US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told Congress on Wednesday that Iran is trying to influence the outcomes of uprisings and revolutions throughout the Arab world.
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"They are doing everything they can to influence the outcomes in these places," she said.
The US secretary of state told the Senate Appropriations Committee that
Tehran is using Hezbollah to communicate with Palestinians, who in turn
communicate with counterparts in Egypt. She also explained that Iran is
reaching out to opposition movements in Bahrain and are "very much
involved" with the opposition in Yemen.
"So either directly or through proxies, they are constantly trying to
influence events. They have a very active diplomatic foreign policy
outreach," she said.
"But it is also a challenge for the Iranians," she added, "They don't
have a lot of friends, but they're trying to curry more friends."
Clinton sounded a
similar message to that expressed by US President Barack Obama on Tuesday, saying the US was intent on enforcing and expanding
sanctions against Iran.
She was pressed by Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez of New
Jersey for not taking advantage of new sanctions legislation to punish
international companies doing business in Iran.
“We have a lot of
catch-up to do. There are cases that are stalled in the review process,” Clinton
But she said the administration is “moving” to act on these
cases and that she expected more steps to be taken in the “near
Clinton said the administration is also reviewing the situation
in Lebanon, to find out more about the incoming government before making a
determination on US policy toward Beirut.
She said the US didn’t yet know
how much influence Hezbollah would have over the new Lebanese government, with
an ally of the Islamist group set to preside over the new
Despite concerns about the approximately $100 million in
annual aid to the Lebanese army falling into Hezbollah hands, she pressed for
Congress to continue to approve the funding.
“I believe still at this
point we should continue supporting the Lebanese armed forces,” she said. “It is
considered a nonsectarian institution that is national in scope. It has the
respect of the Lebanese people from all sects.”
She concluded, “We worry
if the United States does not keep supporting the Lebanese forces, its
capabilities will rapidly deteriorate. Security in the south and along
the border with Israel will be at risk.”
US President Barack Obama said Israel has an opportunity to move
forward with the peace process in the midst of the current Middle East upheaval,
and urged Jerusalem to make progress rather than hunker down, according to US
Jewish leaders who met with him on Tuesday.
While Obama expressed
understanding for the concerns of Israelis as protests roil the Arab world, he
said that it was essential to try to make progress, and suggested such momentum
in the peace process could help ease the Jewish state’s international
“He was very concerned that Israel has become increasingly
isolated. He expressed that as something he wanted to help Israel deal with and
solve,” said one of the close to 50 representatives in the meeting of the
Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations at the White House on
Tuesday afternoon. “The overarching theme was that some progress in the peace
process would assist in decreasing the isolation.”
Participants, all of
whom spoke on condition of anonymity, said Obama expressed concern that Israelis
society had not had fully engaged in the debate on territorial compromise, with
one attendee saying the president “wondered aloud if avoiding the hard
soul-searching is demographically sustainable for Israel, or compatible with
Israel’s Jewish and democratic values in the long run.”
He also said he
understood Israeli frustration with Palestinian leaders Mahmoud Abbas and Salam
Fayyad, but maintained they offered the best chance for achieving peace and felt
a greater urgency to do so in the wake of Arab protests across the region that
they fear could end up strengthening Hamas.
A Jewish organizational
official at the meeting said Obama said two things needed to happen: The
Palestinians need to feel confident that Israel’s elected government is prepared
to discuss territorial compromise, and Israelis need to feel confident that
Abbas can deliver.
Throughout, several participants reported, the
president noted that there could and would be disagreement between the Jewish
community and his administration over tactics, but his “intentions” on
supporting Israel shouldn’t be questioned. He pointed to increased US military
aid to Israel, shared values between the countries and American efforts to end
the delegitimization of Israel in international forums.
members of the Conference of Presidents welcomed Obama’s recent decision to veto
a UN Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements, some expressed
concern about a statement accompanying the resolution that criticized
construction in the West Bank and other ways in which the US cushioned the
A participant at the meeting said that in his conversations with
White House officials, he was told the US “needed to do something to show
balance” given the wide support for the resolution and the delicacy of Arab
public opinion at this historical moment.
Overall, the participant said,
“His comments were very supportive of Israel and the Jewish people. He said it
extremely well and extremely strongly.”
He described Obama as “down to
earth, straight-forward, a guy who really appears to be concerned about
But not all of those at the hour-long meeting were assuaged by
what they heard.
“People that walked in with concerns walked out with the
same concerns,” one Jewish leader said. “If the White House hoped to win new
friends and change minds in this session, that seems not to have
It was the first full meeting with the conference, though many
representatives of member organizations had been present at a meeting Obama held
with Jewish leaders in 2009. This conversation, requested by the Conference of
Presidents, came as Middle East governments are being toppled and threatened,
and the peace process has been stalled. Obama spent some time addressing the
stability and implications of the demonstrations in various countries, and
criticized Iran over its suppression of opposition protesters.
criticized the Tehran leadership on the nuclear front, saying that after the
recent fruitless conversations between international powers and Iranian
leadership, “we could expect more in the way of Iran sanctions,” according to a