Clinton blasts Bush's Iran policy
Repeatedly referring to a need for "new vision and leadership" in U.S. policy toward the Middle East, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) called Wednesday for United Nations sanctions against Iran and further global advances in women's rights, and urged optimism for a peaceful resolution to the Israel-Palestine conflict.
"We cannot and should not — must not — permit Iran to build or acquire nuclear weapons," Clinton said in a speech before a capacity crowd in Richardson Auditorium. (See full text.) "In order to prevent that from occurring, 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."
Though never mentioning President Bush by name, Clinton strongly criticized the current administration's policy toward Iran. "I believe that we lost critical time in dealing with Iran because the White House chose to downplay the threats and to outsource the negotiations," Clinton said.
The United States, which severed formal diplomatic ties with Iran in 1980, has relied on the United Kingdom, France and Germany to negotiate on its behalf in the standoff over Iran's nuclear program. Tensions were ratcheted up last week when Iran announced that it would resume uranium enrichment research, saying it has a right to operate a civilian nuclear program.
The United States and European partners have joined in condemning Iran's latest action. "The Iranians want to make this about their rights. It's not about their rights," U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Wednesday in a speech at Georgetown University. "It's about the ability of the international system to trust them with the capabilities and technologies that could lead to a nuclear weapon."
Like Bush, a tough-talking Clinton left open the possibility of military action against Iran if it attempts to acquire nuclear weapons. "We cannot take any option off the table in sending a clear message to the current leadership of Iran that they will not be permitted to acquire nuclear weapons," Clinton said.
Clinton also criticized recent remarks by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that questioned Israel's right to exist and described the Holocaust as a "myth." Ahmadinejad "is moving to create his own nuclear reality in line with his despicable rewriting of history," she said.
Clinton spoke as part of the Wilson School's 75th anniversary celebration and the formal announcement of the new S. Daniel Abraham Chair in Middle East Policy Studies. Daniel Abraham, who endowed the faculty position, and Daniel Kurtzer, a former U.S. ambassador to Israel and Egypt and the first holder of the chair, were both present for Clinton's address. (See related story on Kurtzer's appointment.)
Kurtzer, who described himself as one of the original supporters of sanctions against Iran, praised Clinton's ideas in an interview Thursday evening, calling the sanctions "overdue."
"Whether it's full sanctions or partial sanctions or escalating sanctions, that's for the experts to find out," he said. "The Iranians are flouting the international community."
Wilson School dean Anne-Marie Slaughter '80, however, expressed doubts about sanctions' effectiveness. "I agree that we cannot allow a nuclear Iran, but it is a real question as to whether sanctions are not more likely to consolidate support for the government ... than to pressure the government into stopping its behavior," she said in an email Thursday.
Clinton, believed to be a front-runner for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, peppered her speech with references to the idealism of President Woodrow Wilson 1879 and the founders of the University's Wilson School. The United States today, Clinton said, needs "the ability to hold fast to our core principles and to rise with new solutions to the challenges of our time."
"We need the founders' understanding that a stronger America comes from strengthened bonds with other nations and we need something else the Wilson School has always had: a commitment to competence and common sense over ideology and partisanship," Clinton said.
War in Iraq
Addressing the Iraq war, Clinton said that while she does not support an immediate withdrawal of troops, she also does not believe in an "open-ended commitment without limits or end."
If the newly-elected Iraqi government is successful, she said, the military presence should be reduced to "a smaller contingent in safe areas, with greater intelligence and quick-strike capabilities."
"This will help us stabilize the new Iraqi government. It will send a message to Iran, that they do not have a free hand in Iraq," Clinton said. "It will also send a message to Israel and our other allies, like Jordan, that we will continue to do what we can to provide the stability necessary to prevent the terrorists from getting any further foothold than they currently have."
In a thinly-veiled barb directed against the Bush administration, whose prewar intelligence on Iraq has been largely discredited, Clinton said, "It will not further our common goals or American ideals if we veer from evidence-based decision making, substituting instead ideology and arrogance."
Turning to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Clinton said the United States must guarantee both Israel's security and a "better future" for the Palestinians.
Though Clinton recalled a meeting with former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres in which they discussed Israel's responsibility to provide Palestinians with economic opportunity, she reserved most of her criticism for the current Palestinian leadership.
"No more excuses for the Palestinians," Clinton said. "They have to demonstrate clearly and unequivocally their commitment to a peaceful future and they have to also demonstrate their ability to deliver services to their people."
Kurtzer, who served as the American ambassador to Israel for the past four years, agreed with Clinton that more cooperation from the Palestinians will be necessary to achieve peace.
Unless America succeeds in encouraging Palestinians to act on their agreements to reduce terrorism, Kurtzer said, "It's going to be very hard to convince Israelis to fulfill their commitments on the road map ... The burden of proof is on Hamas to show that they have changed."
Upcoming Israeli and Palestinian elections will be pivotal to the region's future, Clinton added. But "what is not on a ballot and cannot be put into question is Israel's right to exist and exist in safety," Clinton said.
Historical grudges present an unnecessary impediment to lasting peace betwe\en the Israelis and Palestinians, Clinton added. "What we have tried to do over the last 30 years, starting with President Carter, moving through other presidents including my husband, now this president, is to send a uniquely American message: it can get better, just get over it."
Clinton also spent several minutes discussing women's rights, which she described as essential for progress in the Middle East. She was cautiously optimistic of advances in women's rights in Afghanistan, Kuwait, Morocco, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, acknowledging that while progress has been made, major obstacles to gender equaliity remain.
"I remember speaking out against the mistreatment of women by the Taliban in Afghanistan in the 1990s. It wasn't an issue that demanded a lot of attention in our country because it seemed so far away and disconnected from the everyday concerns of most Americans," Clinton said.
But, Clinton argued, sexism and misogyny are inextricable from the ideology of the al Qaeda terrorists who attacked the United States on Sept. 11, 2001.
Though the United States should seek to advance values such as women's rights and democracy, the nation must act with humility, Clinton said.
"Any discussion of the Middle East, or really any part of the world, requires that Americans educate ourselves and understand the cultures with which we are dealing in order to be successful in advocating for these common goals and values," she said.
The evening did little to dispel speculation that Clinton will run for president in 2008.
In her opening remarks, Wilson School dean Anne-Marie Slaughter '80 quipped, "It is my honor and my pleasure to introduce the first woman president ... of Princeton," eliciting laughter from Clinton and loud applause before University President Tilghman took the stage to introduce Clinton.
After her speech, Clinton thanked students "for coming out tonight in the midst of finals."
"I don't mind at all being an excuse for procrastination," she joked, "but I can't keep going too much longer without fear of being blamed for whatever may befall you if you do not go back and study."
— Includes reporting and writing by Princetonian Staff Writer Matt Davis.
Related— Read the full text of Clinton's address
Reader Comments (0)
No comments yet. Be the first to post your opinion on this article.