Washington Post: Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) accused the Bush administration of playing down the threat of a nuclear Iran and called for swift action at the United Nations to impose sanctions on the Iranian government. Washington Post
By Dan Balz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) accused the Bush administration of playing down the threat of a nuclear Iran and called for swift action at the United Nations to impose sanctions on the Iranian government.
The senator’s statements, in which she said the administration should make it clear that all options remain on the table for dealing with the Iranians, came during a speech about the Middle East on Wednesday night at Princeton University. She criticized the White House for turning the problem over to European nations and said Iran must never be permitted to acquire nuclear weapons.
“I believe we lost critical time in dealing with Iran because the White House chose to downplay the threats and to outsource the negotiations,” Clinton said. “I don’t believe you face threats like Iran or North Korea by outsourcing it to others and standing on the sidelines.”
White House press secretary Scott McClellan dismissed Clinton’s criticism, saying that the administration has been leading the way in trying to solve the problem. “The president has made the threat by Iran a top priority from Day One,” he said.
The administration is working with other countries to put the issue before the United Nations, but President Bush has remained vague about sanctions. Last week, he called Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons a “grave threat” to world security, an escalation of the administration’s rhetoric.
Clinton’s call for sanctions was another example of the hawkish posture on national security issues that has marked her tenure in the Senate and is seen as part of her preparation for a possible 2008 presidential campaign. On Iraq, she has often criticized the administration for not preparing for the chaos and violence after the initial invasion. But she has remained steadfast in resisting calls within her own party to support a rapid withdrawal of troops there, to the dismay of some on the left.
Clinton was not the only possible 2008 Democratic presidential candidate to issue a get-tough warning over Iran. Sen. Evan Bayh (Ind.) said yesterday that he plans to introduce a resolution in the Senate calling on the administration to work with the United Nations to sanction the country. Bayh said the sanctions should include shutting off supplies of refined gasoline, a worldwide ban on arms sales, and a possible ban on participation in the Olympics and the World Cup soccer tournament.
The Indiana senator blamed the administration for allowing the situation to become a crisis. “We should never have arrived at this juncture,” Bayh said in a statement. “During his State of the Union speech in 2002, President Bush famously called Iran part of the ‘Axis of Evil’ but then followed that up by ignoring and then largely deferring management of this crisis to the Europeans. This approach has certainly been damaging to our national security.”
Clinton has pressed the administration over Iran in the past. When Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declared last month that the Holocaust was “a myth,” she sent a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice urging that the United States take the lead in delivering an unambiguous condemnation of him.
At Princeton, Clinton said that a nuclear Iran would be a threat to the state of Israel and that U.S. policy must be clear and unequivocal. To prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, she said, “we must have more support vigorously and publicly expressed by China and Russia, and we must move as quickly as feasible for sanctions in the United Nations.”