I don`t regret Iraq war: Condoleezza Rice

Former US secretary of state said US-led ISAF was winning war in Afghanistan.

Washington: Former US secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, has said that she does not regret the Iraq war but admitted "the mistake...was to put a spotlight simply on the weapons of mass destruction".

In an interview with Piers Morgan on CNN International on Thursday, Rice said: "You can win this war against the extremists who did what they did to us on September 11th. You know, I`m a veteran...on another war that people didn`t think you could win either -- the cold war. And actually with patience and the right set of -- set of policies that war was won."

"Well, what we`re trying to do -- and now two successive administrations have tried to do -- is to defeat the extremists who across these networks are able to bring existential threats to our way of life. That can be defeated."

"Will we defeat every effort -- every terrorist effort throughout history? No, of course not. Terrorism has been a tactic going all the way back into human history," Rice added.

"But we can certainly defeat that network of extremist most -- most clearly, al Qaeda."

Professor of political economy at the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University since 1981, Rice said that "those who use terror as a political weapon against the -- the existence really of a set of values, and therefore embodied for instance in a country like the United States, had to be defeated more broadly than al Qaeda".

Rice, who was secretary of state from 2005 to 2009, said the US-led International Security and Assistance Force was winning the war in Afghanistan, "but it`s very, very slow. And we aren`t in a position yet to declare that the winning -- the advances that we`ve made -- are irreversible. And I think that`s what`s concerning to everyone."

While saying that "there`s a lot of corruption in Afghanistan", Rice said it was a matter of concern for her.

"Well, but -- but let`s not pretend that the number of corrupt governments in the world simply is confined to Afghanistan. The fact is this is a place that`s had more than 30 years of civil war and war. It`s not surprising that corruption is deeply embedded. And you can`t simply say, `All right. Well, there`s corruption. Therefore, we`re not going to do anything in Afghanistan`. That`s not a policy answer either."

On being shown a video clip shot before the Iraq war in which she said that Saddam Hussein was acquiring weapons of mass destruction, Rice said: "The fact is that what you know today can affect what you do tomorrow, but not what you did yesterday. And at that time, all of the intelligence said that he (Saddam) was acquiring weapons of mass destruction again. This is someone who had used them before. So, this wasn`t a theoretical possibility."

While saying "Yes" on the intelligence turning out to be wrong, Rice added: "Well, I don`t dispute that he didn`t have stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction. He certainly had enough front companies and was trying to acquire all kinds of pieces. But no, the threat was not the -- the weapons of mass destruction were not as mature in Iraq as we were led to believe, or as we believed."

"No, I don`t regret that we went to war against him (Saddam), because we could be sitting here today...having a discussion about the race for nuclear weapons between Saddam Hussein`s Iraq and Ahmadinejad`s Iran."

On the issue of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, she said: "No, I think the mistake -- and this was a mistake -- was to put a spotlight simply on the weapons of mass destruction. I remember saying to -- to some senators when I was briefing them, the Russians have 10,000 times more WMD than Iraq has. But I don`t worry on a daily basis about that fact, because of the Russian government`s relative respectability and responsibility in the international system."

"You`re absolutely right. It was Saddam Hussein who had caused wars in the Middle East, who was an implacable enemy of the United States, who was a cancer in the Middle East, who was likely to start war again, and who was, we believed, acquiring weapons of mass destruction. It was that picture as a totality that we probably should have talked more about."

"...We believed that he was acquiring weapons of mass destruction, and given who he was in the Middle East, that it was a threat that had to be dealt with."

"Now I know that there are those who thought we could wait and wait and wait. After September 11th, we didn`t believe that we could wait any longer...But no, I believe that the total picture was actually a convincing one. The weapons of mass destruction in the hands of that particular person were particularly threatening."