Richard B. Cheney photo

Remarks by the Vice President on His Trip to the Middle East

March 08, 2002

The Roosevelt Room

10:20 A.M. EST

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, obviously, I'm glad to see some interest in the trip. It should be an interesting trip. The President and I have talked about it over a period of several months -- that is, the President had the idea in mind that at some point he would want to send me into the region, partly because of my own background and experience, especially with these particular countries in this particular part of the world. The timing was such, especially after 9/11, that it was difficult to do anything last year, so we sort of pointed toward the first part of this year.

The trip has taken on, I suppose, a little bit of added significance because of the Middle East crisis with respect to the peace process, but I wouldn't over-emphasize that aspect of it. It's clearly something that will come up at every stop. It would have come up at virtually every stop anyway, even if it hadn't been for recent developments between the Israelis and the Palestinians. But given the Zinni mission, given the vision the Crown Prince put forward recently, recent conversations we've had with Prime Minister Sharon and President Mubarak here in Washington, conversations with the Crown Prince by telephone, it's bound to be a subject that I'll spend time on at each stop.

I'll be soliciting the views of our hosts in terms of how they look at the current state of affairs and what suggestions they have. We've also got the upcoming Arab summit in Beirut March 27th and 28th, so clearly that will be one of the subjects I discuss.

Apart from that, the main reason that the President wanted me to go was to talk about the continuing war on terror, and our ongoing operations not only in Afghanistan, but in other respects, as well, too.

One of the things the President has emphasized is, even as we proceed in Afghanistan -- and we clearly have made major progress there, although there remains a lot of work to be done; we still have significant ongoing operations in terms of Operation Anaconda, and there may well be others in the months ahead -- it also is important for us not to overlook the activities that are required in other parts of the region.

And part of the effort here, as well, is to make certain that we don't allow a sanctuary to develop someplace else that could become a refuge, if you will, for the al Qaeda that are currently under enormous pressure in Afghanistan from U.S. forces. That means that it's important for us to continue to work with our friends in those other nations out there that have been affected by the al Qaeda operation. Just as we know there was an al Qaeda cell here in the United States that conducted the attacks on September 11th, there are cells in other countries in the region out there.

It's important to remember also that the strategy has involved one of not only military action, such as we've engaged in in Afghanistan, but also intelligence-sharing, cooperation on law enforcement, significant efforts with respect to drying up the financial resources of the al Qaeda network wherever we can find them. And in the military arena, in some cases where we don't -- where we're not involved in direct U.S. military action, the military, nonetheless, has a role to play in terms of training, providing equipment, helping equip friendly states to deal with the threats that they encounter on their own soil. And those kinds of issues will very much be front and center in terms of my conversations as I travel through the region.

We also have a lot of U.S. military forces deployed in that part of the world. One of the aspects of my trip that I look forward to is having the opportunity to spend time with some of our troops. Some of them are actively engaged in operations in Afghanistan; some of them are there in support roles. But it will be an opportunity for me to talk firsthand with some of the people who have been carrying out activities that are either in -- directly involved in Afghanistan, or supporting our operations there, as well as to say thank you to the young men and women who are out there putting their necks on the line every day for us. And so I'll be involved in doing some of that, as well, too.

Finally, at each stop we clearly have ongoing bilateral relations of various kinds -- in some cases, efforts that are focused on military-to-military relationships; some cases, important economic relationships. The Saudis, for example, very interested in economic reform and accession into the WTO. So there will be these kinds of issues that I'll be discussing at each stop, as well.

All in all, it will be about 10 days, 12 countries, and it should be a good trip. The final point I'd make, some people ask, why are you going. The President asked me to go. It is an area of the world where I've been actively involved in the past, both in public and private life. I think I've been in all but one of these countries before. There's only one that's a new stop for me; that's Yemen.

In most cases, I'm also -- I'll be dealing with people that I've dealt with before over the years. And so it's familiar territory from that standpoint. And I think by sending me, the President emphasizes the importance he places on these relationships. But the entire administration has been engaged in that region, in preparation for my trip. General Powell's been an integral part of that; Don Rumsfeld has been an integral part of that. Don and Condi and Colin and I all met this morning to go over it one last time before I take off. So it's part of a team effort. And as the Vice President, I've got an extra set of hands, and this is an area where I can be useful. So that's the prime reason for my going.

END 10:30 A.M. EST

Richard B. Cheney, Remarks by the Vice President on His Trip to the Middle East Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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