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Hillary Clinton defends her ‘hard choices’ at State Department

Hillary Rodham Clinton spoke at Marketo’s Marketing Nation Summit last month in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Hillary Rodham Clinton delivered a robust defense of her four years as secretary of state on Wednesday, saying she worked tirelessly to slow Iran's nuclear development and to lay the groundwork for lasting peace in the Middle East.

During a speech before a pro-Israel gathering in Washington, the potential 2016 presidential candidate repeatedly invoked the title of her forthcoming memoir, "Hard Choices," to describe her service in President Obama's administration.

On Iran, Clinton said, "President Obama and I knew we had a hard choice: Keep reading from the same playbook -- politically safe but practically unsustainable -- or tear up the old playbook and devise a new strategy."

In her remarks to the American Jewish Committee's Global Forum, Clinton detailed her arm-twisting diplomacy to round up enough votes at the United Nations Security Council to impose tougher sanctions on Iran. It was "my personal mission" to convince allies in Europe and Asia to cut exports from Iran so the regime would suffer an economic blow, she said.

"When I left as secretary and passed the baton on to Secretary Kerry, we were positioned to really explore whether we had set the table well enough to see changes that were sufficient to meet our legitimate objections to Iran's behavior and its future plans," Clinton said.

The former U.S. senator and first lady offered a preview of her book, due out June 10, saying it would detail her work as America's top diplomat regarding Israel. Clinton said it was "not a hard choice" to defend Israel's security and that she was "proud to do my part to keep our relationship rock solid over the years."

Clinton said she endured "endless meetings," "vigorous discussions -- even arguments" and "endless phone calls" on behalf of Israel, noting that she helped convene three rounds of face-to-face negotiations between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

"I can tell you that hard choices are exactly what it will take to achieve a just and lasting peace, a comprehensive peace between Israelis and Palestinians, two states for two people," Clinton said.

As she said during a March speech in New York, Clinton repeated that she is "personally skeptical" that Iran's leaders will follow through on a comprehensive agreement to end their nuclear program. And she reiterated that the United States could pursue other options if diplomacy fails. "Let's be clear," she said, "every option does remain on the table."

Clinton was warmly received by a couple thousand Israel supporters and other foreign leaders in attendance. The speaker who followed her, AJC Executive Council member Matthew Bronfman, alluded to the possibility of a Clinton campaign in 2016 by saying: "We know that you have a hard choice to make soon...We hope you make the right one on our behalf."

Clinton did not speak about her political deliberations, nor did she refer to the hubub sparked this week over Republican strategist Karl Rove's suggestion that Clinton may had suffered "brain damage" from a head injury in late 2012.

After months writing and rewriting book chapters from the third-floor study at her family home in Chapaqua, N.Y., Clinton said, "it's nice being out of my attic." She playfully plugged the memoir, calling it "a light summer read that I'm sure would be great at the beach."

Clinton's only reference to domestic politics came near the end of her remarks, when she said, "I would like to see our own democracy work a little more smoothly in order to set a better example [to the world] and to deal with our own problems here at home."


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



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