SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, originally when I set this up, I had wanted to do this for a while and I thought the – let me make sure everybody’s got their mikes here – I thought that the fact that I’m giving two speeches this week, one tomorrow at the Center for American Progress on American leadership and to talk about a lot of the sort of durable values and interests that shape our policies today and I think are helping us navigate through and even manage a lot of new and very difficult challenges.
And then on Friday, I’ll be speaking before the New York Economic Club on economic statecraft, how we sort of use what we do here in the State Department to promote economic progress here at home. And it’s an issue that I care deeply about and have been working on for the last two and a half years, but it seems particularly timely because of the Jobs Council – the event we had last week – but also because of the great anxiety in our country about our economic prospects, and to try to once again give Americans reasons to understand why we have to be focused outward, why we have to look at ways we can promote business – which is something we do a lot of in the State Department and that I do a lot personally. So we’re really trying to go into an arena in a very public way that we’ve been in for a long time, but where Americans themselves are thinking today.
And of course, this is to some extent related to the budget challenges that we’re having on the Hill, because there are a lot of people who don’t really understand what the State Department does or what USAID does and why it’s important not only for our peace and security, but also for our prosperity and opportunity in this very difficult global economic environment.
So those are two pieces of business that I feel strongly about, kind of laying down and making sure our part of the debate going forward within the Congress, obviously, the press and the public.
And I’m sure you’ve seen some of the news that we’ve had in the last few minutes.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: I know that Donna wants to talk to you about the budget a little bit. Can we just start with that breaking news? Because that's the reason I’m not wearing a tie right now and – (laughter) --
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes. Oh, is that the reason Matt? (Laughter.)
QUESTION: We’ll talk to you about that afterward. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: And that is – presumably you are up to speed, you’re aware of this?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes, aware --
QUESTION: And I know that it’s a Justice Department thing and that --
SECRETARY CLINTON: It is.
QUESTION: But what does it say about – I mean, about Iran and any attempt to try and get them to be reasonable?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first let me start with what it says about our whole-of-government efforts. I mean, this was a really important achievement by our law enforcement and our intel community to disrupt this plot. And you’ll be able to get the – you all were up here, but the news conference that the Attorney General and the FBI director and the U.S. Attorney from the Southern District and the Assistant AG for National Security just finished giving made it very clear that this was conceived by and directed by elements within the Iranian Government. The complaint has more detail than that. It’s something that we’ve been aware of and working on, led by the Justice Department and the FBI and the DEA.
So I think that the fact that the plot was disrupted and that, thankfully, the worst consequences that might have resulted from this kind of state-sponsored act of terror against a diplomat who, under the Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of Crimes Against Internationally Protected Persons, is a breach of international norms, and Iran happens to be a signatory to that convention, I think creates a potential for international reaction that will further isolate Iran, that will raise questions about what they’re up to, not only inside the United States or Mexico, but elsewhere in the world. More details will, of course, come out in the course of the case being processed.
But as you may know, Matt, there are two named defendants, one the holder of American and Iranian passports and one who is in Iran who was involved. And I’m going to let the details kind of be up to the Justice Department because it’s really within their bailiwick. But it will not, I think, surprise you to know that we are actively engaged in a very concerted diplomatic outreach to many capitals, to the UN in New York, to not only explain what happened so that we try to preempt any efforts by Iran to be successful in what will be their denial and their efforts to try to deflect responsibility, but that we also enlist more countries in working together against what is becoming a clearer and clearer threat by Iran within many nations.
This is about us today, but it’s not the only place where Iran is seeking to influence and use elements of its security apparatus, most particularly the Qods Force and departments within the Qods Force, to be an arm of Iranian policy in ways that violate international norms and violate the sovereignty of nations. So we are on a concerted effort to try to make that case and have a lot of voices in the chorus.
QUESTION: Is there an immediate impact to – I don’t know what more you can do to Iran. Is there anything that happens immediately to --
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think the Treasury Department will be, if they haven’t already, be issuing additional designations of some named people which I think you’ll find of interest. We will clearly be speaking with our counterparts in the Gulf, in Europe, and beyond about what actions they might take – additional personal designations of sanctions. I mean, it’s been my experience over the last two and a half years that when we have designated individuals, as we did for systematic human rights abusers inside Iran, that drew a real response.
So I just finished talking to the Saudi foreign minister, and I will, the President will, be making a number of additional calls. I’ve already spoken in the past week with the Mexican foreign minister. So we have a lot of outreach going on, because this really, in the minds of many diplomats, government officials, crosses a line that Iran needs to be held to account for.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, you said it was --
QUESTION: (Inaudible) in the region? I mean, obviously the U.S.’s Gulf allies and Iran have already been pretty unhappy with each other and there’s been a lot of allegations in the region of Iranian meddling --
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes, right.
QUESTION: -- in Bahrain, in Saudi. Does that give you any – I mean, does this prove that there’s any more proof to those accusations, do you think? Or --
SECRETARY CLINTON: I think that it does strengthen the case that a number of nations have made, but without the solid base of evidence that we have put together on this one. There is a great deal of anxiety about Iran anyway, and we often in our discussions with other nations, particularly in the Gulf, are trying to make sure that they’re not overcharging, because everything that happens is not necessarily caused by Iran.
So what we want is to make it clear that, yes, is there a real threat from the way Iran is behaving, most particularly in its region but clearly now beyond ? The idea that they would attempt to go to a Mexican drug cartel to solicit murder for hire to kill the Saudi ambassador? I mean, that even – nobody can make that up, right? And so that does give a lot of credibility to the concerns, but we also have to be careful – and we’ve tried to be very careful in this instance to – what you’ll see in the complaint is what we know, what we can prove. But now we want to reassure our friends that the complaints against Iran are well-founded, so we have to be careful about how we go after them now and how we make it in common cause with a lot of these other countries, some of whom have not been willing to point the finger at Iran, but now may be.
QUESTION: Is this supposed to go on in (inaudible) talks or is it --
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I mean – you know what? I mean, we said just a few weeks ago when Ahmadinejad came to New York and he said, “Look, I’m willing to talk. All I want is my 20 percent enrichment for the Tehran Research Reactor. We had Cathy Ashton on behalf of the P-5+1 basically say, “Look, if you have a real proposal, you know where we are. Come talk to us.” And they haven’t. So, no, I mean, the door is not closed, but there has to be some seriousness of intent before we’re going to walk through that door again.
QUESTION: Is there evidence of – from – well, from this case of Iranian plotting in other countries against others?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Michael, we have had evidence going back a number – well, running back a number of years. I mean --
SECRETARY CLINTON: -- we have reason to believe that in many different countries, Iran or proxies of Iran have been active. But we do – that was mostly in other countries. And most of those other countries have not put together criminal cases. They might have kicked out a diplomat or they might have protested to the Iranians. So it was all handled kind of below the radar screen, if you will.
This case, we are pushing into the sunlight with evidence and accusations which we hope will give some support to those who know this is going on in or near them so that they too can be more forthright. Yeah.
QUESTION: But nothing specific in this case that they were hiring these drug cartel guys for this --
SECRETARY CLINTON: No.
QUESTION: -- they were hiring them for something else too?
SECRETARY CLINTON: No, but in this case, look at (inaudible) worked for them. Who knows, right? (Laughter.) I mean, that’s what’s so scary about their overaggressive outreach here.
QUESTION: I just want to get to two other kind of – one other issue of the day and then I’ll be quiet and let all my colleagues talk, and that is – one other issue of the day, and Toria talked about this in the briefing, is Egypt and how concerned you are about what appears to be a really significant deterioration of things like sectarian violence. And then the second thing would be the Quartet offering the 23rd (inaudible) exactly 30 days from the last 23rd, what did you – is there any hope that they’re going to accept?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first on Egypt, Matt, I share the concerns that have been expressed about the outbreak of violence and particularly what appeared to be the sectarian nature of it. I’ve spoken with the foreign minister, who has assured me that there is an investigation going on, that they understand very well in the Egyptian Government, as expressed by the prime minister in his remarks last night, that they have to, number one, find out what happened, and number two, take steps to prevent it from happening again.
I also pressed on a couple of laws that they’ve been considering that would give certain rights to the Coptic Christian minority, to be able to build churches, more of an evenhanded approach, ending discrimination against the Copts. These, as I say, are laws that they’ve considered but they haven’t yet passed.
I have to tell you, the foreign minister, with whom I have spoken on numerous occasions, memorably in the middle of the night during the mob attack on the Israeli Embassy, has been very responsive, and I have found him to be very forthright, so that he hasn’t, again, told me what I wanted to hear. He has been very straight with me, and I felt like, again today, he was sort of describing the process that they’re going through. They don’t yet have the information that they are seeking about how this all happened and got out of control.
And I also pressed him on the role that the official state media played in kind of fanning the flames. And it’s our information that the official media was saying things like go out and protect the military and doing things that was not helpful. And he said he was aware of that and they were also addressing it.
So we just have to keep in a constant channel of communication with our counterparts in Egypt because this is all new territory for them. And it’s quick to jump to conclusions about what they really intend, but it’s also, I think, fair to say sometimes they don’t know what is going to happen next because this is something that they didn’t sign up for. And so we have to try to keep our voice in the mix, along with others, about when we talk about a democracy, when we talk about elections, when we talk about building a democratic government, it’s not just holding an election. They’re protecting minorities, independent judiciary, all of the pieces, freedom of press, et cetera. So I did – I told him that we hope that they would get back to protecting peaceful assembly, freedom of worship, the kind of basic rights that make up a democratic society.
With respect to the Middle East, the Quartet has been very active since we came out with the statement. They held a meeting, as you know, in Brussels – I think it was Sunday, over the weekend – as the preparatory meeting that they had promised to do among the Quartet. And then they’re aiming for a preparatory meeting by the end of this month. The exact date, that’s still in negotiation because where, when, how, that’s a detail.
But I personally have been encouraged by the seriousness that the Quartet has brought to this and the responses of the Israelis and the Palestinians. President Abbas, as you know, is on a road tour, so to speak, and has been in a number of countries seeking support for his UN position. But we have made clear that he’s lodged his request in the UN; there is no route whatsoever for a state being formed through the UN; it can only be formed through negotiations. And we are urging him, and now there are many voices in the Quartet and beyond who are urging him. So it’s not just the United States; it’s everybody saying you have to return to negotiations and there has to be a way to work out your demand for a settlement freeze and the Israeli demand for no preconditions if you really want to make progress toward a Palestinian state. So I think everybody’s on the same page, and that’s important, and I’m hoping that we’ll be able to see some movement.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, just following up on that, there is this month-long deadline that was in the Quartet statement. If negotiations don’t resume then, what do you see happening, particularly since, in the interim, we’ve seen new settlement building by the Israelis and really no sign that there’s going to be any significant progress to settle this? Doesn’t this really feed into the Palestinians saying, well, look, we’ve waited so long and look what happened right after we made this bid?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Edith, I think that the situation has changed from a total paralysis or stagnation between the parties, because you do have the Israelis saying that they’re willing, ready, and able to go into negotiations; you do have President Abbas knowing that he cannot get a state through the United Nations even though he was able to express the aspirations of the Palestinian people by lodging his request at the Security Council.
So I really think that this is hard under any circumstances, as we all know so well. And it always seems, historically, when one is ready to move, the other isn’t. And we’ve been down this road now for 20-plus years. But I actually believe that the spotlight that is now shining on this process has the potential for moving both sides in a way that we haven’t experienced for quite some time, maybe not since the Camp David efforts at the end of the ’90s.
And I am of the opinion that having the Quartet playing this leading role – because remember, everybody on the Quartet had to come together to set this timetable for us. So everybody now has a stake in it, which is one of the reasons we worked so hard to get it nailed down and just sort of made it under the wire at the UN to be able to get it public. Because what happens in most of these situations is one side or the other calls somebody and says you’ve got to listen to me, we can’t really do this, I can’t go forward, I’m not getting what I need, and now there is a common response: Go back to negotiations. We’ve all signed up to that.
And you’re right that the announcement of additional housing was counterproductive, unhelpful. All of the people on the Quartet said that. Certainly, our government said it. But as I’ve told the Palestinians, and as I think the Quartet is now telling the Palestinians, what’s the best way to end settlement development? Negotiate borders. Come up with a process where what is yours is yours, what is theirs is theirs, and then it becomes moot. The Israelis, if they were sitting on this side of the table, would say to you everybody knows Gilo is going to be in whatever we negotiate. Everybody knows that. So what’s the big fuss? It’s not like we’re building in Ramallah; we’re building in Gilo. And there’s a certain logic to that because, in fact, I don’t know any map that doesn’t have Gilo in it. There are other places that are more controversial, but Gilo is pretty much assumed.
So I actually think there’s an enormous amount of energy behind this now. And people who have never been involved at all – like I spoke last evening to President Santos in Colombia. Colombia sits on the Security Council. Colombia has made it clear that they are not going to vote for statehood because they think that it would be disruptive and not lead to a state. But President Abbas is in Colombia, so President Santos is going to speak with him. And so it’s not just the Americans, it’s not just the Europeans. The whole world is saying now is the moment. What better moment could there be? It’s kind of the argument that Olmert made in his op-ed of a few weeks ago. Whatever the reasons were for doing this before, it’s even more imperative now to try to resolve this conflict and have a safe and secure Israel with borders that are recognized by everyone, and have a Palestinian state.
So if you hang around the Middle East peace process, you either hang your head and give up, or you keep looking for any ray of light that you possibly can see. (Laughter.) And I have found every scintilla of light.
QUESTION: Although --
QUESTION: There’s an upside to the UN.
QUESTION: That’s diplomatic (inaudible). (Laughter.)
QUESTION: That very argument, though, that now is the time, it’s not – things are only going to get worse from here, is one that Ariel Sharon made five years ago. And now we’re five years down the road and, arguably, things are worse. I mean, are you worried that this just keeps getting moved along in some sort of weird middle-muddle and it never gets fixed?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Anne, I think that’s a possibility. And who knows? Look, who knows what would’ve happened if Rabin hadn’t been assassinated? Who knows what would’ve happened if Sharon hadn’t had a stroke? I mean, who knows what would’ve happened – it’s like after my husband left office, Arafat calls him up some months later and says I’m ready to take the deal now. I mean, so – (laughter) – there’s always something that is happening which makes it incredibly painful and excruciating to move forward.
But it’s by no means a coincidence that you had a succession of Israeli prime ministers, no matter where they started from, who have all ended in the same place, that we need to do this. You had Netanyahu, who doesn’t – who often it’s not written about this way – who embraced the two-state solution, which had not been something he had done before. And as I remind the Palestinians, Bibi Netanyahu agreed to a 10-month settlement freeze. I dragged you all to Jerusalem and stood on the stage with him and said look, this is a big deal, never been done before. There was never a settlement freeze when Rabin was there, Barak was there, Sharon was there. Ten months, and then for a confluence of events, the Palestinians didn’t come to the negotiating table until the ninth month, one week.
So you’re right that who knows what will happen, but I think it’s the kind of difficult problem that does not get better by ignoring it or trying to put it on a shelf somewhere or taking half measures toward it. So therefore, we have to keep trying. And I think we are building a good, strong case for international support for negotiations. We just have to convince the parties of that.
QUESTION: I want to ask you about another area of things that may not improve by being ignored, and that’s the Taliban and the prospect of a peace process. Do you feel any closer to that goal than when you laid out your terms for it, I believe, in February? I mean, just sort of looking at the landscape, I mean, you’ve got President Karzai saying there’s really no use in talking and the Pakistanis have to do it. You have the assassination of the head of the – the leader of the outreach there, and if reports are to be believed, the stagnation of the U.S.’s own unilateral outreach. Where do you assess U.S. outreach to the Taliban, and how confident are you that that’s a deal you can get done before you leave?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think if you carefully analyze what President Karzai said – and of course, in the immediate aftermath of the Rabbani assassination, the emotions were intense, and for all the right reasons there was a sense of great loss. I think where we stand right now is that President Karzai understands that there has to be outreach to see whether or not there is an opportunity for a resolution with some parts of the Taliban or with all of the Taliban.
And Ambassador Marc Grossman, who has been working around the clock on this, has been in the region for the last week and believes that the parties understand – meaning Karzai and all of the elements within his government – that as difficult as it is to pursue a peace process and potential agreement with the Taliban, it has to be done.
So we believe that this has to be an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned process, which we support. And therefore, their conclusion after a lot of soul-searching, after deciding that probably the best person to succeed Rabbani was his son, that there will be a continuation of outreach.
Now, there are a lot of moving parts here, and what we have tried to do is to put whatever efforts the Afghans, with our support, with the support of others – because there are a number of countries who have inroads into or contacts from the Taliban that are being pursued – that if you put this into the context of where we are today, we’re going to continue to try to kill, capture, or neutralize as many of their fighters as we possibly can, whether they are Afghan Taliban, Pakistan Taliban, Haqqani Network, whomever they might be. And we are going to press the Pakistanis even harder about being a positive player in this process.
And we are, at the same time, aiming toward two significant meetings – the meeting in Istanbul November 2nd, which is a meeting of the region, including us, to talk about what are the peace dividends, if you will; how can everybody make more money if you quit fighting with each other, to put not too fine a point on it. So we have this program that we’ve developed called the New Silk Road vision, which I unveiled with the Germans and the Afghans in New York, which people are really excited about. Because when you look at sort of South Central Asia, it is remarkably underdeveloped economically because there is so much suspicion between and among them; they don’t trade, they don’t have open borders, Pakistan – you got to go through Pakistan in most instances to get into India, and that’s not moving as quickly as we would hope. So there’s a lot of other elements here that we’re going to be pressing forward on. And of course, in December, we have the 10th anniversary of the Bonn conference.
So there’s a lot going on, a lot of diplomatic activity, a lot of outreach. But the bottom line for us is it has to be Afghan-led and owned. And if the Afghans tomorrow say, “We don’t want anything to do with this, we don’t ever think it can happen,” we can’t act in their stead. We can only act in support of them. It is their country, it’s their future, but I think they have concluded, after being quite shaken by the vicious, duplicitous murder of Rabbani, that they still need to be pursuing these threats.
QUESTION: Do you expect to have a strategic partnership dialogue document concluded and ready to sign at that Bonn conference? What’s the holdup there?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we’re certainly working hard on it. We’ve resolved a lot of the outstanding issues. There are a couple more that we’re still negotiating. We’ve put the lead on it now in Kabul with Ryan Crocker and John Allen. I had a SVTC with them last week and we got updated on the progress. So yeah, I think that that’s our goal. Our goal is to try to get it resolved.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, you mentioned the budget, and it’s under assault on the Hill --
SECRETARY CLINTON: Right.
QUESTION: -- with both Republicans and Democrats --
SECRETARY CLINTON: Right.
QUESTION: -- even on the Senate bill. What are you saying to members up there and what is your outreach to members to try to hold the line against deeper cuts? And also, you’re in an odd position now because in everyone’s wisdom up there, they threw you all into this national security pie, so you’re up against the Defense budget.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Right.
QUESTION: So there are a lot of members who don’t want to trim Defense either. So what’s your word to them and who are you reaching out to to make the case?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Donna, we are intensely reaching out to both Houses, both sides of the aisle, on a daily basis. Tom Nides, who is our deputy for management and resources, kind of runs a team of policy and legislative experts here so that we’re constantly assessing where we are and where we’re headed. The idea of having a national security budget was something Bob Gates and I proposed, and I still think it’s the right idea. And I’m fully aware of the much greater presence of the Defense Department on the Hill – (laughter) – and also the very strong allegiance that many members have to every weapons system that ever was proposed. So we are certainly cognizant of the challenges we face.
However, we have strong support in the Congress, particularly in the Senate, which understands what Bob Gates and I have been preaching together for the last couple of years, which is that if you talk to the military in Afghanistan or now coming out of Iraq, there’s just a real division of labor that State Department and USAID cannot be expected to do if we don’t get support.
Now, one of the innovations that I’ve pushed very hard for, which I believe is going to be embraced by the Congress, is the overseas contingency operations. Because as you know so well, for a long time – well, as long as anybody can remember – Defense has put all of their war-fighting costs off their budget so that they were part of what is called the OCO account. And we were competing against ourselves when this – when the new House came in and changes in the Senate and people were looking at how – while they wanted us to keep doing what we’re expected to do in Iraq and what we were doing in Pakistan and Afghanistan, “Oh, by the way, what you’re doing in Yemen and what you’re trying to do in Somalia and what you’re trying to do in Sudan,” et cetera, et cetera. So yeah, “Oh, okay, but that – but we don’t want to give you as much money, so you just keep doing that.” Well, then, okay, so who’s going to process visas, right? And when you go on your CODEL to Paris, who’s going to be there to meet you?
And so we began to make the case that we needed to replicate the Defense Department’s approach, which was an overseas contingency operation so that the funding didn’t go into the base. And I think that the Congress really understood that. So it looks like we will get an OCO account, which will release some of the pressure that we face. But to go back to the economic speech on Friday, I mean, the biggest concern that I hear from everybody from Jeff Immelt to the business guy I run into on the street in New York is “You got to process more visas. I want to do business with a Chinese supplier. He’s been waiting six months to get his interview to get the visa.” Well, we are processing – we have increased the numbers, we are open six days a week, we have more people doing it. The demand is just enormous. And so if we’re going to keep up on the economic side, there are certain functions we have to be able to perform. So that’s just one example.
Similarly, on the foreign aid side, we struggle against this unfortunate perception that 20 percent of the American budget goes to foreign aid. And it’s a burden for us to keep making the case, “No, no, no.” But then I’ll get called by a conservative member of Congress who says, “Why aren’t we doing more in the Horn of Africa? Those people are starving.” And so we have to keep making the case, and we are, and we have a lot of allies. We have religious groups who are our allies on foreign aid. We have the military and the intelligence community much more aware of what we help them do in areas of conflict. So we’ve created a much broader set of advocates.
Having said all that, it’s still going to be hard because people, when it comes down to it, especially if this super committee kicks in, it’s going to be hard for both the Defense Department and State. I’d rather have their problems than my problems, but we’re just going to do the best we can to make the case and to get the resources we need.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, could I follow up on that? What about the efforts in Congress to defund the United Nations and other international organizations? What’s that going to do to America’s international standing?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, as you know, Edith, there’s already laws on the books that predate this Administration that require the end of funding to any international organization that recognizes the Palestinians as a state, gives them observer status, in any way kind of validates their claims. And we’re seeing this played out at UNESCO. I think – I can’t remember exactly, but we provide a healthy percentage of the budget to UNESCO.
SECRETARY CLINTON: How much?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Twenty-two percent. And we have made it very clear it’s not our choice to cut off funding, but we are legally required to cut off funding. And there are those who up on the Hill say, “Well, UNESCO, that’s education, that’s cultural,” but what about the International Atomic Energy Agency or what about the World Health Organization or what about the Food and Agriculture Organization?
You go down the alphabet soup of all of the international organizations and it would be very much against America’s interests. Here we are at the IAEA pushing to find out everything we can find out about Iran or North Korea, and we’re no longer at the table? That is not in our interests. So we are looking for ways to comply, of course, with the law, but perhaps to inject some understanding into it that doesn’t end up undermining America’s interests in these organizations. So that’s where we are right now, and it’s challenging.
QUESTION: And how do you see the fight over aid to the Palestinians (inaudible) out in this funding?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think that we were successful a few months ago in convincing the Israelis to support my releasing the last tranche of money – I think it was $50 million – to the Palestinian Authority. And we made the case – this was money that had been appropriated in the, I think, 2010 cycle – we made the case that we needed to keep the Palestinian Authority functioning, we need to pay salaries, that it was very much in their interest but also equally if not more in Israel’s interest so that there was not outbreaks of violence, that there wasn’t a collapse of their state structure, that the security forces were paid. And the Israelis have also been continuing to provide the fees that they collect for the Palestinians, the kind of customs revenue fees, so they recognize that.
So we’re taking this on a case-by-case basis. For example, we have money up there now as part of our continuing funding of the training of the security forces. And we’re in discussions with the Hill, with the Palestinians, with the Israelis about wanting to keep that flowing, because if you go back and look at the last several years, when Tahrir Square broke out, Syria breaks out, everything is going on around them, the Palestinian security force has been reliable, stable, a very good partner with the Israelis in trying to keep peace, trying to prevent Hamas infiltration into the West Bank. So we’re making the case.
QUESTION: And you’re asking the Israelis to help make the case with --
SECRETARY CLINTON: We do on a case-by-case basis, yeah.
QUESTION: I need to get a quick one in on Keystone (inaudible). So there are environmentalists --
QUESTION: Time’s up. (Laughter.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: I was waiting for that (inaudible). You’re slow off to start (inaudible).
QUESTION: Too bad. He started talking. (Laughter.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yeah, right. Okay.
QUESTION: There’s been a lot of allegations from environmentalists that there’s a conflict of interest, that this TransCanada guy who worked in the campaign has somehow gotten sort of a cozy relationship with the Department then. So the question is, one, I mean, is there – was there a conflict? Do you see any conflict of interest, any problem here? Do you still expect a decision to be made sooner than the end of the year? Will make it yourself? Will you delegate it to someone? How does all that work?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Matt, first, I think that the Department, both here in Washington and in Ottawa, has been very much in listen-and-outreach mode, and they have met with, talked with, received information from a very large group of interested parties – some for, some against, as you know. They recently concluded six public sessions that were held gave a forum for people, and you just can’t – this is a very emotional decision. You have people who feel very strongly on both sides, as has been evident. You have states that are welcoming it, states that are rejecting it, all of whom, I think, are governed by Republicans. Or maybe one isn’t but – (laughter) – it’s quite – this is a very local – this is an issue that raises very local concerns. So I have been just having our team go forward and do what they’re supposed to do, so I have nothing more to say at this time because until a recommendation comes up the chain and – originally, two and a half years ago, this had been delegated to the deputy. This was not something that the Secretary was going to decide. But there is no recommendation, and when there is a recommendation, there’ll be a decision, but it’ll be very much rooted in all the work that has been done. And I think people have tried to be extremely careful and thoughtful, and it’s a process that I am trying to respect until it reaches its conclusion.
QUESTION: But you don’t see any merit to this conflict of interest (inaudible).
SECRETARY CLINTON: No. I mean, I haven’t – I have no reason to believe that.
QUESTION: Can I ask one question about you? You said you’re leaving these lovely rooms at the end of next year, and I know a lot of people will be interested in your plans. Is elective office done?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I have said that before; I will say it again. I really am looking forward to returning to private life. And I’ve told everyone that I assume and believe that the President will be re-elected. I will, obviously, wait until he has a chance to make whatever transition he wants to make, but then I am looking forward to being out of public life, whether it’s high-level appointments like this or elective office. I have no interest in or no plans of any sort to pursue that anymore.
STAFF: From that, I like to say her next appointment is waiting out there.
QUESTION: Bradley --
SECRETARY CLINTON: He wore this good-looking --
QUESTION: I know. (Laughter.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: -- ascot thing. I can’t let him go without a question.
QUESTION: I figured that the ascot plus no tie equals a regular tie.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yeah. I think you’re right. (Laughter.) Okay, so Bradley gets the last question.
QUESTION: Just to go back to the Middle East, we skipped over a couple countries in – near civil war --
SECRETARY CLINTON: Right.
QUESTION: On Syria, you’ve done various piecemeal sanctions, but how do you see this situation being resolved beyond the call that it would be great if Asad stepped down from power and the transition occurs? And how is this going to – how can this be brought about?
And then on Yemen, it’s such a difficult situation because you’re getting some cooperation against al-Qaida on the one hand but the same – some of the same officials who are helping in that way are creating this huge power crisis, which is kind of creating the conditions in which al-Qaida can grow and operate there. So how do you deal with that situation, and what can we look forward to?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first with respect to Syria, I think that what we have been strongly advocating for and what Ambassador Ford has been really putting himself out on a limb for is the right of the Syrian people to demonstrate, to organize, to demand change on their terms. And when this all started, there really wasn’t anything resembling an organized opposition. Now there is. There’s a coalescing opposition. We strongly believe it is their interest to maintain their nonviolent approach to this. We do – we think it’s right because they are not organized or able to even imagine some kind of armed action, and they don’t – they have the moral high ground right now. And one of the techniques of the Asad regime is to try to claim that it’s a armed gang, it’s thugs, it’s terrorists. So we really are focused on keeping the nonviolent aspect of this.
And I think that has done a couple of things. It has certainly attracted a lot of European support, a lot of European sanctions, because people believe that the opposition and the Syrian people deserve that. But it’s also, I think, put China and Russia on the wrong side of history. People have asked me, well, were you upset about the vetoes by China and Russia? And I say, well, first of all, I obviously expected them. But secondly, it’s China and Russia who have to explain what they’re doing about the Arab Spring and what they’re doing about the Syrian people and why they’re continuing in, at least according to available information, supporting a regime that is using weapons that Russia has sold them in the past against their own people.
So I think this is an evolving situation, and it’s not – it cannot be accelerated from the outside. The single message that comes through loudly and clearly from everyone associated with the opposition is they do not want foreign intervention, unlike the Libyans. The Libyans were asking for it. They went to the Arab League, they went to the GCC, they went to the UN. Syrians reject it. They do not want anybody coming in, and I respect that because they’re – they have a lot of work to do internally because there is not yet an acceptance by many groups within Syria that their life would be better without Asad than with Asad. There are a lot of minority groups that are very concerned.
Now, I think the killing by the Syrian authorities of the Kurdish leader seems to have been just a spark to the tinder because that goes right at one of the groups that up until now have been kind of on the sidelines. You didn’t hear a lot from the Kurds, the Druze, the Christians, obviously the Alawites, the business leaders in Damascus, Aleppo. But as this goes on, I really believe there will be more support for change. And I know we get impatient, and you guys have to write all the time so you’re especially impatient, but sometimes you just have to let – you have to let circumstances unfold. And the act that – the steps that Turkey has taken, which have drawn a fierce attack from Iran, I mean, this is all, I think, kind of moving in the right direction.
So how long, when, I cannot predict to you. But first there has to be something more of a Syrian opposition, and that opposition has to be more reassuring to all the constituent groups inside Syria in order for there to be some agreement, consensus reached to go try to bring down the government in whatever way they think they can.
Yemen is an entirely different case. I mean, Yemen – we signed on to the GCC plan because, frankly, the GCC had a better chance of influencing the Yemenis than anybody else, particularly Saleh and his family. I think that it also is a very complex situation inside Yemen. Our ambassador has been terrific in marshalling support, keeping the European and Arabs together in trying to force Saleh to actually leave. But it is also going to take some time. He’s clearly not ready to go, and the demonstrators are not ready to leave, and al-Qaida is trying to take advantage of it. And you have a lot of discontent across the country, pro-, anti-government. So it’s a lot of very complex actors who we are trying to all put in the same frame of saying, look, regardless of where you’re from or who you are, you need a fresh start and you need a new leader, and then you need a fair process for choosing the next leader. And we can help you do all of that, but you’re going to have continuing conflict and cries of – accusations of illegitimacy and the like if – unless you really come to grips with this.
QUESTION: Is this a civil war?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I think it’s a – no, not yet. No, I don’t think so. I don’t think so. I think it’s – I mean, there are certain – people have chosen up sides, but not completely. And that’s why we’re trying to keep everybody focused on what the GCC plan was, because at least is a coherent plan, and there’s a process attached to it, and that’s the way I think we should proceed.
QUESTION: Coherent plan without a coherence.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, without a decision by Saleh, who just doesn’t want to leave. (Laughter.) What can I tell you? He doesn’t want to leave. And he is hanging on by --
SECRETARY CLINTON: -- whatever he can hang on to. And remember, he’s the only guy who ever unified Yemen. So he is a guy who understands the country as well as anybody else, and he’s trying to play every possible angle on this. But we’ve remained consistent. The GCC – everybody’s remained consistent, but we’ll have to see how it unfolds still.
Well, thank you all.
QUESTION: Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: My pleasure. My pleasure.