Democratic presidential candidate and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has revealed a five-point strategy against the Iranian regime that maintains the nuclear deal but increases sanctions. She conceded that she erred in not vigorously supporting the 2009 anti-regime protests and vowed, "That won't happen again."
Clinton is stuck in a situation where it is political suicide in a Democratic presidential primary to oppose the nuclear deal, but she must answer for its consequences during the general election. She is threading the needle by saying that the success of the deal hinges upon a successful strategy towards Iran overall that addresses the deal's downsides, such as how the deal increases Iran's ability to sponsor terrorism and raises the risk of a regional nuclear arms race.
The positioning allows her to defend the deal for the Democratic primary while excusing herself from its impact. If the situation spirals downwards, she can blame the administration's overall Iran strategy without opposing the deal and appearing like a turncoat.
Clinton's strategy parts from the administration in that it would increase sanctions on Iran "if necessary" for sponsoring terrorism, violating human rights and developing ballistic missile technology. She also said the administration should consider congressional proposals to "close any gaps" in the sanctions.
The following is an outline of Clinton's five-point strategy towards Iran:
1. Increased aid to Israel.
Clinton says that she'd increase U.S. assistance to Israel's rocket and missile defense programs, particularly for the northern part of Israel threatened by Hezbollah's massive arsenal of 100,000 rockets. She'd sell the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter to Israel, increase intelligence-sharing and collaborate on technology to detect underground tunnels.
2. Increased aid to Gulf allies.
She'd try to dissuade the pro-American Sunni governments from developing nuclear weapons by increasing military aid, missile defense and protection against Iranian aggression including cyber attacks. Clinton said she'd commit the U.S. to keeping the strategic Strait of Hormuz open.
3. Build coalition against Iranian, Turkish and Qatari sponsorship of terrorism and increase sanctions.
Clinton proposes putting together an international coalition to pressure countries into banning Hezbollah, including its political wing, as a terrorist group and cutting off its funding sources. Her administration would pressure the U.S. "allies" of Turkey and Qatar to stop financing Hamas.
In addition, she would demand that neighboring countries prevent the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps from using their ports and airspace and that planes delivering supplies to Iranian proxies in Syria and Yemen be interdicted. Individuals and entities involving in supporting Iran's terrorist proxies will be sanctioned.
4. Support human rights in Iran, including increased sanctions.
Clinton admits that she and the Obama Administration made a mistake by not speaking out in support of the Iranian protests who stood against the Iranian regime during the 2009 Green Revolution. She promised, "That won't happen again."
She will increase sanctions on Iran for violating human rights "if need be" and stand up for the freedom of the Iranian people.
5. Regional strategy to increase stability and support moderate Syrian rebels.
She said that both Iran and the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) benefit from chaos and said a regional effort is needed to strengthen governments and solve the region's conflicts. Clinton advocated increased humanitarian aid to Syrian refugees and training and arming of moderate Syrian rebels to pressure the Assad regime. As I have explained, a strategy towards supporting the Syrian rebels is fraught with risks, especially if it does not separate the secular-democratic elements from the Islamists.
Clinton's Iran policy is the most detailed among the Democratic candidates. Her only Democratic rival that opposes the Iran deal is former Virginia Senator Jim Webb, who argues that it gives "tacit approval" to Iran's nuclear weapons capability. Clinton is the frontrunner with about 41% and he is in fifth place with less than one percent, but the Democratic candidates haven't even had their first debate yet.
In August, Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee explicitly endorsed a strategy of overthrowing the Iranian regime by supporting the democratic opposition. He is currently in 8th place nationally for his party's nomination. Republican presidential candidates Rick Santorum and Lindsey Graham have also endorsed such a strategy. They are in 13th and 15th place nationally, respectively.
Ryan Mauro is ClarionProject.org’s national security analyst, a fellow with Clarion Project and an adjunct professor of homeland security. Mauro is frequently interviewed on top-tier television and radio. Read more, contact or arrange a speaking engagement.