September 12, 2012
TRANSCRIPT: REP. MIKE ROGERS (R-MI.), REPUBLICAN CHAIRMAN OF THE HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE, TALKS EGYPT, LIBYA, ISRAEL AND IRAN ON "ANDREA MITCHELL REPORTS"
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NEW YORK--September 12, 2012--Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), Republican Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, spoke with Andrea Mitchell on the attacks on the United States Embassy in Libya, the statement from the Cairo Embassy and Gov. Romney's response to it, and his thoughts on Israel and taking on a nuclear Iran.
[TRANSCRIPT - If used, please credit MSNBC's "Andrea Mitchell Reports"]
ANDREA: Joining me now, Congressman Mike Rogers, Republican Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, former FBI man, thank you Congressman for joining us today. Your thoughts on the level of debate, and the fact that, frankly, the Republican candidate for president took a stance and said that there was an apology from the Administration and put it at the feet of the President and called it disgraceful, when in fact that statement from the Cairo Embassy, whether it was worded well or not, came out six hours before these protests even started.
ROGERS: Well I do think there’s room for discussion after we get through these very troubling few days, about maybe policies overall and those kinds of discussions, and that’s probably a fair debate to have in this upcoming election. What we should be focused on now I think is the fact that we lost a United States Ambassador – what’s key about this is that we ask these people to serve in very dangerous places, they are civilians there to represent the United States and just fundamentally try to avoid conflict. And so the fact that these folks were deliberately targeted, they knew that the ambassador wouldn’t be harmed, tells us that we have some troubles that we’re going to have to deal with, especially in Libya. This was a well-armed, well-coordinated event, it had both indirect and direct fire, and it had military maneuvers that were all part of this very organized attack – that’s concerning, so we are going to have to make sure, working with the Libyans hopefully, that these people are brought to justice very swiftly. We cannot allow this to stand for the United States. Egypt, and I caution some in Egypt, even the ambassador talked about this film being the impetus for this, I’m not convinced yet. We saw with the cartoons in the past that months went by, and then there were information operations put together around those cartoons to incite violence. We have a lot more questions about what exactly happened in Egypt, if in fact there wasn’t some information operation used to incite violence against the United State Embassy. And I think before we draw any conclusions about what the spark or the trigger of that events, we need to know those answers, so we can appropriately ask the Egyptians what happened and why they didn’t secure the perimeter of our embassy in Egypt. We’re going to have some repairing to do to in this relationship as we move forward. The Egyptians need to take a very strong stance on this, I hope that they will, I know that we’re working with them to that end, and this all has to happen fairly quickly to regain Americans’ confidence in the new Egyptian government.
ANDREA: You’re talking of course about the breach of the Cairo Embassy, and the second incident obviously in Benghazi and Libya. Let me play what Mitt Romney had to say this morning about the Cairo incident.
[VIDEO]: “I also believe the Administration was wrong to stand by a statement sympathizing with those who had breached our embassy in Egypt, instead of condemning their actions.”
ANDREA: I’m not clear at all…I don’t understand what Mitt Romney is talking about, because it was a Cairo Embassy press statement six hours before the breach of the embassy. So where is this sympathy statement?
ROGERS: I’m not exactly sure what Gov. Romney was specifically talking about. I think probably what you saw there was the frustration over a foreign policy that is probably a little out of kilter where I think the Governor would be when it comes to the Middle East. I think that’s probably what you’re seeing there.
ANDREA: Well let me take you to Israel then, there was also a fuss over whether or not the Administration should have invited Prime Minister Netanyahu when he comes in two weeks to the UN. Israel saying that they had requested a meeting, the White House saying that there was no meeting requested or denied, the President called Netanyahu. You were actually present in Israel and you know firsthand just how tense this relationship is.
ROGERS: Yeah, and it’s concerning. We have, it’s clear that on our intelligence and military, cooperation is exceptionally good, that continues to be the case. But there is I think just a misfiring here between the very senior political levels in Israel and the United States, that is starting to show. You know, you can’t hold that in for very long when the consequence of this relationship may mean, and how it’s handled, a war in the Middle East. Israel believes that they have to take some action against a nuclear Iran, that by the way, would spark a Middle East arms race – a nuclear arms race.
ANDREA: Do you agree with them? You’re the intelligence chair, do you think that the time now has run out on sanctions and that Israel has to take military action?
ROGERS: Here’s where I think we stand today. I think Israel believes with their capabilities, they may in fact have already crossed their line, and they’re looking to the United States for a little guidance. I do believe that’s all happening, and that’s where all this confusion and tension and anxiety between the two relationships, which is not healthy, by the way. My argument is that it’s not just if the Israelis believe that there’s a real military option on the table, but what do the Iranians believe? I believe today, as Chairman of the Intelligence Committee, the Iranians do not believe that the United States is serious. The Administration has spent a lot of effort trying to convince Israel not to do it, and what I was hoping is a better example for the Iranians, that, listen, if you continue to try to get a nuclear weapon, there are real consequences. I think the sanctions which I supported, and Congress supported handily, are having some impact, but they’re not having an impact on slowly down the program, that’s when the real threat of military option has to be on the table. Not that we want to use it, but I believe in peace through strength, and I think the Iranians understand that strength part. So it’s not a lost opportunity, I think we can still get all of these players back on the table so that we can have a very real deterrent to a nuclear Iran and still have peace and good relationships with one of our strongest allies in the region, Israel.
ANDREA: Congressman Mike Rogers, thanks for being with us today.