US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton 390 (R).
(photo credit: REUTERS/Jason Reed)
WASHINGTON – US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton clarified Wednesday that
Washington is committed to preventing Iran from having the capability to make
nuclear weapons, not only from their actual construction.
absolutely clear that the president’s policy is to prevent Iran from having
nuclear weapons capability,” she told the US House Committee on Foreign Affairs, when asked whether the US would allow Iran to become a nuclear threshold state, short of actually building nuclear weapons.
The drawing of a red
line with Iran, particularly between having a nuclear weapons capability and
having an actual nuclear weapon, is a significant point of discussion between
the US and Israel.
Israel would like to see a red line drawn sooner in
the nuclear weapons process than many have perceived the US has been willing to
that Israel would seek the more explicit and public drawing of such
red lines when Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu meets with US President Barack
Obama this Monday, coinciding with their participation in the American Israel
Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Washington conference.
When Clinton was
asked Wednesday about America’s willingness to make such a public declaration,
she responded, “It’s probably smarter for us to be pressing on the sanctions and
the negotiations while we keep our objective of no nuclear capability absolutely
clear, instead of setting other benchmarks at this time publicly.”
and Israel have been involved in intensive discussions in preparation for the
two leaders’ parley next week, which is expected to focus largely on
Defense Minister Ehud Barak has been in Washington this week
meeting with his counterpart Defense Secretary Leon Panetta as well as Vice
President Joe Biden, National Security Adviser Tom Donilon and other top
military and intelligence officials in consultations ahead of Netanyahu’s
Clinton said the sanctions are having an impact in Iran as the
regime becomes “increasingly desperate.” She stressed the US commitment to
continue to strengthen sanctions even as it explores the possibility of fresh
talks with Tehran.
“Discussion hasn’t gone anywhere but pressure has been
ratcheted up,” she said, also speaking of “aggressive” implementation of
sanctions on the part of the Obama administration.
Some members of
Congress, however, feel that the administration could do more on sanctions and
are also looking to take action themselves. A new bill is making its way through
the capitol right now and is expected to be a major focus of the lobbying effort
that will accompany the AIPAC conference, to be attended by some 13,000
Clinton demurred on several questions at the Foreign Affairs
Committee hearing and an earlier appearance Tuesday before the foreign
operations subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee, which asked her
to spell out what the likely ramifications of an Israeli attack on Iran would
But she pushed back against the suggestion made by other members,
including Republican presidential candidate Representative Ron Paul (R-Texas),
that there was scant evidence of Iran’s interest in acquiring nuclear weapons by
pointing to the “suspicions” raised by the country’s treatment of International
Atomic Energy Agency inspectors.
“If there is no weapons program, what
does Iran have to hide? If there is no nuclear weapons program, why are they
putting their centrifuges deep underground?” she asked, pointing as well to its
increased enrichment of uranium.
Clinton also declined to comment on the
reports that the American NGO workers held by Egypt would be released, saying
the State Department was awaiting final confirmation of their
The detentions provoked a major outcry among members of
Congress, who have threatened to withhold aid to Egypt unless they were
Clinton did note the turmoil and change in the country, and
said the US was carefully monitoring the emerging government.
uncertainties, she said she did not see Israel’s peace agreement with Egypt
currently at risk.
“It is my assessment as of now that there is no threat
to the Camp David Accords, to the existing peace agreement with Israel,” she