Clinton’s policy planning director on 2012 foreign policy priorities

Clinton’s policy planning director on 2012 foreign policy priorities

The State Department has a new program to give journalists in foreign countries access to senior officials through live web conversations, and the official in the hot seat on Tuesday was none other than Director of Policy Planning Jake Sullivan, who laid out the administration’s foreign policy priorities for 2012.

Jake sat down with anchor and State Department employee Holly Jensen to field questions submitted in an invite-only web-based press conference called LiveAtState run by the Bureau of Public Affairs’ Office of International Media Engagement  (IME). Past briefers have included State Department Innovation Advisor Alec Ross, Deputy Assistant Secretary Tamara Wittes, and U.S. Ambassador to Libya Gene Cretz. Sullivan’s appearance yesterday fits nicely into State’s 21st Century Statecraft month.

 The briefing was only viewable to those foreign journalists that participated, but The Cable sat in on the taping.

Sullivan said that one of the main items on the administration’s foreign-policy agenda was "to shift from a decade of war and a focus on threats, which by necessity the last 10 years were mostly about, to a decade of opportunities."

These opportunities, according to Sullivan, include efforts "to help support democratic transitions in the Middle East and North Africa, opportunities to consolidate America’s engagement as a Pacific power … opportunities to deepen partnerships in our own hemisphere as we head into the Summit of the Americas in April of 2012, and opportunities to drive a development agenda alongside our diplomacy agenda that gets to issues like health and food and climate so that we are creating better chances for people across the world."

Here are some excerpts of Sullivan talking about the 2012 road ahead for U.S. foreign policy in several other countries, after the jump:

On the Israeli-Palestinian conflict:

With respect to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, we are heartened by what we have seen over the course of the past few weeks with the Jordanian initiative to help broker direct face-to-face contacts between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators, where they can sit and actually discuss the real issues of the conflict, starting with territory and security.  And we would like to see that process continue.  Indeed, we’d like to see it grow into a sustained and systematic negotiating process that takes on all of the permanent status issues that have divided the parties and kept peace elusive for all this time.

And so the combination of the political efforts and the state and institution building efforts that we are supporting is something that will remain a top priority for us in 2012.  This is not to say that it’s going to be easy.  It won’t. 

On Iran:

Well, our long-term goal with respect to Iran is quite straightforward in terms of how we state it.  It’s not as straightforward in terms of getting there.  It is to, ultimately — after Iran has fulfilled its obligations — welcome the people of Iran back into the international community as full participants.  That is what the President and the Secretary have said since the start of this Administration.  We would like to see Iran with a future that is as bright as – and as potent as the history of its great ancient civilization.   

Now, in order to get from where we are today to there requires Iran to take steps to come into compliance with its international obligations.  That goes for its nuclear program.  That goes for its sponsorship of terrorism and violence and its efforts to destabilize actors in the region.  And in that regard, the question of Iran and Afghanistan and Iran and Iraq comes into play.  We look to Iran to take steps to ensure that they are not engaging in activities in either Afghanistan or Iraq that attempt to destabilize or advance an agenda of violence or attempt to thwart the democratic aspirations of the people of those countries. 

On China:

We are looking ahead, just in a few weeks time, to the visit – the return visit – of Vice President Xi [Jinping] who will come to Washington and then go out to the American heartland to Iowa.  I’m actually from Minnesota myself, which is a state that borders Iowa to the north, so we’re going to be pleased to welcome the vice president to see, once again, life in the American Midwest and the values that the people of the heartland reflect in their daily lives.  And then he’ll go out to Los Angeles.

And that visit will be an important opportunity for us to both take stock of the progress we’ve made, to address some of the differences that remain between us, and to look forward to an action-oriented period of cooperation on significant issues… And we will also be clear along the way that we continue to have concerns about human rights in China and that we believe that, for China’s future, it is in the best interests of all of the people of China for the government to pursue a path of increasing respect for human rights and for political reform.

On missile defense cooperation with Russia:

So we do believe very much that missile defense cooperation … will be in the long-term best interests of our own countries and of regional peace and security.  And that is really, I think, what underlies Under Secretary [Ellen] Tauscher‘s observation that we have been in an intense dialogue with the Russian Government about how we might work together.  That dialogue has existed at every level, including at the level of President [Barack] Obama and President [Dmitry] Medvedev.  And we would like to see 2012 as a year where we could make progress on this issue, where we could deepen understanding, where we could find ways to work together on questions related to missile defense, where we could ensure that there is transparency and understanding on both sides of what we are seeking to achieve and how we are seeking to achieve it.

On Pakistan:

The stakes in this are very high.  We believe very much that cooperation between the United States and Pakistan on a broad range of issues is fundamentally in the interests of our two countries.  And that’s not just true in the counterterrorism space, although that’s very important.  It’s also true in the way that the United States and the international community can support the democratically elected government of Pakistan and can support an economic program over time that will lead to growth and economic stability in Pakistan so that it does not face the kinds of challenges it has faced in the past.

So we will see over the course of the next several weeks an intensive period of work to deal with the very real issues that continue to exist between the United States and Pakistan in our relationship, and we’re going to try to do that in a straightforward way and we’re going to try to do it in a way that keeps our eye on the long game.  And hopefully, the Pakistanis will do the same.  And in the long game, the United States and Pakistan have much more to gain through cooperation than through any other dynamic that might emerge in our relationship.