Clinton warns of ME nuclear arms race

In TV interview, US secretary of state says Iranian nuclear attack on Israel would be like attack on US.

Clinton whistles 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
Clinton whistles 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
Despite its decision to pursue diplomatic negotiations with Teheran over its nuclear program, the United States would view an Iranian nuclear attack on Israel as an attack on itself, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Sunday, asserting that there would be retaliation for any such attack. Speaking to ABC News "This Week," Clinton described the prospect of engagement with Iran as a great opportunity, saying that a diplomatic process "means that for the first time, we would actually be sitting at a table across from Iranians authorized by the supreme leader to talk with us about a whole range of issues. That gives us information and insight that we don't have." Such talks, she said, would help determine the real goals of the Iranian nuclear program. "We understand the legitimate right of nations to have access to peaceful, nuclear energy," Clinton said. "If that is at the core of what they want, there are ways of accommodating that do not lead to a nuclear weapon." However, she continued, negotiations would not negate the primary goal of the engagement, "which is to do everything we can to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear weapons state." Clinton's interviewer, George Stephanopoulos, went on to ask whether the Obama administration's policy currently echoed her own campaign statements regarding a nuclear umbrella that Washington would provide Israel. "I think it is US policy to the extent that we have alliances and understandings with a number of nations. They may not be formal as it is with NATO, but, I don't think there is any doubt in anyone's mind that were Israel to suffer a nuclear attack by Iran, there would be retaliation," Clinton said. The secretary of state, however, did not rule out the possibility of a preemptive strike on Iran. Alluding to Israel's reported possession of nuclear arms, she said that the US did not want another arms race triggered by a nuclear-armed Iran. Teheran, Clinton said, would perhaps be better persuaded to drop its nuclear ambitions if it were faced by the prospect of a preemptive strike by either the US or Israel. "I think part of what is clear is we want to avoid a Middle East arms race which leads to nuclear weapons being in the possession of other countries in the Middle East," Clinton said. "And we want to make clear that there are consequences and costs. Now, let me just put it this way. If Iran is seeking security, if they believe […] that the United States might attack them […] Part of what we have to make clear to the Iranians is that their pursuit of nuclear weapons will actually trigger greater insecurity, because right now, many of the nations in the neighborhood […] other Arab countries are deeply concerned about Iran having nuclear weapons. So, does Iran want to face a battery of nuclear weapons countries?" Clinton reiterated that Washington's overtures were not "part of an electoral ploy or propaganda" and that the US would therefore wait out the Iranian election before stepping up its diplomatic efforts. Commenting on the recent escalation of the debate between Israel and the US regarding the settlements and the existence - or non existence - of an earlier agreement regarding continued Israeli construction in the large settlement blocs, Clinton reiterated that any such agreement had not been "made part of the official record of the negotiations, as it was passed on to our administration." Alluding to the ill-fated Camp David Summit near the end of her husband's presidential term, Clinton said, "We were very close in 2000. And it's heartbreaking to see where we are today. And we can't just stand by and expect time to work its magic […] We see historical, demographic, political, technological trends that are very troubling as to Israel's future. At the same time, there is a legitimate aspiration of the Palestinian people that needs to be addressed."