WALLACE: Joining us now our ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice. Ambassador, welcome back to “Fox News Sunday.”
AMB. SUSAN RICE, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: Thank you.
WALLACE: This week, there have been anti-American protests in two dozen countries across the Islamic world. The White House says it has nothing to do with the president’s policies.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: This is not a case of protests directed at the United States writ large or at U.S. policy. This is in response to a video that is offensive.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: You don’t really believe that?
RICE: Chris, absolutely I believe that. In fact, it is the case. We had the evolution of the Arab spring over the last many months. But what sparked the recent violence was the airing on the Internet of a very hateful very offensive video that has offended many people around the world.
Now, our strong view is that there is no excuse for violence. It is absolutely reprehensible and never justified. But, in fact, there have been those in various parts of the world who have reacted with violence. Their governments have increasingly and effectively responded and protected our facilities and condemned the violence and this outrageous response to what is an offensive video. But there is no question that what we have seen in the past, with things like satanic verses, with the cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad, there have been — such things that have sparked outrage and anger and this has been the proximate cause of what we’ve seen.
WALLACE: Now, it may have sparked it but you critics say that the outpouring of outrage against the U.S. has everything to do with the U.S. policies, that we are disengaging from that part of the world, that we pulled out of Iraq, we are pulling out of Afghanistan, that Iran is continuing on with its nuclear program. And they say, our critics, that our allies no longer trust us, and our enemies no longer fear us.
RICE: Well, Chris, that’s just false. And let’s be plain — our partners and allies have responded effectively and promptly when we have asked them to protect our facilities and our people.
WALLACE: Well, let’s — it took three days in Cairo.
RICE: Well — and what happened initially in Cairo was not sufficiently robust when President Obama picked up the phone and spoke to the President Morsi, right away things changed. And that’s an evidence of our influence and our impact.
And what happened was that the authorities in Egypt have been very robust in protecting our facilities, not just in Cairo, but elsewhere in the country. President Morsi has issued repeated condemnations of the violent response and called for calm. And we have seen the same thing in Yemen, in Libya, in Tunisia and many other parts of the world.
WALLACE: Why are we asking all nongovernmental personnel to leave Sudan and Tunisia?
RICE: Well, first of all, we’re not asking all non-governmental personnel.
WALLACE: All non-essential governmental personnel.
RICE: What we have done on a selective basis, where we assess that the security conditions necessitate is to temporarily have family members and non-essential personnel depart the country. That’s something we do all over the world when security circumstances warrant. It’s short-term, it’s temporary and it’s prudent.
And we do it, Chris, because we obviously prioritize. The president has been very clear his number one priority is the protection of American personnel and facilities.
WALLACE: So do you think we’re turning the corner here?
RICE: Well, Chris, I think, first of all, we have seen in the past outrage and unfortunately violent outrage which is condemnable and never justified. It may, indeed, occur in other circumstances. There is no predicting exactly what the trajectory of this is. Obviously, the last couple of days have been some what better. But we are vigilant and we are of the view that is not an expression of hospitality in the broadest sense towards the United States or U.S. policy. It’s approximately a reaction to this video and it’s a hateful video that had nothing to do with the United States and which we find disgusting and reprehensible.
WALLACE: You talk about our influence and impact in the region. Our closest ally in the region, Israel, clearly doesn’t feel that we are supporting them when it comes to confronting Iran. In fact, this past week, Prime Minister Netanyahu blasted the U.S. for its failure to set the same red lines as he has in terms of stopping Iran’s nuclear program.
Let’s watch what the prime minister said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: The world tells Israel, wait, there is still time. And I say, wait for what? Wait until when?
Those in the international community who refuse to put red lines before Iran don’t have a moral right to place a red line in Jerusalem.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: And when Netanyahu requested a meeting the president, said he was too busy to meet with him.
RICE: Let me address —
WALLACE: Let me ask a question, if I may.
RICE: I thought you had. I’m sorry.
WALLACE: Well, no, I haven’t. They’ll be a question mark at the end.
Is that how we treat our best friend in the region?
RICE: Well, let me answer that question in three parts. First of all, the overall relationship with Israel. As Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Barak have repeatedly said, the intelligence and security relationship between the United States and Israel at present is unprecedented. It has never been stronger. That’s — those are their words.
So, that’s the overall nature of our relationship, very strong — stronger than ever.
Secondly, with respect to Iran. The United States, President Obama has been absolutely crystal clear that the United States will not allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon and we will do what it takes to prevent that from happening. All options remain on the table. The president has been very clear about that and that includes the military option. This is not a policy of containment, Chris. As the president has repeatedly said, it’s a policy to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. That is the bottom line or as the prime minister prefers to call it, a red line. That’s the bottom line.
Now, we have also said and I think we are in constant communication with Israeli security and intelligence and policy officials that we still think that there is team through economic pressure which is unprecedented as well. Iran’s economy is now shrinking by 1 percent a year. Its oil production is down 40 percent. Its currency has plummeted 40 percent just in the last several months as sanctions have gone into fullest effect.
We think there is still time and space for that pressure to yield a result. The bottom line, Chris, is the only way to permanently end Iran’s nuclear program is if it decides to give that program up.
RICE: Now, the most solemn decision that a president can ever take is a decision to go to war. And President Obama’s view is we will do what it takes it. But before we resort to the use of force, let us be sure we have exhausted other means including sanctions, pressure and diplomacy to ensure that Iran fully and finally gives up its nuclear weapons.
WALLACE: Let’s talk in the time we have left about the —
RICE: You asked about the visit —
WALLACE: We have limited time. I’m happy — if you want to go along, I’m happy to as well.
RICE: I don’t want to leave that hanging. That was the third point I wanted to address.
As you know, the president is coming up to the General Assembly in New York at the United Nations. He’ll be there in the beginning of the week, Monday and Tuesday. Prime Minister Netanyahu is coming toward the end of the week. Their schedules don’t match. There is no opportunity for them to meet in the U.S.
WALLACE: The prime minister would be willing I’m sure to go. And in fact there are suggestions from the Israelis to go to Washington.
RICE: Well, the prime minister hasn’t asked for a meeting in Washington, Chris.
WALLACE: If you watched what he just said, he said that countries that don’t set red lines don’t have the moral authority to put red lines on Israel. That doesn’t sound like a happy ally, Ambassador.
RICE: Well, first of all, we are close partners and friends and always will be. That is an enduring aspect of the U.S.-Israeli relationship.
WALLACE: Why did the president call Prime Minister Netanyahu in the middle of the night and talk for an hour?
RICE: Precisely because they are friends, and when friends need to say something to each other, they pick up the phone and talk and they talked for an hour. It was a good conversation and it’s in the nature of our relationship that these two partners speak to one another regularly.
We have no daylight between us on the issue of preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. That is our clear bottom line and the president could not be any plainer about it.
WALLACE: Let’s talk about the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi this week that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens.
The top Libyan official says that the attack on Tuesday was, quote, his words “preplanned”. Al Qaeda says the operation was revenge for our killing a top Al Qaeda leader.
What do we know?
RICE: Well, first of all, Chris, we are obviously investigating this very closely. The FBI has a lead in this investigation. The information, the best information and the best assessment we have today is that in fact this was not a preplanned, premeditated attack. That what happened initially was that it was a spontaneous reaction to what had just transpired in Cairo as a consequence of the video. People gathered outside the embassy and then it grew very violent and those with extremist ties joined the fray and came with heavy weapons, which unfortunately are quite common in post-revolutionary Libya and that then spun out of control.
But we don’t see at this point signs this was a coordinated plan, premeditated attack. Obviously, we will wait for the results of the investigation and we don’t want to jump to conclusions before then. But I do think it’s important for the American people to know our best current assessment.
WALLACE: All right. And the last question, terror cells in Benghazi had carried out five attacks since April, including one at the same consulate, a bombing at the same consulate in June. Should U.S. security have been tighter at that consulate given the history of terror activity in Benghazi?
RICE: Well, we obviously did have a strong security presence. And, unfortunately, two of the four Americans who died in Benghazi were there to provide security. But it wasn’t sufficient in the circumstances to prevent the overrun of the consulate. This is among the things that will be looked at as the investigation unfolds and it’s also why —
WALLACE: Is there any feeling that it should have been stronger beforehand?
RICE: It’s also why we increased our presence, our security presence in Tripoli in the aftermath of this, as well as in other parts of the world. I can’t judge that, Chris. I’m — we have to see what the assessment reveals.
But, obviously, there was a significant security presence defending our consulate and our other facility in Benghazi and that did not prove sufficient to the moment.
WALLACE: Ambassador Rice, we thank you so much for coming in today and discussing the fast-moving developments in that part of the world. Thanks so much.
RICE: Thank you for having me.