Rice Says Israel May Need to Prolong Offensive
By BRIAN KNOWLTON, International Herald Tribune
Published: July 16, 2006
WASHINGTON, July 16 — Israel may need to prolong its offensive in Lebanon to
further reduce the threat from Hezbollah, Secretary of State Condoleezza
Rice said today, as some Democrats called on her to travel to the region
immediately to help defuse the crisis.
Ms. Rice appeared to support a longer-term Israeli effort to inflict
decisive damage to Hezbollah’s presence in Lebanon. She also said she was
considering a trip to the region.
“A cessation of violence is crucial, but if that cessation of violence is
hostage to Hezbollah’s next decision to launch missiles into Israel or
Hamas’s next decision to abduct an Israeli citizen, then we will have gotten
nowhere,” she said on “Fox News Sunday.”
Ms. Rice’s remarks appeared to put the United States at odds with most of
its allies, which have urged an immediate halt to the far-flung Israeli
strikes in Lebanon that followed attacks by Hezbollah militants in northern
But in St. Petersburg, Russia, the Group of 8 leading industrialized
countries issued a statement that sought to bridge the differences. “These
extremist elements and those that support them cannot be allowed to plunge
the Middle East into chaos,” it said, an apparent allusion to Hezbollah and
its Iranian and Syrian supporters.
It then added, “We call upon Israel to exercise utmost restraint.”
The White House counselor, Dan Bartlett, in St. Petersburg with President
Bush, was asked by CNN what sort of restraint the United States expected.
“We’re not going to get into specific tactical decision-making,” he said,
“but what we’re saying is, let’s not lose sight of the broader context.”
Mr. Bartlett said the survival of Lebanon’s young democratic government was
crucial, as was Israel’s right to self-defense. But he said Israel needed to
concentrate carefully on targets clearly linked to Hezbollah.
But by joining its voice to the Group of 8 statement, the United States
carefully avoided tying its own hands. At a news conference a few hours
earlier, President Bush sidestepped repeatedly when asked whether he
supported Lebanon’s call for an immediate cease-fire.
A day earlier, after he met with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, Mr.
Bush bluntly blamed Hezbollah for provoking the crisis, while Mr. Putin said
that “the use of force should be balanced,” a comment taken as critical of
The crisis has revived domestic criticism that the Bush administration,
burdened and distracted by the war in Iraq, has dangerously ignored broader
Former Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright — speaking with unusual
candor considering the traditional injunction in American politics against
speaking ill of United States foreign policy while the president is abroad —
said of the Bush administration, “I’m stunned, I’m frankly stunned that they
have not been involved” more in the region.
“I wish that the secretary had announce that she was leaving St. Petersburg
and going with other foreign ministers to the region to begin shuttle
diplomacy,” she said on the ABC News program “This Week,” referring to Ms.
Rice. “We can’t wait for the violence to stop.”
Senator Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut, a member of the Foreign
Relations Committee, agreed that Ms. Rice should head to the region
immediately. “We’re late into this game,” he told Fox News. “This could spin
out of control to such a degree that we could have a major, major war in the
When Ms. Rice was asked later whether she might engage in the sort of
shuttle diplomacy made famous by her predecessor Henry Kissinger, she
replied, “I’m thinking about it.”
“I certainly stand ready to do so when I believe that I can make a
But, she added: “We first need a way ahead. Let’s recognize that simply
going in and shuttling back and forth, if you don’t know where you’re trying
to go, is not going to help.” It was vital, Ms. Rice said, to work with the
United Nations and other parties “to lay a foundation so that we don’t have
continual further crises.”
Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain has urged Mr. Bush to send Ms. Rice to
the region, Time magazine has reported, citing an unidentified British
American lawmakers have mostly defended Israel’s response to the Hezbollah
“We need to stand firm with our friends the Israelis,” Senator George Allen,
Republican of Virginia, said on Fox News. “They are protecting themselves.”
A Democrat, Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, supported the Bush
administration’s response but suggested an additional line of action: for
Mr. Bush to send two former presidents, his father and Bill Clinton, to the
region. “I think it would be a masterful diplomatic stroke,” Ms. Feinstein
Both Ms. Rice and Mr. Bush pointed fingers at Syria and Iran for supporting
and perhaps guiding Hezbollah, as well as militants of Hamas, who now
controls the Palestinian government.
“They’re all — Iran, Syria, Hezbollah, Hamas — trying to destabilize
democratic and moderate forces, trying to throw the region into chaos,” Ms.
Rice said. “They can’t be allowed to do that.”
Mr. Bartlett said Group of 8 countries increasingly agreed that Hezbollah
was to blame for the Lebanon crisis, adding, “What you’re going to see is a
further isolation of the governments of Syria and Iran, and more people
joining the moderate forces” in the region.
The Russian foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, said he considered the
Syrian-Iranian link to Hezbollah’s attacks speculative. “We take this very
seriously, but we want to see facts,” he said on CNN. “Whenever we ask for
facts, there are not too many, if any.”
But a senior Republican senator, Trent Lott of Mississippi, said on CNN that
he hoped Syria and Iran would understand “that using their surrogate
Hezbollah will not succeed, and in the end it may backfire.”