WASHINGTON — Hillary Rodham Clinton expressed caution Tuesday about the United States working with Iran to combat fast-moving Islamic insurgents in Iraq, saying the U.S. needs to understand “what we’re getting ourselves into.”

The U.S. and Iran have held an initial discussion about how the longtime foes might cooperate to address the threat from the al-Qaida-linked militants that have swept through Iraq. The former secretary of state said at a CNN town hall meeting that any partnerships with third parties such as Iran would need to be “carefully thought through.”

“I am not prepared to say that we go in with Iran right now, until we have a better idea what we’re getting ourselves into,” said the former secretary of state.

Clinton spoke during an hourlong forum to promote her new book, “Hard Choices,” about her four years as President Barack Obama’s secretary of state. Clinton is the leading Democratic presidential candidate in 2016 if she decides to run for president again.

The wide-ranging interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour and town hall participants focused on foreign policy but delved into Clinton’s political future and her views on immigration, marijuana and gay marriage. The former first lady was also sitting for an interview later Tuesday with Fox News.

As conditions in Iraq deteriorate, U.S. and Iranian officials have both raised concerns about the swift advance of radical Islamist forces in Iraq and officials from the two countries met here briefly Monday. The White House, however, has ruled out the possibility that Washington and Tehran might coordinate military operations in Iraq.

Clinton has maintained strong ties to Jewish Americans and has raised skepticism that Iran would agree to a comprehensive deal to remove its nuclear weapon capabilities, stressing that any deal would need to maintain U.S. and Israeli national security.

Clinton said Iran could prop up Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s government the same way Iran helped Syrian President Bashar Assad’s hold onto power when rebels challenged his government. She also criticized Maliki’s decision to purge “the military we helped train” and forced out “the most able commanders.”

Her appearance came hours after the Obama administration announced the capture of a Libyan militant suspected in the deadly Sept. 11, 2012, attack in Benghazi, Libya. Clinton said the capture showed the U.S. has an “an unwavering commitment to bring to justice” those who commit acts of terror against the U.S.

Republicans have criticized Clinton’s handling of the Benghazi attack, which killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. GOP officials have accused the Obama administration of stonewalling congressional investigators and misleading the public about the nature of the attack in the weeks before the presidential election.

Clinton said during the forum that she was “still looking for answers because it was a confusing and difficult time.”

The forum also touched on several topics, including:

— Immigration: Clinton said the nation should provide emergency care to address the influx of Central American immigrant children and teenagers. Clinton said many of the children should be sent back once they can be reunited with family members, cautioning against sending “a message that is contrary to our laws or we’ll encourage more children to make that dangerous journey.”

— Pot: Clinton took a wait-and-see attitude on medical marijuana and the legalization of the recreational use of pot in Washington state and Colorado. Asked whether she would partake, Clinton laughed, “I didn’t do it when I was young. I’m not going to start now.”

— Gay marriage: Clinton was asked about her lack of support for gay marriage in the past, which was raised during a National Public Radio interview. The former first lady said she had “evolved over time” and was proud to support same-sex marriage.

(© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


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