Transcript: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on 'This Week'

The idea that we could have a diplomatic process with Iran means that, for the first time, we would actually be sitting at a table across from Iranians authorized by the supreme leader to talk with us about a whole range of issues. That gives us information and insight that we don't have.

Of course there's contradiction, because we don't have any really clear sense as to what it is they are seeking. Now, one of the things that you heard the president say is, we understand the legitimate right of nations...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: ... any nation, including Iran...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: ... to have access to peaceful nuclear energy. If that is at the core of what they want, there are ways of accommodating that that do not lead to a nuclear weapon.

But we have to -- have to test that, and we have to be willing to sit and listen and evaluate without giving up what we view as a primary objective of the engagement, which is to do everything we can to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear weapons state.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Your own envoy, Dennis Ross, has said one way to strengthen the position of the United States going into these negotiations is to make it very clear that, if Iran used nuclear weapons against Israel or any U.S. ally, that would be met as an attack on the United States, full response. Now, that was your position during the campaign, as well.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: I would make it clear to the Iranians that an attack on Israel would incur massive retaliation from the United States.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHANOPOULOS: Is it U.S. policy now?

CLINTON: I think it is U.S. policy to the extent that we have alliances and understandings with a number of nations. They may not be formal, as it is with NATO, but I don't think there is any doubt in anyone's mind that, were Israel to suffer a nuclear attack by Iran, there would be retaliation.

STEPHANOPOULOS: By the United States?

CLINTON: Well, I think there would be retaliation. And I think part of what is clear is, we want to avoid a -- a Middle East arms race which leads to nuclear weapons being in the possession of other countries in the Middle East, and we want to make clear that there are consequences and costs.

Now, let me just put it this way: If Iran is seeking security, if they believe -- and, you know, you have to put yourself into the shoes of the other party when you negotiate -- if they believe that the United States might attack them the way that we did attack Iraq, for example...

STEPHANOPOULOS: Before they attack, as a first strike?

CLINTON: That's right, as a first strike, or they might have some other enemy that would do that to them, part of what we have to make clear to the Iranians is that their pursuit of nuclear weapons will actually trigger greater insecurity, because, right now, many of the nations in the neighborhood, as you know very well...

STEPHANOPOULOS: Because Israel will strike before they can finish?

CLINTON: Well, but not only that. I mean, other countries, other Arab countries are deeply concerned about Iran having nuclear weapons. So does Iran want to face a battery of nuclear weapons countries...

(CROSSTALK)

STEPHANOPOULOS: Can you get those other Arab nations to say that publicly? That was part of the president's theme today.

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