Susan Rice on 'This Week'

The U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. on protests in the Muslim world.
3:00 | 09/16/12

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Transcript for Susan Rice on 'This Week'
presidential race, the murder of four americans, including the u.S. Ambassador in benghazi, libya. The wave of anti-american protests and violence now sweeping the globe. For more on what happened and why, let's bring in the u.S. Ambassador to the united nations, dr. Susan rice. Dr. Rice, thank you for joining us. First of all, what is the latest on who these attackers were at the embassy or at the consulate in benghazi? We're hearing that the libyans are arresting people. They're saying some people were from outside the country and some even al qaeda ties. What's the latest information? Jake, first of all, it's important to know that there's an fbi investigation that has begun and it will take some time to be completed. That will tell us with certainty what transpired. But our current assessment, is that in fact what began as a spontaneous not a premeditated response to what had transpired in cairo, there was a violent protest that was undertaken in reaction to this video that was disseminated. We believe that folks in benghazi, a small number of people came to the consulate to replicate this sort of challenge that was posed in cairo and then as that unfolded, it seems to have been hijacked, let us say, by some individual clusters of extremists that came with heavier weapons, weapons as you know that, in the wake of the revolution in libya, are quite common and accessible. Then it evolved from there. We'll wait to see exactly what the investigation finally confirms. But that's the best information that we have at present. Why was there such a security breakdown, why wasn't there better security at the compound in benghazi? Why weren't there u.S. Marines in tripoli? First of all, we had substantial presence with our -- not substantial enough -- with our personnel at our consulate in benghazi. Tragically, two of the four americans who were killed were there providing security. That was their function. It obviously didn't prove sufficient to the nature of the attack and sufficient in that moment. And that's why, obviously, we have reinforced our remaining presence in tripoli and why the president has been very clear in libya and throughout the region, we're going to call on the governments first of all, to assume their responsibilities to protect our facilities and our personnel. We're reinforcing our personnel But why would we not have marines there in libya? This is an unstable country. An area where american interests have been attacked. Why were there not marines there to begin with? That depends on the circumstances and that depends on the requirements. Our presence in tripoli as in benghazi is relatively new, as you'll recall, we have been back post-revolution, only for a matter of months. But, I have visited there myself. Both to tripoli and benghazi. I was very grateful to have strong security presence with me. As part of our embassy detachment there. So, we certainly are aware that libya is a place that there has been increasingly violent incidents. The security personnel that the state department thought were required were in place. We'll see when the investigation unfolds whether what transpired in benghazi might have unfolded differently in different circumstances. But the president has been very clear, the protection of american personnel and facilities is and will remain our top priority. That's why we have reinforced our presence in tripoli and elsewhere. Look at this map, if you would, there have been protests around the world. President obama pledge to repair america's relationships with the muslim world. Why does the u.S. Seem so impotent? Why is the u.S. Even less popular today in some of these muslim/arab countries? Than it was four years ago. Jake, we're not impotent. We're not even less popular to challenge that assessment. I don't know what basis you make that judgment. But let me point out -- it just seems that the u.S. Government is powerless as this maelstrom erupts. It's actually the opposite. What happened this week in cairo, in benghazi and in many other parts of the region. Tunisia. Khartoum. The u.S. Government had nothing to do with, we have made clear that it's reprehensible and disgusting. We also have been very clear in saying that there's no excuse for violence. We have condemned it in the strongest possible terms. We have said that there's no excuse for violence. Let's look at what's happened. Quite the opposite of being impotent. We have worked with the governments in egypt. The president picked up the phone and talked to president morsi. In egypt, the security provided to our personnel and our embassies dramatically increased. It took two days for the president morsi to say anything about it. President morsi has been out repeatedly and said that he condemns this violence, he's called off and his people called off any further demonstrations and has made very clear that this has to stop. You bring up -- frankly, in tunisia, in yemen, and of course in libya, where the government has gone out of its way to try to step up security and express the deepest remorse. We're quite popular in libya as you might expect having been a major part in their revolution. What transpired outside of our consulate in benghazi wasn't an expression of deep-seeded anti-american sentiment. Quite the contrary. The outpouring of sympathy and support for ambassador stevens and for the united states, the governor of libya, and the people on the streets saying, how pained they are about this is much more reflective of the sentiment toward the united states than heavily armed mobsters. That's the case in libya. But not the case in egypt. Since you brought up president morsi. Let me get some clarification.Esident obama was asked about the relationship with egypt on wednesday and this is what he said. I don't think that we would consider them an ally, but we don't consider them an enemy. They're a new government trying to find its way. The united states has sent billions of dollars of u.S. Taxpayer money to egypt over the last few decades and, by definition, as you know, according to the state department, egypt is a major non-nato ally of the united states. Why would president obama say that egypt is not an ally? Well, first of all, the president has been very clear. Everybody understands, that relationship remains the same and the president wasn't signaling any change in the nature of our relationship. Was the president trying to nudge morsi? Obviously, the president had a conversation with president morsi. A very productive one. It's the responsibility of the egyptian government, as a host, to protect facilities including our own. We saw that president morsi, immediately after that, took dramatic steps to improve the security of our facilities in cairo and elsewhere. He made statements condemning the violence and conveying the message that, however hateful such a video may be, there's absolutely no justification for violence against the united states or other western partners. So, what we have seen is that the president has been incredibly calm, incredibly steady and incredibly measured in his approach to this set of developments. And, his interventions, his leadership, has ensured that in egypt, in yemen, in tunisia, in libya, and many other parts of the world, that leaders have come out and made very plain that there's no excuse for this violence. We heard the prime minister of turkey and saudi arabia say the same thing. There's no excuse for violence, violence should be condemned. Governments have a responsibility to protect the united states personnel and facilities and those of all foreign diplomats. Very quickly, was that president in that interview trying to nudge president morsi, get your act together? No, I think the president communicated directly with president morsi and had the opportunity to underscore other expectation. So, that was conveyed very directly. The results were immediate and quite satisfactory. Dr. Rice, thank you so much for coming here today. Good to be with you.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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