Hillary Aide: Terrorist Designation Doesn’t Authorize War in Iran

More from Hillary Clinton on Iraq and Iran:

She writes in a new essay in Foreign Affairs magazine that she lays out a tough diplomatic approach on Iran and says that she would start bringing troops home from Iraq "within the first 60 days of [her] administration," but that she could also foresee an American presence in and around the country to help maintain stability and keep pressure on al Qaeda.

In a conference call with reporters that just ended, her campaign's national security director, Lee Feinstein, said that while "a commander and chief does not take options off the table and neither does Senator Clinton," she also "makes it very very clear that the best approach, the preferred approach right now, is to pursue…diplomacy and economic pressure."

Feinstein was asked about whether a bill supported by Clinton asking the Bush administration to declare Iran's 125,000-member Revolutionary Guard Corps a foreign terrorist organization paved the way to open conflict with Iran.

"No," said Feinstein. "There is nothing whatsoever which gives any authorization of the kind."

He said that the Guards "are indisputably an odious outfit," and that "some people want to rush to war. Some people think that doing nothing is the answer." But the bill, he said, was part of a robust diplomatic effort to put pressure on Iran.

In the essay Clinton writes about the troops to be left in Iraq:

"I will order specialized units to engage in targeted operations against al Qaeda in Iraq and other terrorist organizations in the region. These units will also provide security for U.S. troops and personnel in Iraq and train and equip Iraqi security services to keep order and promote stability in the country, but only to the extent that such training is actually working. I will also consider leaving some forces in the Kurdish area of northern Iraq in order to protect the fragile but real democracy and relative peace and security that have developed there, but with the clear understanding that the terrorist organization the PKK (Kurdistan Workers' Party) must be dealt with and the Turkish border must be respected."

She advocates what sounds like a hard line on Iran:

"Iran poses a long-term strategic challenge to the United States, our NATO allies, and Israel. It is the country that most practices state-sponsored terrorism, and it uses its surrogates to supply explosives that kill U.S. troops in Iraq. The Bush administration refuses to talk to Iran about its nuclear program, preferring to ignore bad behavior rather than challenge it. Meanwhile, Iran has enhanced its nuclear-enrichment capabilities, armed Iraqi Shiite militias, funneled arms to Hezbollah, and subsidized Hamas, even as the government continues to hurt its own citizens by mismanaging the economy and increasing political and social repression."

And:

"As a result, we have lost precious time. Iran must conform to its nonproliferation obligations and must not be permitted to build or acquire nuclear weapons. If Iran does not comply with its own commitments and the will of the international community, all options must remain on the table."

But Clinton also says that Iran should be rewarded if it acts more responsibly.

"On the other hand, if Iran is in fact willing to end its nuclear weapons program, renounce sponsorship of terrorism, support Middle East peace, and play a constructive role in stabilizing Iraq, the United States should be prepared to offer Iran a carefully calibrated package of incentives. This will let the Iranian people know that our quarrel is not with them but with their government and show the world that the United States is prepared to pursue every diplomatic option."

Clinton does not specify how to get an uncooperative Iran to become more responsible.

The Foreign Affairs piece is also critical of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who Clinton says "has suppressed many of the freedoms won after the fall of communism," yet who nevertheless is in an important partner in "on issues of high national importance, such as thwarting Iran's nuclear ambitions, securing loose nuclear weapons in Russia and the former Soviet republics, and reaching a diplomatic solution in Kosovo."

In the case of Russia, Iran and China, Clinton is not clear as to how she would assert American values of freedom while at the same time enlisting their help in national security and economic issues.

And the piece also takes a veiled shot at Rudy Giuliani, who some critics have blamed for the loss of life of many first responders to the Sept. 11 attacks because the city did not equip them with radios on which they could communicate with one another.

"As a senator from New York, I have long advocated full investment in our first responders and in protecting our critical infrastructure. I have pushed for new strategies and new technologies, such as a new federal interoperable communications and safety system. After years of Bush administration neglect, 80 percent of the 9/11 Commission's recommendations on homeland security have now been enacted, principally as a result of the Democratic Congress' work. But there is more to do. We must match the resources to the stakes and help the most vulnerable and at-risk cities prepare for an attack. We must improve health-care delivery systems in order to manage the consequences of attacks. "