Hillary Clinton recalls foreign policy disagreements with Obama in memoir

By Gabriel Debenedetti

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Potential presidential candidate Hillary Clinton writes in her new book that she raised concerns about a swap of Taliban prisoners when she was President Barack Obama's secretary of state and disagreed with his decision not to arm Syrian rebels, CBS News reported.

CBS News said it obtained a copy of her forthcoming memoir, "Hard Choices," on Thursday, before its planned publication next Tuesday. Clinton is widely considered the Democratic front-runner if she enters the 2016 White House race.

With controversy swirling over Obama's move to swap five Taliban militants held at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for captive U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, the book discloses that a much earlier discussion about him took place among top foreign policy advisers, including Clinton.

"I acknowledged, as I had many times before, that opening the door to negotiations with the Taliban would be hard to swallow for many Americans after so many years of war," she wrote.

The excerpts published by CBS News also reveal Clinton's disagreement with Obama over his decision not to arm Syrian rebels fighting the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

"The President's inclination was to stay the present course and not take the significant further step of arming rebels. No one likes to lose a debate, including me," Clinton wrote.

In a speech last week, Obama said he would increase support for the Syrian opposition, but he did not provide details.

Clinton's book, a memoir of her tenure at the State Department, is being published by Simon and Schuster, a unit of CBS' parent company, CBS Corp. She will then launch a high-profile book tour across the country.


As the top U.S. diplomat from 2009 to 2013, Clinton also acknowledged making a linguistic misstep in declaring a "reset" in American relations with Russia.

Russia's annexation of Crimea in March has raised questions about the so-called reset.

In the book, Clinton calls Russian President Vladimir Putin "thin-skinned and autocratic, resenting criticism and eventually cracking down on dissent and debate."

In March, she drew parallels at a closed-door fundraiser between Putin's actions and those of Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler before World War Two. She later backtracked from those comments.

Asked in an interview on Wednesday about Clinton's comments comparing him with Hitler, Putin said: "It's better not to argue with women.

"When people push boundaries too far, it's not because they are strong but because they are weak. But maybe weakness is not the worst quality for a woman," he added.

Clinton also addressed her experiences surrounding the 2012 attacks on the U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, saying: "There will never be perfect clarity on everything that happened."

Republican critics have condemned her handling of the incident, in which four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, were killed.

The book also details Clinton's meeting with Obama after she lost the Democratic presidential nomination to him in 2008.

"We stared at each other like two teenagers on an awkward first date, taking a few sips of Chardonnay," she writes.

(Reporting by Gabriel Debenedetti; Editing by Peter Cooney and Steve Orlofsky)

[Image: Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton participates in an event on empowering woman and girls, at the World Bank in Washington in this May 14, 2014 file photo. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/Files]