Hillary Clinton on the Iran Deal

Consistent, Tough, and Effective Leadership to Counter Threats from Iran

Hillary Clinton has led the international effort to counter Iran’s support for terrorism, stop its destabilizing role in the Middle East, confront its Holocaust denial and threats against Israel, and ensure Iran never obtains a nuclear weapon. As President, she will be just as determined to hold Iran to its obligations while countering its other malicious activities. She will also work to bolster the strength and security of Israel and our other allies in the region.

Clinton’s Record:

As a Senator from New York, Clinton sponsored or co-sponsored numerous bills to tighten sanctions on Iran, isolate and weaken Iran’s terrorist proxies, combat anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial, and support Israel. She saw clearly what a grave menace to global security a nuclear Iran would be. As a Senator, Clinton laid out a strategy for how to engage Iran from a position of strength, saying in a speech back in 2006:

“U.S. policy must be clear and unequivocal. We cannot and should not—must not—permit Iran to build or acquire nuclear weapons. In order to prevent that from occurring, we must have more support vigorously and publicly expressed by China and Russia, and we must move as quickly as feasible for sanctions in the United Nations. And we cannot take any option off the table in sending a clear message to the current leadership of Iran—that they will not be permitted to acquire nuclear weapons.”
—Hillary Clinton Speech at Princeton University, 01/19/06

As the nation’s chief diplomat from 2009-2013, Secretary Clinton rallied the international community to impose suffocating sanctions on Tehran for its illicit nuclear program. When President Obama and Secretary Clinton came into office, Iran was racing toward a nuclear capability and the world was divided on what to do about it. Under the Bush Administration, Iran had mastered the nuclear fuel cycle. Unilateral U.S. sanctions were having little effect. So President Obama and Secretary Clinton designed and implemented a two-pronged strategy: pressure and engagement.

By increasing our military capabilities in the region—sending an additional aircraft carrier, a battleship, and the most advanced radar and missile defense systems—the U.S. ensured Iran felt both the strength of our military and our commitment to regional security. Meanwhile, through tough diplomacy, steadfast leadership, and countless meetings, Clinton marshaled all the major powers, including Russia and China, to impose the strongest-ever international sanctions regime on Iran.

At the State Department, Clinton also oversaw the strengthening of sanctions against Iran for its proliferation activities, support for terrorism, and human rights violations. She worked closely with the Treasury Department and Congress to craft sanctions that would maximize economic pressure on Tehran and also gain maximum compliance from the rest of the world. Under her watch, sanctions became global in scope. They reached private sector entities, such as foreign banks that had been floating Iran’s economy, resulting in massive inflation and economic losses for Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps. The pressure from these global sanctions ultimately forced Iran to the negotiating table, leading to an agreement that cuts off all of Iran’s pathways to a bomb and imposes unprecedented enforcement and verification measures.

Alongside the dual-track strategy, Clinton has made support for Israel and solidarity with U.S. allies a cornerstone of her approach to countering Iran’s aggression in the region. Prime Minister Netanyahu and others credited the Obama administration during her tenure as Secretary of State with elevating security support and cooperation with Israel to “unprecedented” levels. In 2012, she was the driving force behind launching a strategic coordination platform with our partners in the Gulf Cooperation Council to confront threats to regional security.

The Dual Track Strategy

Pressure Track:

  • Achieved strongest-ever UN sanctions resolution on Iran,1 passing UNSC Resolution 1929 in June 2010.2
  • Rotated additional aircraft carrier group and military assets to the Persian Gulf.3
  • Continued building Israel’s defense capabilities4 and strengthening Gulf States’ ability to deter and resist Iranian aggression.5
  • Closed Iran off from global markets and the international financial system, working with Congress and our European and Asian allies.6
  • Convinced Iran’s major oil customers to cut back, starving the regime of income.7

Engagement Track:

  • Sent senior aides to engage in initial secret diplomacy with Iran, testing Iran’s readiness to negotiate.8
  • That initial diplomacy produced an interim nuclear agreement negotiated between the P5+1 and Iran.9
  • The interim nuclear agreement led to a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action that blocks all of Iran’s pathways to a bomb and imposes unprecedented enforcement and verification measures.10

Clinton’s Vision:

Clinton supports vigorously enforcing the nuclear agreement as part of a broader strategy toward Iran that includes bolstering deterrence and aggressively confronting Iran’s unacceptable behavior in the region.

To enforce the deal, her approach will be distrust and verify. As President, she’ll hold the line against Iranian non-compliance, imposing penalties even for small violations, and will make sure the IAEA has the resources it needs to keep Iran’s feet to the fire. And she will not hesitate to take military action if Iran attempts to pursue a nuclear weapon.

Clinton also has a plan to counter Iran’s other malicious behavior:

  1. Deepen America’s unshakeable commitment to Israel’s security, continuing to guarantee Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge and increasing support for its rocket and missile defenses, including for northern Israel, and for intelligence sharing. Hillary will support selling Israel the most sophisticated fighter aircraft ever developed—and will push for better tunnel detection technology to prevent infiltration by terrorists and arms smuggling.
  2. Reaffirm that the Persian Gulf is a region of vital interest to the United States, expand our military presence in the region and act to keep the Strait of Hormuz open. She will increase security cooperation in areas like intelligence sharing, military backing and missile defense with our Gulf allies, to ensure they can defend themselves against Iranian aggression, including cyber-attacks or other nontraditional threats.
  3. Build a coalition to counter Iran’s proxies, particularly Hezbollah: enforcing and strengthening the rules prohibiting weapons transfers to Hezbollah; looking at new ways to choke off their funding; and pressing our partners to treat Hezbollah as the terrorist organization it is. Additionally, she will crack down on the shipment of weapons to Hamas, and push Turkey and Qatar to end their financial support. She will also press our partners to prevent IRGC-linked aircraft and ships from entering their territories, and to block Iranian planes from entering their airspace on their way to Yemen and Syria. And she will vigorously enforce—and strengthen if necessary—sanctions on Iran’s sponsorship of terrorism and prohibitions on sending arms to bad actors like North Korea and Syria.
  4. Stand against Iran’s abuses at home, from its detention of political prisoners to its crackdown on freedom of expression, including online, by enforcing and—if need be—broadening our human rights sanctions. And she will not rest until every single American citizen detained or missing in Iran is home.
  5. Strengthen efforts to generate stability and counter extremism by renewing diplomacy to solve the destructive regional conflicts that Iran fuels; providing material assistance to support countries’ abilities to defend their borders and guard against terrorism; and strengthening institutions across the region to foster inclusivity and undermine the forces of extremism. And as the richest and most powerful nation on Earth, she believes we must also lead in helping the millions of people who have been uprooted by conflict.

In short, her strategy will cover all the bases, addressing not only Iran’s nuclear ambitions but also its support of terrorism. Not only its hatred of Israel, but also its cruelty toward its own citizens. Not only its military resources, but also its economic strengths and weakness. She will be creative, committed, vigilant, and will continue strengthening our partnerships with our friends and allies.

Related Resources:

1“Assessing the resiliency of Hillary Clinton,” Michael O’Hanlon, Reuters, 01/14/13
2“U.N. imposes another round of sanctions on Iran,” Washington Post, 06/10/10
3“U.S. decides to keep beefed-up presence in Middle East waters,” CNN, 07/16/12
4Hillary Clinton at the Brookings Institution’s Saban Center for Middle East Policy 7th Annual Forum, 12/10/10
5“U.S. and Gulf Allies Pursue a Missile Shield Against Iranian Attack,” New York Times, 08/08/12
6U.S. Department of State, accessed 09/08/15
7Hillary Clinton at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy 2012 Saban Forum Opening Gala Dinner, 11/30/12
8“Deal Reached on Iran Nuclear Program; Limits on Fuel Would Lessen With Time,” New York Times, 07/14/15
9“U.S., Iran have ‘constructive’ nuclear talks in Geneva: U.S.,” Reuters, 08/07/14
10“The Iran Nuclear Deal: What You Need To Know About The JCPOA,” The White House, 07/14/15