Iran Lobby Urges Clinton to Follow Obama's 'Prudent and Wise Rhetoric and Diplomacy'

By Patrick Goodenough | March 22, 2016 | 6:18am EDT
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks at the 2016 American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference, March 21, 2016, at the Verizon Center in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

( – An Iranian-American lobby group welcomed Hillary Clinton’s reiteration of support for the Iran nuclear deal, but expressed concern about her tough talk about the regime in a speech Monday, including a comment that “Tehran’s fingerprints are on nearly every conflict across the Middle East.”

The National Iranian American Council (NIAC), strong proponents of engagement with Tehran, urged Clinton to follow President Obama’s lead in encouraging openings with Iran. It warned that “any deviation from Obama’s prudent and wise rhetoric and diplomacy will risk the significant progress achieved in the past few years.”

Speaking at the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) policy conference in Washington, the Democratic presidential candidate said that “the United States, Israel and the world are safer as a result” of the nuclear agreement with Iran that came into effect this year.

But, she continued, the U.S. policy towards Iran should be “distrust and verify.”

“This deal must come with vigorous enforcement, strong monitoring, clear consequences for any violations and a broader strategy to confront Iran’s aggression across the region,” she said. “We cannot forget that Tehran’s fingerprints are on nearly every conflict across the Middle East, from Syria to Lebanon to Yemen.”

Clinton went on to talk about Iran’s support for Hezbollah, ballistic missile launches, threats to destroy Israel and human rights violations. She called for the safe return home of missing retired FBI agent Robert Levinson, and voiced support for the Iranian people in their “efforts to bring positive change to Iran.”

For NIAC, Clinton’s remarks at the pro-Israel gathering did not focus sufficiently on the potential for a diplomatic opening with Iran.

“At a time when President Obama is seeking to make his historic Iran policy change as irreversible as possible, we are concerned by Secretary Clinton downplaying the possibility of a larger diplomatic opening,” said NIAC Action executive director Jamal Abdi.

“Rather than following President Obama’s lead in acknowledging the challenges while emphasizing the need for diplomacy across the board, Secretary Clinton needlessly reduces the requisite political space to make a peaceful diplomatic opening with Iran come to fruition should the opportunity present itself during her potential presidency.”

Abdi said it was ironic that, as Obama was making his historic trip to Cuba, U.S. presidential candidates addressing AIPAC were “redoubling on the containment policy that neither produced a breakthrough with Cuba nor Iran.”

He also took issue with Clinton’s comments about Iran’s involvement in conflicts across the region.

“Saying that ‘Iran’s fingerprints are on every conflict in the Middle East’ without acknowledging the culpability of some of our closest allies – a culpability that President Obama openly admits – socializes our allies into thinking their bad behavior delivers results, and they can get away with anything,” he said.

Abdi did not elaborate, but Obama was quoted recently as voicing frustration about the Saudis, and saying that Saudi-Iranian competition “has helped to feed proxy wars and chaos in Syria and Iraq and Yemen.”

In her speech Monday, Clinton used the opportunity to dig at her Republican presidential rivals. Donald Trump, Sen. Ted Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich all spoke later at the same podium.

“Tonight, you will hear a lot of rhetoric from the other candidates about Iran, but there’s a big difference between talking about holding Tehran accountable and actually doing it,” Clinton said. ‘Our next president has to be able to hold together our global coalition and impose real consequences for even the smallest violations of this agreement.”

Later, Trump, Kasich and Cruz all disavowed the nuclear deal.

Trump called dismantling the agreement “my number one priority” and also pledged as president to “stand up to Iran’s aggressive push to destabilize and dominate the region” and to “totally dismantle Iran’s global terror network.”

Kasich called for the suspension of U.S. participation in the nuclear deal in response to Iran’s ballistic missile tests, and said as president, he would lead the world community to reimpose sanctions on Iran if it “violates one crossed t or one dot of that nuclear deal.”

“In a Kasich administration there will be no more delusional agreements with self-declared enemies,” he said. “No more.”

And Cruz declared, as he has done so numerous times on the campaign trail, “on the first day in office I will rip this catastrophic Iranian nuclear deal to shreds.”

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