We deplore the attack today outside the Holy Family Church in Kirkuk and extend our condolences to the victims’ families and loved ones. Attacks like this, which target religious minorities, demonstrate the extent to which certain terrorist groups will go to disrupt the progress Iraq has made toward reducing violence.
We are confident the Government of Iraq will take all necessary steps to bring the people responsible for this horrific act to justice and continue its efforts to improve the security situation for all Iraqis, including those whose communities are threatened on the basis of their faith and beliefs.
Since 2003, the United States has been an active partner to help Iraqis strengthen their democracy, build civil society, improve security, and re-integrate fully into the regional and global community and economy. Since 2009, we have worked through the U.S. Iraq Strategic Framework Agreement to reinvigorate this partnership in a range of sectors, including democracy-building, security, education, energy, trade, health, culture, information technology, law enforcement, and judicial cooperation.
We have made a substantial investment and great sacrifices to bring about progress. We have strengthened Iraq’s democracy, rule of law, and civil society. We have helped rebuild its security infrastructure and helped Iraq rejoin the international community after decades of isolation. Our support – with significant assistance from international partners since 2003 – has helped Iraq successfully conduct five major elections or referenda since 2004, including two parliamentary elections. Over 12 million Iraqis voted in the 2010 parliamentary election – a 62 percent turnout. The U.S. has also substantially assisted Iraq’s new parliament, the Council of Representatives, in building core capacity and competence. State and USAID programs have helped Iraqi civil society – including women’s groups, human rights organizations, budget transparency entities, and the media — play an active role in Iraq’s democracy. We are also supporting Iraqi parliamentary efforts that produced the region’s most progressive non-governmental organization law. In December 2010, the United States also helped Iraq secure UN Security Council termination of most Chapter VII sanctions against Iraq, bringing Iraq into a more normal relationship with the community of nations.
Since November 2008, our security relationship with Iraq has undergone a significant transition. Building on the success and sacrifice of our troops who partnered with Iraqi Security Forces to bring an end to sectarian fighting and combat insurgency, we have ended the combat mission, reduced our troop level to below 50,000, and handed the lead for the security of their nation to Iraqi Security Forces. The Iraqis have developed the capacity to successfully provide internal security, as our forces have shifted from a combat role to a role focused on advising and training.
The U.S. has provided training, technical expertise, and equipment to bolster critical rule of law capacity in Iraq, focusing in particular on the police, corrections service, and judiciary. This investment has improved the Iraqi government’s ability to provide for the humane treatment and legal rights of its citizens, while also properly incarcerating criminals and insurgents.
On the economic front, we have worked to promote growth and reform in multiple sectors of Iraq’s economy. We have helped the Iraqis realize better management in key ministries with procedural and institutional reforms and training on international procedures and standards. U.S. programs have produced or supported key benchmarks:
Three transparent and efficient oil and gas bid rounds since 2009.
An Electricity Master Plan which lays out a strategy to improve and reform Iraq’s electricity sector.
Iraq setting up the first commercial court to settle arbitration disputes for international investors in 2011.
Iraqi ministry and provincial officials reforming agricultural policies and boosting productivity in a sector that is key to Iraq’s employment.
Iraq’s accession to the World Trade Organization to expand Iraq’s trade and global economic integration.
Iraq’s successful engagements with the IMF and World Bank to undertake key public financial management, social safety net, and banking sector reforms.
Intense interaction between U.S. and Iraqi businesses to promote investment in Iraq.
Our assistance has helped Iraq combat corruption with programs for integrity institutions: the Board of Supreme Audit, the Commission on Integrity, and the Inspectors General. Our assistance also helped Iraq produce and begin to implement a 2010 comprehensive national anti-corruption strategy.
We have promoted long-term economic growth, political development, and strong cultural links to the U.S. by assisting the educational sector in Iraq. Iraq has the largest Fulbright Foreign Visiting Student Program in Middle East, and the International Visitor Leadership Program in Iraq is the largest in the world. Iraq is the eighth-largest foreign government contributor to the Fulbright program. Additionally, USDA has cemented links between Iraqi universities and U.S. land grant universities to build an agricultural extension program.
QUESTION: Secretary Clinton, thank you very much for spending some time with us. I want to start with this idea of reintegration and reconciliation in Afghanistan. President Karzai today, in fact, said that he believes that the insurgents will definitely be invited to the peace talks. What do you think about that idea?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, in general, Jill, you don’t make peace with your friends; you make peace with your enemies. And I think what President Karzai is trying to do is to send some very clear messages. Number one, if you are one of the many, many Taliban members who is there because it’s a living, you actually are making money by being in this fight, or you were, in effect, drafted through intimidation of some sort, come off the battlefield and reintegrate into society. If you are a mid-level leader of the Taliban, not ideologically committed to their world view, then you too can rejoin society. However, there are very clear conditions: You must renounce violence, you must lay down your arms, you must renounce al-Qaida, and you must be willing to live by the laws and the constitution of Afghanistan.
So I think that this is the way peace usually gets made. You send out feelers. You see who’s willing to lay down their arms and abide by the conditions. You see how far up that will go. I do not expect Mullah Omar and those people to be at all interested in this. In fact, they’ve made it very clear that they’re not. But I think there are many members of the Taliban who will see this chance to reenter society under these very stringent conditions to be attractive enough to test.
I also think it’s clear that our commanders on the field, General McChrystal and his team, who are in the fight and reversing the momentum of the Taliban, they know, as we learned in Iraq, there is an opportunity to try to convince the insurgents to quit the fight and come back. And that’s part of this peace effort.
QUESTION: You mentioned Iraq. And in fact, the Sunni Awakening was what happened in Iraq. The United States was very actively involved in Iraq in that movement. In Afghanistan, what would be the role of the U.S., briefly? And especially when we get into the financial side of it, there’s going to be a fund, an international fund. Can the U.S. actually contribute money to that? Because after all, there are Treasury regulations that seem to preclude that.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, just as we did in Iraq, the United States military will have funds available for these battlefield decisions. And all of the rules and regulations will be abided by, of course. But what our commanders tell us is that it is extremely useful when somebody shows up and says to a young lieutenant or captain, “I’d like to quit, I want to go home, I want to plant in my fields,” that happens a lot. And so to be able to say okay, and here’s what you’ll get if you meet our conditions and you go forward as a member of society – so we want to equip our military.
Now, on the civilian side, a number of countries today made commitments to what is being called the reintegration fund. And that will be a means also to make sure that the people who are now making more money as a Taliban fighter than they made as a farmer or doing something else within Afghan society will be able to support their families and contribute. I mean, that’s the way this works. We’ve learned a lot and we know much more today than we did five or six years ago in Iraq. And I have the greatest confidence in General McChrystal and his team to know how to pull this off.
QUESTION: But can the U.S. actually contribute to that fund without getting some type of a waiver?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, yeah. All the rules have to be abided by, yes.
QUESTION: Okay. Now, when you get into reconciliation, that would deal with the leadership, more important members. Five former leaders, in fact, have been delisted – as they say, taken off the UN list of suspected terrorists. Could they be part of the government?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, actually, one of the people who was on the list has already renounced the Taliban and has actually joined the government. So we’re kind of playing catch-up here, that the list has names of people who are irreconcilable – that is clear. The list also has at least one name we’re aware of, of someone who has already died. But there are people on that list who everyone believes, including the gentleman who has already met the conditions, who should be taken off the list and given a chance to be reintegrated.
QUESTION: But the irreconcilables – what if the government, the Afghan Government, actually did want to deal ultimately with Mullah Omar, thinking that perhaps he could bring them Osama bin Laden or something like that? What could the U.S. do in that case?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, the U.S. is a partner with the Afghan Government. So we are going to be closely consulting on the structure of the fund, the standards for the fund. I had a long meeting with President Karzai last night and we went over many of these matters that are going to have to be addressed. It is the kind of situation that, by the very nature of it, is going to be somewhat fluid because we don’t know what’s going to happen, who will come forward.
But based on our experience in many areas of Afghanistan today, the Taliban is extremely unpopular. There was a recent poll that has a lot of credibility, pointing out that most people in Afghanistan now believe that they can have a better future, they do not want the Taliban back. But they’re scared and they are looking for some support. And one of the ways, as we saw in an article in The New York Times, I think it was today, is that the military is going in and not just talking to individuals, but talking to tribes, talking to villages. This is classic counterinsurgency, and everyone knows that, as General McChrystal has said, you’re never going to kill or capture everybody calling themself a Taliban. But you can change the political environment so that those who continue to call themselves Taliban become more and more isolated, and that’s what we’re seeking.
QUESTION: Let’s talk about women, because in – this is a subject that’s very dear to your heart, it’s very important.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes.
QUESTION: We know the traditional approach that the Taliban have taken to women. So if you bring these people in, isn’t it ultimately a deal with the devil?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, not if they abide by the conditions, which they have to in order to be eligible. They have to abide by the constitution and the laws of Afghanistan. That means girls are entitled to go to school, girls and women are entitled to get healthcare. Girls are given the same rights that they should have to be trained. Women have the right to participate in the government. In fact, the new Karzai government has some very prominent women nominated for ministers.
So I think that that’s a concern that some people have raised, but I don’t think that it, in and of itself, is what will impact women’s future. We have to change mindsets. There are very serious continuing problems for many women in Afghanistan that still need to be addressed. And women are just like the men of Afghanistan; they don’t want to see the Taliban come back, obviously, but they still have to be given the opportunities to participate in society.
But a lot of progress has been made. I just was meeting with one of the Afghan women who was presenting at the conference, and she said we want to protect women’s rights, we want to continue to get what we deserve to have, we don’t want anything done in the name of peace to interfere with that. And I said neither do I. And I made that very clear in what I said publicly and privately at this conference.
QUESTION: Now, on Iran, to change the subject here, Iran did not send a representative to this conference on Afghanistan. What do you read into that?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I’m not sure yet, because the foreign secretary here in London had told me that he expected Iran to send a representative. There was a name plate for Iran. It may, Jill, be another example of the uncertainty, confusion, division within the existing Iranian leadership. On many issues, it appears that they aren’t quite sure the way forward because the leadership is being challenged and there are lots of forces at work within the society. But I don’t know any more than that.
QUESTION: So we understand that you have at least an outline of sanctions that you want to impose or – on – we understand that you have at least an outline of sanctions that you want to impose on Iran. How quickly will we see those?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I was meeting all day today not only about Afghanistan, but also about Iran, with many countries. I brought with me two of the experts who are working on the design of the sanctions and the enforcement of the sanctions, and we are beginning to share ideas. It is premature to talk about those because I don’t want to preempt the consideration that other countries will be given to this, but it is very much our agenda to move forward.
We want as much support as we can possibly muster, and we want to be sure that we are aiming at the mindset of the Iranians so that they understand that the international community will not be turning a blind eye to their continuing violations of Security Council obligations of International Atomic Energy Agency regulations. But it is premature to talk in specifics.
QUESTION: You have said that the sanctions are basically aimed at the Revolutionary Guard. The Revolutionary Guard, of course, control key elements of the Iranian economy. So in hitting them, how do you avoid hurting the Iranian people?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, they have a lot of business interests, as we have discovered. And our assessment is that the sanctions will be tough and clearly aimed at the Iranian economy, but that the international community does not have a choice, that this is, unfortunately, a situation in which the behavior of the Iranian Government, not just in this instance but what they’re doing to protestors and demonstrators. I mean, one of the foreign ministers from a Muslim country told me with just total bewilderment, he said, “How can they have a death penalty to demonstrate?” I mean, that’s basically what they’ve come to.
So their society is under a lot of stress. We think it’s imperative to change the calculus of the leadership, and we think this is an appropriate way to proceed, so we are pursuing it.
QUESTION: But could that be a way – if you make it difficult for the people, could the aim ultimately be to get the people angry at their own government and, hence, have some type of regime change?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, this is not meant to punish Iran; it’s meant to change their behavior, and it’s not meant as a target at any one person. It’s meant to change the calculation of the leadership, where – whether that leadership is in the supreme leader’s office or in the Revolutionary Guard or the president or anyone else. And I think that it’s hard to sit here and predict exactly how Iran will respond, because we still are open to the diplomatic track, but we haven’t seen much to really prove that they’re willing to engage with us.
And I think the time has come for the international community to say, no, we cannot permit your continued pursuit of nuclear weapons. It is destabilizing, it is dangerous, and we’re going to take a stand against you.
QUESTION: But you seem to be changing – the United States seems to be changing the focus, at least broadening it. Originally, of course, it’s about the nuclear program; however, there seems to be now a desire to punish the people who are responsible for repression.
SECRETARY CLINTON: No.
QUESTION: Isn’t that a broadening of –
SECRETARY CLINTON: No. I mean, if – for example, if the leadership had accepted the offer that we made on the Tehran research reactor to ship out their low-enriched uranium, we would not be sitting here talking about sanctions. It was their choice. They chose not to. And I think that the Iranian people are at a crossroads. They have the opportunity to demand more from their own leadership, which has, obviously, from the outside, appeared to have failed the Iranian people and failed the very principles that they claim to govern by. So the voices of protest, the voices of opposition, are going to continue to challenge this regime in Iran.
But the outside world is not involved in that. This is an internal societal matter for Iranians to decide. What the outside world is concerned about is their nuclear program. Absent a nuclear program, we would still be expressing our regrets and our condemnation of their behavior toward their citizens, but we would not be looking for sanctions. We are looking for sanctions because their nuclear ambitions threaten the rest of the world.
QUESTION: Well, Madam Secretary, thank you very much.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you, good to talk to you.
National Security Advisor Tom Donilon and Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes: Briefing on Libya and the Middle East
The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release March 10, 2011
Via Conference Call
2:48 P.M. EST
MR. VIETOR: Thank you very much, everybody, for getting on. We appreciate you taking the time. Today we have the President’s National Security Advisor Tom Donilon and Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes, who are here to talk a little bit about Libya and take some questions from you.
So with that, I’ll turn it over to Tom.
MR. DONILON: All set? Thank you, Tommy. And thanks, everybody, for taking the time this afternoon. We thought it would be a useful exercise to spend some time this afternoon not just talking about Libya, which I’m prepared to do, and Ben is as well, but also to talk about how we’re thinking about the broader set of events in the Middle East.
And we do view them as a broad set of events. Indeed, it’s hard to overstate the significance of the change, the historic change that is sweeping the region. And we are engaged, as I know many of you know, in efforts really across the region, from Tunisia all the way to obviously our ongoing efforts in Iraq.
And I thought what I’d do at the outset here is lay down several principles that inform our approach and have informed our approach from the outset. I’ll then talk about a couple of specifics. I also want to talk about an issue that we haven’t spent a lot of time talking to you all about in recent days, which is Iran. I have a couple of things to say on that. And then I’d be glad to take your questions.
First, with respect to our overall approach, essentially how we think about this and how we’re approaching the challenges, and let me make a couple of observations.
First, the turmoil in the region, the events in the region, present challenges as well as historic opportunities for the United States and for the people of the region. These are indigenous movements, first and foremost, and they do offer an opportunity to transform the narrative that defined the Arab world for decades. Democratic movements that have emerged can also counter and are countering, I think, the extremist narrative of violent political change that al Qaeda and affiliated groups, as well as Iranian exported violent revolution that have — are seen as narratives in the region.
This is a strong counter-narrative. This is really an important point I think. These are indigenous movements. They are movements by people seeking more representative and responsive government. They run quite counter to the narratives of al Qaeda and the Iranian narrative — and I’ll talk about that in a minute. These really are movements that are tremendous examples of people pursuing their aspirations in a non-violent fashion. And it’s a critically important point.
As I said, there’s enormous opportunities in this current situation. And as you all know, I am charged day in and day out to plan to avoid ranges of possible negative outcomes in situations, but I think we also have to prepare to take advantage of the profound movement here and really not be paralyzed in any way by the potential downsides, but really be prepared to embrace the positive upsides of what’s going on in the region.
Second, our efforts are based on a set of key principles that the President articulated from the outset. One, we oppose violence and repression. Two, we work in the approach to this situation from the perspective of a set of universal values that the President articulated quite clearly. And three, we support a process of political change that opens up societies and leads to governments that are more responsive to the aspirations of the people of the region.
Third, we strongly support reform as the basis for stability in the region. We support peaceful and meaningful democratic transitions throughout the region. In particular, we support the right to free expression, political participation, confidence in the rule of law, and governments that are transparent and responsive and accountable to their people. We believe that such reform is the basis for stability in the region.
Next, it’s not only political reform that’s important here — and I want to make this point very strongly — it’s also the economic change and economic reform, and we are very, very focused on this. It is key to the success of these transitions to representative and responsive government. We are very tightly focused on a range of efforts here to promote economic change and economic reform through our own bilateral assistance efforts, by leveraging our leadership in the international financial institutions that are focused on this — on reform in the region, and, frankly, through our efforts with wealthier nations in the region who also need to work with us and work with their fellow nations in the region in order not to miss this opportunity.
This is a very important piece of what’s going on here. And indeed, that will be an important focus of Secretary Clinton’s trip to the region next week, where she’ll be in Tunisia and in Egypt.
Before getting into specifics, I wanted to talk about Egypt as part of talking about the entire sweep of things that we’re looking at here. While I’m sure on this call we’ll spend a lot of time talking about Libya, and that’s important and we’re tightly focused on that, but we also are focused on the broad sweep of events in the region, including major events where Egypt really is at the center.
The success of the democratic transformation underway in Egypt is absolutely critical. It’s the largest Arab country. It is, again, at the center of events in the region and is a very tight and important focus for us, which is why, of course, Secretary Clinton will be going there next week as the highest ranking United States official to visit Egypt since President Mubarak left office.
Along those lines, I spoke to Field Marshal Tantawi the day before yesterday, and I wanted to talk about that for a couple of minutes because I do think it’s important. I thanked Marshal Tantawi for his leadership of the Supreme Council of Armed Forces, and communicated to him that the world continues to admire the Egyptian people’s transition to a democratic government; reiterated our commitment to partnership with Egypt in this project and in helping the Egyptian people achieve a successful transition.
I spent time discussing a number of steps that the Supreme Council of Armed Forces had taken, including continuing to allow Egyptians freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, putting in place a process for the constitutional amendments to be voted on by the Egyptian people, and pursuing reforms responsive to the aspirations of the Egyptian people.
I noted the fact that Field Marshal Tantawi made a number of difficult changes in the cabinet and appointed a new Prime Minister Sharaf; encouraged him to continue to lay the foundation for free, fair, credible elections; protect universal rights of the Egyptian people; and pursue a transparent dialogue with the broadest possible range of Egyptian civil society. And I thanked him for the government of Egypt’s assistance in helping address the humanitarian situation in Libya — where we’ve been working with them. And of course, as many of you know, we also — we’re directly involved in the transportation through the establishment of an air bridge from the Libyan-Tunisian border back to Egypt for many Egyptians who had been in Libya and were trapped at the border.
On Libya. Let me go through three or four things that constitute an integrated, comprehensive strategy that we’ve had in place. And our government has been focused on this as an all of government — all of government effort, again, in an integrated way as part of our overall effort in the region.
The President has made it crystal-clear that Qaddafi has lost legitimacy to lead, he’s lost the confidence of his people and should leave. He’s sent a powerful signal I think that history is not on Qaddafi’s side and he isolated. And let me go through six or seven points very quickly with respect to our overall effort because it does constitute I think, as I said, a comprehensive strategy aimed at the goal of seeing Qaddafi leave office and having the Libyan people move to a transition.
First, we did work to ensure that the international community spoke with one voice on this, the United States, the Europeans, the U.N., the Arab League, African Union and others deliver a clear message. This has not just been the West engaged in isolation of Colonel Qaddafi. It has been a broad range of countries. And I think that’s critically important as we go forward here. He really is an isolated person now in Tripoli.
Second, we’ve imposed strong sanctions. We moved quickly, indeed before the United Nations Security Council resolution was passed on Saturday, the 26th — we moved on Friday, the 25th — to impose very tough sanctions, including the freezing of over $32 billion of the Qaddafi regime’s assets through our own unilateral sanctions. We moved that evening at 8:00 p.m. that night. We had a principals committee meeting that day that I chaired; we worked through a number of these issues.
We were concerned because we knew that the $30 billion was in an account that could be frozen by the United States and we moved at 8:00 p.m. that evening to ensure that the Qaddafi regime did not undertake any steps to get their hands on the assets.
We’ve coordinated additional sanctions with our European partners and they have enhanced those sanctions just in the last day or so. And you’ve seen announcements from Lady Ashton. We’ve worked with the United Nations on a very tough set of sanctions, and we are expanding our own designations and sanctions to include more members of the Qaddafi regime.
This $32 billion really does constitute essentially assets held in escrow by the United States for the future of Libya. And as a new government, more representative government, emerges in Libya, ultimately this will be an very important corpus of assets to give the new Libyan leadership a leg up on its task forward.
Third, the President made clear we’re taking steps to ensure that members of the Qaddafi regime are held accountable. This is very important. The United Nations Security Council resolution that was passed on — I think I’ve got this right — the 26th of February referred the Qaddafi regime to the International Criminal Court. And we are going to be expanding these designations along the way, including using our intelligence assets to monitor Libyan activities.
As the President said the other day, those individuals around Qaddafi who are taking orders from Qaddafi and executing his plans need to think very carefully about this. They need to think about what they’re doing to their fellow citizens and they need to think about what the consequences are. Walking away now versus participating is the difference between the international community pursuing them to justice, and all the way, and a different future.
Fourth, we have been in direct contact with the opposition through a variety of channels in an intensive way and we’ve been tracking these contacts through a matrix that we’ve been running here at the White House — been in direct contact with a variety of channels. This includes, by the way, senior members of the Council and other individuals within Libya. We’re coordinating directly with them to provide assistance and determine the best ways we can support their aspirations and understand their leadership structures and their intention. We want to hear from them about the situation on the ground, what their plans are, what their recommendations are.
As I’ve said, we’ve been in close contact with these opposition representatives. As Secretary Clinton said today in her testimony — where was it, Tommy? In the House — House Appropriations today — that she will meet — intends to meet with opposition representatives next week. And in addition to that, like I said, there are meetings outside Libya — we’re prepared to send diplomats to Benghazi to engage the opposition inside Libya. This will be helpful to our understanding of the situation on the ground, allow us to facilitate humanitarian assistance.
And to that end I also thought it would be useful for you to know that we’ll soon be sending disaster assistance relief teams into eastern Libya and we have for some time been funding about a dozen NGOs and international organizations who are actively assisting folks in the eastern part of the country.
Now, Secretary Clinton also said today and I want to underscore that we’re suspending Libya’s embassy in the United States. We’re not accepting Qaddafi’s representatives in Washington.
Over time, of course, this will really squeeze and tighten the containment effort around Qaddafi, encourage and provide incentives for those members of the Libyan government to disassociate themselves from Qaddafi, as I said earlier, and again, underscoring that before someone carries out an attack on Libyan civilians they need to know they face a sharp choice and they need to know they’ll be on the wrong side of history and we will ensure they face the consequences.
Fifth, we’re providing assistance to support humanitarian needs of the Libyan people and those leaving Libya. We have helped to repatriate a number of individuals who have been displaced including, as I said earlier, through the use of the air bridge to Egypt. We’re providing assistance directly to the people in eastern Libya through the NGOs, as I said, and they’re operating on the ground. As I said, we’re going to send in our DART team.
And sixth and finally in this presentation, we’re pursuing a range of military options. We called this week’s meetings at NATO. Our ambassador, Ivo Daalder, briefed you earlier on a number of things that we had put on the table going forward here. And today Secretary General Rasmussen announced a number of steps that the Alliance is taking: Increase maritime assets in the central Mediterranean; defense ministers also agreed to move ahead with detailed operational planning on two really important projects I think — humanitarian relief and more active enforcement of the arms embargo; continuing plans for the full range of possibilities and planning — full range of possibilities including a no-fly zone. These plans will be presented next week at NATO.
And as I’ve briefed earlier in the week, I would also remind — earlier this week NATO agreed to put AWACs up over the Mediterranean 24/7 to expand surveillance and coordination.
Defense ministers agreed that any military action by NATO to respond to a demonstrable need had a sound legal basis. And we do seek regional support. This is really important. And it’s not just regional rhetorical support. We’re going to be seeking actual support by those nations — the Arab League, the GCC and the African nations — to participate in any of these efforts as they go forward. Again, not just rhetorical support, but actual participation — which we think is absolutely critical for a variety of reasons that most of you can certainly understand and we can talk about in detail if you want.
Finally, European Council leaders are meeting tomorrow in Libya and we’ll work closely with the EU — and I’ve been in touch with many of my European colleagues during the course of today to ensure the closest possible coordination between NATO and the EU so we can maximize efficiency.
Beyond this, we’re exploring additional sanctions by the United Nations Security Council resolution that will permit more active steps. As we develop scenarios, as we develop planning in response to the situation on the ground, if we need additional United Nations Security Council authorities we will go get that.
So, in sum, we’ve isolated Qaddafi, denied him resources, ensuring accountability, building and maintaining international support, building capabilities to assist the Libyan people. It’s a fluid situation. It’s not going to be resolved overnight. But I think looking at our efforts here — and we obviously have an investment — we’ve acted quite swiftly and steadily to ramp up our efforts here in Libya, as we have across the region.
One more topic and then I’ll take questions — on Iran. And the reason I wanted to raise it is that — and some of your papers have had these stories about how somehow the changes in the Middle East that we’ve seen over the last couple of months work to Iran’s benefit. This is really an important point to think about.
In sharp contrast to the activities in Tahrir Square in Cairo and throughout the region, Iran has really laid bare its hypocrisy. It applauds universal rights of others in the region but continues to suppress its own people, including mass arrests and killing those who dare speak out against the regime. It’s not a surprise from my perspective — who has been at the forefront of our efforts with respect to trying to deal with the Iranian nuclear program — that it’s trying to divert attention. It’s had grave difficulty delivering economic progress. The leadership is out of touch and its narrative of exporting the Islamic revolution has been discredited across the region, as well as within Iran.
Iran is isolated on its nuclear program and support for terrorism. We are continuing to enhance that isolation. And the bottom line is this: The Iranian narrative really does, I think if you do a sharp analysis of this, fall in a quite empty way across the region when compared to the historic changes underway.
So with that, I’d be happy to take your questions.
Q Hi, Mr. Donilon. I wonder if you could give us what information you have on the reported firing by Saudi Arabian police on protesters there, and what kind of conversations you’ve had about how the Saudis might deal with future protests.
MR. DONILON: Ben, I’ve not seen the reports. Have you seen that?
MR. RHODES: Yes. Nick, we’re certainly aware of those reports and, again, consistent with the presentation that Tom gave, what we have said to the Saudis and to all the people of the region is that we’re going to support a set of universal values in any country in the region. And that includes the right to peaceful assembly, to peaceful protest, to peaceful speech. So, again, that’s a message that we’ve articulated in public and in private to the government of Saudi Arabia and to all the governments of the region.
And we’ll of course continue to closely monitor this particular situation, get as many facts as we can about exactly what transpired, since these reports are relatively recent. And again, going forward, though, our message will remain the same as it has been in any country as it relates to the right of people to peaceful protest.
Q Hi, Mr. Donilon. I noticed you didn’t speak very specifically about the possibility of military action, and I think some folks might have a bit of a — taking a somewhat jaundiced view of this might say that there’s a lot of activity going on without any sort of specific way to bridge this desire to have Qaddafi removed. Can you just — I know you’ve answered this question in various forms from time to time — but can you just go through the potential set of options that are currently on the table, ranging from the no-fly zone to other — to humanitarian actions, and just analyze the potential benefits and potential drawbacks?
MR. DONILON: Yes, Glenn, without getting into — thanks for the question. Without getting into specific military planning, let me make three or four points in response to your good question.
The first is that military steps — and they can be kinetic and non-kinetic, obviously, the full range — are not the only method by which we and the international community are pressuring Qaddafi. I think that the really important point I wanted to get across in this presentation, that we have taken a range of steps that I outlined to squeeze Qaddafi, isolate him, really turn him into a pariah. Again, actions not just by the West, but indeed by the entire international community, including a full range of regional actors — the Arab League, the African Union, GCC.
So I think it really is important in any analysis or writing that’s done on this that those steps not be underestimated. These are the initial steps that have been taken. And, by the way, the fact is Qaddafi is isolated, his resources are being impaired. He has, in fact — through the efforts of the people of Libya, now faces a situation where my rough estimate is that half the population of Libya is no longer under regime control, but rather under the control of areas where the opposition is providing governance. So that’s the first point.
Second point, the range of options that are on the table at NATO are the ones that we outlined, and I think they’re really important. We have moved in a number of maritime assets, as I said. And this does begin to give — use the situational awareness and surveillance capabilities that you want going forward.
Second, there are three sets of options that were laid out at NATO for planning. And indeed, the idea here is that should the international community want to move here, if the United Nations passed an empowering resolution that, in fact, these assets — which are substantial and have command and control aspects that are very important — we’d be prepared to go.
And the three that were outlined here are important. It is humanitarian assistance, which could be by air or could be by sea. And indeed, there are ports obviously where such humanitarian assistance could be delivered, like Benghazi. And, again, it would have to be worked out with the opposition groups that control various aspects in the east, but they could also be air provisions of non-lethal humanitarian relief.
Third, NATO is uniquely positioned to enforce the United Nations Security Council arms embargo, and that’s another piece of it. Now, you can go down a full range of issues beyond that, steps beyond that, that I really don’t think I want to do on this call. But it really does all fall into the — and the no-fly zone, by the way, obviously which has been on the table and planning for which is being done.
Now, you could, and indeed we have, looked at a full range of additional options which fall into various baskets, if you will, that range from additional kinds of supply to the opposition; as we’ve said, thinking through a no-fly zone proposal and whether or not that makes sense and it actually is responsive to the challenges; to additional kinds of surveillance going forward.
So I don’t think it would be appropriate for me to go through the full range, except to represent to you that the full range has been prepared and assessed by our government. And on the international basis, the range I outlined to you and that Secretary General Rasmussen talked about today have been assessed at NATO.
Now, a couple of further points. International efforts here, international support is important going forward here. There are a number of nations which have interest in what’s going on in Libya, in addition to the United States. And it’s important in our judgment to have international support moving forward.
Second, that international support I think would be really enhanced — and the activities that might be undertaken be really enhanced by, as I said earlier, active Arab participation, not just rhetorical support, going forward.
Next, we are engaged, Glenn, directly, as I said, with the opposition groups. Secretary Clinton, as she announced during her House testimony today, is going to be meeting with opposition groups. And we have been for a number of days, maybe longer than that, engaged, talking to opposition groups about what the needs are in the — of these groups; as I said, what their organization structure, the decision-making structures — their motivations are, their goals are, going forward. And from that, those sets of encounters, we will be able to, I think — we and others — be able to construct in a more informed way the kinds of steps that we might take next.
Q Hi. Thanks very much. Mr. Donilon, can you give a few more details about the aid teams that you mentioned are going into eastern Libya? Will they have military protection? And do you consider this intervention?
MR. DONILON: There was kind of an echo there.
Q I’m sorry. Do you want me to repeat the question?
MR. DONILON: I think I got it. I’d say — why don’t you repeat the question so I make sure I got it.
Q Referring to what you said earlier about aid going into eastern Libya, will those teams have military protection? And if so, do you — is there any way that this might be construed as military intervention?
MR. DONILON: A couple of points on that. No, these are humanitarian assistance teams. They are not going in, in any way, shape, or form as military operations. They go in with the cooperation of the authorities who are running the operations on the ground in eastern Libya. And it can in no way, shape, or form be seen as military intervention. This is focused on providing the kind of assessment you need to ensure that the most effective humanitarian assistance that can be provided by the United States and by the international community is being delivered.
So to answer your question quite directly: No, not a military operation at all; not going in with military or security personnel; going in working with the permission of and the cooperation of the local entities now who are in de facto control of areas in eastern Libya. And it can in no way be seen as a military intervention. This is purely humanitarian in order for the international community to better assist in a humanitarian way the people of Libya.
MR. RHODES: Jeff, this is Ben Rhodes. I’d just add a couple points to what Tom said there. You have to think about — that there’s several lines of effort on the assistance front. In the first instance, there is the help that we’re providing to people who are flowing out of the country. And that includes the air bridge to Egypt. That includes chartering flights for other people to return to their homes. And that includes the money that the President announced has been allotted to support the efforts along the border.
Then there’s the assistance being provided to the people of Libya within Libya. Right now as we speak there are already NGOs on the ground in Libya providing assistance to the Libyan people, including NGOs who have the support, financial support, of the U.S. government.
To further support that effort, what we’ve done is have the capability to pre-position these DART teams. As you may know, these are teams that are used to dealing in difficult circumstances. They played a big role, for instance, in Haiti in terms of surveilling the needs there and helping to coordinate the assistance. So they’re purely civilian humanitarian teams that are accustomed to dealing in difficult, disaster-like situations and circumstances.
They’d of course be operating within areas, as Tom said, that are already under the control of the opposition, no longer under the control of the Qaddafi regime, and therefore we’d be doing this in consultation and coordination with them.
And then lastly, of course, there’s the additional prospect of further assistance flowing in to the Libyan people through channels such as the port in Benghazi, which is the type of action that we’re talking about with some of our international partners.
MR. DONILON: And you know, Jim — on that, just one last point because it goes back to Glenn’s question as well. As I said, we are in contact with the opposition groups in Libya. There is real sensitivity here about the issue that you raise and it’s important sensitivity. This is an indigenous effort. The people of Libya have, against all the predictions that anyone might have made several months ago, again have control over half — or about half of the country of Libya. And it’s absolutely important to recognize the indigenous nature of these efforts and to be responsive to kinds of requests along the humanitarian lines that we are talking about here.
But it’s important to be crystal-clear about our answer to your question, which is this is humanitarian, not military. And as you know, there’s been real concerns by the — not just the opposition in Libya, but also other countries in the region about military steps on the ground. Thank you.
Q Tom, if you could comment on DNI Clapper on the Hill today was asked a couple of questions that raised eyebrows, one of which was he said that Libya is a stalemate back and forth, but I think over the longer term the regime will prevail. And then second, he seemed to surprise even Senator Levin by saying that China and Russia, in that order, pose the greatest threat to the United States. And I was just wondering if you could comment.
MR. DONILON: Well, on the — let me do the Libya-related question. I may ask Ben to take the China question — because I did see the DNI’s transcript, but I haven’t looked at the transcript on the China/Russia thing, Jake, but thank you for your question.
And I guess I would answer it this way: that if you did a static and one-dimensional assessment of just looking at order of battle and mercenaries, you can come to various conclusions about the various advantages that the Qaddafi regime and the opposition have. But our view is, my view is — as the person who looks at this quite closely every day and advises the President — is that things in the Middle East right now and things in Libya in particular right now need to be looked at not through a static but a dynamic, and not through a unidimensional but a multidimensional lens.
And if you look at it in that way, beyond a narrow view, on just kind of numbers of weapons and things like that, you get a very different picture. The lost legitimacy matters. The isolation of the region matters. Denying the regime resources matters. And this can affect the sustainability of their efforts over time. Motivation matters. Incentives matter. The people of Libya are determined to effect their future.
And indeed, Jake, if you had looked at this just through a static, unidimensional lens 45 days ago and you and I had been discussing whether or not it was possible that the Qaddafi regime would lose control over half the people in his country, we would say probably not. But change is the order of the day in the Middle East right now. And again, you have to look at things fresh and you have to take into account, as I said, the dynamics as well as the multidimensional nature of it.
The last thing I’ll say is, is that a static, unidimensional analysis does not take into account steps that can be taken in cooperation with the opposition going forward here. So I understand how — I do this every day — I understand how someone can do a static analysis, order of battle, numbers of weapons and things like that. But I don’t think that’s the most informative analysis, frankly. I think the analysis needs to be dynamic and it needs to be multidimensional.
So I hope that’s responsive. And again, based on that analysis, I think that you could come to different conclusions about how this is going to go forward.
Last on this — Qaddafi is isolated and the isolation is fairly complete in the world. His resources are being cut off. The international community is engaged in an increasingly deep way with the opposition. So I would just caution that a dynamic and a multidimensional analysis is more appropriate in the circumstance.
Ben, you may have seen the transcript on the other question.
MR. RHODES: Yes, Jake, I’m familiar with the other question. And again, there I think it is a matter of capability versus intent. Clearly China and Russia do not represent our biggest adversaries in the world today, or the nations that we perceive to pose the greatest threat in terms of their intent to harm U.S. interests. We obviously spend a lot of time focused on, as a non-state actor, al Qaeda, but then nations like North Korea and Iran that pose a challenge to U.S. interests.
In terms of pure capability, obviously China and Russia are nations with large nuclear arsenals and large armies. But we have pursued a policy from the beginning of this administration of building cooperative relationships with the Chinese and the Russians and, frankly, those efforts have yielded concrete benefits that have served U.S. interests as well as Chinese and Russian interests.
So, again, these are two nations that have extraordinary capabilities in the securities here, but they are two nations that we are building cooperative relationships with, whereas when you look at the issue of intent — again, intent to be an adversary to the United States, that leads you to focus on nations such as North Korea, organizations such as al Qaeda, who again are a great focus of what we do here every day.
MR. DONILON: And, Jake, listening to Ben’s comment on that, I mean, again, if you do a static, arithmetic analysis, that can take you to a conclusion, but it really doesn’t inform a threat analysis.
And we have from the beginning, as you know, worked very hard on the great power relationships because the platform of a productive, constructive set of great power relationships provide the opportunity for the United States to pursue its interests in the most effective way. And I think the work that we have done building up the relationship with the Russians, across a range of issues that you’re intimately familiar with, and with the Chinese — which is an effort, as you know, I’ve been deeply involved in — whereby we tried to build out a productive and constructive relationship — really do affect that analysis.
Now, that’s not to say — and again, if you look at our quadrennial defense review, if you look at a number of the core foundational documents about our defense posture, that’s not to say that we are in any way not cognizant of various circumstances. But the overall strategic thrust has been to try to build productive and constructive relationships with the great powers as a way to most effectively pursue United States interests.
And indeed, these conversations, we’ve pursued these great power relationship strategies in a very intensive way, not just through kind of periodic summits every six months or year, but we’ve had — now had nine face-to-face meetings with Hu Jintao. Vice President Biden met with Vice President Putin — Prime Minister Putin today in Moscow as part of our ongoing efforts to work on areas of common concern with the Russians.
Q Thank you very much. First of all, is the President happy with an intelligence chief who conducts static and one-dimensional analysis? And secondly, you say that this does not take into — General Clapper’s assessment doesn’t take into account steps taken with the opposition. I mean, does that mean military steps? Because his analysis would suggest — and the military dimension is clearly very important when you’re clinging onto power — that they need something to tip the balance. Thank you.
MR. DONILON: On the first question, the President is very happy with the performance of General Clapper and we work together every single day. I was asked a question about the statement, and I think my judgment on the statement is a static analysis and that you need to take into account the dynamics.
On working with the opposition as part of the dynamics analysis, what I said is that it doesn’t take into account, kind of looking to the future in the increasing work that the international community is doing with the opposition, beginning now with political support, humanitarian support, and deepening those conversations. I think that’s the best answer for that.
MR. RHODES: Yes, and I’d just echo one point that Tom made earlier, which is that if you look at the trajectory of our own efforts with the international community in terms of a steady ramping up of our sanctions, in terms of the introduction of accountability measures, in terms of the provision assistance, and in terms of the consideration of a range of military options, some of which are already in train, those are obviously going to affect the dynamic within Libya.
Similarly, if you look at the trajectory in the region, as Tom said, change has been the order of the day. And I think that any assessment of the situation right now would suggest that history is not on the side of Muammar Qaddafi. History is on the side of the Libyan people, and they’re going to be the ones who determine their future.
And so we are very clear in having a policy that recognizes that history is on the side of the Libyan people, and that those who are around Qaddafi, as they make their own calculations, must understand that dynamic within their country and understand that they’ll be held accountable if they continue to side with the regime that, again, has been brutalizing its own people.
MR. VIETOR: I think we have time for one last question so this will be our final question.
Q Thank you so much. Getting back to the static analysis, a couple of things. Why would the administration present a static one-dimensional assessment to Congress and the world about something this critical? It seems to me that that undercuts, first of all, the obligation to inform Congress fully, and to present a coherent picture of your assessment to the world. I mean, if Qaddafi is not entrenched and is going — is not going to succeed, as General Clapper suggested today, said today, then don’t you think that that is basically presenting a false intelligence assessment to the public — intelligence assessment.
Secondly, if you wait for an international consensus — which is unlikely to come at the U.N. and, therefore, not to come at NATO — aren’t you increasing the likelihood that your pressure, squeezing him through sanctions and other means will not dislodge him?
MR. DONILON: Andrea, on the first question, again, I think that General Clapper was presenting a kind of a flat-out resources analysis in terms of the regime. And he went through — if you look at the transcript — he went through the kind of equipment and resources that the regime has. And I think if you look at it, he said from a standpoint of attrition, if you do an attrition analysis, you get to his conclusion.
I’m talking about looking to the future here, and talking about taking into account various dynamics that I think are in train and could be in train going forward. So, again, if you had sat here and you and I had this conversation 45 days ago, and I had said, my analysis is that Qaddafi would lose half his country by March 10th, we would have said just based on capabilities and numerical arithmetic analysis, that that’s highly unlikely.
But the dynamics in the region are just more dynamic — are just moving faster than that. And there are things underway here across the region that have presented us with circumstances that a year ago, let’s say, would not have come to the fore in a conversation that you and I might be having. And I think you’d agree with that, that the changed dynamics in the region have been of a historic nature.
And what’s happened, of course, is that people, especially young people — and it varies from country to country — have confronted regimes that are not performing for them or that have been repressing them and the fear dynamic has been lost. And when the fear dynamic is lost, the overwhelming force analysis changes pretty dramatically. And we’ve seen that across the region over the last couple of months.
So that’s my response to that. If you ask — if you just do an intelligence assessment of assets, as I said, a unidimensional assessment of assets, you come to a pretty clear — you come to a set of conclusions. But I do think it’s important — and we have been obviously closely following these dynamics across the region — that, in fact, these outcomes are not at all preordained, and there can be, as we talked about in response to an earlier question, there can also be other events and dynamics that intervene.
Now, I went on so long I forgot the second part of your question.
Q Whether if you wait for an international consensus Qaddafi will be completely entrenched. And I guess a subset of that is, is there going to be a move towards doing what France has done in recognizing the opposition as some sort of provisional government now that you’ve suspended the embassy here?
MR. DONILON: Taking the question from the back end, a couple of points. Number one, as I said, we’ve been directly engaged with the opposition groups in learning about the structures that have been emerging, the leadership, who they are, who they represent, and what their goals are. That process has been underway and will be intensified and, indeed, Secretary Clinton will be meeting with representatives of the opposition, as she announced at the hearing today.
Second, as we said earlier in the conversation, we are working directly with, if you will, the de facto group that is running the governmental functions in the eastern part of the country. These are the folks with whom we’re talking about assistance efforts. These are the folks who came to Europe in the last couple days and with whom Secretary Clinton will be meeting.
So there has been — I guess I would — pushing past kind of the complicated legal analysis around recognition, non-recognition — would point to the practical engagement in working with these groups as the de facto authorities in parts of Libya where they are in control.
Q Now, on the first part of your — the second part of your question, I think it’s important to build out international support, particularly among the nations in the region as we go forward here, if you’re going to undertake some of the options that are on the table. And I think, frankly, if you look at history, that in fact the United States and the international community have moved in a pretty expeditious fashion.
I’m pretty familiar with the history of a number of these things, as you know, and I think the fact is that the United States, the international community has moved in a pretty broad way pretty quickly. And we can, maybe offline, we can go through some of the calendars of prior examples if you wanted to do that.
MR. VIETOR: Thanks, everybody, for getting on and we appreciate your time. And we will send out a transcript as soon as it’s ready.
MR. DONILON: Yes, and I really do want to thank everybody for the questions. We wanted to take the opportunity to talk more broadly. And I do think it’s — I really want to go back to the top of our conversation, which is we are focused on, obviously, issues in Libya given the — particularly the great humanitarian interests that are at stake there. But we also remain focused on the broad range of challenges here in the region. And it’s important from our perspective, for the White House and the administration to be doing that, given the stakes, because there really is a tremendous opportunity in the region, and it’s important for us not to — we’ll obviously deal with the crisis of the day, but not to lose sight of the fact that there are very big changes underway in places like Egypt, which really can make a — really will make a historic difference depending on the direction in which they go.
You all have been terrific. I really appreciate it. Look forward to talking to you again. Thank you.
3:36 P.M. EST
Embassy Baghdad has appointed Assistant Chief of Mission for Assistance Transition, Ambassador Peter Bodde, as Coordinator on Minority Issues. Ambassador Bodde will head the Embassy’s effort on the ground, working with local minority communities on issues of mutual concern and coordinating outreach to minority populations. Ambassador Bodde’s efforts will complement those of Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Iraq Michael Corbin, who as the Secretary’s Coordinator for Iraq’s Religious and Ethnic Minorities, has led the Washington-based outreach to Iraq’s minority diaspora community as well as coordination on minority issues with Embassy Baghdad. Minority communities are an historic and integral part of Iraqi society and this appointment will assist in reassuring Iraq’s minority communities that the U.S. government remains committed to addressing the issues they face.
Since the first week of January, Ambassador Bodde has chaired an interagency working group within Embassy Baghdad to focus on these issues and work with the Government of Iraq on its efforts to assist this vulnerable community.
The U.S. government’s commitment to the sustained presence of Iraq’s minorities is integral to our foreign policy goals. While strengthening the Iraqi Security Forces’ operational and intelligence capabilities is key to increasing long-term physical security for everyone in Iraq, we recognize the equal importance of careful advocacy, capacity building, educational, cultural, economic, and humanitarian programs to assist Iraq’s minorities.
RELIGIOUS FREEDOM DAY, 2011
BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA A PROCLAMATION
Our Nation was founded on a shared commitment to the values of justice, freedom, and equality. On Religious Freedom Day, we commemorate Virginia’s 1786 Statute for Religious Freedom, in which Thomas Jefferson wrote that “all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinion in matters of religion.” The fundamental principle of religious freedom — guarded by our Founders and enshrined in our Constitution’s First Amendment — continues to protect rich faiths flourishing within our borders.
The writ of the Founding Fathers has upheld the ability of Americans to worship and practice religion as they choose, including the right to believe in no religion at all. However, these liberties are not self-sustaining, and require a stalwart commitment by each generation to preserve and apply them. Throughout our Nation’s history, our founding ideal of religious freedom has served as an example to the world. Though our Nation has sometimes fallen short of the weighty task of ensuring freedom of religious expression and practice, we have remained a Nation in which people of different faiths coexist with mutual respect and equality under the law. America’s unshakeable commitment to religious freedom binds us together as a people, and the strength of our values underpins a country that is tolerant, just, and strong.
My Administration continues to defend the cause of religious freedom in the United States and around the world. At home, we vigorously protect the civil rights of Americans, regardless of their religious beliefs. Across the globe, we also seek to uphold this human right and to foster tolerance and peace with those whose beliefs differ from our own. We bear witness to those who are persecuted or attacked because of their faith. We condemn the attacks made in recent months against Christians in Iraq and Egypt, along with attacks against people of all backgrounds and beliefs. The United States stands with those who advocate for free religious expression and works to protect the rights of all people to follow their conscience, free from persecution and discrimination.
On Religious Freedom Day, let us reflect on the principle of religious freedom that has guided our Nation forward, and recommit to upholding this universal human right both at home and around the world.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim January 16, 2011, as Religious Freedom Day. I call on all Americans to commemorate this day with events and activities that teach us about this critical foundation of our Nation’s liberty, and to show us how we can protect it for future generations here and around the world.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this fourteenth day of January, in the year of our Lord two thousand eleven, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-fifth.
Introduction in Russian]
SECRETARY CLINTON: (In progress.) There is no satisfaction and no harder job that I’ve had in my life than being a mother.
QUESTION: (Inaudible): “Do you have any artistic talents that you would like to employ?”
SECRETARY CLINTON: (Laughter.)
QUESTION: For instance, she writes, “Carla Bruni records songs. Would you like to play in a movie, for instance?”
SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, a movie would be fine, but don’t ask me to sing, and probably not to dance either.
QUESTION: Dimitry Meyer: “What is your favorite book? Do you have one?”
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, it’s interesting. I was asked this question at Moscow University when I was there in October, and I have many favorite books. But because I was in Russia and I was speaking with young people, I talked about how The Brothers Karamatov had so influenced me as a young person, and I stick with that.
QUESTION: Have you reread it?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I’ve reread it several times. Not recently, however.
QUESTION: I have, and really, it’s an amazing book.
SECRETARY CLINTON: It is –
QUESTION: How he gets inside people is unbelievable.
SECRETARY CLINTON: The combination of his psychological insight and his political understanding is really unmatched.
QUESTION: That’s right. (Inaudible), can feminism be a negative social force, number one. And number two, with whom do you find it easier to work, with men or with women?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I find it easier to work with people who are open, transparent, collegial, either men or women. The question about feminism – I think any “ism” can be a negative, and you have to always try to keep in balance. And certainly, I consider myself a feminist. I believe strongly that women deserve equal rights with men and equal responsibilities. And I’m very keen on helping women to continue to progress around the world.
QUESTION: (Inaudible.) He writes, “I’m a second-year student in the city of Sochi. I’m interested in the acknowledgement of genocide committed by the Ottoman empire against the Armenians. Why does President Obama not recognize Resolution 252? During his campaign, he promised that the U.S. would recognize the genocide, but now that he’s President, he seems to have forgotten.”
SECRETARY CLINTON: I don’t think anyone has forgotten, but what has happened that is of great import is the work going on between Turkey and Armenia. In fact, I was in Zurich last fall with the foreign ministers of Turkey, Armenia, Russia, France, other countries to witness the signing of a set of protocols to normalize relationships between Armenia and Turkey. And in those protocols, there was an agreement between the two countries to establish a historical commission that would look at all of the issues that are part of the past.
And I think that’s the right way to go, I think, to have the two countries and the two peoples focusing on this themselves. I have said many times we cannot change the past we inherit. All we can do is try to have a better future.
QUESTION: Does that commission exist now?
SECRETARY CLINTON: They’re working to create it.
QUESTION: They’re working on it. I see.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes.
QUESTION: I see. Alexander Smirnoff: “Why is the possibility of travel between our countries without visa a long way off, as you’ve said? What is being done to make it easier for Americans to come to Russia and for Russians to visit America?”
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we want to encourage a lot more travel and a lot more exchanges. And as we move forward and we get more experience between our two countries in facilitating business travel, tourism travel, education travel, every kind of travel, I think it will become, at least I hope, easy and easier. And many of our businesses want to have their business leaders come and have open-ended visas. And similarly, a lot of Russians want to be able to come and have as much time as they need. That’s what I would like to work toward.
QUESTION: (Inaudible.) She writes “How do you understand the meaning of double standards in politics?”
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I usually think of it in terms of men and women, but it can also be thought of in terms of countries or groups. I think anyone who believes that their voice is not being heard, that they’re being marginalized, that they are somehow being treated as a second-class citizen, the victim of hypocrisy, we feel as though there’s a double standard. And I’ve seen it in many different settings over the time of my life in politics.
QUESTION: Could it be applying different standards to different countries?
SECRETARY CLINTON: It could be, or to different ethnic groups or religious groups, or between the genders.
QUESTION: (Inaudible): “Being a strong woman and devoted mother, what advice would you give to your daughter regarding a balance between family and career?”
SECRETARY CLINTON: We’ve talked a lot about that because my daughter has come of age when a lot of the barriers that used to exist, that even I experienced as a girl growing up, are no longer there. The legal barriers have been pushed away. But there still has to be a balance in your life, and it has to be a balance that I think looks at what is lasting and most important. And for me, that comes down to family and relationships.
And I tell my daughter and her friends and the young women who work for me that it is very important, if you decide you want to have a career, a profession, to do it, go for it. But never forget, at the end of the day, no one on his or her deathbed ever says “I wish I had spent more time at the office.”
QUESTION: Alexander (inaudible): “What in your view is America’s place in the modern world? Is it a force aimed at supporting the world’s equilibrium? Or is it a force aimed at changing the status quo?”
SECRETARY CLINTON: It’s both in this way, Vladimir. It is a force to sustain an equilibrium that permits countries and individuals to progress, to become more self-realizing. I mean, we want very much to have a strong Russia because a strong, competent, prosperous, stable Russia is, we think, in the interests of the world. But at the same time, there are countries and places where the status quo is just not acceptable. Last summer, I went to the Democratic Republic of Congo. I went to Eastern Congo where 5.4 million people had been killed in the last 15 years, the greatest death toll since the Second World War. We don’t want that status quo to be sustained.
QUESTION: Dimitry (inaudible). He writes: “Have you got an ideal person in politics, past – it doesn’t matter when – but someone who you feel is what you would call the ideal for a politician?”
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, there are many people who I admire, including my husband, I have to add. But I think Nelson Mandela is someone I especially admire. Think of what he went through coming out of a struggle against apartheid, trying to, in effect, overthrow the Government of South Africa, the all-white government.
QUESTION: Yes, yes.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Being in jail, and I’ve been to his jail cell, which was about as big as this table, coming out of jail after 29 years or so, and finding it within himself to not only forgive what had been done to him, but to lead his people in a positive direction. We need more of that in the world. We need leaders who are not prisoners of the past. We need leaders who can imagine a different future. We need leaders who can cut across all the lines that divide us in the world today. And no one exemplifies that more than Nelson Mandela.
QUESTION: I have one more question from a lady who says her name is Ana: “In your opinion, is American mass media independent? How true is it they show viewers and who controls it? In the case of the Russian-Georgian events of a couple of years ago, do you think the American TV channels provided a true picture of what was going on? I think that the Russian media provided a totally different view. Who are the people to believe?”
SECRETARY CLINTON: In this time of mass media, that’s a very profound question. And it’s not only about the American media or the Russian media; it is about all media. I think our country has very free media. In fact, it’s almost an excess of freedom in some people’s minds because our media now basically can say whatever it chooses to say, show whatever it chooses. And there are some in our country who regret that, who wish that there were – there was more discretion about what is shown on our media.
But it is fair to say that everybody comes to any event by looking at it through their own eyes. So I might have 10 Russians and 10 Americans looking at the same thing, but seeing it differently.
QUESTION: Interpreting it differently?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Interpreting it differently. And I think part of the challenge – and that’s why I’m so grateful for this chance to be on your show – is that we have to do more to make sure we see through the other person’s eyes, so we don’t just say, “Well, this is the way I see it, this is how I interpret it; I’m right, you’re wrong.” No, we have to say, “Well, why did you think that?” And “Let’s try to make sure we understand each other better.”
QUESTION: Well, I hope this interview is going to help a little bit, but now we’re going to take a break. We have a little bit of advertising to do.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, yes. I understand that, too.
QUESTION: So don’t go away.
QUESTION: Looking back a little bit, in your book Living History that came out in 2003, you wrote that preserving your marriage with Bill and running for senator were the most difficult decisions of your life. Could you explain that a little bit?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, as I write in the book, there were many things going on at that time in my life and at that time in my country’s life. And trying to balance the personal and the public was extremely difficult. I come from the point of view that at the end of the day, you have to do what is right for you. You cannot make decisions that are being promoted by the press or by other political persons; you have to get very quiet and think about what’s important for you. And so there was all kinds of advice coming in at me from all directions. I think I made the right decisions.
QUESTION: Was your decision to run for president – was that also a difficult decision?
SECRETARY CLINTON: It was, but not as hard, because I worried greatly about what had happened in our country the prior years of the last administration. It’s not a secret that I disagreed politically and I thought that there were a lot of ways that America needed to be strengthened and put on a track that more resembled who we are, what our character is, and that I could make a contribution to that debate. And so I’m very happy I had the chance to run, and it was an extraordinary opportunity. And much to my amazement, the man I ran against so hard for so long, President Obama, asked me to be in his Administration.
QUESTION: And that’s another thing I wanted to ask you. During this – the debates that went on, so you said some pretty hard things about now-President Obama. Did you have any problem at all accepting this offer, actually? You know.
SECRETARY CLINTON: (Laughter.) Well, he said some hard things about me.
QUESTION: Oh, absolutely. That’s the point.
SECRETARY CLINTON: But that’s what politics in campaigning often is about. It was a hard job to accept because I wanted to return to being a senator from New York. I was very anxious to go back to representing New York in the Senate. And when now-President Obama asked me, I was amazed. I couldn’t believe that he was offering me this very important job. And at first, I said, well, I’m not so sure; you should think about this person or that person, someone else. But he was very persistent and he kept coming back to how, despite what superficially appeared to be a tough campaign, underneath that we had so many fundamental agreements about what needed to be done in our country. And at the end of the discussions, I concluded that it was really about serving America.
SECRETARY CLINTON: And when I started traveling as Secretary of State, it was the most common question people asked me, from Indonesia to Korea, all places around the world: How could you work with and for someone against whom you had campaigned? I said because we both love our country. That, to me, was the bottom line. What can we do to continue to serve?
QUESTION: And I take it you have no regrets.
SECRETARY CLINTON: None. No, I have no regrets.
QUESTION: When you were writing or decided to write Living History, did you already know that you were probably going to run for president?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I really didn’t. I know there are people who –
QUESTION: I’ve read, but that’s not the point.
SECRETARY CLINTON: I know. There are people who say that. I didn’t know it. I knew people had talked to me about it and had encouraged me, but it’s such a grueling experience to run for president, and the job is practically impossible.
QUESTION: Pretty grueling experience to write the book.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, it is but we have one president who embodies head-of-state, head-of-government. You have a president and a prime minister. Other people have the same system. Some people have a king or a queen and a prime minister. We have one person. So that one person bears the entire load of symbolizing the country and running the government. So I thought long and hard about it, but it – at the end of my deliberations, I decided I would try because I thought I could contribute.
QUESTION: The book was the book and that decision was that decision –
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes.
QUESTION: — and there was no –
SECRETARY CLINTON: No connection.
QUESTION: Okay. Let’s take a look at U.S. foreign policy.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes.
QUESTION: You wrote an article for the November-December issue of Foreign Affairs back in 2007 and you blamed George W. Bush for the fact that the U.S. kind of had lost the respect and the trust of even its closest allies and friends. Has there been a change now? Do you feel that you’ve overcome what happened during those years?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I do. And here’s why. What I have seen in the last year started with relief that the prior administration was gone and a new administration was in place, a lot of excitement and anticipation about President Obama and what he symbolized and his brand of leadership, and we have worked very hard at rebuilding relationships. Just today in meeting with President Medvedev, we acknowledged that we’ve come a long way in doing that. We still have work to do because these problems are never ending. I think there’s a difference – what some people confuse. There’s a difference between being able to have an open, frank , constant communication which we now have with Russia and other partners in the world, and agreeing on everything. We’re not going to agree on everything.
And sometimes people look at me or look at another foreign minister and say, well, if you’ve got such a great relationship, why don’t you agree? Well, that’s the wrong way to look it because what we want to do is find the areas where we can agree and move forward together, like we are with the START treaty that we’re about to finish. And where we have disagreements, more of those through the kind of honest communication that we now are engaged in.
QUESTION: One of the things that you seem to disagree with is the idea of spheres of influence.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes.
QUESTION: You’ve said that that’s old fashioned, 19th century, whatever and that’s something the United States does not accept. And I was thinking about the resolution that was adopted by the Congress back in 2005, which specified the right of the United States to have pretty much unlimited access to communications centers, the key areas, global resources. What’s the difference between that and spheres of influence? It sounds pretty much like the same thing.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I don’t know exactly what the Congress meant in that resolution five years ago. But what we mean is that, of course, great countries like Russia and the United States are going to have influence. They’re going to have influence globally. When your president or prime minister travel, they don’t just travel in a few places. They travel globally. And they make a case and they negotiate over all kinds of matters. So do we. But there shouldn’t be any automatic presumption that any country because of geographic proximity is within a – quote – “sphere of influence.” We have many countries to our south in the Western Hemisphere. We’re obviously going to try to influence them, but they’re independent countries. They get to make up their own minds about the direction of their foreign policy, for example.
QUESTION: Is the Monroe Doctrine still alive in your mind, which says pretty much stay out of here; this is our part of the world?
SECRETARY CLINTON: No. No. I mean, we recognize the new reality that in a globalized economy, you’re going to have China, Russia, the European Union. You’re going to have constant trade flows and business deals and investments. You’re going to have bilateral foreign policy agreements in the Western Hemisphere, in Africa, in Asia, everywhere in the world. The United States is going to do our best to make sure that we’re in there; we’re not going to cede any ground to anyone. But we don’t expect our partners in the Latin American region to say, “Oh, I can’t talk to Russia because I’m in America’s sphere of influence.” We don’t expect that. We think that is old fashioned and we need to move on so that every country is being given the opportunity to chart its own course.
QUESTION: Do you support the famous adage of Theodore Roosevelt about speak softly but carry a big stick?
SECRETARY CLINTON: It’s a pretty accurate description of what American foreign policy has been off and on for the last hundred years. We know we have a lot of influence and power. We know we have a very strong military. We have extensive economic relationships. But I think what you’ve seen with President Obama is an emphasis on the “speak softly” part. How do we engage better? You’ve seen that very clearly with respect to Iran. When President Obama came in and said, “We will extend our hand if you unclench your fist,” and then directed that we all began to try to reach out, talk with Iran, get Iran to engage with the rest of the world. But at the same time, we always had the possibility of a second track of engagement, which are the kind of sanctions and pressures that we think the time has come to impose.
QUESTION: Since you brought up Iran, I was going to ask anyway: In a worst-case scenario – in a worst-case scenario, do you think it would be possible to use force in Iran?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, that would not only be a worst case; that would be a very last resort. No one wants to see that.
SECRETARY CLINTON: And that is why we’re working so hard to persuade Iran to change its behavior. If you look at Iran – we were just talking a few minutes ago about looking through others’ eyes.
SECRETARY CLINTON: If you look at Iran through the region, the neighbors in the area, they see an aggressive force coming out of Iran that is trying to destabilize other countries –
QUESTION: You’re speaking about Israel or you’re speaking about –
SECRETARY CLINTON: No, I’m speaking about the Arab world.
QUESTION: The Arab world, right.
SECRETARY CLINTON: We hear this all the time. North Africa, Morocco just expelled the Iranians because they were proselytizing and fomenting against the regime in Morocco. It’s very broad, Vladimir, and so it’s not just the United States saying this. I think, as President Medvedev said, no one likes sanctions, but they may be inevitable when you try to change behavior. Our goal is to change Iranian behavior; to have them stop supporting and exporting terrorism; to have them stop proselytizing in ways that destabilize other countries of the region and the broader Islamic world.
QUESTION: But the main thing is the nuclear program, is it not?
SECRETARY CLINTON: It is the main thing, because, if they get a nuclear weapons program, that will launch an arms race in the Middle East the likes of which we’ve never seen.
QUESTION: And it might even provoke a nuclear confrontation.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, heaven forbid. We want to avoid that at all costs.
QUESTION: The relationship between the U.S. and Israel is a very close one. And the United States has always supported Israel, to the point where some people think it allows Israel to thumb its nose at the rest of the world. There are some people who look at it that way. Now, when Vice President Joe Biden was going to visit Israel, right on the eve, the Israeli Government announced that they were going to build 1,600 new housing units in Eastern Jerusalem, which provoked a lot of anger and you were not happy with that. And you spoke to Prime Minister Netanyahu, making it very clear that that was the case. You were very critical. And now according to what I’ve read about a week later, you’re tone was much more conciliatory. Why?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, because we’ve seen the Israelis recognize that the resumption of negotiations between them and the Palestinians must begin. And, therefore, they are looking for ways to improve the atmosphere and to take steps that will produce a positive reaction, not just from the Palestinians, but from all of us who are trying to create this negotiation that will lead to a two-state solution. I think that – we had a meeting of the so-called Quartet here in Moscow that Foreign Minister Lavrov called. And at the table was, of course, Russia, the European Union, the United Nations, the United States, and the Quartet representative, former Prime Minister Tony Blair. We, once again, in a statement, condemned what Israel had done. And we, once again, called for everybody to get back to the main business at hand, which is charting the way toward a state for the Palestinians and security for the Israelis.
QUESTION: I think it was in April in 2008, you were on Larry King. And you spoke about the enormous problems facing the new President, whoever he or she might be. And among others, you said it included winning the war in Afghanistan and ending the war in Iraq. Now, in 2002, you were among those who voted “aye” for giving Bush the right to use force in Iraq. A, do you have any regrets about that today looking back? And B, are you satisfied with what has happened in Iraq, in the sense, do you feel that democracy now is established there and when the U.S. pulls out its troops, it’s going to be all right? And finally, what does it mean to win in Afghanistan?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, with respect to Iraq, I have expressed very many criticisms and regrets about the way that the Bush Administration took the authority and used it with respect to Iraq. Where we are right now is that Iraq just went through another election, which by all accounts is credible, legitimate, an astonishing accomplishment in that region.
QUESTION: All things considered.
SECRETARY CLINTON: All things considered. As they form a new government, as they begin to make these decisions that every democracy has to make about how to allocate resources, we are hoping that they stay on the course that they have begun. Right now, they present at least room for optimism about where they could end up. But at the same time, we know how hard this is. I mean this is tough work trying to bring feuding parties together, people who have not worked in any kind of collegial way, get them all on the same page going forward on behalf of their country. But we’ve seen some signs that are very promising.
QUESTION: But you are confident that the U.S. will pull out its troops?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes, we have made a commitment. We have signed an agreement with the Government of Iraq. Now, we will have a normal relationship where we will continue to support the Iraqi Government. We will provide aid as they request, but we are going to be withdrawing our combat troops from Iraq. On Afghanistan, nobody knows better than the Russians, what a very difficult situation is presented. I think, though, we are seeing progress in creating the environment for a political solution. This is not a conflict that can be won decisively, but enough ground can be gained that the people’s confidence in supporting political reconciliation can be obtained. And that’s what we’re looking for.
QUESTION: Do you accept the idea of working with the Taliban if the Taliban is willing to talk to you?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Under certain circumstances, we do. You cannot make peace with those who will not commit to peace.
SECRETARY CLINTON: You can’t make peace with those who won’t put down their weapons and participate in the political process. But if members of the Taliban renounce violence, renounce al-Qaida, commit themselves to the constitution of Afghanistan, as with many conflicts around the world, then there can be a negotiation.
QUESTION: There’s a question that a lot of Russians have brought up and I figured I’d ask it myself, because I’ve tried to bring in everything that was asked. What really is the difference between Kosovo – which was since ancient times part of Serbia and yet is now independent thanks to support by NATO and, of course, the United States – on the one hand and, on the other hand, Abkhazia and Southern Ossetia, which were part of Gruzia of Georgia and are now independent, thanks to the support of Russia. What is the point of the principal difference if we’re speaking about what we call the integrity of a country, the territorial integrity, in both places? It’s a problem, isn’t it? What makes it okay for Kosovo and not okay for the others?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I think the circumstances are very different from, again, the way we see it. With respect to the break-up of the former Yugoslavia, when the component pieces were breaking up and there were efforts to create independent states, there was a great demand on the part of Kosovo to become independent, because if felt like it had been put into Yugoslavia in a way that was not commensurate with its ambitions or its identity. People basically did not accede to that, but there was internal turmoil within Serbia, which led to the ethnic cleansing that was so demonstrably upsetting to have it take place in Europe. And then, of course, Kosovo decided it wanted to be an independent state.
The way we see Georgia is that Georgia was a much more integrated country. There were different groupings of people as there are in the United States or anywhere else in the world; and that it was meant to be a country where those different experiences, cultures, ethnic identities come together. Now, we understand that from the Russian perspective and from the perspective of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, that’s not perhaps how they saw it. But we see a significant difference and we regret the break-up of Georgia, because we think that an integrated, whole Georgia is much more in the interests of everyone who is in the component parts of it.
QUESTION: Except those who don’t want to be.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, that’s a problem everywhere. I mean we all face that.
QUESTION: All right. Okay. In your view, is the protection of human rights still the cornerstone of the U.S. foreign policy?
SECRETARY CLINTON: It is one of the cornerstones.
QUESTION: One of the cornerstones.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes, it is. Absolutely.
QUESTION: Do you find that it hinders your relationship with China? The reason I ask is because the State Department has issued a paper where China is the number one country that does not respect human rights, followed by Russia, according to the State Department papers. So the feeling, again, a lot of Russians get is that you make an exception for China because the U.S. is so involved financially in China, has such a deep interest in China, but you kind of – you say the words, but you don’t really follow up when it comes to China.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, that’s not the case. What we are trying to do with both China and Russia, is to have such broad and comprehensive relationships that they don’t rise or fall on any one issue, no matter how important. So we always raise human rights with China. We have a very significant difference over Tibet and the treatment of Tibetans; over religion and the suppression of religion; over the treatment of dissidents, lawyers who stand up for the rights of small farmers, people who spoke out against problems after the earthquake. We constantly are raising their concerns and bringing them to the attention of the world as well as to China.
But our relationship with China is very broad. And one of our goals in the Obama Administration is to keep relationships on track. If you get – if you have a hundred things that are important, but you only talk about one of them, well, of course, everything’s going to be seen through the prism of that one, no matter how significant it might be.
So let’s take our relationship with Russia. We have spoken out against the murders of journalists. We have spoken out against some of the oppression of dissidents, because we think Russia is a great enough country that it can absorb dissident expression, that people can express their views and that it adds to the dynamism of Russia in the 21st century. But even while we speak out against that, we’re hard at work in Geneva to continue to finish the START agreement on nuclear weapons.
QUESTION: Is that going to happen soon?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes, it is going to happen soon.
QUESTION: The reset button?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes.
QUESTION: What is necessary, in your view, on the Russia side for it to really work? And what is necessary for it on the American side to really work? Because it can’t be that one side says to the other, “Well, it’s going to work only if you do this.” And the other side says, “No, I’m sorry.”
SECRETARY CLINTON: I think both of us have to change our mindsets and our attitudes about the other. We live with an inheritance of feelings and historical experiences. We were allies in World War II; we were adversaries during the Cold War.
SECRETARY CLINTON: We’re now in a new era. I think one of the best changes that each of us could entertain is looking toward the future instead of constantly in the rearview mirror.
One of the fears that I hear from Russians is that somehow the United States wants Russia to be weak. That could not be farther from the truth. Our goal is to help strengthen Russia. We see Russia with the strong culture, with the incredible intellectual capital that Russia has, as a leader in the 21st century. And we sometimes feel like we believe more in your future than sometimes Russians do.
We have 40,000 Russians living in Silicon Valley in California. We would be thrilled if 40,000 Russians were working in whatever the Russian equivalent of Silicon Valley is, providing global economic competition, taking the internet and technology to the next level. But in order to achieve each of our goals in our relationship, we have to break with the past. We have to be committed to an open and honest and dialogue. We have to be very honest about our differences, and I think we’ve begun to establish that level of communication. And we have to find ways of working together.
A couple of weeks ago, the State Department sent a delegation of business leaders from the high-tech industry plus a famous American actor. They “Twittered” their way through Russia. I don’t know if you had a chance to talk to any of them.
QUESTION: I didn’t, but I read about it.
SECRETARY CLINTON: They met with really smart young innovators. They met with academics. They came back blown away. They said some of the smartest people they’ve ever met are in Russia. But then we asked then, “Well, do you want to do business in Russia?” And they said, “It’s really hard to do business in Russia. It’s hard to get through the bureaucracy. It’s hard to set up the kind of arrangements that we need.” We want to break down barriers. We want to create more free flow of people and information.
QUESTION: On the 12th and 13th of April in D.C., there is going to be a global summit on nuclear safety. I wanted to ask you, do you believe it’s possible to create a nuclear-free world. And are you not of the opinion that it’s only thanks to mutually assured destruction, MAD, that there was no war between the U.S. and the USSR?
SECRETARY CLINTON: That’s a great question Vladimir. I share the vision that President Obama outlined in Prague last spring of a world without nuclear weapons, but I believe it’s a long time off in the future. What do we have to do today to move us closer to this world? This nuclear security summit is one means of bringing together the world to try to do more to safeguard nuclear materials.
The United States and Russia are the leaders, and therefore we are the stewards of the nuclear arsenal that exists in the world. Mutually assured destruction or effective deterrent worked in part because we never stopped talking. We had summits all the time, even during the depths of the Cold War. We had an understanding that each of us was a rational being. Now, we might disagree with your system; you might disagree with our system. But we thought we had kind of common understandings of how human beings think about the world. We didn’t think either one of us was suicidal. We fear adversaries in the world today who are suicidal, who would obtain nuclear material and use it to such great destruction in your country, my country, elsewhere in the world.
So it wasn’t just the fact that we both had huge arsenals of nuclear weapons; it was who we were as a people, how we thought, the premium on rationality. We might see the world differently, but at the end of the day, we chose to survive and to live and to raise families and to build a better future. We can’t count on that with some of the actors on the world stage today, which is why it’s so important what we’re doing in Geneva on START, and it’s so important that we work together to move toward a time in the future.
QUESTION: One of the sticking points in the relationship today is this whole thing about the deployment of an antiballistic missile system in Europe on the part of the United States. And it seems that the United States doesn’t really understand why the Russians are so disturbed by this. And I was (inaudible) ask you what if the Russians deployed a system like that in Venezuela, saying that would protect Russia from somebody out there. Don’t you think it would rub people the wrong way, that they would see a kind of a danger there?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, if that is the perception, then you can see where that chain of reasoning leads. But here’s what we believe and what we are saying. When we look at the threats in the world today, as we were just discussing, we don’t see a threat from Russia, and we hope Russian doesn’t see a threat from us. What we do see is the potential of a nuclear-armed Iran, an arms race in the Middle East with no telling who’s going to be in charge of the weapons, instability in other countries, the extremist violent terrorist network, the syndicate that al-Qaida is a part of, seeking every day to get a hold of nuclear material, development of missiles by states like North Korea and Iran that can reach Russia, can reach the rest of Europe. We have offered and we continue to offer the fullest cooperation with Russia to jointly develop missile defense.
Honestly, we don’t see Russia as a threat. We believe that those days are behind us. But what we do see is the potential for others to fill that danger gap, if you will. So that’s what we would hope for in the future, is to build enough trust that we would enhance our early warning signals and our alert systems, that we would be in constant communication between our militaries, our intelligence communities, that we would have our experts working to jointly create missile defense, because it’s a sad commentary that we’re working so well together, but unfortunately the world that we helped to create, a world that does have nuclear weapons, is now being inhabited by those who don’t necessarily have the same values that Russians and Americans do.
QUESTION: We’ve been talking about U.S. foreign policy and U.S.-Russian relations. I’d like to ask you something about the United States. In your view, what is the most serious problem, or what are the most serious problems, facing the United States? And let’s keep the rest of the world out of this, just the U.S., the American people.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Right. I think we have several challenges. One of them is very general, and that is to make sure that our democracy, which is the oldest in the world, continues to function well and deliver results for people. Therefore, our gridlock in our political system is deeply frustrating to Americans. They look at our Congress and they say, “Why can’t you get anything done?” And our leadership, our political leadership at all levels of government, have to be able to promote – get over their partisan differences and their ideological, philosophical differences, and work for the betterment of the people. That’s the kind of general challenge we face: How do we make sure our system works for the next 200-plus years the way it has for the last.
We also, on the economic front, have to be sure that our economy continues to function for all Americans. I mean, one of the great achievements of the American economy was how broadly wealth was shared, that you could be born into a very poor family and work your way up and be a successful professional in business.
QUESTION: Called the American dream.
SECRETARY CLINTON: The American dream, exactly.
QUESTION: Is it still alive?
SECRETARY CLINTON: It is still alive. But as with any dream that is lived out in the real world, the world in which we are awake, you have to constantly be updating it. And we have a problem now, which I think is common to all advanced economies. Many of the jobs that we used to take for granted that employed people, gave them a good middle class life, we no longer can afford to do them. They’re being done in China or they’re being replaced by technology as productivity increases. Take airlines. Airlines during the global recession laid off all kinds of people who worked behind counters. Well, now they’re coming back and their business is picking up, but they’re saying, look, more people are using the automatic machines. They’re sticking their credit card in. We don’t need all the people behind the counters. We’ll never have those jobs back again.
We have to keep creating jobs because we have to keep the work ethic alive. We have to give people meaningful work that they’re proud to do, that provides a living for them and their families. That’s a big challenge for us.
And then we always work on our equity issues. We believe in equality. It is one of our founding values. We can’t ever permit there to be such a huge gap between those who are at the very top and those who are –
QUESTION: The rich and the poor.
SECRETARY CLINTON: The rich and the poor. And to us that’s an article of faith, but it should be to any democratic economy. You’ve got to keep generating jobs and wealth and a meritocracy so that people feel like they can climb the ladder to success.
QUESTION: Thank you. I am now going to give the floor to (inaudible) to have a few questions. I spoke to him this morning and he –
SECRETARY CLINTON: How’s he doing?
QUESTION: Well, he’s doing pretty well.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well good. Good.
QUESTION: He’s still quite famous.
SECRETARY CLINTON: I’m glad to hear that.
QUESTION: All right. What human quality do you most admire?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Forgiveness.
QUESTION: What human frailty would you be most likely to forgive?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Stupidity. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: What would you not forgive?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Meanness.
QUESTION: What do you consider to be your greatest weakness?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Impatience.
QUESTION: What do you most regret?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I don’t have any regrets, honestly.
QUESTION: To you, what is happiness?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Feeling fulfilled in all aspects of my life, public and private.
QUESTION: What is your favorite word?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Love. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: What quality do you most value in a woman?
SECRETARY CLINTON: The same that I value in a man: humanity.
QUESTION: When you appear before God, what would you say to him?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I’m glad I made it. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: (In Russian), Hillary Clinton. Thank you very much.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER: Thank you, Madam Secretary, for your remarks and for your commitment to religious freedom and human rights generally.
As Secretary Clinton has said, religious minorities in many societies today face serious restrictions on their ability to practice their faith, to congregate with others, to worship freely. In too many places, people are targeted because of their religious beliefs, and they face discrimination, intimidation, and even violent attacks.
This year’s report tells their stories. It relies on a universal standard, that contained in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. These are human rights issues. It provides a baseline for understanding the global status of religious freedom around the world. It details both improvements we’ve seen over the past year as well as government failings.
Let me give a few examples. In Iran, government respect for religious freedom continues to deteriorate, especially for groups like the Baha’i. In Burma, the government continues its tight control of the activities of Buddhist clergy and discriminates against minority religious communities. The release last Sunday of Aung San Suu Kyi is a positive step. However, there are more than 2,100 political prisoners in Burma, including many monks and other religious figures.
In Pakistan, against the backdrop of continued extremist violence against civilian targets, the number and severity of reported cases against religious minorities increased. For example, in May, extremist attacks on two Ahmadi congregations in Lahore killed at least 86 people. In Uzbekistan, government respect for religious freedom declined in the last year in several areas. The government raided Christian and Baha’i services, and many members of minority religious groups face fines or other restrictions.
The Government of Eritria continues to harass, arrest, and detain members of unapproved religious groups. Several hundred religious minority members are today in jail, in very harsh conditions.
And in China, as the Secretary noted, we continue to see restrictions on the Uighur population in Xinjiang on the Tibetan Buddhist community, and other restrictions on religious freedom, including on the unauthorized house churches, Christian churches.
There are some positive steps. President Obama, in his trip to Indonesia, noted that religious tolerance in that country is a defining and inspiring characteristic. The government has set up a national interfaith council. We participated earlier this year in a bilateral religious dialogue.
In Syria and Turkey, the Grand Muftis have spoken out publically, urging tolerance towards Christians and Jews. In Spain, the government has appointed special prosecutors to focus on hate crimes. And in Brazil, an NGO commission on religious – commission against religious intolerance published a guide to combat racism and religious intolerance. And earlier this year, government in Rio created an office to combat religious intolerance.
This morning Dr. Sujay Johnson Cook appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, a step on her way to becoming, we hope, and are encouraging, the Ambassador-at-Large for Religious Freedom. I hope the confirmation process will go quickly, and she’ll be able to join us to pursue this important agenda.
I’m happy to take your questions.
QUESTION: For this year, is there a CPC list?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER: No. The report is a separate exercise from that, but we will be designating countries of particular concern in the next couple of months.
QUESTION: Yeah. If I could follow up on that?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER: Sure.
QUESTION: Vietnam has been – well, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom has urged for more than a year now, I think, that Vietnam be put back on that list. And I think the list wasn’t finalized this year – was it – since the last report. And I’m wondering, why is Vietnam kind of being kept off?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER: Well, the commission, as you know, is an independent body. It has its own designations. This – we will make a judgment, as I say, in the next several months of the countries to be designated as countries of particular concern. We discuss Vietnam in the report. We have concerns about a range of things. In fact, I’ll be going to Vietnam in December to renew a bilateral of human rights dialogue that we did last October, and these issues will certainly be prominent on the agenda.
QUESTION: But do these reports make any differences? Because year after year, you bring these reports out, and we see many countries never change. And you keep telling them each year at the United Nations and our bilateral here and there, including China and other places. So where do you go from here, after producing these reports, on a yearly basis? Unless you force them, and you – even sanctions doesn’t work. So what’s the next step?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER: Well, as I said in my opening comment, these reports are a baseline, a factual baseline that is – that gives us information we need to then make policy. It is – the reports by themselves will never solve the problem. The reports, though, provide information, both for our diplomats but also for other governments, for the United Nations and others, to address these issues. We do raise these issues. I raise them in all of my travels and other senior U.S. officials do. And it’s the combination of diplomatic pressure, public attention, and what happens within societies that makes a difference.
One thing that’s very striking to me about all of these reports is the extent to which those activists, religious leaders, in this case, appreciate the fact that their situation is being publicly identified. So there’s a recognition on the part of those most affected that these issues – these reports give them strength, give them a sense of solidarity and support.
QUESTION: But one thing is there, as far as Middle East or the Muslim countries are concerned, how vigorously you raise these questions. Because ask those women who are under attack or suffering, and they have to be in burqa and all kind of those things and they have no freedom as far as religious because they think in the Middle East or in Muslim countries that women is just producing children and nothing else.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER: We raise these issues everywhere and including in the countries you describe. As you know, for the Secretary, for me, for this Administration, the treatment of women and girls is an extremely important human rights issue. We raise it constantly, and this is part of that effort to be publicly identifying our support for their inclusion in every aspect of their societies.
QUESTION: It’s been pointed out that a lot of the countries here are sort of familiar suspects and come up again and again. But the Secretary just mentioned that you’re also taking note of European countries who are putting harsh restrictions on religion. I’m wondering if you can go into some more detail. Are you concerned about things like the burqa bans and the vote on the minarets and so on? Is Western Europe, in particular, an area of concern where it wasn’t before when it comes to religious freedom?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER: I can’t speak about before. I can say that I’m discussing these issues constantly with our European allies. Let’s take the minaret vote in Switzerland. The government didn’t support that initiative. It was a public initiative. Fifty-some percent, I think 59 percent of the population voted to ban minarets. The Government of Switzerland, and I’ve talked to their representatives repeatedly, is now doing what it can to overturn that and to create a legal and a public process that will basically restore the ability of the Muslim community to build minarets.
The same thing with the burqa ban. We raised that issue. Our own position, and again, President Obama spoke about this in the Cairo speech, we have gone to court in the United States to enforce the right of Muslim women and girls to wear a burqa on the streets, in schools, et cetera. That’s our position. It’s a position we articulate when we talk to our European friends.
QUESTION: Just to follow up, but is it your views broadly that religious intolerance is a growing problem in Europe?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER: There is certainly a growing sensitivity and tension in Europe. And I think what we are urging, again, our European friends to do is to take every measure to try to alleviate that tension. These are – often in Europe and elsewhere, these are tensions between communities, and it’s for the governments to be as proactive as it can in each of these situations to reduce the level of tension.
QUESTION: Thank you, sir. Since 2003, the Christian and (inaudible) communities in Iraq have been the target of a great deal of violence. There’s a great deal of panic among the communities. A town like (inaudible), where the (inaudible) live was blown to smithereens. How do you deal with that panic? How do you deal with people that want to emigrate as a result of this fear and – or how do you (inaudible) and assure them that religious freedom will be protected?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER: We are – and have expressed great concern about the situation of the Christian community in Iraq. The bombing last month of the – Our Lady of Salvation Catholic Church, where more than 50 people were killed, was an example of the abhorrent violence that you describe. We’ve condemned that violence in the strongest terms. We have repeatedly spoken to government leaders in Iraq. And President Maliki has – I think now announced increased security for the Christian community, a rebuilding of that church. But we will continue to be vigilant, and this is an ongoing problem and challenge for all of the people of Iraq.
QUESTION: If I may follow up?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER: Sure.
QUESTION: What about the Assyrian community? I mean, they – I know that the whole town of Sindrah was blown up, and they still are waiting for some sort of aid from the UN or from elsewhere since 2007. Is there anything in particular that is directed towards this community?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER: I don’t have anything to add on that community in particular. I think we’re looking at the whole picture. And obviously, as Iraq creates a government, we’re hoping that there can be a restoration of a better relationship and a more stable situation. A huge number of the Christian population have left the country, and so we are very mindful of the continuing tensions. And obviously, one aspect of that is to try to restore people who’ve lost homes and whose lives have been disturbed.
QUESTION: Has anybody from the Administration reached out to France, especially the French President Sarkozy, about the headgear ban on Muslims and sikhs on their turbans?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER: I can’t speak to the question of whether anybody’s talked to President Sarkozy. I can say that I’ve talked to my counterparts in the French Government repeatedly about this. We have a difference of view. But I think our view is that for all of our allies, we’re encouraging government actions to reduce, alleviate tensions, and to allow people to express their religious faith, including by the wearing of the burqa.
QUESTION: Yes. You mentioned that you are concerned about the increased violence and discrimination against Coptic and Christian people in Egypt. And you have stated several times about this criticism or worrying about their situation. But the Egyptian Government has ignored several times your statement about religious freedom, about freedom of human rights. What tools do you have to encourage the Egyptian Government in – taking into consideration the upcoming parliament election and increase of this violence against Coptic? And we have witnessed two days ago another violent accident in (inaudible). Thank you.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER: I’ve been to Egypt twice in the last year, most recently last month in October. I’ve raised these issues with senior government officials. I was in Egypt first in January several weeks after the Nag Hammadi killings. We urged, and the government did initiate an investigation. There are now three people on trial. That’s a step in the right direction.
But I – my conversations – and I had a number of conversations with religious leaders, both Christian and Muslim, last month – the level of violence may not be increasing, but there’s a great tension. There’s a great sense that this sectarian tension is actually increasing. We’ll continue to raise it. I raised it publicly there; I’ll continue to raise it. These are concerns of ours, and they’re certainly concerns to many, many people in Egypt.
QUESTION: This will not affect any U.S. aid to Egypt or any tools that you may use regarding to the ignorance of the Egyptian Government to these issues?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER: One of the things that President Obama has talked about – a principled engagement. We have a strong bilateral relationship with the Government of Egypt, we have many, many security and other interests which are very important. They’ve been a partner in the Middle East peace process. But these human rights issues are also front and center, and so we will continue to raise these issues, we’ll continue to press them, and the sectarian tensions are an important piece of what we’re discussing with them.
MR. TONER: Yes, Michel.
QUESTION: A report that we got under the U.S. actions in countries of particular concern – you stated Burma, China, North Korea, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and other countries. What do you consider, these countries?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER: What do we consider them?
QUESTION: Do you consider them as CPC or –
ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER: Well, right now, there are eight countries designated as countries of particular concern. Those eight countries are Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Uzbekistan. As I said earlier, we are now reviewing that process separate from this report. This report states the facts. Now, we’re going to have an internal process where we evaluate these, and in the next couple of months, we will designate countries going forward that are on this list.
QUESTION: So do you expect this to get – begin this year or –
ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER: I can’t speak to that. We haven’t had the discussions, so we’ll – as soon as we have the list, we’ll let you see them.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: This report, again, listed North Korea as the worst countries. And so have you discussed or you have any plans to discuss with the North Koreans their human right conditions?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER: As you know, our relations with North Korea are strained, to say the least, and the – we raise publicly and in whatever ways we can a whole range of human rights concerns. The human rights situation in North Korea is desperate, and so on every measure, it is a country that’s a consistent violator of human rights. We will continue to raise those issues publicly in whatever ways we can, try to encourage other governments to do the same.
QUESTION: Follow-up –
QUESTION: So you think the future Six-Party Talks should address North Korea’s human rights conditions?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER: I’m sorry?
QUESTION: The future Six-Party Talks on North Korea should address the human rights issue?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER: We have a special representative here in the State Department, Bob King, whose job is to pursue the human rights issues with respect to North Korea. And I think he’s probably the person you ought to be talking to because he leads that effort.
QUESTION: So what makes Saudi Arabia a CPC country? And concerning the special relationship that you have with the Saudis, how do you raise these issues?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER: Well, we have had a range of concerns with Saudi Arabia in terms of restrictions on religious freedom. They’ve been on the list since 2004. The government bans any public religious observance outside of Islam. Even private religious observance is sometimes interfered with. We are concerned – continue to be concerned about educational materials. The government has made commitments to reform the textbooks and other educational materials. It has done some of that. But there still continue to be in the Saudi textbooks references – very negative, stereotypic references to Christians, Jews, and others, which we regard as offensive.
So we have – these are real concerns. We obviously have a range of other interests as well with the Saudis, but this is part of human rights policy. We will continue to raise these concerns in particular with the Saudis as – until these issues are addressed.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Yeah, in Laos, it seems that most of the interference and persecution is going on in the countryside, according to your report. Is the central government just failing to regulate the behavior of officials out in the rural areas?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER: Now, I don’t think I have much to add to what’s in the report. I will say that we have with the Government of Laos signed an agreement which allows a U.S.-based NGO to provide training on religious freedom, both to government officials and religious leaders. It’s often the case – Laos perhaps and elsewhere – that what the central government is doing is not completely in harmony with what goes on at a local level.
So much, I guess, to the credit of the Government of Laos, they have been open to this kind of a training program and involvement by an NGO, and it’s certainly something we’re going to continue to work on.
MR. TONER: There’s time for a few more questions. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Yes, you spoke just a minute ago of the principled engagement the Administration is after with Egypt. I was wondering if you could speak a little bit more about Indonesia, given the fact that the President was just there.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER: Well, I think – again, I highlighted it as a – kind of an interesting example of a large Muslim country, but a pluralistic country where traditionally, different religions, different religious faiths, have coexisted. We applaud the fact that the government has set up a national interfaith council. As I say, we also, in January, undertook a bilateral dialogue where religious leaders, students, others came together from our two countries.
So one of the things – again, I was in Indonesia earlier this year, and one of the things that’s quite encouraging – as the President said, this is not a clean bill of health. There are obviously still a range of issues still to be addressed there. But there is a sense with the Indonesian Government that they’re engaged in these issues from the president on down, and there is, I think, a potential for us – and we’re eager to do it – to work with them not only with respect to Indonesia but with respect to with the region more broadly.
QUESTION: It’s about Pakistan. The report says the government took some steps, but not enough. And you said, I quote, “But serious problems remain.” Can you explain this a little bit?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER: You’re talking about in Indonesia or –
ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER: On Pakistan. We – there is, as you know, a widespread pattern of violent attacks from extremist groups. I mentioned the one, the bombing in May, but there have been attacks against Christians, against the Ahmadis. There’s still discriminatory laws on the books, blasphemy laws, anti-Ahmadi laws.
We are raising these issues with the Government of Pakistan. The government is taking steps. It’s a very tense situation now and there are tensions within the society. So it’s a mixed picture, honestly. We give the government credit for steps it’s taken, but also recognize that more needs to be done and it’s part of our diplomacy with them.
QUESTION: Are you – did your reporting mention about this – and now again you’ve mentioned about the blaming the extremists. But what about what you say specific laws that discriminate against members of religious minorities in Pakistan? That is under governmental control.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER: Right. And as I said just a moment ago, we are mindful of those laws, we’re concerned about those laws, we raise our concerns directly with the Government of Pakistan. One of the things this report does is identify in Pakistan and elsewhere government actions where – that contribute to the problem. And where we see that, we’re going to raise it. Pakistan is not alone in that.
QUESTION: Just a quick follow-up.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER: Sure.
QUESTION: In earlier answers, you mentioned that (inaudible) you raised these issues. What exactly level it goes and is it just a meeting and then nothing happens, or you expect some results? And when can we hear about those results?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER: I don’t think a meeting ever gets results. There has to be a consistent message delivered by different people and it has to be accompanied by follow-up. That’s what we’re trying to do in each of these situations. We talked about Egypt. I’ve been there twice. I’m going to go back there. There are other government officials raising our concerns. Same think in Pakistan, the same thing in other countries I’m describing.
In some places, we have more leverage than others. It’s, frankly, difficult for us to exactly be the ones to promote a human rights agenda in North Korea because our relationship is so strained. But we will continue to raise these issues publicly and privately, and we regard this – again, the notion of principled engagement is this is part of what we do as a government. We’re going to do it in a consistent way, in a sustained way. Multiple officials are going to raise it and we will keep pushing until we get the results that we’re aiming for. The goal here is to allow people to practice their religion freely. This is a human rights issue and we regard it as one of great importance.
QUESTION: Just a quick one. The Secretary said today that we want to see religious freedom around the world. She also said that she wants to see people of all faiths or with no faith can live together. And Pakistan is a – is your friend country. You’ve been giving billions pumping in. Why cannot you have a clause of human rights and religious freedom?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER: Well, I think what I’ve said – and it has come up in several different contexts, with Egypt, with Saudi Arabia, with Pakistan – we apply a universal standard to every country, friends and countries that we have difficult relationships with. That doesn’t mean we don’t have security interests or economic interests or other diplomatic interests. But we will raise these issues as we see them. We’ll call them as we see them. We’ll write these reports straight out based on a universal standard. And we will continue to press governments to promote and respect religious freedom, the right of people to practice their religion freely without constraint.
MODERATOR: Last two questions. We’ll go in the back and then (inaudible). Go ahead.
QUESTION: Recently, a U.K. congressional delegation visited North Korea and they published a report that they found a little bit of improvement in the religious situation of North Korea, including the new seminary in – Protestant seminary. How is – do you have any comment on that? And is there any reason or examples why you put North Korea in the CPC list, one of the eight countries?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER: Yeah. Again, I’m going to take that question about the report. I have not seen that report. The designation of North Korea was made two years ago. We’re reviewing it now. But from our perspective across the board, human rights are not respected, violated, in North Korea. And I’d be interested to see the report. I’m glad to give you a reaction. But we certainly see a very draconian government there that doesn’t respect religious rites or human rights generally.
MODERATOR: Last question.
QUESTION: Is there any way that these minorities all over the world that face discrimination can take a legal act against their government regarding that they are discriminated against, either an act, legal act in the UN or any other international bodies? Thank you.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER: I don’t know about a legal act. We certainly are trying to encourage a greater international attention to these issues at the UN and elsewhere. Our decision to join the Human Rights Council last year was predicated on a belief that we could, by being engaged, raise these and other issues. So that’s what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to – we, in September, for example, took the lead in a resolution on freedom of association. Part of that relates to religious communities. It’s important that these religious communities, minority communities, don’t feel isolated. And part of what we’re also trying to do with this report and this effort is to make sure that religious groups that are feeling beleaguered and isolated understand that we’re paying attention and we’re helping them.
Thank you very much.