Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was in Cairo Wednesday and toured Tahrir Square, the symbolic heart of the peaceful uprising that toppled longtime ruler Hosni Mubarak. She also met with some protest leaders, as well as members of the military government. Clinton spoke with NPR's Steve Inskeep about the changes in Egypt, the release of CIA contractor Raymond Davis in Pakistan, the situation in Libya and the crackdown in Bahrain.
Inskeep: Okay, we'll jump right into it. Again, I'll try not to take up too much of your time. Before I ask about Egypt, I'm obliged to ask you about one other thing — Raymond Davis. Can you explain why, in your view, it was a wise idea in the long term to pay blood money for Davis's release?
Secretary Clinton: Well, first of all, the United States did not pay any compensation. The families of the victims of the incident on January 27 decided to pardon Mr. Davis. And we are very grateful for their decision. And we are very grateful to the people and government of Pakistan, who have a very strong relationship with us that we are committed to strengthening.
According to wire reports out of Pakistan, the law minister of the Punjab Province, which is where this took place, says the blood money was paid. Is he mistaken?
Well, you'll have to ask him what he means by that.
And a lawyer involved in the case said it was $2.34 million. There is no money that came from anywhere?
The United States did not pay any compensation.
Did someone else, to your knowledge?
You will have to ask whoever you are interested in asking about that.
You're not going to talk about it?
I have nothing to answer to that.
Okay, let me move on to Egypt here and other countries as well. Having had some meetings here, has the United States, because of the events in the last couple of months, lost influence in Egypt?
I think that the United States has a different form of influence. We are now dealing with a developing democracy. We have a lot of practice doing that around the world. It was clear from my meetings yesterday and today that both government officials, as well as private citizens – civil activists, youth activists – want the United States to be helpful, and we are going to look for every way we possibly can.
Although you have a country where [former Egyptian President] Hosni Mubarak was an ally, and willing, in some cases, such as policy towards Israel, to do things that were clearly against Egyptian public opinion. If a democracy is formed here, whoever runs this country will have to be responsive to public opinion.
Well, Steve, first of all, the Camp David Accords set out certain obligations on the part of Egypt. And those obligations were immediately accepted by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces after the changeover in government here. So I think those were obligations that the state of Egypt assumed. And we were very pleased to see those reaffirmed by the Supreme Council.
What if we get more specific? If you think about Egypt helping Israel to blockade Gaza, which Egypt has been doing, that's something that's very unpopular here by all accounts and not necessarily something that would be envisioned in the Camp David Accords. Could not Egypt in some ways move away from — make some distance between the U.S. and Egypt in its policy toward Israel?
Well, that will be up to the new Egyptian government. But I think there's also an argument that Egypt's got security interests in not permitting the import and export of arms and possible ingress and egress of terrorists. So it's not only what Egypt will or won't do with respect to Israel, it's what Egypt will decide is in its interest to do. And that will be up to the Egyptian government to determine.
Do you expect that Egypt's interests will lead it to the same decisions that it made under Hosni Mubarak, as far as foreign policy is concerned?
No, I think there will be different decisions. But I think that there is such an interest in keeping the peace in the region. Egypt has got a lot on its plate. It's going to have to politically reform, economically reform. It's got a big agenda ahead of it. I think the last thing it wants is to see any kind of problem between itself and its neighbors.
So, I think that there's always a likelihood that no two countries will agree on everything. That we don't expect. And we certainly look to Egypt exerting leadership in the region and beyond, and doing so as a democratic nation, which we think will be a very good example.
But, Madam Secretary, as some people will know, you toured Tahrir Square while here in Cairo, the scene of the protests. One week ago, in Tahrir Square, the army moved in against protestors who were occupying that square, arrested well over 100 people. A number of those people say they were tortured. I visited a man who said he was tortured and who had clearly been beaten severely. He had injuries all over his back. Did you speak, in your meetings with Egyptian officials, about the way that the new government is treating its citizens now?
Well, I certainly raised the concerns that you just mentioned, because they were raised with me. And I was assured that they would be looked into, which I expect will be done.
One of the challenges for this new Egyptian government is to create a police force and to have a well-trained police force that respects the human rights of its citizens. And they are very committed to that. As you know, they've dissolved the state security apparatus yesterday, and I had a lengthy discussion about what it will take to try to create a new security system that will be respectful.
How are they going to do that?
They are going to start. They are very determined to do it, but it's a big task. I mean, I think that is important that certainly the army has tried to assert a very careful control. They do have problems. As you know, there were a lot of criminals who broke out of prisons that, unfortunately, have not yet been apprehended, and there are signs of lawlessness. They're trying to move as quickly as possible to turn over law and order to a police force. That is not something that the army has told me that they have any intention of continuing. So there are some questions and some allegations that deserve and should be investigated, and I was told they would be.
We have also been talking here in Cairo with correspondents coming out of Libya, where the rebel position at the moment appears to be collapsing. The view seems to be that it is likely too late for a no-fly zone imposed from the outside to make very much difference. Is it too late?
I don't think so. I don't want to put a timeframe on what is likely to happen in Libya. I'm well aware that Gadhafi is moving against the rebel stronghold in Benghazi. I have received different estimates as to how long it will take him to do what he intends to do, to try to crush the rebellion.
But I think it's important to note that there is intensive negotiation going on in New York as we speak to try to obtain authorization from the Security Council that will provide a series of potential actions, including a no-fly zone that could be taken. And I think that is the appropriate venue. There should not have been unilateral action by any country. When the Arab League made its decision on Saturday, that changed a lot of people's assessment about what could and should be done. And part of what is being discussed in New York is how much leadership and participation can be expected from the Arab states.
I invited questions from our listeners before this interview. And one question came in from a man named Jim Voorhies from Nashville, Tennessee, who asked about uprisings through the Arab world such as Libya, where there is a great resistance or oppression by the government. And he asks: How long will we fail to help?
Well, Steve, that is not a question that should be only directed to the United States, with all due respect to your listener. I think that President Obama has been absolutely right in being clear in saying that Gadhafi has lost the legitimacy to govern. But as you know very well, there is a vigorous debate by people of good faith as to whether any particular action is called for, or would be effective.
But there is very little debate that the Security Council, in its Resolution 1970, did not authorize any no-fly zone, any delivery of arms, or any other kind of assistance, other than humanitarian assistance. Now, we are in a different environment where enough countries have watched what was happening. The Arab League has taken its stand. And now, countries that said flat out they were opposed, they would veto, they would never support, are reconsidering.
Meaning that you don't have that option? You cannot act with an international consensus, because it doesn't exist? That's what you're saying?
But we are working to achieve that international consensus. But I think —
By the time you do, it's going to be too late, isn't it?
Well, sometimes – we have – I wake up every day and I look at violence around the world. I look at women being murdered who marched on International Women's Day in Cote d'Ivoire. I look at women and men being murdered in eastern Congo. I see a lot of violence by bad guys all over the world.
And the United States has, for decades, tried to enforce the peace, tried to stand against people who were abusing their own people to a terrible degree. But we haven't been able to do everything that everyone would want us to do.
But one thing that we are clear about is unilateral action would have unintended consequences that we cannot undertake. If there is international decision in the Security Council, then the United States will join with the international community.
As a realist, watching the news from Libya, watching the news from Bahrain, where the government has fired on protestors, are you in a position of accepting that some of the Arab uprisings are simply going to fail?
No. But we are in a position of supporting the popular uprisings by people themselves and doing everything we can to help nurture that democracy. We're alarmed by the situation in Bahrain, and we have spoken very forcefully against the security crackdown, in fact, at the highest levels of the government. And with the Gulf countries, we've made it very clear that there cannot be a security answer to what are legitimate political questions. And the sooner that the government of Bahrain and the opposition, which has resisted negotiations as well, get back to the negotiating table, the more likely that this matter can be resolved. And there has been absolutely no doubt about where the United States has stood on this. And we have communicated that in every way possible.