‘Distrust and verify’

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Presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton outlined her plan for future dealings with Iran at a speech last week. Screen capture from Brookings Institution video.
Presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton outlined her plan for future dealings with Iran at a speech last week.
Screen capture from Brookings Institution video.

As president, Hillary Rodham Clinton would not hesitate to take military action against Iran should the country attempt to obtain a nuclear weapon, she told an audience at the Brookings Institution last week.

“You remember President [Ronald] Reagan’s line about the Soviets, ‘Trust, but verify?’” she said at the Sept. 9 event, “My approach will be distrust and verify.”


The speech, followed by a discussion moderated by Martin Indyk, executive vice president of the Brookings Institution and former U.S. ambassador to Israel, played out against the backdrop of a Wall Street Journal story that in her final months as secretary of state, Clinton helped shift United States policy from eliminating Iran’s ability to produce nuclear fuel to allowing Iran some capacity to produce nuclear fuel. Clinton, who is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, unveiled her “five strong pillars” for dealing with Iran.

Her first “pillar” is to “deepen America’s unshakeable commitment to Israel’s security.” To guarantee Israel’s military edge, Clinton pledged to increase support for the Jewish State’s rocket and missile defenses and tunnel detection technology. She promised to increase intelligence sharing and sell Israel the F-35 fighter aircraft.

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“They vow to destroy Israel,” Clinton said twice. “We cannot ever take that lightly, particularly when Iran ships advance missiles to Hezbollah and the ayatollah outlines an actual strategy for eliminating Israel or talks about how Israel won’t exist in 25 years, just like he did today.”

She said that she would invite the Israeli prime minister to the White House during her first month of office to “set us on a course of close, frequent consultation.” Deviating from her former boss, Clinton said that she would offer “tough love” in private.


“I just don’t think [airing disputes publicly is] a particularly productive approach for the United States to take because, in large measure, it opens the door to everybody else to delegitimize Israel,” Clinton added.

The second point of her plan, she said, is to bolster Gulf allies with military support, intelligence sharing and missile defense.

“We don’t want any of Iran’s neighbors to develop or acquire a nuclear weapons program either,” said Clinton. “So, we want them to feel and be secure.”

In her third talking point, she pledged to counter Iran’s proxies, notably Hezbollah. She vowed to pressure United States partners into treating Hezbollah as a terrorist organization.

“It’s time to eliminate the false distinction that some still make between the supposed political and military wings,” said Clinton. “If you’re part of Hezbollah, you’re part of a terrorist organization, plain and simple.”

She also said she’d crack down on the shipment of weapons to Hamas, and push Turkey and Qatar to end their financial support of the U.S.-designated Palestinian terror group. Clinton added that she would “vigorously enforce” American sanctions on Iran’s ballistic missile program and increase sanctions on arms shipments to and from Iran to regional bad actors.

With United Nations sanctions on arms shipments set to ease up, she said United States partners would need to step up.

Fourth, Clinton said she’d stand up against Iran’s human rights abuses.

“I think we were too restrained in our support of the protests in June 2009 and in our condemnation of the government crackdown that followed. That won’t happen again,” she said. She added that she would not rest until every American detained in Iran is released.

Finally, she noted that the United States policy towards Iran needs to be embedded into a “comprehensive regional strategy that promotes stability.” That includes, she said, bringing about a political solution to the Syrian civil war.

Said Clinton: “We need to be creative, committed and vigilant. And on every front, we need to keep working closely with our friends and partners.”

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