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Diplomacy in Action

Interview with James Rosen of Fox

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Baghdad, Iraq
April 25, 2009


MR. ROSEN: Madam Secretary, thank you once again for this honor.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you, James.

MR. ROSEN: I thought that, perhaps, we might begin by establishing for the record that, although you’re not one who is inclined, necessarily, to play favorites, that I am, in fact, you’re favorite reporter. We can acknowledge this.

SECRETARY CLINTON: You’re not supposed to tell anyone that, James. (Laughter.) I mean, it’s bad enough that you go and tell the world --

MR. ROSEN: It’s bad form. It’s bad form. I do everything for the record. All right. Let’s talk about Iraq --

MR. ROSEN: You have spoken on this trip about the need to stand up a nonsectarian police force. You heard from a questioner at the town hall today about an apparent lack of trust amongst some segments of the population toward the police force. What is the difficulty in setting – standing up a nonsectarian police force? How far along are we toward that goal, and what’s hindering us?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, James, we have made a lot of progress with both the army and the police. I think that the army has actually progressed further in professionalizing itself and in working to establish a nonsectarian force and presence throughout the country. The police which, by its very nature, is a more decentralized, localized institution, takes more work.

This is one of the challenges we face, not just in Iraq, but around the world. I hear it in Haiti, in Liberia, in Afghanistan, in Iraq and elsewhere. Police are often not given the respect, don’t have the esprit de corps, don’t have the training, aren’t paid well, and, therefore, it is harder to recruit and retain a police force that is non-corrupt, which is professional, and nonsectarian.

But we’ve made progress. And what we have to do is to continue working with the Iraqi security forces, both military and police, and where there are problems, remedy those problems, help the government understand the absolute essential nature of the nonsectarian importance. And we are doing that every day now. There are still a lot of questions. There’s a lot of mistrust. You don’t rid a population of that quickly, but we’ve made progress.

MR. ROSEN: I’m going to try and get to all of my brilliant questions in the time remaining, which is sometimes a nerve-wracking process. It has been, I think, more than a month since Messrs. Feltman and Shapiro traveled to Syria, and I wonder if you have, in that time, been able to observe any change in Syria’s conduct in the areas which divide our two countries, and by which I mean the influx of foreign fighters into Iraq, the support for Hamas and Hezbollah, and also the role that Syria plays in Lebanon. Any changes?

SECRETARY CLINTON: You know, James, there has been some slowing down of the foreign fighters. We’re not satisfied. In fact, we think that some of the recent suicide bombers most likely came across the border through Syria, and we’re raising that, as has the Iraqi Government, with the Syrians.

But there has been some noticeable slowing down. We are also pushing them hard to normalize their relations with Lebanon, and they have made progress on that, exchanging ambassadors, for example. But again, proof is in the pudding, as they like to say, and I’m going to watch to see what the pudding looks like, in terms of what they do in this upcoming Lebanese election, what they do with the results of that election.

Certainly, we are just at the beginning of any kind of discussion with Syria. There’s a long list of issues that you named a few of that we are concerned about. But we have consulted broadly with our partners in the region, eliciting their concerns about Syria. And we’ve also been very careful to keep our partners informed about anything we do with Syria. We’re not in any way trying to make, just paper-thin progress with Syria at the expense of anyone else.

And so it’s at the beginning of this. But we get back a lot of feedback from visits by members of Congress, other Americans who have gone to Syria, that the Syrians are struggling with how much they really want to be engaged with us, because it would require them beginning to pull away from Iran and their support of terrorism, and that’s what we’re looking for, is that kind of debate within Syria.

MR. ROSEN: How confident are you in the security, the lock-down security, the inviolability of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal?

SECRETARY CLINTON: You know, that’s an issue that we have very adamant assurances about from the Pakistani military and government. We have done a lot of work over the years, evaluating that, and I think the current thinking of our government is that it is safe, but that's given the current configuration of power in Pakistan.

One of our concerns, which we have raised with the Pakistani government and military, is that if the worst, the unthinkable, were to happen, and this advancing Taliban, encouraged and supported by al-Qaeda and other extremists, were to essentially topple the government for failure to beat them back, then they would have the keys to the nuclear arsenal of Pakistan, and we can't even contemplate that. We cannot let this go on any further, which is why we're pushing so hard for the Pakistanis to come together around a strategy to take their country back.

MR. ROSEN: I'm being told to wrap this up. I wanted to pursue one more area, if I may.

Without getting hung up on the name that is attached to it, do you and President Obama subscribe to the Bush doctrine, by which I mean, roughly speaking, for the purpose of our conversation, the view that if you harbor, clothe, feed, or otherwise materially aid a terrorist, then you, yourself, are a terrorist? Is that a doctrine to which you and President Obama subscribe?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, as you've heard from us in the last nearly 100 days we will not deal with Hamas unless they renounce violence, recognize Israel, and agree to abide by prior Palestinian Authority agreements. We do not in any way support the kind of extremists that you see. What we are looking for is to separate out those who are, as we found in Iraq, part of an armed campaign for political reasons that can be reconcilable.

We began to turn Iraq around, as you remember, under President Bush, even with that doctrine, when the military began to work with groups of people, particularly the so-called Sons of Iraq, and The Awakening, who, months before, had taken up arms against Americans and other Iraqis. And the thinking was, we need to separate out those who are there for reasons having to do with their own political and cultural and historic ties, as opposed to the hard core extremists and terrorists.

I think that the general principle that we don't associate with these people is absolutely the same. But the opportunity, as we found under the Bush administration, in Iraq, is worth exploring with those elements of the Taliban that are there because they pay better than the Afghan police force pays, for example.

So, what we're attempting to do is to follow what turned out to be a smart strategy in Iraq and other places, with the same level of caution, the same level of skepticism, but understanding that we don't do business with the terrorists, but we may do business with people who got swept up in some kind of move that doesn't necessarily define their attitude toward the United States, or the use of violence.

MR. ROSEN: I am out of time. I just want to say that the reason I brought the question up was because you responded in the context of the Taliban and The Awakening in Iraq -- but the reason I asked the question was an entirely different reason, which is, essentially, to -- by way of asking whether you believe right now that North Korea is actively proliferating to any terrorist entities or nations that the State Department identifies as state sponsors of terrorism.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we know that North Korea, in the past, has proliferated. There is –

MR. ROSEN: I meant actively, now.

SECRETARY CLINTON: No. As of right now, we do not have any evidence. But we don't get satisfied by that, because we consider North Korea to be a rogue regime that has, in the past, aided and abetted rogue regimes, as well.

And one of our highest priorities is to keep nuclear material out of the hands of terrorist networks. And part of the reason we are encouraged by the strong stance we got out of the United Nations with all of the participants in the six-party talks, and the recent agreement on very tough sanctions on entities and goods, is because we're not going to be blackmailed by the North Koreans. We're not going to let them pretend that they are in compliance, and then, under the table and behind the back, they are continuing to proliferate.

We are going to crack down in conjunction with the Chinese, the Russians, the Japanese, South Koreans, and other allies to try to tighten the band around North Korea, so that they cannot do that.

MR. ROSEN: Madam Secretary, thank you once again.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you. Good to talk to you.

PRN: 2009/T7-5

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