Iraq situation too unclear to support U.S. military action, Hillary Clinton says

Former U.S. secretary of state Hillary Clinton says she would not support U.S. intervention at this stage in the escalating crisis in Iraq were she still part of the administration. Clinton made the remarks during a wide-ranging interview with CBC's Peter Mansbridge that will air on The National tonight.

Iraqi PM has not fulfilled U.S. conditions, former secretary of state tells CBC's Peter Mansbridge

Hillary Clinton full National interview

9 years ago
Duration 17:47
Featured VideoPeter Mansbridge speaks with Hillary Clinton about Iraq, her book and what's ahead.

Former U.S. secretary of state Hillary Clinton says she would not support U.S. intervention at this stage in the escalating crisis in Iraq were she still part of the administration. Clinton made the remarks during a wide-ranging interview with CBC's Peter Mansbridge that will air on The National tonight.

"I would not support any action unless there was a very clear understanding of what [Iraq Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki] would or wouldn't do, who was running the army and what third parties were going to be involved," Clinton said. 

  • Watch the full interview on The National at 9 p.m. ET on CBC News Network

In the interview, Clinton answers questions about the Islamic insurgency that has captured several Iraqi cities and overwhelmed the country's security forces in recent days, as well as climate change and the pressure on her from American women to run for president in the next election.

Clinton was in Toronto Monday delivering a keynote address to the Toronto Region Board of Trade as part of a promotional tour for her new book, Hard Choices

Clinton said Iraq's situation is "more hopeful" than it was days ago after the country's security forces rallied around Baghdad.

When asked if Iraq's problem was al-Maliki himself, Clinton admitted the U.S. has been disappointed with the leader, who has been in power since 2006.

"I have made it clear that I would not support any effort by the United States to back up his government unless the conditions we had been asking for for a number of years had finally been met," she said.

But al-Maliki does have support on the ground in Iraq, Clinton added.

"The bottom line is he was just re-elected," she said. 

Clinton 'well aware' of pressure to run

When asked to comment on Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper's statement that no country will take action on climate change if it damages the economy, Clinton pointed to the subsides that the U.S. already provides for fossil fuels, something she said is being increasingly scrutinized but still exists.

Former U.S. secretary of state Hillary Clinton, right, discusses her new book Hard Choices next to former New Brunswick premier Frank McKenna in Toronto on Monday. (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press)

"The government’s already got a really heavy thumb on the scale," she said.

"Let’s put an equally heavy thumb on the clean energy, renewable side, and I will guarantee you there is a path forward that will minimize the economic disruption."

Clinton also said she was "well aware" and "touched" by the enormous expectations on her from women who want to see her run for the presidency.

She said winning the presidency would break "the highest and hardest glass ceiling."

Clinton said there are a number of women in the Democratic Party who are qualified to run for the Oval Office — she didn't name names but said there are senators and governors she thinks are capable — but they "haven't gone through the fire" of life at the upper levels of the U.S. administration.

"Part of the reason why there's a big drum beat for me to run, is that I've done it," she said.

Clinton praises Ontario premier

During her speech to the Toronto Region Board of Trade, Clinton praised Kathleen Wynne, expressing admiration for how the Ontario premier conducted her recent election campaign, which led to her party's surprising majority victory. 

Clinton said Wynne is "ready to make a lot of changes," after what was "a very positive, agenda-driven campaign on her part."

Clinton also spoke about her country's relationship with Canada, how she agonized over Barack Obama's offer to make her secretary of state and the tense moments she experienced on the night U.S. Navy SEALS killed Osama bin Laden.

Clinton began by speaking about her country's close relationship with Canada, one she said could be a model for successful global partnerships elsewhere in the world.

"Many Americans may take our relationship with Canada for granted, but I don't," she said. "We need more partners and fewer adversaries and we can never take a trusted friend for granted."

Book gives glimpse into White House life

Clinton's 656-page book Hard Choices, is in part a memoir about her time in the State Department. But as she told the Toronto audience on Monday, one of her hardest choices was saying yes when newly elected Obama, her opponent in the Democratic presidential primaries, offered her the job of secretary of state. 

Clinton and Obama had waged a very tough nomination campaign against each other. After Obama became president, the two met in what Clinton describes as a meeting akin to an "awkward first date" between teenagers.

Obama made it clear he would not take no for an answer, but Clinton remained reluctant. She was anxious to continue her work in the Senate as the country struggled through a crippling economic depression.

"I thought, 'Suppose the tables had been reversed and I had won and I was asking him to be in my cabinet," said Clinton. "When your president asks you to serve, I think you should."

Clinton watched in the war room the night a U.S. Navy SEAL team stormed bin Laden's secret compound in Pakistan. She recalls as a "heart stopper" the moment one of the U.S. attack helicopters crashed in what was eventually a successful mission.

Clinton said she was sworn to secrecy about the mission, and didn't even tell her husband, former president Bill Clinton, about the operation. After the mission was over and bin Laden was dead, Obama called each former president to relay the news. When he got to Bill Clinton, Obama assumed Hillary had already told her husband about the mission.

"When [Obama] got to Bill he said 'No, she didn't tell me at all!"

With files from The Canadian Press