Exclusive Interview With Sen. Hillary Clinton

CLINTON: Well, let me answer that, because I think that this whole question about what we're going to do with Iraq will be in the centerpiece of the campaign in the fall, because Sen. McCain, as you know, has said that it would be fine with him to leave troops there for up to 100 years. And he feels very strongly about that position, which he will convey with great passion and conviction.

I feel equally strongly that our troops have done everything they were asked to do. They got rid of Saddam Hussein. They gave the Iraqis free and fair elections, and they gave the Iraqi government the opportunity to do what it had to do to make the tough decisions about a responsible future going forward.

There is no military solution to our troops staying in Iraq. They could be there for years if the Iraqis do not decide that they must take responsibility.

So, when I am president, I will ask the secretary of defense and the joint chiefs of staff and my security advisers to draw up a plan that I can use to begin to withdraw our troops within 60 days. I know how difficult and dangerous this will be. I have no illusions about that. But if we stay there and the Iraqis think they still have a blank check from us, they will never resolve their unfinished problems. They can't even decide how to allocate the oil revenues, which they've been saying they'll do for five years. So we will begin and we will go forward to withdraw our troops.

I've been endorsed by 35 retired generals and admirals, including the former adjutant general of the Indiana National Guard, who's here today, Gen. George Buskirk.

CLINTON: And when I was endorsed by Gen. Hugh Shelton -- and Gen. Buskirk was with me -- who was a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, he said that he was endorsing me because he trusted me to end the war in Iraq with honor.

What will Iran do? I don't think any of us can predict what Iran will do. But here's what I believe. I believe that if the Iraqis have to make their own decisions, that the Iraqis will be much more nationalistic in defending their own country against Iran, which has a different social makeup...

STEPHANOPOULOS: But what would you do?

CLINTON: ... a different kind of culture. And I think that will give the Iraqis an organizing focus that they currently don't have.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But what would you do -- I think that's what the question was -- if Iran went into Iraq?

CLINTON: You know, I do not believe Iran will go into Iraq. If Iran were to go into Iraq, there would have to be a determination made at that time. But it is something that I am not anticipating, and we are not going to have permanent bases and permanently occupy Iraq because of some contingent that may or may not happen.

Because it's not only what is not occurring in Iraq that bothers me, it is our failure to deal with all of our other problems. You know, Afghanistan is on the brink of basically being taken back over in large measure by the Taliban and Al Qaida. That's what our attention should be focused on.

And with respect to Iran, I have advocated vigorous diplomatic engagement. You see, we don't even really understand exactly how decisions are made in Iran, because we have been so isolated from Iran. They have an elected leadership with Ahmadinejad, who's all over the TV, but I believe most decisions are made by the clerical leadership, the Supreme Leader, that actually is responsible for the Revolutionary Guard.

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