New York Times: Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton warned Iran’s leaders on Sunday that if they were seeking nuclear weapons, “your pursuit is futile,” and ruled out explicitly the possibility that the Obama administration would allow Iran to produce its own nuclear fuel, even under intense international inspection.
The New York Times
By DAVID E. SANGER
Published: July 26, 2009
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton warned Iran’s leaders on Sunday that if they were seeking nuclear weapons, “your pursuit is futile,” and ruled out explicitly the possibility that the Obama administration would allow Iran to produce its own nuclear fuel, even under intense international inspection.
Mrs. Clinton made her statement, on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” days after she raised the possibility of an American-created “defense umbrella” over the Middle East to counter Iran’s efforts to build its power in the region by trying to develop weapons capacity. Soon after Mrs. Clinton spoke of the shield on Wednesday, senior members of the Obama administration tried to walk back her comments, saying that she was speaking “personally” and that such an umbrella had always been implied by America’s strong interests in the region, including oil interests.
But on Sunday she did not back away from her statement. “I think it’s clear we’re trying to affect the internal calculus of the Iranian regime,” she said, adding, “What we want to do is to send a message to whoever is making these decisions that if you’re pursuing nuclear weapons for the purpose of intimidating, of projecting your power, we’re not going to let that happen.”
It is unclear what a “defense umbrella” in the region would look like, however, and Mrs. Clinton offered no details when asked whether the United States was willing to extend the same defense over Middle East allies that it has already extended across Europe, Japan and South Korea.
“We are not talking in specifics,” she insisted. “You hope for the best; you plan for the worst.”
While the Obama administration has often said that it would not allow Iran to possess a nuclear weapon, some officials have hedged slightly when asked whether they could envision a situation in which Tehran, as part of a broader deal, might be permitted to produce its own nuclear fuel, called a fuel cycle in the nuclear industry. Reformers and hard-liners in Iran have said the country should produce its own fuel and have argued that it has that right as a signatory of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.
But President George W. Bush had argued that Iran forfeited that right by conducting secret nuclear activities for 18 years. In contrast, Mohamed ElBaradei, the departing head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, a nonproliferation watchdog, has argued that the best way to avoid a confrontation is to allow Iran a token of nuclear fuel capacity, under toughened inspection rules to assure that fuel is not diverted for weapons. On Sunday, Mrs. Clinton seemed to side with the Bush administration.
“You have a right to pursue the peaceful use of civil, nuclear power,” she said, as if addressing Iran directly. “You do not have a right to obtain a nuclear weapon. You do not have the right to have the full enrichment and reprocessing cycle under your control. But there’s a lot that we can do with Iran if Iran accepts what is the international consensus.”
Her phrase “under your control” seemed to leave open the possibility of having others enrich uranium on Iran’s behalf, perhaps on Iranian soil.
Mrs. Clinton also found herself in the uncomfortable position of explaining the recent comments of Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., who on returning from a visit to Georgia offered a surprisingly downbeat assessment of Russia’s future and its intentions.
“They have a shrinking population base,” Mr. Biden told The Wall Street Journal. “They have a withering economy. They have a banking sector and structure that is not likely to be able to withstand the next 15 years. They’re in a situation where the world is changing before them and they’re clinging to something in the past that is not sustainable.”
Asked whether Mr. Biden’s message was that “the U.S. now has the upper hand when it’s dealing with Russia,” she replied, “No, and I don’t think that’s at all what the vice president meant.”
“We want a strong, peaceful and prosperous Russia,” she said.
Brian Knowlton contributed from Washington.
A version of this article appeared in print on July 27, 2009, on page A10 of the New York edition.