United States Institute of Peace

The Iran Primer

Clinton: U.S. Must Test Diplomatic Option

            On November 29, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that “it’s imperative that we do everything we can – unilaterally, bilaterally, multilaterally–” to reach an agreement with Iran on its nuclear program. The key word may have been "bilateral," indicating that Washington is open to direct talks with Tehran. She made the remarks after a speech at a join event hosted by the State Department and the Foreign Policy Group. The following is a transcript of her exchange with Robin Wright.

ROBIN WRIGHT: I want to ask you about Iran, and to speak with the same kind of candor you did about Syria. This morning, Dennis Ross said that he thought this year was going to be a decisive year. Apparently, one of the U.S. representatives in Vienna today said that we’re talking about a March deadline – if you could explain that a little bit further.
 
And tell us realistically what prospects you think there is for compromise with Iran, given the past year of efforts by the United States.
 
And also, if you believe that Israel is fully on board in letting the United States take the lead and not going off on its own path.
 
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, as to the last question, I’m not going to speak to any country’s security decisions other than our own. Obviously, that’s up to Israel to decide. However, I will say that we continue to believe that there is still a window of opportunity to reach some kind of resolution over Iran’s nuclear program. Now, I’m not a wild-eyed optimist about it, but I think it’s imperative that we do everything we can – unilaterally, bilaterally, multilaterally – to test that proposition.
 
I think what was meant about the March reference was either about the IAEA and its continuing work or the fact that we finished our election and now would be a good time to test the proposition that there can be some good-faith serious negotiations before the Iranians get into their elections, which are going to heat up probably around the March period, heading toward a June election.
 
I think that it’s a difficult matter to predict, because it really depends upon how serious the Iranians are about making a decision that removes the possibility of their being able to acquire a nuclear weapon or the components of one that can be in effect on a shelf somewhere and still serve as a basis for intimidation.
 
We get differing reports, as I’m sure you have seen, as to how serious the Supreme Leader is about that, but we want to test the proposition. This President came into office saying he was prepared to engage with Iran, reached out to Iran, without much reciprocity. We put together this unprecedented coalition to impose these very tough sanctions on Iran. We know they’re having an effect internally. But I think that we’ll see in the next few months whether there’s a chance for any kind of a serious negotiation. And right now, I’m not sure that it can happen, but I certainly hope it does.

 

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