September 17, 2019

Clinton vows tough approach to Iran on nuclear deal

Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton vowed on Wednesday she would not shrink from military action against Iran if it tries to obtain atomic weapons and threatened to impose penalties on Tehran for even for small violations of its nuclear deal with world powers.

In a speech to a Washington think tank, the former secretary of state reiterated her support for the accord but cautioned that she would take an approach of “distrust and verify” toward Iran if she won the November, 2016 presidential election.

“As president, I will take whatever actions are necessary to protect the United States and our allies. I will not hesitate to take military action if Iran attempts to obtain a nuclear weapon,” she said.

Clinton expects the Islamic Republic “to see how far they can bend the rules” of the agreement it reached in July with the United States and other major nations including Russia and China.

“I’ll hold the line against Iranian noncompliance. That means penalties even for small violations,” she told the Brookings Institution.

She said she is extremely skeptical of Iran given its long history of concealing aspects of its nuclear program and destabilizing the Middle East.

Iran denies its nuclear program is aimed at producing weapons.

As America's top diplomat from 2009-2013,Clinton helped lay the groundwork for the Iran deal by building support for sanctions that the Obama administration credits with bringing Tehran to the negotiating table.

The U.S. Congress is expected to begin voting this week on a Republican-led measure to block the deal, which is aimed at preventing Tehran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

But President Barack Obama has enough support in the U.S. Senate to prevent lawmakers from derailing the accord. Republicans and some of Obama's own Democrats say they deal is not strict enough.

“By now, the outcome in Congress is no longer in much doubt. So we’ve got to start looking ahead to what comes next: enforcing the deal, deterring Iran and its proxies, and strengthening our allies,” she said. 

Clinton promised to deepen U.S. commitment to Israel's security, reaffirm that the Persian Gulf is a vital area of U.S. interests, stand against Iranian rights abuses at home and build a coalition to counter Iran's proxies like Lebanese Shi'ite Muslim group Hezbollah.