Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Did Hillary Clinton urge Obama to take a harder stance on Iran?

Today the Washington Times has reported, and many many people and news resources have tweeted and blogged, that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged President Obama for two days to toughen his language on Iran before he did so. The reports say that administration officials said she was surprised when he condemned Iran's crackdown on demonstrators last week.

At the news conference on June 23, Obama said he was "appalled and outraged" by Iranian behavior and "strongly condemned" the violence against anti-government demonstrators. This language is much stronger than what Obama had been using before. Everyone was taking a softer line, expressing "deep concern" and calling on Iran to "respect the dignity of its own people."

The juicy story is that behind the scenes Secretary Clinton had been advocating the stronger U.S. response, but the president resisted. When he finally took her advice, the aides said, he did so without informing her first.

I am always a little skeptical about statements like that last line because first of all, the officials who spoke on this ask that they not be named due to "discussing internal deliberations." If they should not be named due to "discussing internal deliberations" then maaaaaybe they shouldn't be "discussing internal deliberations." Hm, just a thought. And second, both the White House and the State Department declined to comment publicly on Secretary Clinton's "private advice" to President Obama and their internal communications.

The article continues to say that State DID have some knowledge that Obama was going to talk tough because the language was sent to the State Department a day earlier. A second "official" was quoted saying, "The White House sent over the actual language he'd use if he chose to take that line for folks to review and weigh in on, which State did."

The Times reports that Secretary Clinton agreed with the president's earlier take on Iran, not wanting to appear to be interfering in their internal affairs to further provide ammunition to the regime, which tends to blame the United States and other Western countries for any unrest. But she thought it was time to get tougher after the June 20 killing of a young woman, Neda Agha-Soltan, on a Tehran street, officials said.

Read the full Washington Times article for yourself here.


Sarah said...

Just to be clear, cos I don't know if I was, I do agree that Hillary was a great influence in Obamas stronger stance on Iran. Just not the way this article is presenting it's info. Thoughts??

Stacy said...

I certainly HOPE that Obama listens to his Secretary of State on a regular basis, but as with the recent Politico article talking about Hillary's diminished visibility and power, I can't help but wonder who those unnamed officials are who essentially leaked this because it's led to a lot of speculation among the media, Hillary fans like us, etc.

I think what's interesting is that the article says Obama/the White House didn't let Hillary know prior to his public statements, that he was going turn up the rhetoric a notch. But as you pointed out, it then says the State Dept (and presumably Hillary?) DID know what he was going to say. So why say she didn't know if in fact she did know? Also, some articles have not included that tidbit about the State Dept getting a draft of Obama's comments about Iran, which is interesting.

I DO think that Hillary played a major role in behind the scenes negotiations with Zelaya of Honduras- while it hasn't been widely reported at all, after Zelaya left NY (the UN) he supposedly went to DC and met with administration officials (not sure if State was involved directly at that point, but I think they were)- I read an article the next day (which of course I can't find now) which alluded to the role of Secy Clinton in making US support of Zelaya returning to Honduras to finish out his time as President, *conditional* upon his a) not messing around anymore with the Constitution or laws and b) agreeing not to run for office again.

That second condition is a HUGE deal when you think about it- it essentially means that even if Zelaya is able to regain the presidency, he will be a largely powerless lame duck, paving the way for the current opposition president to resume control and possibly break the tight bonds which Zelaya formed with Chavez.

In other words, if Hillary demanded these conditions, and I believe she did, then she certainly does NOT have diminished influence when it comes to foreign affairs!

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