Clinton Touts Role in Confronting Iran’s Nuclear Program After Bush/Cheney ‘Bluster’

Patrick Goodenough | January 26, 2016 | 4:24am EST
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Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks during a CNN town hall at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, Monday, Jan. 25, 2016. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

( – Hillary Clinton said Monday night she was “very proud” of her record as secretary of state, citing as an example her leadership in bringing world pressure to bear on Iran to negotiate over its nuclear program.

In doing so, she dismissed the Bush administration’s approach to the problem as “bluster,” and relegated her successor John Kerry’s role to that of bringing a nuclear agreement “into fruition.”

Speaking at a CNN “town hall” for Democratic presidential candidates in Des Moines a week before the Iowa caucuses, Clinton said when she became secretary of state in 2009, what she and President Obama “found was that the Iranians were on their way to a nuclear weapons program – this despite all of the bluster from the George W. Bush-Dick Cheney administration.”

She said the Iranians had “mastered the nuclear fuel cycle, they had built covert facilities and they had stocked them with centrifuges that were rapidly whirling along trying to create enough highly-enriched uranium to have a weapon.”

Clinton said the choices facing the Obama administration were to “fulminate about it,” turn its back and leave it to someone else to deal with, “or try to get up a new strategy. We chose the third.”

“We said, ‘Look, we’ve got to get the world behind us, to force them to the negotiating table.’ So I spent 18 months putting together the coalition that imposed international sanctions on the Iranians, that forced them finally to begin negotiating with us to get an end to their nuclear weapons program, to put a lid on it,” she said.

After succeeding in building international pressure on Tehran, Clinton said, “then I began the negotiations, testing whether the Iranians would actually come and seriously negotiate.”

“And then Secretary Kerry and the president did a great job bringing the agreement into fruition,” she added.

“I am very proud of my record as secretary of state and what we accomplished,” Clinton said, “not only on specific trouble-spots but advancing women’s rights, advancing gay rights, advancing religious freedom, Internet freedom, and so many of the other values that we hold dear.”

Although Clinton wrote off as “bluster” the previous administration’s handling of the Iran nuclear standoff and implied that the U.S. only started taking the problem seriously once she was at the State Department, the Bush administration in fact managed to achieve – three times – what Obama and Clinton could not: a unanimous (15-0) Security Council vote for resolutions imposing or reaffirming sanctions against Tehran over its nuclear activities.

Those unanimous resolutions were passed in Dec. 2006, Mar. 2007 and Sept. 2008.

The Obama administration in June 2010 did shepherd a new Iran sanctions resolution through the Security Council, but not only did two members (Turkey and Brazil) vote no and a third (Lebanon) abstain, the resolution was also watered down to exclude Tehran’s crucial energy sector – a prerequisite for support from Russia and China.

Clinton is correct that Iran had centrifuges “rapidly whirling along” enriching uranium when the Obama administration came in, but she made no reference to the fact that their number grew significantly after she and Obama assumed their posts.

According to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Iran had 5,537 centrifuges when Obama arrived at the White House in early 2009. By mid-2013 – four months after Clinton was succeeded by Kerry – the number had climbed to 15,416.

Clinton’s recollection of the Obama administration’s promotion of the toughest sanctions ever imposed on Iran included no acknowledgement that the U.S. Congress led the way in the effort – in the face of sometimes hesitant administration.

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