Clinton says she is ‘personally skeptical’ of nuclear agreement with Iran

NEW YORK – Hillary Rodham Clinton cast doubt on the interim nuclear weapons agreement with Iran, saying in a speech here Wednesday night that she is “personally skeptical” that Iran’s leaders would follow through on a comprehensive agreement to end Iran’s march toward nuclear weapons.

Still, the former secretary of state told a pro-Israel audience that she stands behind the Obama administration’s negotiations with Iran and commended the work of her successor, John F. Kerry.

Clinton said the United States should “give space for diplomacy to work” and avoid imposing new unilateral sanctions or any other actions that might lead any allies to back out of existing international sanctions against Iran.

“The odds of reaching that comprehensive agreement are not good,” Clinton said. “I am also personally skeptical that the Iranians would follow through and deliver. I have seen their behavior over years. But this is a development that is worth testing.”

If the negotiations with Iran fail, Clinton said, the United States should explore “every other option.”

“Let’s be clear,” she said, “every other option does remain on the table.”

In a 30-minute address at an American Jewish Congress gala -- where she was honored with a lifetime achievement award by actress Julianna Margulies and serenaded at the dinner table by Israeli singer Liel Kolet -- Clinton presented herself as a tough defender of Israel in the Senate and at the State Department.

“When Americans of all faiths look at Israel, we see a homeland for a people long oppressed and a democracy that has to defend itself at every turn,” Clinton said. “In Israel’s story, we see our own.”

Clinton described in detail her role in shaping the country’s policies with regard to Iran, from the start of the Obama administration in 2009.

“Faced with this difficult inheritance, President Obama and I were determined to use both engagement and pressure to present Iran’s leaders with a clear choice: Comply and reap the benefits of improved relations or refuse and face increased isolation and ever more painful consequences,” Clinton said.

Jack Rosen, the president of American Jewish Congress and a longtime Clinton friend and supporter, said in an interview following her speech that Clinton displayed “toughness” on Iran that was important for this audience to hear. He noted that she “reconfirmed her position that unless the nuclear capability ends, all options are on the table.”

“When you repeat ‘all options’ more than once, you mean some serious options,” Rosen said.

Philip Rucker is a national political correspondent for The Washington Post, where he has reported since 2005.
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