WASHINGTON — Hillary Rodham Clinton, former secretary of state and likely candidate for president in 2016, opposes new legislation in Congress that would sanction Iran if diplomacy fails to reach an agreement over its nuclear program.
Clinton announced her opposition to the bill one day after US President Barack Obama renewed his threat to veto the measure in his sixth State of the Union address.
New sanctions legislation would violate the Joint Plan of Action, the White House says, an interim agreement reached by world powers and Iran that laid the groundwork for comprehensive talks.
Such a violation would “guarantee that diplomacy fails,” Obama said on Tuesday night— putting the onus of failure on the United States, fraying international sanctions on Tehran and heightening the risks of war.
“Why do we want to be the catalyst for the collapse of negotiations?” Clinton asked the crowd, speaking in Winnipeg, Canada, on Wednesday. “If we’re the reason— through our Congress— that in effect gives Iran and others the excuse not to continue the negotiations, that would be, in my view, a very serious strategic error.”
But speaking to The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday afternoon, one senior congressional aide said the train had already left the station on whether the bill would proceed.
“Some senators in the minority appear desparate to avoid any votes,” the aide said. “They soon will have their first of many, beginning with the banking committee’s markup vote of Iran legislation next week.”
Addressing the American Jewish Committee in Washington last May, the former cabinet member took partial credit for a policy that, as she said, pressured Iran to the negotiating table.
Depicting a bleak “inheritance” that she and US President Barack Obama faced in 2009, Clinton spoke of a once wealthy Iran, emboldened after its nemesis, Saddam Hussein, was toppled by US president George W. Bush.
The Obama administration chose to reach out to the Iranians, believing that such overtures would prove to the world that Iran, not the US, was intransigent, Clinton said. And once Iran rejected those overtures, she personally muscled the international community into a unified sanctions regime.
“I worked for months to round up the votes” at the United Nations, Clinton said, adding that her “personal mission” was to force Iran’s oil customers to diversify their imports. “In the end, we were successful.”
“After years of division, the international community came together and sent a very strong, unified message to Iran,” she added. “That was no easy sell.”