Hillary Clinton had strong words for Iran Wednesday as she spoke in support of the Obama administration’s nuclear deal with the country, vowing that as president she would not hesitate to use military force if Iran tries to obtain a nuclear weapon.
Speaking at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., Clinton called the country’s government “a ruthless, brutal regime that has the blood of Americans and many others on its hands.”
“Here’s my message to Iran’s leaders: The United States will not allow you to acquire a nuclear weapon,” Clinton said. “I will not hesitate to use military force if Iran attempts to obtain a nuclear weapon.”
When Clinton’s Brookings speech was put on the schedule, the fate of the Obama administration’s deal with Tehran to curb its nuclear program was uncertain.
The agreement, struck in June, has been highly controversial in Congress. But the White House this week secured the votes it needs to defend the deal in the Senate.
“By now, the outcome of the deal in Congress is no longer in much doubt. So we’ve got to start looking ahead to what comes next: enforcing it, deterring Iran and its proxies, and strengthening our allies,” Clinton said.
She continued by outlining her next steps with Iran. ”My starting point will be one of distrust,” Clinton said, borrowing from Ronald Reagan’s famous line to say her policy would be “distrust by verify.”
“This is not the start of some broader diplomatic opening,” she said. “And we shouldn’t expect that this deal will lead to a broader change in their behavior.”
She coupled her hard line on Iran with an appeal to Israel, with whom relations have been strained under President Obama. Clinton pledged to invite the Israeli prime minister to the White House during her first month in office, if elected president, and said it was time for the two countries to heal their wounds and come together.
As secretary of state, Clinton laid the groundwork for negotiations with Iran, but some expected her to oppose it in light of vocal objections from some allies, especially in the pro-Israel community. That includes several leading Democrats, such as Sen. Chuck Schumer, Clinton’s former colleague and Democrats’ next leader in the upper change.
But Clinton has forcefully defended the agreement, warning the world would be a more dangerous place without it. Still, she said she respected Schumer’s opposition that he will make a great Democratic Senate leader.
Clinton called out by name former Vice President Dick Cheney, who spoke against the deal Tuesday, saying he wanted Americans to forget that Iran was on its way to a nuclear weapon under the Bush administration.
Clinton also spoke about ongoing refugee crisis in Europe, calling for global conference where countries could pledge assistance, similar to a conference convened after the earthquake in Haiti.
And as her campaign seeks to show Clinton’s humorous side, she made two jokes. After coughing a bit, Clinton said she was suffering from allergies and joked “Republican histamines are everywhere.”
On Russian President Vladimir Putin, Clinton said she did not admire much about him but found the idea that one can just stand up and declare that they will be president somewhat appealing.