Clinton on Iran Options

Judging from the order of questions Hillary Clinton received at today’s confirmation hearings, it is clear that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee thinks the gravest concern facing the United States is Iran’s apparent pursuit of nuclear weapons.

In his first question to Clinton, Kerry asked what carrots and sticks the Obama administration was thinking of with respect to Iran’s nuclear program. Clinton said that she couldn’t get too specific, because she didn’t want to take the country’s allies by surprise, but that she would use all of the nation’s instruments to keep Iran from building a nuclear weapon.

She said she and Obama “have no illusions” that their new administration’s effort to engage Iran would yield immediate results and that all options were “on the table.” She stressed that the administration would make the case to the world that “a nuclear-armed Iran is in no one’s interests.”

When Kerry pressed, asking if that meant Iran possessing nuclear arms was merely undesirable or impossible, she said the administration would try to prevent that outcome by any means. “We are not taking any option off the table at all, we will pursue a new perhaps different approach,” she said, adding that “the president-elect has been very clear that it is unacceptable.”

She did not answer whether she would engage personally with Iranians or whether the administration would install a liaison in Tehran, as Kerry strongly recommended to be a priority. (“I think I’ve got you drift, Mr. Chairman,” she said.)

At another point, Clinton seemed to address Kerry as “Mr. President.”

“I’ll take that,” said Kerry, who lost the 2004 presidential election.

Clinton called the flub a Freudian slip.

“We are both subject to those,” Kerry observed.

“On this subject especially,” she replied.