Following are excerpts from an interview with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, which aired on MBC TV on January 20, 2011.
Interviewer 1: Have you ever experienced any gender discrimination, working in the political domain either in America, or in some countries where women are not so respected?
Hillary Clinton: Occasionally I have. Lots of times I laugh it off, and sometimes I confront it, but it is less common than it used to be. Yet there still are attitudes, even in my country, about a woman’s place, a woman’s role. It’s a minority, but it’s sometimes, unfortunately, a vocal minority has. Yet it doesn’t represent the historic trends, and changes, or the vast majority of people. So I really think that we are getting to a point where we will see less and less of that, going forward. But I wouldn’t sit here and tell you that it’s not still an issue. And it certainly is, around the world.
You know, my biggest concerns are not with these incredibly bright young women here, or with the three of you who have been so successful. It’s in countries where women and girls are so discriminated against, so brutalized, so mistreated, denied their basic rights. Those are the places that I worry most about. And I think all of us, as women who have our voices, need to speak out.
You know, I went to the Democratic Republic of Congo a year ago in summer, and the way that girls and women are treated there is just barbaric. And we have to stand up against that. And when I go to countries that don’t let girls be educated, or are still marrying off girls of nine or ten, depriving them of and education, depriving them of an opportunity, you know that is what I’m most concerned about.
Interviewer: But now, Madam Secretary, there is a very strong warning of war, looming in the whole area, which is going to be pulling in Hamas, Hizbullah, the Iranians, Israel and all kinds of factions from all over the region. And this time, they are not talking about skirmishes. They are talking about a large-scale war with many more casualties. How seriously should we take this warning?
Hillary Clinton: I’m aware of the drum beats, and I think that those, unfortunately, are being created for very cynical purposes. Let’s just be very blunt here, because I like to be as clear as I can. I think that there is very little doubt that Iran does not want to see any kind of negotiated peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians. For its own purposes, it wants to keep its attention of what the big concern for the future, which is a nuclear-armed Iran, with weapons that threaten its neighbors and beyond. So if they can shift attention away from their own internal decisions about whether or not to pursue and produce nuclear weapons, they will be very happy about that. And we cannot let that attention get diverted, and we cannot let any outside influence case a conflict in the Middle East, which would be disastrous for everyone.
If, as is expected, Southern Sudan votes to have its own country, then I hope we will all, in this broader region and certainly the US will help…We’ll do two things. We’ll help the people of South Sudan meet their many needs. It’s a very poor place. It does not have a lot of infrastructure, it doesn’t have enough schools, it doesn’t have enough clinics or hospitals. So we have to help the people of South Sudan. But I think we also have to work with and invest in the north in Sudan, so that they see the benefits of having done a very courageous action, which is to move from conflict to compromise. Because that is the way the world should work. It’s very unlikely that any one person gets 100% of whatever that person wants if you are negotiating peacefully. So let’s work to help both the government in Khartoum and the government in Juba deliver results for their people. And I think that could make this a very successful transition.
Other than what’s happening in Sudan I don’t see any other actions like that, where countries are dividing, unless they are forced to by outside forces. And I would just mention briefly Iraq. You know Iraq now has an inclusive government, and I think that should be applauded by the region. It has a government that consists of the different sectors within Iraq, and it is a government that is going to try to put Iraq on a firm foundation, and make sure that all the populations Kurds, Sunni, Shia, minority groups, Christian, Muslim, everyone has a safe home and can then go back to school and get freed of violence. But Al-Qaeda is trying to disrupt that. You know, they have been attacking government installations, they have been attacking Christian churches, and Christians have lived peacefully in Iraq for thousands of years. So again, the outside has to try to help Iraq be stable.
Interviewer 2: I want to go back to the question of Iran. There is nuclear danger in the Middle East coming from Israel. We cannot deny this. And the sanctions, imposing sanctions on Iran hasn’t really works, because the consensus is that Iran could have enriched uranium within a few months. If they want to have a nuclear weapon, they could. So, what are the options that the US is examining?
Hillary Clinton: Well, I think that the most recent analysis is that the sanctions have been working, They have made it much more difficult for Iran to pursue its nuclear ambitions. Iran has had technological problems that have made it slow down its timetable. So we do see some problems within Iran. But the real question is how do we convince Iran that pursing nuclear weapons will not make it safer and stronger, but just the opposite. You know, I would ask you, I mean those of you from countries here in the region: If Iran gets a nuclear weapon, won’t you believe that you have to have a nuclear weapon too? I mean it will be an arms race that will be extremely dangerous. So, it is, first and foremost, in the interest of the region to persuade Iran not to pursue nuclear weapons.
Two things have happened that I think are significant. First, the progress by the Palestinian Authority in building their state has been extremely impressive. The World Bank, just last year, issued a report, which said that if the Palestinians stay on the track they are on, they will be ready for statehood within two years. President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad need the support of the world in order to continue that state-building effort, because this is really hard work, but they are making progress against very difficult odds.
Secondly, the Israelis have a sense that when they left Lebanon, what they got was Hizbullah with 40,000 rockets aimed at them, and when they left Gaza what they got was Hamas with 20,000 rockets aimed at them. So I ask people, and I know it is very difficult at times to put yourself ever in the shoes of the other. I ask the Israelis to put themselves in the shoes of the Palestinians. I ask the Palestinians and Arabs to put themselves in the shoes of the Israelis. So the Israelis have to believe that when they leave the West Bank which they must in order for the Palestinians to have their state that they are not going to be surrounded on all sides.
So, as we think through how difficult this conflict is to resolve, there is, I would say, an essential role for outsiders, certainly our country tries very hard to bring the parties together, but also the Arab world, to make it clear that the Arab peace initiative will be implemented, if the parties can meet the agreement that is necessary on territory, and on security, on refugees, on Jerusalem, and all of the other issues that are dividing them. So I am absolutely committed as is President Obama, to doing everything we can. At the end of the day, the parties have to want to do this.
You know, I have said and written before that when my husband left office, some months later, then-president Arafat called Bill, and said: "Okay, I’m ready to take the deal now." And Bill said: "But I’m not president now". So let’s seize this moment, while we have President Obama, while we have progress on the state-building by the Palestinians, while we do have and Israeli government that will be able to deliver a peace if they can agree to the terms, let’s make sure that we don’t let this moment pass, so that in 10 years, somebody else gets a phone call and says: "Okay, now I’m ready." No. Let’s get ready now, and let’s deliver a two-state solution which will be an enormous step forward, not just forward, not just for the Israelis and the Palestinians, but for the entire region.