going back to Tom's question, why did it take four years to figure some of these things out, to state categorically that we do intend to get out, we're not going to be permanent residents in Iraq, we're not going to have bases there? If they, the Iraqis, at some future date, would like to have us help them with training, buy arms, do whatever any other regular normal sovereign state does, we could do that. And we've asked Zal when he was at that podium, the same question, and he categorically refused to answer it, so maybe you could enlighten us at this time.

HADLEY: Bob Gates has done it twice -- said, we have no interest in permanent bases in Iraq. Period.

What we've had is Iraqis coming to us and saying they want a long-term relationship, and they want an element of security as part of that relationship. And it's going to have to be defined by Iraqis. It's very similar to what we were with Afghanistan when the Afghans came and asked for a strategic relationship with the United States because they felt it was an important element in achieving their objectives for stabilizing their countries. So what that looks like, we're going to have to work out. But we've said a couple of times, we're not interested in permanent bases in Iraq.

And finally, you know, it's -- long time to figure these things out as I tried to suggest, we figured these things out early. But there's figuring them out and there's doing them, and the implementation execution is very hard.

PICKERING: The lady back here on the right.

Q Thank you very much

PICKERING: Coming up -- no, I'm sorry. I meant way, way back. (Laughter.) I'll look for you again.

Q Sorry -- (laughs.) Thank you. Elise Labott with CNN. Thank you for joining us tonight.

I'd like to pick up on what you were talking about, the region and Iran and playing a more constructive role. A lot of the fears, as you know, of a lot of the Sunni Arab state are because of the growing influence of Iran in the region, and in fact they're supporting Sunni tribal elements and, in some cases, insurgents, because of their fears of Iran's support for militias and the like.

And I was wondering what you think of the idea that Iraq is no longer becoming just about Iraq, but more of a battleground for a wider war with Iran. And some even say that containing Iran now has become more important than the stabilization of Iraq. Thank you.

HADLEY: I think those things are related to the stabilization of Iraq.

If you think about it, in some of the intelligence community -- in the, I think the NIE, the National Intelligence Estimate, for which the key judgments were declassified -- talks about the accelerants of violence in Iraq. And one, of course, is al-Qaeda, and that's one we've been dealing with for a long time. An al-Qaeda that had a conscious strategy of attacking Shi'a, to provoke Shi'a violence on Sunnis, in order to encourage sectarian violence and strengthen al-Qaeda's role in the Sunni community -- very vicious strategy that had a fair amount of success. That's one we've been dealing for a while.

The JAM elements I talked about, and the increasing Iranian -- and I think it is increasing, Iranian support to those elements is a relatively new phenomenon. It is also an accelerant of violence. It's something that the Iraqi government has become increasingly concerned about, and has both allowed our forces and Iraqi forces to go after these JAM elements that are provoking violence and that have been receiving assistance from Iran.

So I think in some sense, both al-Qaeda and the flow of suicide bombers into Iraq from Syria, and these JAM elements backed by Iran have been a -- are, and continue to be, real challenges. We have tried to deal with -- in Iraq, with the effect of what Iran is doing by going after their agents, by going after those groups that are getting support from Iran, and from disrupting the flow of equipment and weapons as best we can.

We have also tried to use international pressure through this neighbors conference, to put pressure on Iran to be constructive. We have urged the Iraqi government to go meet with Iranians and basically make the same case. And we, of course, as you know, have met -- Ryan Crocker has met two or three times with his Iranian counterpart to make a firm and clear message that this activity is not in Iran's interest, and that Iran has an interest in a stable Iraq and some of this violence that is perpetrating in Iraq potentially could threaten Iran.

So that is what we're doing. This is separate and apart from the broader agenda with Iran about their nuclear ambitions, their support to terror more generally. But it is a -- it's a real problem. It's a real problem.

PICKERING: Dick?

QUESTIONER: Mr. National Security Adviser --

HADLEY: Mr. Solomon -- Dr. Solomon, sir, how are you?

QUESTIONER: One of the unfortunate things about --

PICKERING: Why don't you identify yourself since we all know you? (Laughter.)

QUESTIONER: Dick Solomon, Institute of Peace.

Steve, one of the unfortunate things about Iraq is the preoccupation with one of a number of really fundamental changes underway in the global economy. And you, as National Security Adviser, I'm sure are aware, for example, of the way that China is transforming the global economy, just to pick one.

But let me focus on the nuclear proliferation issue, since that was important to our involvement in Iraq -- although you didn't mention it -- and that is, I think, one of the areas where the administration has made some progress is the Six-Party Talks, creating an international framework for dealing with the North Koreans. There have been recent concerns that the North Koreans, as usual, are working around the edges, or they're doing something with Syria. And then you have your effort to create a box for the Iranians. I wonder if you could comment on what your anticipation of success in the Six-Party Talk framework would be, and whether we can build an effective coalition to constrain the Iranians?

HADLEY: One thing, on the first point. I was talking to Brent Scowcroft here some years ago when he said, "You know," he said, "when I" -- and I think, and Eric you're going to have to make sure I don't misquote him, but my recollection was he said, "You know, when we were in before, it was the Soviet Union and, at any point in time, you know, two or three other things to do." "And one of the things about this administration and the administration that'll come after, is the number of burners on which there are pots -- all of which are near boil." And it is really a management challenge for anybody in this process to be able to work the variety of issues. You don't have the luxury of doing one or two, you've got to do them all. And it is a -- it is a challenge.

The North Korea -- I think we would say we have the right framework. We were criticized for not having bilateral discussions with North Korea. We believed that we did not have the leverage to get them to give up their nuclear program. And the only way we would get that leverage is if all of its neighbors and all of its historical supporters got together and sent them the same message -- and, in particular, China were to use its influence; and, interestingly enough, South Korea were to begin to use its influence on North Korea.

That, plus what we were able to do with our own financial sanctions, I think, put North Korea in a frame of mind so that we got the September '05 agreement and then the February of '07 agreement.

Chris Hill -- there are hiccups along the way. We've seen this. Anyone who's dealt with North Korea has seen it. It seems to progressing well. We are trying, by the end of the year, to get North Korea to have disabled all its nuclear programs and to filed a declaration that will not only talk about its reprocessing program, its enrichment program, and the separated plutonium that it has. And that is a sort of "on the way towards the ultimate dismantlement" of those programs.

It seems to be going well -- the coalition has been tested by North Korea from time to time -- it has held together. I don't know where we are. I think one of the things we need to do is keep up the pressure because we would like to get this issue resolved so that the new administration does not have to deal with it. And, on the other hand, we have to be careful that they not try and just sort of run out the clock. So it is going to be, I think, continuing of, sort of, holding the group together, putting on pressure and insisting on performance of these agreements that they've entered into. I don't know where it will come out. But I think we've got the framework right and I think Chris Hill's doing a good job.

QUESTIONER: (Off mike.)

HADLEY: We've got a framework. I think the truth is what we -- what we do not yet have is success. I think what you've seen is that we have put pressure through the formality. One, through the fact that the international community has held together; we have two U.N. Security Council resolutions, there are sanctions, there are informal sanctions that have been placed; there's an active diplomacy; there is -- there is a plan or an offer from the EU Three that is a way out if Iran would only choose it.

I think what we've seen, my own personal judgment, is that the pressure has produced a tactical shift by the Iranians in terms of how they deal with us on this issue. You know, someone's up, someone's down -- those kind of shifts. Have they made a strategic decision to give up these nuclear ambitions in a clear way? I think not. And I -- our own view is that is going to require more pressure from the international community as well as a way in which the Iranians can have a way out.

And as we've said, we have no problem with Iran having a truly peaceful nuclear program. And the offer the EU Three made would facilitate that. The problem is a full fuel cycle enrichment program that allows them to have the material from which a nuclear weapon should made, and having that on their territory. That is the problem.

So we've offered a way out. We've made clear that the Iranian people should have an assuredly peaceful nuclear program. And we've also made clear that we would like a better relationship with Iran, and that Iran's policies of its government is isolating its people from the world in a way that is not in their interests.

And we've finally said, very clearly, that we hope there is a day when the Iranian people have more authority over their government and can ensure that a government that is more responsive to their interests. But we're not -- we've got the right framework, I think, but we have not generated, I think, both the pressure or the diplomacy that is required to get them to make a strategic shift, and that's really what's required. We would like it, not only on the nuclear issue, we'd like it on the issue of terrorism.

PICKERING: (Off mike.) Back here on -- (inaudible) -- yes, the gentleman in the light brown jacket. Sorry. Yes.

HADLEY: The mike's on the other side, sir.

PICKERING: Oh, mike's there.

QUESTIONER: Spurgeon Keeney, National --

PICKERING: Spurge -- didn't recognize you.

QUESTIONER: -- Academy of Sciences. If Iran refuses to give up their enrichment program, and continues at least some sort of support for the activist Shi'ite groups in Iraq, what do you think are the prospects that this administration will join the French in calling for a military action against Iran? And I ask this question given your statement earlier on, as to the reasons you supported the actions, even in retrospect, against Iraq. So the question is, if things do not go well with Iran, what will this administration do?

HADLEY: I think the French, as I recall it, said something that, I think, we've said before as well. The reason we want this diplomacy to work, the reason we think it is so important that the international community hold together to send a clear message to Iran and put pressure on Iran, is that we don't want to be -- for either this administration or the next administration, in a situation where you have to choose between one of two options, either Iran having a nuclear weapon, or us having to use force to deny it.

That's where we don't want to be. It's not a great choice. The president said all options are on the table, but he has also said our clear preference is we want a diplomatic outcome. And that's why we are working so hard on it. And I think that's all that President Sarkozy was saying. It's a bit of a wake-up call to the international community, we've got to turn up the heat on this diplomacy because we don't want to be at that place where we have to make a very difficult choice. This president doesn't want to be there and I'm sure the next one isn't going to want to be there.

PICKERING: Just wait, I'll come back to you.

This is the -- either the next to the last or the last question, depending upon how long the answer is. (Laughter.)

QUESTIONER: Thank you very much. Pauline Baker --

HADLEY: That's what you call a "shot." (Laughter.)

QUESTIONER: Pauline Baker, The Fund for Peace. I want to take you back to Iraq. A big part of the success of your strategy depends upon the Iraqi security forces filling in as we draw down. And yet, after five years, we're far from that goal. Certainly there's been some success, though, in terms of the military training, but the police are really still quite hopeless. What happens when we reach the stage where we start withdrawing at the timetable that you laid out, and the Iraqis are not ready to take over? We did say we would stand down as they stood up, what happens if they don't stand up? What are your contingency plans?

HADLEY: Part of it is in the design. As I read the Jones -- General Jones' report, they were encouraged by the army, and that's what we hear from the field. Very concerned about the national police which have problems of effectiveness, leadership, corruption, and infiltration by sectarian forces. More positive about the local police, particularly now where, as you see in Anbar Province, where the tide flips, and tribals are now coming together to work with us to go after al-Qaeda. And a large number of people are coming into the local police forces. They're being vetted, and then be made part of the Iraqi security forces.

I think that is going to be a key element of long-term stability. We will hand over to the Iraqi army, the Iraqi army obviously wants to hand over to local police. One of the reasons that makes us a little more optimistic is that, just as in Anbar Province, when the population turns the way that population seems to have done, it is a lot easier for, first, the Iraqi army, and then the Iraqi police, to hold the territory and to hold the population with it.

But you sort of said timetable. And we have not had timetables. And what General Petraeus talked about was not a timetable, it was an expectation that if progress on security continues, he will be able to make some adjustments and draw-downs. And he also said clearly that where he does that will depend on the conditions on the ground. And one of those conditions on the ground is whether his judgment, as we step back, whether the Iraqi security forces will be able to take responsibility for more of the door-to-door population security, and we can then increasingly focus on training, and equipping, and supporting, and embedding those Iraqi forces.

So I think you'll see that where he pulls forces out and not replaces them, will reflect, in some sense, in that area, conditions on the ground, politics on the ground, and also where the Iraqi forces are.

QUESTIONER: (Off mike.)

HADLEY: Sorry, too long.

QUESTIONER: -- (inaudible) -- to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. You've done so with grace, with conviction and with your usually wonderful, good-mannered, personal self. I think we all owe you a debt of gratitude for coming. Thank you very much for --

(Applause.)

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