Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s Interview with Al Jazeera *updated*
She taped this yesterday. I have the transcripts for the other interviews that I’ll post later (kinda short on time right now):
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, first of all, thank you for talking to Al Jazeera at the State Department. As you know, the Egyptian army, the supreme council of the armed forces in Egypt, have announced certain steps following the success of the revolution, as many Egyptians call it. And yet there is still some skepticism among many Egyptians that these measures are not enough. Where do you stand on that?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think that where we stand is with the Egyptian people. We want to be a good partner and friend as they make this transition. Three weeks ago, no one would have guessed that so much could have happened that would have been so responsive to the needs and aspirations that we heard coming from Tahrir Square. And now, like so many kinds of movements for change, the hard work of actually putting into place the steps that are necessary must be pursued, and it needs to be pursued as expeditiously as possible with as broad and inclusive a group of Egyptians involved. But we’re just at the beginning of the transition.
QUESTION: What would you say is the most positive step that the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces has announced so far?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think that first of all, the role that the army played during the last weeks as a guarantor of the Egyptian state, as a institution that was well-respected by the Egyptian people, was absolutely essential. Contrast what happened in Egypt with what is going on today in Iran where, once again, the Iranian Government is lashing out, using violence against people who are expressing the same desires as we heard from Egypt.
So I have a lot of sympathy for what has already occurred in Egypt, but I have a sense of realism about what it’s going to take to move forward. So far, what the supreme council has announced is in keeping with what they announced they would be doing, and in response to the desires of the Egyptian people and their demands. But I think everyone has to recognize that this transition where you have to rewrite a constitution, you have to pass new laws, you have to help form political parties – there’s a long to-do list, and everybody needs to be sort of focused on the task at hand. And that’s going to take an enormous amount of energy from everybody involved.
QUESTION: But you would have – one would have thought that because of the last three weeks of protests in Egypt, because of the discontent over about two decades about the issue of the state of emergency, that the first thing the army would do is to respond to the demands of young people and a lot of other Egyptians that it be lifted immediately. They haven’t done that yet. How do you – what would you counsel them to do?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, it’s not for me to counsel them. This is an Egyptian process that must be directed and defined by the Egyptian people. One of the demands, which we have supported for a long time, is to lift the emergency decree. There has been an announcement that that will be done, and we hope that it will be.
QUESTION: How soon would you want to see that happen, though?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I’m not going to substitute my judgment sitting here in the very beautiful comfort of the State Department for what is going on in Egypt right now. I think it’s important that the United States and others who wish to see a positive outcome of this struggle by the Egyptian people to achieve their own democracy be supportive, but don’t pretend that we know more than what the people in Egypt know. And we want to see changes. We’ve been for that for many years, both publicly and privately. But now, thankfully, the future really is in the hands of Egyptians themselves.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, I’m sure you’re aware of this. A lot of people in the Arab world, particularly in Egypt, listening to you now, especially those people who thought that the U.S. had sat on the fence before Mubarak fell, whether you agree with that description or not – they all say the U.S. Government is doing it again – when they’re asked to make a clear choice, a clear decision whether they support the army or the demonstrators, the U.S. Government is sitting on the fence again.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I have to obviously object to that characterization. We were consistent and clear. We were against violence. We communicated that many times over and over again to every level in the Egyptian Government, and in particular to the army. We were in favor of the universal human rights of the Egyptian people, and we have long been in support of that and pushed the government to take reforms that would realize that. And we were in favor of political change. But I think it is inappropriate for us to do more than say what we have always said. We have said repeatedly the emergency law needs to be lifted. But now, this is a process that is being worked on by Egyptians.
The Mubarak era is over. There is a new effort that is just beginning, and I think it is an – it’s important that the United States be seen as supporting the transition to democracy, and that is where we stand. We are strongly in favor of it. We want to see it as soon as it can come. But we are also conscious that at many points in history, this incredible movement for change can be hijacked by external or internal forces that do not follow through on the promises made, do not realize the aspirations of the Egyptian people. So our goal is to keep our eye on the outcome. Let us get to democracy that will, once and for all, meet the needs of the Egyptian people and give Egypt a chance to serve as a model for the entire region that needs desperately to see that.
QUESTION: Now, what would you say to assuage the concerns of many Egyptians who say that this was supposed to be a revolution to actually get rid of military rule which has ruled Egypt for 30 years, and now they see that it is the army – at least for the foreseeable future – that is managing the affairs of the country and we have concerns about that? What would you say to them that they do not necessarily have to be concerned?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, that they need to keep up their political involvement and the real strength of their movement to get the changes necessary. I mean, those changes have been promised now. They need to be delivered on. And there needs to be broad-based inclusive representation going forward. So, different groups within Egyptian society have to step forward to take responsibility toward working in a unified way to achieve the goals that have all been set.
It is not going to work merely to stand on the outside and say, “We don’t like this and we don’t like that.” We now have the chance for broad-based participation. People need to step forward and make their views known and be part of getting this process moving so that all these timelines and these milestones about ending the emergency law, reforming the constitution, getting the laws for political parties, preparing for the elections – there’s a big effort. As big an effort as went into bringing us to this point will be replicated in achieving the outcomes that we seek.
QUESTION: And yet to many of these people, there are just – quoted to you – the fact that Egypt continues to be run by the army for the foreseeable future, the fact that even the civilian side of the government in Egypt was actually inherited from the Mubarak regime – many of them are described as his cronies. How concerned are you about that being either the reality or the perception?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, again, it is the opportunity to work through what exists now. What is the alternative? There was very – there are very good ideas being floated around about what could be the next step. But it is not for the United States, it is not for any other government, it is not for the media, it is not for those outside to dictate to the Egyptian people how they intend to proceed. There are some excellent conversations going on. We know that there is an effort to try to coalesce around certain ways forward that the opposition can all support. That’s what should happen.
But let’s take a little perspective here. It’s been less than three weeks, or just barely three weeks, and revolutions in and of themselves don’t produce the outcome that is sought. It is: Okay, now that you’ve achieved the goal of changing the government, what happens next? That is where Egypt is, and that is what the Egyptian people have to lead us through.
QUESTION: My time is up. I was wondering if there is time for one more question —
SECRETARY CLINTON: (Laughter.) Sure.
QUESTION: — just broad-based, if I may. Thank you very much, Madam Secretary.
The United States has invested in the Egyptian army, it has invested in cooperation with the Egyptian army for 30 years. Given what the situation is in Egypt and given that the role it is playing – the role the army is playing in Egyptian politics today, would you say that the U.S. investment in the Egyptian army has been a success story?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, history will have to judge that, but I think that the relationships that developed over all those years between the leadership of the United States military and leadership of the Egyptian military made it possible for there to be continuing communications. It was a message that was delivered from many different sources – do not use violence against your own people – that was very readily received. It’s not like the United States had to tell the Egyptian military. They wanted to defend the Egyptian people, and I think they performed in an extraordinary way.
Contrast it to Iran, where the government has turned against the people. They’re more than happy to talk about look at what’s going on in Egypt, but when their opposition, when their young people try to express themselves, they come down with brutality. They have a record of such abuse and excess. Contrast that with the Egyptian military. I would bet on the process that the Egyptian military has announced going forward as being a pathway to a different future, whereas I look with such dismay at what Iran continues to do and just feel – my heart goes out to the Iranian people.
QUESTION: And yet the Egyptian army is accused of having – or it’s the Egyptian security forces are accused of having killed more Egyptians than the Iranian army Iranians.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, I don’t think there’s any basis for that. I think that – as some of the leading protesters in Egypt themselves said, any loss of life is deeply regrettable, and certainly under those circumstances. But given what has been accomplished and the great opportunity for the Egyptian people now, it is something that Egyptians themselves say, “We now have it in our hands.” The Iranian people cannot say that.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, thank you so much.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you.
You can see her interview with Al Aribiya English here.
Transcript of the interview with Al Aribiya:
QUESTION: Okay. Madam Secretary, I really appreciate this opportunity.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you.
QUESTION: We have very little time. Let me start. There was conflicting messages coming from the White House and the State Department. The White House initially said (inaudible) now – and now means yesterday – then in the second week, (inaudible) said that change may take time, then try to – Frank Wisner (inaudible) policy. Surely, your audiences in this country and abroad were kind of confused. Why the disconnect?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first, I don’t think there was a disconnect. I think there was a consistent message that, from beginning to end, was very clear. Number one, we were against violence, and we said that to everyone. We sent that message very directly to the Government of Egypt and to the military. Number two, that we respected the universal human rights and the aspirations of the Egyptian people, and thought that they needed to be responded to and recognized by their own government. And number three, that we were supporting political change.
Now, I think that it is clear that as we went through the week – the weeks leading up to the rather dramatic departure of President Mubarak, the United States – no outside power or influence was determining what happened inside Egypt. This was all about the Egyptian people, and I think the Egyptian people themselves made it clear that they wanted no violence, they wanted their human rights respected, and they wanted a transition to democracy, which is pretty much in line with what we’ve been advocating.
So now, we are at a point where we see this historic, heroic effort by the Egyptian people, which we are very much in support of.
QUESTION: Okay. Some people are wondering that – kind of particular messages that (inaudible), that this was in part maybe a function of what you’ve been hearing, the anxiety that you heard from your friends in the region, the Arabs and Israelis who would caution you not to hasten the departure of Mubarak. To what extent did the views of your friends and allies in the region – were a factor in your decisions?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we have been saying for some time, and the President said it in his speech in Cairo in 2009, I said it many times, most recently in Doha —
SECRETARY CLINTON: — that there had to be change in the Arab world, that the foundations were not stable, that they were sinking. And therefore, we wanted to urge our friends and partners to respond to the economic and political demands of their people. I don’t think anybody could have predicted we’d be sitting here talking about the end of the Mubarak presidency at the time that this all started.
But because we tried very hard to be a friend and partner to the Egyptian people during this, we told our many other friends in the region that change was inevitable. It was a question as to whether it would be positive change that would lead to a better outcome for the people, or negative, where these aspirations would be denied and the process would be hijacked. So we did our best to try to explain to our friends that there had to be some commitment to reform.
QUESTION: Our time is running out. Quickly, in (inaudible), you expressed concern that some groups within the Egyptian society may (inaudible) it’s taking place, insert their own parochial agenda. This was understood as a reference to the Muslim Brotherhood. Is the Brotherhood welcome at the table as President Obama hinted last week?
SECRETARY CLINTON: That is up to the Egyptian people. They have to decide how they’re going to organize themselves. And I wasn’t just talking about internal —
SECRETARY CLINTON: — challenges, but external challenges as well. We’ve seen this ironic hypocrisy coming from the Iranian regime that was trumpeting what was going on in Egypt and is now oppressing their own people. So it was an expression of what we’ve heard from – within Egypt and around the region, that – don’t let this process be hijacked by anyone. This must be in response to the Egyptian people’s desires.
QUESTION: The Egyptian military said now that they are lifting the emergency laws (inaudible) parliament free elections in a period of time. What guarantees do you have that they will deliver on their promises, given the track record of other militaries it should not (inaudible)?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, again, this is going to be left to the Egyptian people. We have offered whatever aid and assistance we can provide, any that is appropriate and requested. But this is an ongoing effort and there have been some good steps taken so far. But as you point out, the end of the road is what matters – where will this lead. And clearly, we hope and we are encouraging that the commitment to move toward a democratic transition with free and fair elections is not wavered from.
QUESTION: You are challenging the Iranian Government to allow the people to demonstrate and express themselves like the Egyptians. Would this be (inaudible) position of the American Government now, to allow – I mean, if you say the same thing, whether those who are demonstrating are Algerians or (inaudible) or Jordanians asking for their freedom or, for that matter, the Palestinians demonstrating and asking for their own (inaudible)?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we believe in peaceful demonstrations. We believe that politics should be influenced by nonviolence, and what we saw in Egypt proves that point, the extraordinary reaction of the young people in the streets. And so we are for basic human rights – freedom of expression, freedom of assembly.
At the same time, we do not want to see any interference with the rights of people to be able to express themselves. And we had said to our friends, you must respond to the needs of people. We are all connected up now. Young people are communicating across every boundary one can imagine. We’ve saw that in real time in Egypt, and we think that many of our friends are responding to these calls for reform, and we support that.
QUESTION: In your speech in Doha, you said that if there’s no reform, (inaudible) said that the foundation (inaudible) sinking in the sand. (Inaudible) the Algerians and the Yemenis and the Jordanians (inaudible). Those governments are under pressure now from (inaudible) public opinion. And a lot of people say that they don’t get it. What do you say?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think that a lot of the leaders are trying to get it and trying to understand how to move forward on an economic and political reform agenda, and we support that. Change is always challenging. It doesn’t matter where it occurs. I mean, we have it in our own country where advocating for change and then translating it into reality takes time, and it can be a frustrating process. But in a democratic political system or in a reforming system, one has to be focused on the outcome, and stay with nonviolence, stay with the political process, be a partner in getting the reform agenda put into place. And that’s what we’re encouraging.
QUESTION: Okay. One final question. Lebanon received the (inaudible), essentially on nonpolitical, non-state actors, certainly (inaudible) support (inaudible). What would you say to that? What would your (inaudible) send a message to the (inaudible) on the sixth anniversary of the assassination of Prime Minister Hariri? What would you say?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, that there are many ways that a democracy can be hijacked. And having armed militias within a democratic state should not be permitted. And this has been a consistent American position that the state should be the guarantor of the integrity and authority of the state, and should have a monopoly on military power. So the situation unfortunately in Lebanon has developed so that there is this counterforce for the state in Hezbollah.
And it’s a great concern to us because the Lebanese people deserve better. They are such a vibrant, incredibly dynamic society, and they deserve to have their democracy respected and their voices heard, and not have one element of their society using the threat of force and the potential of violence to try to achieve political ends. And we strongly support the continuing investigation into the murder of Prime Minister Hariri and 22 others. We want to see the murderers brought to justice. There should be no impunity; there should be accountability and transparency. And we know that there is great pressure against that, which raises questions about what people have to fear. I mean, if you’re going to participate in a democracy, then you should want to enforce the law. So we will continue to strongly support the tribunal.
QUESTION: Unfortunately, our time is up. Secretary Clinton, I really appreciate it. Thanks again.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Always good to talk to you, thank you.
UPDATE:Ok, this is the last of the transcripts. This is from al Hurra and they ask more wide-ranging regional questions:
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 (inaudible). 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 interest 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 you adjust your policy or strategy towards 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 ask the leaders to make reform and change their society, they didn’t change. They didn’t have enough time to change. But do you think they still have time to (inaudible) reform, to make that 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 that going forward (inaudible)?
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 for 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: There are 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 that have 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, Democrats 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 is 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 today 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 is 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: (Inaudible) would happen to the (inaudible) peace process now? Is it on the shelf (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 interest 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 (inaudible) five-year plan on Facebook, and President Bashar Al-Assad has said that he will push through political reforms (inaudible). How do you view this?
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 sixth anniversary of the assassination of Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, you have called on the next government to honor its obligations to the international tribunal. Mr. Mikati has so far refused to commit to (inaudible). How are you going to (inaudible)?
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 that 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 (inaudible)?
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.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you.
QUESTION: I appreciate your time.
SECRETARY CLINTON: My pleasure.