President Barack Obama’s Iran nuclear agreement is now an unavoidable issue forHillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, a dicey political inheritance as her Republican foes lined up unanimously against the deal and it remains unclear whether voters will embrace it.
In meetings on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, Mrs. Clinton spoke positively about the pact with Democratic lawmakers, though some attendees said she didn’t endorse it. That may have been an attempt to provide some political maneuvering room, though the former secretary of state’s own ties to the deal will provide plenty of fodder for opponents of the agreement.
In a statement issued late Tuesday, Mrs. Clinton said she’s still reviewing the details. But, based on her briefings, she said, “I support the agreement because it can help us prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. With vigorous enforcement, unyielding verification, and swift consequences for any violations, this agreement can make the United States, Israel, and our Arab partners safer.”
Republicans responded with withering criticism of the pact—and four of the GOP presidential contenders will have a chance to vote against it when it faces a vote for approval in the Senate.
“This isn’t diplomacy—it is appeasement,” former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said in a statement.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who joined the presidential field this week, said the deal would be remembered as one of Obama’s “worst diplomatic failures.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham, who is running as an advocate of a more assertive American posture in the Middle East, said the pact’s sanctions relief for Iran would spark a regional arms race. “This is the most dangerous, irresponsible step I have ever seen in the history of watching the Mideast,” the South Carolina senator said on MSNBC.
Meanwhile, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, who once supported the negotiations, said the deal “lifts the ban on selling advanced weapons to Iran. Better to keep the interim agreement in place of accepting a bad deal.”
Republicans want to yoke Mrs. Clinton to the Iran deal, betting that voters—particularly those in the normally Democratic Jewish community—will see the accord as a capitulation that in the end will lead to Iran getting nuclear weapons. Exit polls show that Mr. Obama won 69% of the Jewish vote in 2012, which was 10 percentage points less thanAl Gore’s share in 2000, according to the Pew Research Center.
Mrs. Clinton in recent months has worked to solidify her relationship with the Jewish community, which also is an important source of political donations. In March, she toldMalcolm Hoenlein of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, that she wanted “to return the special U.S.-Israel relationship to constructive footing,” he said.
Yet Morton Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America, a pro-Israel group, said in an interview: “It’s almost shocking that she would immediately have praised this deal before having a chance to read and think about it.”
A public rejection of the pact also could damage one of Mrs. Clinton’s core credentials in the White House race—her years spent at the State Department as the nation’s top diplomat. Alternatively, an embrace of the accord could enhance her stature.
Public opinion is unsettled on the issue. Asked if they support pursuing a nuclear agreement with Iran, 36% said they backed the talks, 17% said they opposed them, and 47% said they don’t know enough or aren’t sure, according to a June Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll.
Three of Mrs. Clinton’s primary opponents—former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley,former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee, and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders—also voiced support for the deal. Former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb said he would comment on it on Wednesday.
With all Republican presidential candidates opposing the deal, the nuclear pact is likely to provide voters with a clear choice on the issue.
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, a Republican presidential contender who will have a vote on the deal, said he expects “a significant majority” of lawmakers to oppose it. “Failure by the president to obtain congressional support will tell the Iranians and the world that this is Barack Obama’s deal, not an agreement with lasting support from the U.S.,” he said.
This article was published by the Wall Street Journal and may be found here.