NEW YORK — Hillary Rodham Clinton cast doubt on the interim nuclear agreement with Iran, saying in a muscular policy speech here Wednesday night that she is “personally skeptical” that Iran’s leaders will follow through on a comprehensive agreement to end their march toward nuclear weapons.
Still, the former secretary of state and potential 2016 Democratic presidential candidate told a pro-Israel audience in New York that she stands behind the Obama administration’s negotiations with Iran, and she 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 the years. But this is a development that is worth testing.”
If the negotiations with Iran fail, however, 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 earliest days of the Obama administration. This is likely to be a focus of her forthcoming memoir, due out this spring, which she teased in a separate speech earlier Wednesday.
Addressing the Association of American Publishers, Clinton said the book would cover challenges in the 21st century from Crimea to climate change. “Just another light summer read,” she quipped.
She described her study at home as an episode of “Hoarders,” with book notes and chapter drafts piled up all over. And she said her advisers, family and friends are vigorously debating the merits of her paragraphs.
Clinton is still mulling a title — although she joked that she was considering “The Scrunchie Chronicles: 112 Countries and It’s Still All About My Hair,” a winner from a reader contest last year in The Washington Post’s “In the Loop” column.
In her book, Clinton will frame her State Department legacy and lay out her views on a range of important policy matters ahead of a potential presidential campaign.
Clinton said the book would be “about my experiences at the State Department, our rapidly changing and increasingly interdependent world, and the challenges facing us in the 21st century.
The book will be Clinton’s fourth, she said, although she noted, “It hasn’t gotten any easier, at least for me, in producing a compelling personal narrative that tries to both captivate and educate along with inspire all at once.”
When Clinton wrote her first memoir, “Living History,” she was a senator and worked on the book in her spare time. After a full day’s work in the Capitol, she said, she would come home and “stay up all hours in the night writing, editing and arguing” with her advisers and friends.
“This time I promised myself that it would be different,” Clinton said. “I was leaving the State Department, stepping off that high wire of American diplomacy. There’d be no more interview requests, no frantic media speculation about my plans — just peace and quiet in our little old Chappaqua farmhouse, up in the attic where I hang out.”
Then she deadpanned, “It has not exactly worked out that way.”
Clinton’s book has been hotly anticipated, and political groups have begun battling to define her tenure before she even finishes the manuscript.
Clinton said she is not writing on a computer — “I still write longhand” — and has produced “barrels and barrels of old drafts.”
“In fact, if you see my study at home, you would think it was an episode from ‘The Hoarders’ — the notes, the pages, the drafts. It is amazing,” Clinton said.
The reason she keeps her drafts, she said, is because when she wrote “It Takes a Village” as first lady, some reporters “claimed I never wrote anything in the book.” To prove them wrong, she said, she had to reveal her paper drafts.
Clinton said that she has been relying heavily on her husband, former president Bill Clinton, and daughter, Chelsea, for editing and motivation. “The biggest challenge is deciphering my husband’s writing when he decides to put his two cents in,” she joked.
She also is getting help from editor Jonathan Karp, as well as Carolyn Reidy, president and chief executive of Simon & Schuster, which published her three previous titles.
Reidy, who chairs the Association of American Publishers, introduced Clinton at Wednesday’s meeting before a couple hundred publishing executives.
“She writes her own books,” Reidy said. “And, like all good authors, she works hard on each and every draft of her manuscript as she revises and then revises again, absorbing editorial suggestions.”
As she mulls a title, Clinton joked, she has turned to the “In the Loop” reader contest in The Post for some suggestions.
“One possibility was ‘It Takes a World,’ a fitting sequel to ‘It Takes a Village,’ ” Clinton said. “Another plays off my love of all things Tina Fey: ‘Bossypantsuit,’ although we can no longer say one of those words” (a reference Fey’s 2011 book “Bossypants” — and Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg’s recent campaign to ban the word “bossy”).
Of the contest winner, “The Scrunchie Chronicles,” Clinton said: “That actually is a keeper. That’s on the short list.”