Interview With Michel Ghandour of Al Hurra

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
February 14, 2011

QUESTION: Madam Secretary, first, thanks for your time. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has said today that an earthquake is on the way in the Arab world and the Muslim world. Do you share or do you agree with this description?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think change is happening and it’s something that the United States and this Administration and I personally have advocated for, because we believe that it is in the best interests of not just the region and individual countries, but most importantly, the people, particularly the young people, that they have a chance to enjoy economic, political, democratic reform.

QUESTION: Will you – as the United States – will adjust your policy or your strategy toward the Middle East after this change?

SECRETARY CLINTON: We have consistently said the same thing, but it is obviously a challenge to communicate clearly in a time of great, momentous occurrences like this. We’ve said we are against violence by whoever; we are for the universal human rights of all people, and in particular, over the last three weeks, the Egyptian people; and we are for political change. In the speech that I gave in Doha toward the end of last year, I said that the foundations of the regimes were sinking into the sand. And I said it because it’s frustrating for us to watch good friends and watch talented people not be able to make the most out of their circumstances. And so I’m only hoping that we will see change from within, because that’s the only way it can occur.

QUESTION: When you asked the leaders to make reforms and change in their society, they didn’t change. They didn’t have enough time to change. But do you think they still have the time to do the reform, to make the reform?

SECRETARY CLINTON: I do. I think that in many different countries, a opening of the economic space and ending of corruption, a consultation with a broad base of civil society, moves toward political reform and eventual democracy, are all within the reach of every one of the governments in the region.

QUESTION: Madam Secretary, yesterday and during the weekend, you talked to international leaders about Egypt. Were you satisfied with the steps that the Egyptian military has taken, and how do you view the way forward or the way up?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, this is up to the Egyptian people, but certainly, the – our hope is that everything which has been promised – the end of the emergency law, the movement toward constitutional reform, political parties being allowed, all of the pieces that constitute a real transition to democracy will be implemented. And we’re going to continue to stand for that.

QUESTION: Some opposition leaders in Egypt, they raised worries about the future role of the military. Do you share these worries?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think it’s important that the opposition and civil society come together around a set of demands as to what needs to be done, with a timetable, because clearly, the military has evidenced its desire to move in the right direction. But there needs to be continuing efforts by the opposition to help guide where Egypt is going. So I am hoping that we see, out of the very diverse opposition that was present over the last three weeks, some unifying that would come, not behind personalities, but behind specific demands that have to be met in order for the transition to succeed.

QUESTION: How do you respond to those in the Middle East who said that the U.S. has abandoned its allies in the region?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we haven’t. In fact, we think part of being a good friend and partner is telling your friend and partner what you see happening. And for many years, both publicly and privately, Democratic and Republican presidents and administrations have delivered the same message to the Egyptian Government: There must be reform; there must be change.

We were not successful, and neither was the Egyptian opposition or civil society. And the pressure just built up, and then we saw the results over the last three weeks. So with our friends, we have a very consistent message: There has to be change. It is still very possible, in fact desirable, for that change to proceed in an orderly way, a peaceful way, but it has to produce results, particularly for young people.

QUESTION: After Tunisia and Egypt, demonstrations are taking place today in Algeria, Yemen, and Bahrain. What’s your message to the protestors in these countries?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Remain peaceful, nonviolent. That is what worked so well in Egypt, and that’s what will work because it gives you a standing that is absolutely unimpeachable that you are going out and protesting, but not using violent means. Continue to stand up for universal rights but recognize that change requires a process, and be willing to be part of that process.

QUESTION: President Ahmadinejad has said that there will be a new Middle East after what happened in Egypt and there is no place – well, there is no place for the U.S. and Israel. What’s your reaction to that?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I find it very ironic that Iran is trying to give lessons in democracy to anybody. Talk about a revolution that was hijacked; Iran is Exhibit A. What Iran is doing to its people, even as we speak, where there are protestors trying to have their voices heard in Iran who are being brutally suppressed by the Iranian security forces, I don’t think anyone in the Middle East – or frankly, anyone in the world – would look to Iran as an example for them. That is not where anybody wants to end up, where you are basically in a military dictatorship with a kind of theocratic overlay which doesn’t respond to the universal human rights of the Iranian people. So I don’t think there’s much to be learned or really, in any way, followed coming out of Iran when it comes to democracy.

QUESTION: What would happen to the peace process now? Is it on the shelf or is it (inaudible) – what are you planning to do?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, the United States continues to believe that moving toward a two-state solution is in the best interests of the Israelis and the Palestinians, the best interests of the region. And we are continuing to push that with both of our friends, the Palestinians and the Israelis. And we think that having a two-state solution would be a great tribute to what people are standing for, where you’ve got self-determination by the Palestinian people, a state of their own, and Israel is able to live securely in the neighborhood and contributing to the transformation of the region.

QUESTION: I have two more questions on Lebanon and Syria. On Syria, Syrian authorities are to lift a five-year ban on Facebook, and President Bashar Al-Asad has said that he will push through political reform this year. How do you view these steps?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I would like to see positive actions taken. A commitment in word only won’t produce the changes that people are looking for. So I hope that what he has said will be followed up on.

QUESTION: And on Lebanon, in the (inaudible) anniversary of the assassination of Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, you have called the next government to honor its obligations to the international tribunal. Mr. Mikati has so far refused to commit to continuing Lebanese support to the tribunal. How are you going to deal with this topic of --

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, the United States believes strongly in the work of the tribunal, because we do not believe that there should be impunity for murder. And we do not believe it is in Lebanon’s interest to avoid accountability for those who murdered not only Prime Minister Hariri, but 22 other innocent people. So we’re going to continue to support the work of the tribunal. We think it’s important, and we believe that Lebanon itself would benefit from having this matter resolved. We also are very hopeful that the government that is finally formed will recognize the need for the tribunal’s work to continue.

QUESTION: After Egypt and Tunisia, who will be next, Madam Secretary?

SECRETARY CLINTON: That’s up to the people of the region. And what we hope is that there will be an ongoing commitment to reform – economic reform and political reform. I talked about it in my speech in Doha, and it was a warning to a lot of our friends in the region. And now, many of them are looking for ways that they can make progress, and we would like to see that happen.

QUESTION: Thank you so much.


QUESTION: I appreciate your time.


PRN: 2011/206