Return to: Index of 1996 Secretary of State's Speeches/Testimonies ||
Electronic Research Collections Index ||
U.S. Department of State
96/05/21 Address: Fighting Terroism: Challenges for Peacemakers
Office of the Spokesman
Secretary of State Warren Christopher
Address to the Washington Institute for
Near East Policy Annual Soref Symposium
"Fighting Terrorism: Challenges for the Peacemakers"
May 21, 1996
Thank you very much, Mike. It is a real pleasure to speak again at
The Washington Institute. Under the leadership of Mike Stein, Barbi
Weinberg, and Rob Satloff, the Institute has continued to excel as an
invaluable forum for the discussion of U.S. policy in the Middle East.
I should say that the Institute has been a reservoir for talent as well.
Any organization that could help cultivate the likes of Martin Indyk,
Dennis Ross, and John Hannah has got to be doing something right.
Sometimes I think that the State Department owes you a finder's fee.
As Mike mentioned, I last spoke at the Institute in October 1993, soon
after Prime Minister Rabin and Chairman Arafat shook hands on the White
House lawn and forever changed the course of Middle East history. Since
then, much has happened. Israel and Jordan are at peace. Palestinians
defied the Hamas call to boycott elections and in doing so gave their
clear mandate for peace. Today, they govern themselves in Gaza and most
cities in the West Bank. The Palestinian National Council voted
overwhelmingly to make good on its commitment to cancel the egregious
provisions of its charter. Economic summits have been held in
Casablanca and Amman. Eight members of the Arab League have made
official visits to Israel, and -- with the exception of Libya, Iraq, and
Sudan -- every Arab League member has participated in some aspect of the
Had I predicted these events in 1993, you probably would have said that
I needed a long rest. The scope and pace of change has truly been
breathtaking. It has come so fast that what was previously unthinkable
is now routine. In the face of difficult challenges, it is easy to
forget how dramatically the peace process has already transformed the
landscape of the Middle East. As we move forward, we must remember the
enormous progress we have made.
None of the challenges we now face is more pressing than the fight
against terrorism. Terrorism destroys innocent lives. It undermines a
society's sense of security -- and with it the very foundation upon
which a lasting peace must be built. As such, terrorism is a threat to
our national interests -- not simply in the Middle East, but around the
President Clinton has rightly identified terrorism as one of the most
important security challenges we face in the wake of the Cold War. As
he said in his address to the United Nations last October, terrorism
today is a world-wide phenomenon. No one is immune. Certainly not
Israel. But also not Egypt. Or Japan. Or France, Britain, or Germany.
Or Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Argentina, or Algeria. And, unfortunately, not
America, where terrorists have struck from lower Manhattan to Oklahoma
As if the threat is not already severe enough, we now face an even more
alarming danger: the terrorist armed with weapons of mass destruction.
Last year's nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway system was a grim omen.
It was also a wake-up call for the world. The threat is real. We must
act now to meet it.
The United States is leading the way. Last month, the President signed
into law landmark anti-terrorism legislation. This bill provides law
enforcement with new tools to stop terrorists before they strike and to
bring them to justice when they do. It strengthens our ability to
prevent international terrorists from raising funds in the United
States. And while ensuring legal safeguards, it allows us quickly to
expel foreigners who provide support for terrorist activities.
The United States has also spearheaded efforts to combat terrorism on a
global level. We have imposed strong sanctions against states that
sponsor or harbor terrorists. We have intensified our counter-terrorism
cooperation with other countries, allowing us to apprehend key figures
in attacks like the World Trade Center bombing. Last December, with our
partners in the G-7 and Russia, we convened a ministerial meeting in
Ottawa to develop common strategies for fighting terror. And in April,
President Clinton joined President Yeltsin and other leaders in Moscow,
where they agreed on new steps to prevent nuclear materials from falling
into the wrong hands.
Nowhere in the world has America's leadership in the fight against
terror been more evident than in the Middle East. We have maintained UN
sanctions against Libya for its role in the bombing of Pan-Am 103. And
we are working to increase pressure on Sudan for its support of last
June's assassination attempt against Egypt's President Mubarak.
America's most critical role, however -- and the one I want to focus on
today -- is defending the Middle East peace process and the peacemakers
against the vicious attacks of their enemies. Terrorists and their
supporters are now engaged in a systematic assault on Israel and the
peace process. Their goal is clear: They seek to kill the very
possibility of peace by destroying every Israeli's sense of personal
The enemies of peace are escalating their attacks for a very clear
reason: the peace process is succeeding. With every step toward peace
that Israel and her neighbors take, the enemies of peace grow more
desperate and more determined to lash out. They must promote fear
because they know that hope is their undoing.
The United States is determined to ensure that the enemies of peace do
not succeed. We will never give in to their terror. We refuse to allow
terrorists to undermine our resolve or divert us from our goal of a
real, secure, and lasting peace for Israel and for all the peoples of
the Middle East.
When Israel was terrorized by a wave of suicide bombings in February and
March, President Clinton responded by organizing the Sharm el-Sheikh
summit. Literally overnight, leaders from around the world answered his
call to join Israel -- not to celebrate another breakthrough in the
peace process, but to defend the peace process at a moment of crisis.
It was an unprecedented event that sent an unmistakable message: The
enemies of peace are doomed. Their terror will only strengthen our
resolve to complete the circle of peace and put them out of business for
Sharm el-Sheikh launched a process to expand joint efforts against
terrorism throughout the region. Most recently, President Clinton and
Prime Minister Peres signed a new anti-terrorism accord that will
strengthen cooperation between our two governments. In addition, the
United States is providing Israel with more than $100 million in anti-
terrorism equipment and training.
We have also begun to bolster the counter-terrorism capabilities of the
Palestinian Authority. With our support, Israeli and Palestinian
security services are now cooperating in a joint campaign to root out
the terrorist infrastructure in the West Bank and Gaza. Palestinian
forces have intercepted many suicide bombers. They have uncovered
explosives and arms caches. They have arrested, tried, and imprisoned
perpetrators of terrorist acts and continue to hunt down others.
Chairman Arafat today clearly understands that he must give a 100
percent effort in the war on terror -- and not just because his
agreements with Israel require it. He is doing it because he knows that
the bombs of Hamas and Islamic Jihad are trying to destroy Palestinian
aspirations as much as they are Israeli lives. The United States will
continue to insist that this increased Palestinian effort is sustained.
Like Hamas before it, Hizbollah's purpose in last month's attacks in
Lebanon was also to kill the peace process. As hostilities escalated,
America's responsibility and interests were clear: To use our influence
to stop the suffering of innocent civilians, to end the crisis, and to
create a new framework to limit the chances of it happening again.
The agreement that resulted from my shuttle mission achieved those
objectives. Hundreds of thousands of Israelis and Lebanese have been
able to return to their homes. New, written understandings have been
reached to contain the dangers of any hostilities. An international
effort will be mounted to assist in Lebanon's reconstruction. And we
are organizing a Monitoring Group in which Israel, Lebanon, and Syria
are being brought together for the first time to help prevent another
This recent campaign of violence has again shone the spotlight on a
disturbing reality: When it comes to terrorism against the peace
process, Iran is playing a leading role. Iran's leaders regularly use
rhetoric that incites terrorism. President Rafsanjani called Prime
Minister Rabin's assassination "divine vengeance." And just prior to
the Hamas bombing spree, Iran's Supreme Leader, Khameini, preached that
"The power of Islam will ultimately bring about the end of the rootless
Zionist regime...which must be destroyed."
Iran has not stopped at rhetoric. It frequently meets with all the
major terrorist groups -- including Hizbollah, Hamas, Palestinian
Islamic Jihad, and the PFL-PGC. It actively encourages these groups to
use terror to destroy the peace process. It provides them with money --
up to several million dollars a year in the case of Hamas, Islamic
Jihad, and others; and up to $100 million a year for Hizbollah. Iran
also supplies them with arms and material support, training, and -- in
some cases -- operational guidance.
The evidence has grown in recent months. In advance of Israel's
elections, Iranian-trained terrorists have been sent to infiltrate
Israel and the Palestinian territories. Some have been intercepted.
Others narrowly failed in carrying out their deadly activities. Still
others have succeeded in their murderous missions. We believe that an
Iranian-backed group was responsible for last week's drive-by shooting
of an Israeli-American yeshiva student in the West Bank. In another
case, Belgium intercepted a shipment containing a mortar, which came
from Iran and was probably intended for an attack on a Jewish target in
There should no longer be any debate about Iran's involvement in
terrorism against the peace process. German Foreign Minister Kinkel
left no doubt about that in remarks he made here in Washington just two
weeks ago. He said that Germany is "fully aware of the evil things that
Iran has been doing and is still doing." He went on to say that "[T]he
Americans and the Germans agree as to the general assessment of what
Iran means by way of terrorism...support of Hizbollah, Hamas, and
While we and our allies now share a similar analysis of the facts, we
differ when it comes to how best to deal with Iran. The United States
believes that Iran will only change its behavior when the world makes it
pay a sufficiently high political and economic price. We must deny
Iran's leaders the resources to finance their dangerous policies. That
is why the President decided last year to impose a comprehensive embargo
on U.S. trade with Iran. And that is why we have been working with
Congress on legislation to further tighten economic restrictions on
In contrast, some European nations continue to engage Iran in what they
call a critical dialogue, while maintaining normal trade. The Europeans
themselves acknowledge that their policy has produced no significant
change in Iranian behavior. We remain convinced that no amount of
dialogue will alter Iran's policies, unless it is coupled with real
Let me stress one point: We do not oppose the EU policy because we
oppose the principle of speaking with Iran. The United States has long
said that we are ready to conduct an open dialogue with authoritative
representatives of the Iranian government, in which we could fully air
our two major concerns: First, Iran's support for terrorism,
especially against the peace process. And second, its efforts to
acquire weapons of mass destruction. Iran, however, has never taken up
Our determination to contain Iran and to defeat the enemies of peace is
clear. But so is our commitment to press ahead with negotiations on a
comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace. Anything less would hand the
terrorists the very victory they seek.
To close the circle of peace, agreements between Israel and Syria and
between Israel and Lebanon are essential. Syria presents us with a
unique challenge. On the one hand, we continue to have serious problems
in our bilateral relationship with Syria. Syria remains on our
narcotics list as well as our terrorism list.
Both President Clinton and I have consistently pressed our concerns with
President Assad and other senior Syrian officials. We will continue to
do so, and to make clear that these concerns must be met before the
United States can build a mutually beneficial relationship with Syria.
Yet we recognize that Syria is different from Iran. Iran rejects the
very notion of peace and has dedicated itself to Israel's destruction.
By contrast, Syria has been negotiating directly with Israel to end
their conflict. I have no illusions. Translating that willingness to
negotiate into a peace agreement will be difficult. But the talks thus
far have provided a solid foundation for progress when negotiations
As long as we remain convinced that peace is possible, we must continue
to work with the parties to achieve a breakthrough that would have far-
reaching strategic consequences -- not just for the Middle East, but for
America's vital interests. A comprehensive peace will dramatically
reduce the risks of another Arab-Israeli war. It will remove the final
constraints on Israel's having normal relations with the entire Arab and
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, ending the Arab-Israeli conflict
will allow us and our friends to harness our resources to meet the
common set of strategic challenges that threaten us all -- especially
the rise of extremist movements that use terrorism and violence, and
rogue states, like Iran and Iraq, that possess weapons of mass
These are the real dangers that we and our friends will have to address
in the coming years. In pursuit of our national interests, we are
determined to do so. A critical part of our strategy must be a
continued effort to seize the historic opportunity that now exists to
achieve a secure and comprehensive peace.
To the top of this page