July 15th, 2009
01:09 PM ET
12 years ago

Iran crackdown 'shifted' prospects for U.S. talks, Clinton says

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Iran's crackdown on protests after its disputed presidential election has "shifted" its prospects for direct talks with the United States, but they remain on the table, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Wednesday.

The Obama administration has held open its offer of talks with Iran, which has not had diplomatic relations with Washington since 1980, despite the clampdown on protesters in Tehran and other cities. Clinton said that offer remains the "best vehicle" for engaging Tehran - but as President Barack Obama did last week, she warned that it "will not remain indefinitely."

"Neither the president nor I have any illusions that dialogue with the Islamic Republic will guarantee success of any kind, and the prospects have certainly shifted in the weeks following the election," Clinton told an audience at the Council on Foreign Relations.

"But we also understand the importance of offering to engage Iran and giving its leaders a clear choice - whether to join the international community as a responsible member or to continue down a path to further isolation," she added. "Direct talks provide the best vehicle for presenting and explaining that choice."

Iran has refused international calls to suspend its production of enriched uranium, which it insists will be used to fuel civilian nuclear power plants. Clinton said Iran has the right to a peaceful nuclear program "if it re-establishes the confidence of the international community" that its nuclear technology will not be put to military use.

"The choice is clear - we remain ready to engage with Iran, but the time for action is now," she said. "The opportunity will not remain indefinitely."

Clinton said the United States has been "appalled" by Iran's crackdown on protesters who accused the government of rigging the June 12 election, in which hardline incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was re-elected. But, she said, "we know that refusing to deal with the Islamic Republic has not succeeded."

Clinton's remarks came during a wide-ranging speech on the administration's international policy priorities, which she said will involve "a more flexible and pragmatic posture" than the Bush administration typically took with U.S. allies.

"Standing firm on our principles shouldn't prevent us from working together where we can," she said. "So we will not tell our partners to take it or leave it, nor will we insist that they're either with us or against us. In today's world, that's global malpractice."

She said promoting development will be one of the "core pillars" of the new administration, and the State Department will make sure that U.S. aid is used "effectively and with tangible results."

"Let's face it, we have devoted a smaller percentage of our government budget to development than almost any other advanced country, and too little of what we have spent has contributed to genuine and lasting progress," she said.

She said development aid is particularly important in Afghanistan, where U.S. and allied troops are battling a resurgent Taliban, the fundamentalist Islamic militia that ruled most of the country before its al Qaeda allies attacked New York and Washington in 2001.

"To eliminate al Qaeda, we must also fight the Taliban," she said. But she said the United States knows that not everyone who fights alongside the Taliban supports their "extreme policies" or al Qaeda.

"We and our Afghan allies stand ready to welcome anyone supporting the Taliban who renounces al Qaeda, lays down their arms and is willing to participate in the free and open society promised in the Afghan constitution," she said.

Filed under: Hillary Clinton • Iran
soundoff (12 Responses)
  1. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA

    They're still allowed to the table. The Iranian government has decisions to make immediately. As for the Taliban, I don't want talks with them. Those are the bastards who harbor Al Queda. I don't see how you get a distinction between Al Queda and the Taliban. They're the same entity in my eyes.

    July 15, 2009 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  2. Franky, Land of Lincoln

    You go girlfriend! LOL!!! 🙂

    Boy, she's feeling better, huh? Her shoulder looks good. Good to hear she's fine, 🙂

    You guys think Hillary is gonna have a defining moment for her during this time? This I can tell you for sure...if she does, it will be WAY better than her husbands last unforeseen incident, LOL!!! 🙂

    July 15, 2009 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  3. Kelby In Houston, TX

    I hate the fact that we are trying to engage diplomatic relation with Iran after they had a sham election and violence in their streets. It is abundantly clear that Tehran's selected government does not represent the will of the people who live there.

    July 15, 2009 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  4. Randolph Carter

    Don't tell me those pesky Iranians are still mad at us for operation ajax. Jeez, that was over 50 years ago. Some people just don't know how to move on. Have a nice day!

    July 15, 2009 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  5. maxx atl

    Thank you Secretary Clinton! You are the best. Lets go

    July 15, 2009 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  6. Rob

    C'mon now Hil, give Obama a chance. He'll eventually cave in to whatever Iran wants. After all, Obama gave away his backbone in order to get votes. Gee, with the way he promised that if his 'stimulus' bill got passed that unemployment wouldn't go above 8%, I'd sure trust him if/when he says sitting down with Iran will make sure they don't try to nuke us or Israel.

    July 15, 2009 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  7. Caucasian-American

    Wow..... more real tough words from the Obama administration. Iran must be terrified.

    July 15, 2009 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  8. Bill in California

    OCTOBAMA'S FOREIGN POLICY is about as well thought out as the old lady who picked up the venomous snake on the side of the road to keep him warm. I'm sure the Iranian government will be glad to receive economic concessions from the people's they have sworn to wipe off the face of the earth.

    July 15, 2009 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  9. Darth Vadik, CA

    How is what Iran did different from Bush administration creating Free Speech Zones so Bush couldn't hear the whole country booo-ing him?

    A lack of freedom is a lack of freedom, no matter what lipstick you put on a pig.

    July 15, 2009 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  10. Larry

    1). We're never going to eliminate the Taliban or al Qaeda. That's too stupid to even think about. What are we going to do, look under every rock for them. How will we know we've killed EVERY bad guy? That sounds like Bush's thinking.

    2). President Obama, you've enjoyed a popular presidency but patience is wearing thin on these wars. We're no longer interested in getting involved in other nation's problems. Iraq and Afghanistan have run our economy into the ground, if you haven't noticed.

    3). The world has been laughing at us for years. I don't think our empty threats are going to concern other countries anymore.

    July 15, 2009 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |