QUESTION: Madame Secretary, thank you for talking with us. I know it’s a busy trip, and thanks.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you, Jill.
QUESTION: I want to start with Iran. We’re at a very important moment, because they are reneging on that draft agreement about shipping out most of their low-enriched uranium. Is it time to stop talking and to go to sanctions?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Jill, we are working with the IAEA, with France, Russia, the other members of the P-5+1 who are all united and showing resolve in responding to the Iranian response, and seeking clarification, so I am going to let this process play out. But clearly, we are working to determine what exactly they are willing to do, whether this was an initial response that is an end response, or whether it’s the beginning of getting to where we expect them to end up.
QUESTION: But you have always personally been very skeptical about the fact that they might do what the international community wants them to do. I mean, are you being vindicated in that? Are you right?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we are going the extra mile, as we said we would, as the President made clear in his inauguration speech we would. And I think it’s very significant that Russia and France and the UK, Germany, China, are all united about this. I mean, this is not the United States saying, “We have an idea we want you to follow through on.” This is all of us saying, “We came to this idea. You agreed in principle. And we expect to have you follow through.”
So, I think we will take it day by day, see what the final outcome is.
QUESTION: Just one more on that. Do you have a commitment from Russia and China that if the Iranians don’t follow through on this particular low-enriched uranium part of their agreement that it is time to move to sanctions?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I don’t want to speculate or answer a hypothetical. I want this process to play out. This was an agreed-upon approach. I signed an agreement back in New York during the United Nations General Assembly, along with the foreign ministers of every other country that is part of the P-5+1 plus the EU. So let’s see where this leads.
QUESTION: Okay. You are off to the Mideast.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes.
QUESTION: Big job. You just reported to the President that things are not looking good, that there are major challenges, to put it diplomatically. What can you possibly do to pull this back on track?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I am in the region. And I am going to be meeting Senator Mitchell to visit with the leaders of both the Palestinian Authority and, of course, Israel.
I have a different take on this. I know that what we are asking after eight years of very little being asked of the parties is difficult. I understand that. And I also know that patience is called for, because a two-state solution is challenging for both Israel and the Palestinians because of the positions that they historically have taken. But I am a strong believer in persevering, and so is Senator Mitchell. And we are going to continue down this road. We are going to do everything we can to try to clear away whatever concerns that the parties have to actually get them into negotiations where they then can hash out all of these difficult issues.
I mean, President Obama laid out the menu of difficult issues in his speech at the United Nations. But we have to start. And I watched in the 1990s, as my husband just kept pushing and pushing and pushing, and good things happened. There wasn’t a final agreement, but fewer people died. There were more opportunities for economic development, for trade, for exchanges. It had positive effects, even though it didn’t cross the finish line.
So I think that being involved and at the highest levels sends a message of our seriousness of purpose.
QUESTION: But the strategy that this Administration has been following – settlements, number one; working with the Arab nations, confidence-building, et cetera – that strategy doesn’t seem to be working. I mean, are you reevaluating that approach, especially on the settlements?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we believe that all of the elements that have to be addressed for any kind of final resolution are important. Again, the President mentioned every one of them, settlements included. And there are many ways of getting to these negotiations.
So, I don’t want to prejudge, and I don’t want to be unduly pessimistic. And I am certainly not unduly optimistic. I think I am pretty realistic about what has to be overcome for there to be the level of acceptance that is required to get into these negotiations.
But remember, prior to negotiations, people stake out all kinds of positions. And then in the cauldron of actually getting down to specifics, that all begins to be worked out.
QUESTION: Let’s talk about Pakistan, where we are right now. You were talking to some Pakistani journalists, and you made pretty strong comments about al-Qaida: “It is hard to believe that your government,” the Pakistani Government, “that nobody in that government knows where al-Qaida is. They could get them if they wanted.”
Are you actually saying that the government or someone in the government is complicit, or not, you know, following through on getting al-Qaida?
SECRETARY CLINTON: No, no. What I was responding to is what I have been really doing on this trip, which is that there exists a trust deficit, certainly on the part of the Pakistanis, toward the United States, toward our intentions and our actions. And yet we have so much in common. We face a common threat. We certainly have a common enemy in extremism and terrorism. And so part of what I have been doing is answering every single charge, every question. I am going to continue today to put myself in as many different settings as possible, because it’s not adequate just to meet with government officials.
But trust is a two-way street. And I think it’s important, if we’re going to have the kind of cooperative partnership that I think is in the best interests of both of our countries, for me to express some of the questions that are on the minds of the American people. And I am not prejudging the answer, but I am asking the question.
QUESTION: But isn’t that your – is it your question, your own personal question?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I am an American, and I think we have every reason to say, “Look, we are applauding the resolve you’re showing in going after the Taliban extremists who threaten you.” But let’s not forget they are now part of a terrorist syndicate that, in sort of classic syndicate terms, would be headed by al-Qaida. Al-Qaida provides direction and training and funding. And there is no doubt in anyone’s mind that they are certainly encouraging these attacks on the Pakistani Government, which are so tragic, and which the Pakistani people are determined to beat back.
So even given the success of the Pakistani military’s operation, which has been extremely courageous in both Swat and now in South Waziristan, success there is not sufficient. It is necessary, because you have to take on these threats wherever they occur. But it’s not sufficient to eliminate the threat that Pakistan faces. As long as al-Qaida can recruit and send forth suicide bombers – as we’ve seen in our own country, with the arrest of Zazi, who is clearly connected to al-Qaida, trained in an al-Qaida training camp in Pakistan – I just want to keep putting on the table that we have some concerns as well. And I think that is the kind of relationship I am looking to build here.
QUESTION: Did you under-estimate the level of anti-Americanism here in Pakistan?
SECRETARY CLINTON: No, because I have been following the research and the polling that has gone on for a couple of years. I knew that we were inheriting a pretty negative situation that we were going to have to address. And that’s one of the reasons why I wanted to have a long enough period of time. Three days is obviously a long trip for a Secretary of State.
But I was committed to doing it, and finding the time in my schedule, because I wanted to have these interactions. I don’t think it is – I don’t think the way you deal with negative feelings is to pretend they’re not there, or to gloss over them, or just come with happy talk.
That’s why I wanted to elicit all of these questions from the Pakistani press and the people that I have met with, because I wanted to demonstrate that, look, we are not coming here claiming that everything we have done is perfect. And I have admitted to mistakes of our country, going back in time. But I have also reminded people that we have been partners and allies from the beginning of Pakistan’s inception as a country. Pakistan has helped us on several important occasions, and we are very grateful for that. So let’s begin to clear the air here.
Now, we are not always going to agree. That never happens in any relationship that I am aware of, but – we are going to honestly set forth our areas of disagreement, but then we are also going to work on all that we agree on, and we are going to try to demonstrate results from our partnership that the people of Pakistan and the people of our country can see.
QUESTION: Okay. Let’s talk Afghanistan. The policy, or the approach, I should say, at this point seems to be looking at those regional provincial leaders, assessing how well they work, what’s the situation on the ground, working with them.
Now, does that mean that the Obama Administration has a lack of faith, to put it mildly, in what kind of a government Mr. Karzai will create, if he should win, and you seem to be indicating that he will?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Jill, I don’t think it’s either/or. It’s got to be both/and. The very nature of Afghanistan as a country is that it’s never had a strong central government. It’s always had local control of one kind or another. So, of course, we are going to work with governors and district leaders and village elders and the like.
But there are certain functions that only a central government in Kabul can perform. One of our goals is to help stand up an effective Afghan national security force. Well, that has to come from Kabul. That has to come from the president, the minister of defense, and others, to create more of a police force to deal with day-to-day crime and some of the challenges that people report to us about. Well, that requires the minister of interior and others to work.
So, we are not – I think in the past, and it’s difficult to go back – but I think there might have been too much emphasis on the central government, and this idea that there could be some kind of nation-building that would transform Afghanistan overnight. But we don’t accept that. We don’t think that’s going to happen. But what we do believe is that we have to work with the president and the cabinet, the officials in Kabul, and the officials at the local level. And that’s going to be our approach.
QUESTION: Just one quick domestic question. David Plouffe, Obama’s campaign manager, is writing a book coming out. He says that you were seriously considered by the President for the vice presidential role. However, your husband Bill Clinton’s role seemed to hinder your chances.
SECRETARY CLINTON: I am very happy with the position that I have. And I think Joe Biden is doing a great job as Vice President. So I think we should move on from the campaign of 2008.
QUESTION: Thank you very much, Madame Secretary, for giving us that time.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much, Jill.
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