Clinton: Iran Agreement an "Important Step"

Clinton: Iran Agreement an "Important Step"
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Hillary Clinton praised the Obama administration’s agreement with Iran Tuesday as an “important step” in stopping the nation’s nuclear weapons program.

Clinton was on Capitol Hill for a series of meetings with Democratic lawmakers, starting with a full caucus meeting with House members in the morning. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said the discussion focused on the economy, but that they did talk about the Iran deal announced earlier in the day.

Clinton said President Obama called her late Monday night to discuss the details of the agreement, and that she was going to be getting another briefing from national security advisers later in the day. She said she applauded Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry and Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz for their “extraordinary efforts” to reach an agreement. 

“Based on what I know now, and I will be being briefed as soon as I finish addressing you, this is an important step in putting the lid on Iran’s nuclear program,” Clinton said.

She then mentioned two specific parts of the agreement: enforcement, and other concerns with Iran outside the nuclear program. In terms of enforcement, she said there was language in the agreement for necessary inspections and transparency of Iran’s nuclear facilities, and that verification must be an ongoing process. She added that while the agreement might halt Iran’s nuclear program, there were other “bad behaviors,” including state-sponsored terrorism, the imprisonment of Americans and the threat to Israel, that were important to combat going forward.

Clinton said the pact “will enable us then to turn our attention, as it must, to doing what we can with other partners in the region and beyond, to try to prevent and contain Iran’s other bad actions.” She added the deal must be evaluated carefully.

While she didn’t give a full-throated endorsement of the deal, lawmakers in the meeting said she advised them to look carefully at the details and provided key context on the history of the negotiations with Iran from her perspective as former secretary of state. Members of Congress will have an opportunity to vote on approving or disapproving of the deal in the coming weeks, and Democratic support will be key, considering Republicans’ staunch opposition to the agreement.

“She said it will be a lot easier, obviously, to deal with [Iran] in stopping or opposing their sponsorship of terrorism if they’re not a nuclear state than if they are,” Rep. Jerrold Nadler said as he left the meeting. He said Clinton’s message was that the deal might not be perfect, but it’s better than the alternatives. Others echoed that sentiment.

“She made the point to us that if you’re looking for perfection, you’re never going to find it,” Rep. Xavier Becerra, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, told reporters. “It’s whether this is something that really will help us, as she said, put a lid on nuclear arms race that could develop in the Middle East.”

Wednesday morning, just 24 hours after Clinton visited House Democrats and discussed the Iran agreement, Vice President Joe Biden will do the same. Pelosi requested Biden come to brief the caucus on the implications of the agreement, and more briefings are likely in the future.

James Arkin is a congressional reporter for RealClearPolitics. He can be reached at jarkin@realclearpolitics.com. Follow him on Twitter @JamesArkin.

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