Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Bait Al Zubair Museum
Muscat, Oman
January 12, 2011

QUESTION: Madam Secretary, thank you very much. I know you have a very intense schedule, so thanks for taking the time to talk to us.


QUESTION: I want to start with Iran because it has been really a key issue here in this Gulf trip. And two years after the Administration began working on its engagement policy – granted there has been some success in the sanctions slowing down Iran’s nuclear program, but essentially, you haven’t really been successful and no closer to stopping their program. And in fact, you’re not even close to negotiations to get them to stop. And the question really seems to be: Is it time for something harder? Because we’ve heard that in this region, a lot of (inaudible) do want more interaction.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Jill, I disagree with the notion that we haven’t made progress, because the facts are very different. We have made progress. In the last two years, we moved from a policy of condemning and standing alone and seeing nothing happen to rallying the international community to impose very tough sanctions which are making a difference. Just recently, the outgoing head of the Israeli intelligence agency made that point, that – and he was also publicly saying a combination of sanctions and covert actions have significantly slowed down the Iranian program.

We are also back to the so-called P-5+1 negotiations which were on hold for over a year. They will be meeting in Istanbul in just a little while. Now, this is a very long and challenging path that we have chosen to try to get the international community, get the sanctions, get the kind of support that we need to change the leadership (inaudible) Iran’s thinking about nuclear weapons. But we’ve made progress. Can we run up the flag and say oh, no, we’ve reached the conclusion we sought? Not yet, but we’re making progress.

QUESTION: Let’s talk about Iraq, a big subject on this trip. You have U.S. troops leaving, you have the radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr coming back. Doesn’t this leave the field free for Iran?

SECRETARY CLINTON: No. In fact, I think that there is a government now in Iraq that is embraced by the Iraqi people. The attitude toward that government and Iraq among its Arab neighbors is changing, so more and more people are seeking out relationships, seeking out trade agreements, opening up embassies.

Now Iraq, if left totally alone, if for some reason no one responds to what were unprecedented elections resulting in an inclusive government, that would be a great mistake. But what we see is Iraq increasingly asserting itself. Iran is a big neighbor. Iran is a big presence in this entire region. And obviously, next door to Iraq, it is as well. But we also see the other centers of power in the region beginning to step up and making sure that Iraq is part of the larger community. And that’s very important.

QUESTION: And are the Gulf states doing enough? That is part of your message.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, they’ve got more to do, but they’re making progress. I’ll be speaking about that when I meet with them in Doha, and I’m encouraged.

QUESTION: And in Yemen, you were there, your first visit, very interesting place. The United States is putting hundreds of millions of dollars (inaudible) both within the military side and now more on the civilian side. But so far, a couple of problems. The Yemenis have not been able to capture al-Awlaki. They – also, we’ve had two failed attempts, terrorist attempts, emanating from Yemen. How long can the American people continue to support action in Yemen if these things continue to happen?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I hope that the American people understand that this is being done because, first and foremost, it’s in our national security interest. Walking away from Yemen, not supporting it in both the counterterrorism efforts and its broader development needs, would be basically ceding the ground to al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula. That would be a very tragic mistake, in my opinion. So as hard as it is, we are developing a very productive relationship with both the Government of Yemen on the counterterrorism front and with the people of Yemen on the development issues.

QUESTION: And do you believe that that could be a more dangerous place than Pakistan in terms of (inaudible)?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, I think it’s hard to make those kinds of comparisons. I think that each in their own way pose threats. I mean, the epicenter of the al-Qaida affiliation network that exists is still in the frontier areas and the north of Pakistan, but there are threats emanating to the United States from Yemen as well.

QUESTION: On this trip, you’ve had some very interesting comments about extremists when you made that comparison between extremists in this region and extremists in the United States. You mentioned the man who unfortunately shot Congresswoman Giffords. Were you rushing to judgment on his motivations (inaudible) shooting people? And also, could you explain a little bit about what you meant by it?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think from what we know – and of course, I’m reading the newspapers and watching TV like everyone else who was deeply affected by this tragedy. I knew that people all over the world would be expressing their sympathy, as they have been, on my trip. I happen to know the congresswoman. I think very highly of her. She’s an extraordinary person as well as a great public servant. And the loss of all of the people – the federal judge, the nine-year-old girl, and others – is just heartbreaking to me.

Based on what I know, this is a criminal defendant who was in some ways motivated by his own political views, who had a particular animus toward the congresswoman. And I think when you cross the line from expressing opinions that are of conflicting differences in our political environment into taking action that’s violent action, that’s a hallmark of extremism, whether it comes from the right, the left, from al-Qaida, from anarchists, whoever it is. That is a form of extremism. So yes, I think that when you’re a criminal who is in some way pursuing criminal activity connected to – however bizarre and poorly thought through – your political views, that’s a form of extremism.

QUESTION: Can I just ask one quick question? China – big speech on Friday. This new Congress, (inaudible)? Is this going to complicate relations with China and your job?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I mean, China is a very big presence in our world today and will become increasingly so in the future. Our challenge as American leaders is to chart a peaceful course with China, to look out for our interests, but to recognize that it is far better to have a positive, cooperative relationship with China than one based on hostility and antagonism. So how we stand our ground, stand up for American values and interests, and find areas of cooperation is exactly what we’re doing.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, thank you very much, Madam Secretary. Appreciate the time with you.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Nice talking, Jill.

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PRN: 2011/T37-09

[This is a mobile copy of Interview With Jill Dougherty of CNN]