QUESTION: Madam Secretary, nice to see you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Great to see you, Greta. Thank you.
QUESTION: You okay?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I’m good. I’m absolutely great. I’m in the final stages of my Secretary of State term, and I’m trying to get everything possibly done that I can.
QUESTION: Did it go fast?
SECRETARY CLINTON: It went really fast. It’s hard to imagine how quickly the time passed. There was so much going on that it was just one thing after another, day after day.
QUESTION: Well, the earth – the earth – the world is still quite turbulent.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes.
QUESTION: And there’s news today about Egypt. And I’m curious, with all the chaos that’s breaking out there, your thoughts on what’s going to happen, what should we do, if anything, and what does it mean for the region?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, those are three really important questions. And I think that post the Arab revolutions that took place in Egypt and Libya and Tunisia and bursts of them elsewhere in the region, there was always going to be a period of adjustment. And what we have to work for, along with the international community, as well as people inside Egypt, is not to see these revolutions hijacked by extremists, not to see the return of dictatorial rule, the absence of the rule of law. And it’s hard. It’s hard going from decades under one-party or one-man rule, as somebody said, waking up from a political coma and understanding democracy. So we have a lot at stake in trying to keep moving these transformations in the right direction.
QUESTION: Is President Morsi, though, is he sort of with the program with us, or not? Because he said some horrible things about Israelis two years ago, and there’s some things printed today from one of his senior aides about – that the Holocaust didn’t exist. And so there’s very sort of suspicious things that he’s saying, and with all the turmoil, I’m wondering if he – is he with us or against us?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we were quite concerned about those statements. And the Egyptian Presidency repudiated them and reaffirmed a commitment to the Israel-Egypt peace treaty, which is, of course, absolutely core to everything that we hope to see happen in the Middle East.
But you have to, I think, take a step back and look at the fact that the people now in power in these countries have never been in government, never had a chance to really learn how to run agencies or to make decisions. So we don’t certainly condone or in any way approve of what a lot of these leaders are doing or failing to do, but we also know how important it is that we try to avoid even more extreme elements which are active across the region, taking control of territory, even threatening a regime, where the people are often American-educated, have some ongoing commitment to make tough decisions. When I negotiated the ceasefire in Gaza with President Morsi, he was very involved. I’d obviously gone to Israel first, then I went to Egypt and we got it done. It’s still holding.
So we have to keep pushing forward and yet call it like we see it when we think something is not appropriate, as we did with those statements.
QUESTION: When you met him, did you have a sense that he was a good partner or someone that we could deal with, or do we have to sort of be very cautious with him?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I think he has a lot of the right intentions. Certainly in my long conversations with him, the many reports of meetings that I’ve received of other American officials, a recent congressional delegation, you do get the impression that he and the team around him are trying to deal with the economy that is in very bad shape in Egypt, the loss of foreign currency and investment and the tourism trade, the political reforms that are necessary.
But the jury’s out, Greta. I’ve been around long enough, so it’s not what somebody says; it’s what they do. And some of what he’s done we have approved of and supported; and some of what he’s done, like abrogating a lot of power unto himself personally, reinstating emergency law provisions that had been a hallmark of the Mubarak regime, are very troubling. And we have a balancing act to do, as do the Egyptian people, as to how this is going to turn out.
QUESTION: Now, I’m very suspicious of him because he had – he invited President Bashir of Sudan and essentially gave him a state visit to Egypt a couple of months ago when he should’ve been, at least in my view – he’s under indictment of the International Criminal Court; he should’ve been arrested. So I mean, anyone who’s sort of lending a hand to President Bashir and not arresting him made me suspicious of him, in light of the fact that Iran is up to their eyeballs with Sudan.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, unfortunately, that’s not an uncommon story across the African continent. And we have reached out numerous times to countries that have given Bashir a welcome, allowed him to come to meetings, because he is under indictment and he does need to be held accountable for what happened on his watch as president.
On the other hand, though, this is a long border with Egypt. One of the biggest problems that Egypt is facing is a lack of border security – the importation of weapons on their way to Gaza, for example, coming out of Sudan.
So we have a lot of very intense discussions with our Egyptian counterparts, including him, as to, let’s prioritize. We need to stop extremism in Egypt. We need to stop weapons coming across your border. We need to reassert order in the Sinai. It’s in Egypt’s interest, it’s in Israel’s interest. We need to try to stop Hamas from its constant attacks on Israel, something that also redounds to the detriment of Egypt over the long run because it could become uncontrollable. We have a long list of important issues that we’re raising with them, and obviously their borders with Libya and Sudan are critical.
QUESTION: Your predecessor, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, said the other night that Iran – if Iran gets a nuclear weapon that it is a turning point in history. And everybody lives in fear, but whether it’s President Obama has said things, you’ve said things, your predecessors, Prime Minister Netanyahu. No one wants Iran to have a nuclear weapon. But as we all sort of say that, they’re marching forward in time. What’s going to happen there?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, as you know, our policy is prevention, not containment, and we have, through the hard work we’ve undertaken with the international community, imposed the toughest set of sanctions – international and bilateral – on any country. We know it’s having an effect. We have a great deal of evidence about the economic impact that the sanctions are having on the Iranian economy and therefore on the political and clerical leadership.
Now, part of what we have to continue to do is keep them isolated; keep all the countries, including Russia and China, onboard, as they have been up to now. So we’ve said from the very beginning, we’re open to diplomacy. We are doing so in the so-called P-5+1 format. But this is an unacceptable path that they must stop or action will have to be taken. At this point, we are continuing to keep the pressure on them in the pressure track, and making it clear that there’s not going to be any alternative but to deny them a nuclear weapons program.
QUESTION: I’m not suggesting we have a military action against them. I’m more just sort of looking at it from afar, and I see a country that, first of all, yes, we do have sanctions on it, but we do give waivers to some countries. I mean, some countries get to do business with them a little bit, so it’s not a completely hermetically sealed country. They do get some relief. But the other thing is that they’re behind problems in Syria, they’re behind problems with Hezbollah, with Hamas, and they’re destabilizing to Israel, saying hateful things to Israel. We’re busy trying to contain them but we may be on a different time track than their nuclear weapons program. I mean, they – it may be a faster program. I don’t know that it is.
So there is going to come a time when we’re going to have to – we might have to make a different decision.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we’ve always said all options are on the table. The President has been very clear about that. And I’m glad you raised the terrorism aspect of Iran’s behavior, because there’s so much attention on the effort to prevent them from getting a nuclear weapon that we sometimes overlook the very active efforts by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, the Qods Force, their proxies like the Lebanese Hezbollah and others, who have engaged in assassinations, bombings, destabilizing countries. That has been a very challenging, ongoing threat. And for a while, I have to tell you, when I came into office, there were too many countries that were turning a blind eye to it. We have worked very hard to get the international community, particularly the region, Europe and elsewhere, to say wait a minute, these guys need to be stopped on the terrorism front. They cannot be permitted to go forward.
When we found out about the plot to kill the ambassador from Saudi Arabia --
QUESTION: Here in Washington.
SECRETARY CLINTON: -- here in Washington, there was disbelief on the part of a lot of countries, and we produced evidence; this man pled guilty. No one should have any doubt that in addition to the nuclear threat, which I agree with Dr. Kissinger is a potential turning point in history, not only because of what it would mean to Iran’s attempt to intimidate their neighbors, but the arms race that it would instigate, but we have to also keep an eye on stopping them from their terrorism.
QUESTION: How did they get the money to do that? If we have sanctions on them and if they’re behind supplying weapons, or as the Yemen boat that was picked up the other day, and behind Hezbollah and Hamas, where are they getting the money? Is it from Russia or – to help – to fund these terrorists?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, they are a rich country. They have a lot of economic wealth and strength that has been built up over many years. These sanctions are truly biting, but there are outlier countries that still try to evade the efforts that we all have made to make it as difficult as possible to do business with them. And we’ve shut down a lot of financial institutions, we have changed the behaviors of a lot of governments and others who thought they could get away with it, but there are still rogue nations, there are still countries that are totally dependent upon Iranian resources.
So I think we’ve done a very credible job of toughening and tightening the sanctions, but there’s more to come. We’ll be issuing more sanctions, identifying more people, but ultimately what we want to see is Iran come to the negotiating table in the P-5+1 format and basically say they’re going to have the most open inspections, they’re not pursuing nuclear weapons. They claim that they’re not. They keep referring to the religious fatwa that the Supreme Leader issued, that they’re not pursuing nuclear weapons.
QUESTION: You don’t believe that?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I’m from the trust-but-verify camp when it comes to Iran. This is what they say, they continue to say it, but we have a body of evidence that points in the other direction. I mean, if that is true, then why are they developing a missile program that has intercontinental ballistic capacity? Why are they adding centrifuges and more enriched uranium as a result? So they owe the international community – not just the United States – they owe the Security Council of the United Nations, they owe the International Atomic Energy Agency, they owe the EU and many others an explanation as to what it is they’re doing if they claim they’re not pursuing nuclear weapons.
QUESTION: Two part question, Benghazi. Number one is: In light of what’s happened, can Americans now feel safe or satisfied that we are moving to secure all our consulates and embassies for our diplomats overseas? That’s the first thing. The second thing is: Should we go back to Benghazi?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, to answer the first question, the Accountability Review Board made a set of recommendations. We are embracing and implementing all of them and making sure that we apply them. Now, it’s not all a question of money. I’m the first to say that. You have to have the right people in the right jobs making the right decisions. But money is a factor, and ever since the Bush Administration, our requests for security money from Congress have not been met, so you’ve had to make priority decisions, and it’s been difficult. So I am determined to leave the State Department safer and stronger when I walk out the door, and I know that John Kerry will just pick up the ball and run with it.
With respect to do we go back, let me explain why we were there. This was the heart of the Libyan revolution. We knew that there were dangerous people in and around Benghazi. We also knew that there were a lot of loose weapons, and part of what we were doing there was trying to get leads on recovering those loose weapons, and we knew that there were smuggling routes that could go into Egypt, into Sinai, threaten Israel. So there were very important reasons why we were there, not just the State Department, but other government agencies. Whether or when we go back will depend upon the security situation and what kind of security support diplomats would have.
But I hasten to add, Greta, that I have dangerous posts all over the world. We have people in incredibly high-threat environments.
QUESTION: I’ve seen some of them.
SECRETARY CLINTON: You have seen some of them, and they’re there because we believe their being there is in America’s national interests, particularly our security interests.
QUESTION: What about the women of Afghanistan? What can they expect as we leave?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, they’re going to have to be given support from their own government and people as well as the international community.
QUESTION: It’s grim for them.
SECRETARY CLINTON: For a lot of women, life is much better. Girls are in school who never were before. Women are able to practice their professions and pursue their businesses. So for an increasing group of Afghan women, life is better. Still, there are all kinds of discrimination and difficulties, but for a large group of rural women, life has not changed very much. And what I worry about is that the security situation will keep a total lid on the aspirations and education of the rural women and begin to intimidate and drive out of the public space women who have seen their lives improve. And I think it’s incumbent upon us and all the nations that have been in Afghanistan to do everything we can to prevent that from happening.
QUESTION: I’m getting the time signal, but I’m going to go over and probably get in trouble with your staff, but – (laughter) – we always see Secretary of State, we see your very public role, and I know the last four years have been a real high. Chelsea Clinton got married during the last four years, but also your biggest supporter, your biggest fan, Dorothy Rodham, your mother, who was a big role model to you, and all of us in Washington who knew her – she was a real character – she died during these four years. So there’s highs and lows.
SECRETARY CLINTON: There are, and my mother really enjoyed the company of you and your husband, and she was, at the age of 90-plus, so vital, so interested in people. She taught me so many lessons, and I miss her every day, because I was fortunate that she was living with us here in Washington. So I got to see her every night I could come home or when I came back from a trip, and she was always so interested in what we were doing and what I had seen. I was lucky to have her for so long.
QUESTION: She was a character.
SECRETARY CLINTON: I know. She was a character, overcame so many hurdles in her own life and just shared her love and her intelligence and her curiosity not only with us, her children, but everybody she met.
QUESTION: Indeed. Anyway, Madam Secretary, thank you very much. Nice to see you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Good to see you, Greta. Thank you.