QUESTION: Robin Wright.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Hi, Robin.
QUESTION: 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.
MODERATOR: Okay, we have time for one more question. And I know this will address a part of the world we haven't addressed much of today. Let me turn to Muni Figueres.
QUESTION: Thank you. Madam Secretary, I'm Ambassador of Costa Rica. I'm sitting next to the Ambassador of Honduras and the Ambassador of Dominican Republic. So my question to you is about the war on drugs and the violence that it has inflicted. Do you - since we're all, I think, sort of agreeing that we need to reconfigure it, or it's being reconfigured even as we speak, are you hopeful about eventually winning it?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think that one has to look at a couple of examples, because certainly Colombia is a lot more secure and a lot safer than they were 10 years ago. I remember very well when then-President Uribe couldn't even be inaugurated without the drug traffickers, in alliance with the FARC, basically firing artillery rounds into the square where the inauguration was to be held.
So I think you can, with a comprehensive strategy, succeed in certainly pushing back the tide of violence and corruption that drug trafficking brings. I think Mexico has made progress. They would be the first to say that it's a very difficult path, but they have succeeded in certainly diminishing the power of some of the main cartels. I think Central America, with both you and the Ambassador from Honduras know how you are squeezed between Colombia and Mexico, and often without the resources that larger countries have to deal with the threats from the drug traffickers, which is one of the reasons why we are trying to work with all of your countries in Central America. Certainly the Ambassador from the Dominican Republic knows how vulnerable the small Caribbean nations are. They don't have adequate coast guard or any other capacity to protect themselves. We are trying to do more on that front.
So I think that there are several problems that you have to address simultaneously, and certainly working to improve the institutions of government are good no matter what, but also very helpful in the fight against drug trafficking and criminal cartels. You improve your policing, you improve your prosecution, you improve your judiciary. That's good for the country, but it also is a necessary part of the effort against this criminality. You have to have transparency as much as possible in government. There can be no impunity. And so I think we've seen ways that work, but ultimately it's about providing greater opportunity, greater education, greater economic jobs and growth to populations so that they can have a real stake in their society and can be partners with their governments.
Now, I assume part of your question is aimed at the whole legalization issue. And I think this is an ongoing debate. And we are formulating our own response to the votes of two of our states, as you know, and what that means for the federal system, the federal laws, and law enforcement. So I respect those in the region who believe strongly that that would end the problem. I am not convinced of that, just speaking personally. I think when you've got ruthless, vicious people who have made money one way, if it's somehow blocked, they'll figure out another way. They'll do kidnapping, they'll do extortion. They will suborn officials and basically take over swathes of territory that they will govern and terrorize people in.
So I don't think that's the answer. Whether there is some movement that can be discussed, I think will have to be a topic for the future for us.
MODERATOR: Thank you very much.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you. (Applause.)
MODERATOR: Madam Secretary, you asked us to think outside the box. So I'm going to take this out of the box. (Laughter.) We've tried, with the exhortation of Jake and his team, to do something here that was a bit of an un-conference, a conference unlike others. And even though conferences typically end with awards, I'd like to present an award that's a little unlike others in two respects.
In one respect, there's no hyperbole on this award. Awards are usually covered with extravagant phrases and overflowing with adjectives. This one simply says, "For extraordinary contributions to diplomacy." I, as Tom Donilon indicated to many of you, am something of a historian of national security and foreign policy. I spend lots of time studying the foreign policy make of the U.S., for the past 75 years particularly. I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that as we look back on this period, it will be viewed as extraordinary. I think it will stand out as one of the best examples of leadership in the State Department that we have had. And I would add that for those of you who are weighing this in your mind, it represents a big step forward in that regard because when the State Department can focus on enfranchising the disenfranchised and get as much credit for it as in the past it may have gotten for invading another country, that's progress for us. (Laughter.) And I think that's why we consider this an extraordinary achievement.
The other thing on here which is not hyperbole, although it's extraordinary, is that it says here you've been one of our leading global thinkers in 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012. We don't like the idea of your leaving office, but it's nice for you to give somebody else a chance.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes. (Laughter.)
MODERATOR: Having said that, the other thing that makes this award quite different from others is that typically when awards are given out, they're going away presents. We hope that's not the case with you. Thank you. (Applause.)
(The award was given.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you, David. Thank you. That's really, really too kind to say. It means a lot to me. Thank you very much.
Can you open the - maybe out of the box? (Laughter.)
MODERATOR: Yes, I can open the box, and close the box.
SECRTARY CLINTON: Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you all. I'd love to say hello to some of my friends who I see out there that I don't get to see enough, but hopefully will in the future. Thank you very much. (Applause.)