Interview With Kim Ghattas of BBC

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Dar Al Hekma College
Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
February 16, 2010

QUESTION: Madam Secretary, thank you for speaking to the BBC. I know we are short on time, so I will get started, if that's okay, with the questions.

Can you confirm that the number two of the Taliban, Mullah Baradar, has been arrested in Pakistan, in a joint operation between American and Pakistani forces?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Kim, I cannot confirm that. But I can express our appreciation for the increasing cooperation between the United States and Pakistan. It is something that I personally believe is in the best interest of both of our countries. And the efforts to combat our common enemy is one that requires this level of partnership.

QUESTION: Do you think that the Pakistanis are finally getting really tough on the Taliban? Is the cooperation starting to pay off?

SECRETARY CLINTON: I think the Pakistanis recognize that the violent extremists inside of Pakistan now pose a direct threat to their state. We have seen the indiscriminate killings that have been conducted over the last several months. I mean, horrific bombings that have been just hard to even believe, bombing religious processions and mosques, and people playing volley ball and women and children in markets. I mean there is no explanation, other than just cruelty and violence for the sake of violence, and the intimidation that could lead, in the eyes of the extremists, to some kind of secession of territory.

But I think the Pakistanis, across the board in their leadership, recognize that standing firm against this threat is important to their future.

QUESTION: May I press you just a little bit more? You cannot confirm because details are still coming in, or because you think it may not be true?

SECRETARY CLINTON: We don't comment on operations like that. We think less is better, in terms of what anyone knows, or what anyone might speculate on. But the general point is one that I would underscore, that the cooperation is increasing, and it is very valuable.

QUESTION: Moving on to Iran, you said this week that Iran is moving towards a military dictatorship. And I was wondering, what are you trying to achieve by stating this publicly?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first of all, it is our observation. We have watched, over the last year, the increasing control by the Revolutionary Guard, not only over the security apparatus, but the political and the economic institutions inside Iran. It's very clear that they are in the lead on this repression, either directly or indirectly through the militia, which they control.

And it is troubling, because they are not accountable to anyone, it appears. The clerical leadership, the political elected leadership seem to be ceding ground to the Revolutionary Guard. And we believe that the sanctions we're working on with the international community should be targeted at the Revolutionary Guard, particularly at their commercial interests, which are expanding dramatically.

We also think it's important to send a message to other countries, and particularly in the region, that there has been a qualitative change inside Iran. When President Obama came into office, many experts believed that his offer of engagement would be reciprocated, that there would be a view on the part of the Iranian leadership that this was in their interest. Unfortunately, that hasn't come to pass. And then the election, which occurred, has created turmoil inside Iran, and we believe has perhaps shifted the balance of power.

Inside Iran, it's important for anyone who can hear this discussion to realize that the United States sees what's going on. I mean, you could be adversarial toward the United States, but still not want to see your country, such a historic country with so much culture and intelligence and contributions to make, heading in that direction.

QUESTION: And presumably, you are also sending a message to countries which perhaps, so far, don't feel the need to be tough on Iran, sending them a signal that perhaps it is time to look more closely at what's going on there.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Exactly, Kim. Exactly. I think some countries are still ignoring the changes we have seen this past year. And the unanimity in the so-called P-5+1 up until now reflects a common view. At the beginning of this year, I'm not sure people thought there would be that kind of unanimity. But there is, because we all see the same trends.

And for countries that are still on the fence, you know, we can either just give in to the trends inside Iran, which I don't think bode well for world peace and non-proliferation, we can ignore them, which has the same effect, we can try to influence them, which is what we are trying to do.

QUESTION: A question on Iran. The Saudi foreign minister, Saud al-Faisal, yesterday said that sanctions are a long-term solution, but they are worried about the threat that Iran poses now. They want a quick solution. What can you offer?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I am very pleased by the level of cooperation that the Saudis are offering. They fully see the threat. They understand how destabilizing it would be if Iran were to become a nuclear power. And they are anxious to get on with it. They want to see action. And I think the action in the Security Council, which they support, would send such a strong message. And if we enforce it, I think it could have both short and long-term effects.

QUESTION: But it takes too long for them.

SECRETARY CLINTON: I think everyone who sees this threat as we do, and particularly the neighbors, people who are living within range of the missiles, for example, are very anxious to get on with it.

QUESTION: And if I may, just one final question on the Middle East. The Palestinians say that if you can give them assurances about what the end game is going to look like, if you can tell them that the negotiations will be about a Palestinian state created on the territory occupied since 1967, that they will sit down at the table with the Israelis. Can you give them those assurances? It would break the deadlock.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we have had many consultations with the Palestinians, as you know. And we firmly believe that good faith negotiations should be able to reconcile the Palestinian aspiration for a viable, independent state, based on the 1967 borders with agreed swaps, and the Israeli desire for security within a Jewish state, based on the borders with -- taking into account subsequent developments.

We think those are eminently reconcilable. But you can't reconcile two parties, unless they actually get into the conversation. So --

QUESTION: They want guarantees before they sit down.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, look. We have told them that this is what the negotiation will be about: borders, security, refugees, Jerusalem. Neither side has to agree to anything. We can bring them to the negotiating table, which we hope to be able to do soon. But, ultimately, they are the ones who have to decide. And these are the issues. These are the final status issues that must be determined by the two of them.

QUESTION: Madam Secretary, thank you very much for your time.


PRN: 2010/T22-13