Bush's Message to Gulf States Regarding Iran Interview of US President George W. Bush by Nadia Bilbassy-Charters, Al Arabiya TV (Excerpts)

January 4, 2008

. . .

Q Thank you, sir. Part of the visit, as well, is Iran and the Gulf states. What exactly do you want from the Gulf states regarding Iran? And would you ask for their cooperation in case of a military strike?

THE PRESIDENT: First of all, I will assure the Gulf states that I believe we can solve this problem diplomatically. Secondly, I will -- they're going to want more from me than I'm going to want from them; they're going to want to know what this NIE was all about.

Q Exactly.

THE PRESIDENT: And I'm going to remind them that at my press conference when I explained the NIE, I clearly said Iran was, is, and will be a danger if they're allowed to enrich, because they can take the knowledge on how to enrich and convert it to a covert program. If they've had one -- a program once, they can easily start a program.

And so I view the Iranian regime as a danger. I also believe that the Iranian people are not bad -- they're good people, and that they can have a better way forward. We'll tell our -- I'm sure the -- our friends and allies will say, well, what are you going to do about it? It's one thing to define the problem; do you have a strategy? And if you say you can solve it diplomatically, what is your strategy? And I'll explain the strategy of economic isolation, that -- you know, it's sad, we really don't need to have to be in this position. If the Iranian government would suspend their enrichment program, like the international community has demanded, there's a better way forward for them. But they say that they need this program, and my answer is, is that if you need it, then why haven't you been transparent and disclosed it, an honest about it? And what were you doing with a military -- secret military program in the first place?

And so I view Iran as a danger, I truly do. And I don't view the people as a danger, I view the government as a danger.

Q Of course. But will it be harder to try to convince the Gulf states what -- the American position after the intelligence report?

THE PRESIDENT: The fact that I'm having to explain it means it's harder after the report. But I believe I'll be able to convince them. What they want to know is whether or not I think they're a danger. They know Iran can be a danger. They want to know whether I think it's a danger, and are we committed to helping people achieve security. And part of the trip is to tell people, yes, we've got -- we are engaged to help you, if you want our help, to enhance security. And part of the trip is to tell people, yes, we're engaged to help you, if you want our help, to enhance security.

Now, look, nobody wants to be dictated to, and I'm certainly not going to do that. I am there to reassure and to look people in the eye and say, I believe Iran is a threat; we have a strategy to deal with it; and we want to work with you.

Q Did you ever discuss a military option with the Gulf states?

THE PRESIDENT: Will I ever do that?

Q Did you, or will you?

THE PRESIDENT: No, I haven't, because I believe we can solve this diplomatically. On the other hand, as you've heard me say many times since you've covered the White House, all options must be on the table in order to make sure diplomacy is effective.

Q Absolutely. Secretary Gates told Al-Arabiya in an interview recently that the diplomatic option is still 100 percent in focus. Does that mean that you're going to still pressure Iran on the diplomatic front? And how far can you go before your patience will run out?

THE PRESIDENT: We definitely will continue to pressure them on the diplomatic front. And it's hard, because sometimes people are more interested in market share for their goods than they are for achieving peace. And so I've spent a lot of time with allies in Europe, for example, convincing them of the importance of working together to send a common to the Iranian regime. So, yes, the diplomatic option is on the table and it's active and we're working hard.

. . .

Q And just to follow up on that, the generals were saying that Iran and Syria actually has been playing a role in stopping the suiciders of coming to Iraq. Would you credit them for that at least?

THE PRESIDENT: I'm not willing to credit the Iranians yet. I don't have enough evidence. One general said that, then he corrected his story. I think so long as we're finding sophisticated IEDs -- that could only have been manufactured in Iran -- that are killing innocent people inside Iraq, that's cause for concern. I'm willing to have dialogues with the Iranians about Iraq in Iraq, but our message will be, if we catch you providing arms and trained -- training people, then we'll -- we're going to hold them to account. You just got to understand that.

I would give -- if, in fact, Syria is trying to stop suiciders, I will give them credit, of course. I hope that's the case. It's certainly one way to begin to earn better relations with the United States, is to stop the exportation of suiciders who go kill innocent people. I'm looking forward to the trip. I'm glad you're going.

. . .