Published on TheHill.com on May 20, 2014
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has characterized her place in history as akin to a runner in a relay race: taking the baton, running her laps as best she can, and then handing it off to John Kerry, her successor.
But the actual record indicates that, rather than a relay, her role in Iranian sanctions might better be compared to a high hurdles race — with Clinton erecting the hurdles.
In her full-throated defense of her tenure as America’s top diplomat, delivered to the American Jewish Committee last week, Clinton touted her efforts to impose, strengthen and enforce sanctions against Iran in an effort to stop its nuclear weapons program. But the record shows she fought tooth and nail against each new round of sanctions and had her minions in the State Department do all they could to kill them.
In her speech, she said, “We went after Iran’s oil industry, banks, and weapons programs, enlisted insurance firms, shipping lines, energy companies, financial institutions and others to cut Iran off from global commerce.”
Her supposed role in backing sanctions against Iran was the only specific part of her tenure or legacy that she chose to mention.
But the record contradicts even this claim. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) who, along with Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), led the battle for sanctions, says that she was on the other side.
“Secretary Clinton’s comments are a blatant revision of history,” he told The Daily Beast. “The fact is the Obama Administration has opposed sanctions every step of the way as was thoroughly documented at the time.”
The record is clear, documented in The Daily Beast.
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In 2009, the administration opposed the passage of gasoline sanctions against Iran, which eventually passed unanimously.
In 2011, Clinton sent her undersecretary, Wendy Sherman, to state her “strong opposition” to sanctioning the Central Bank of Iran.
Sherman said it would antagonize U.S. allies. She even had her top deputy at the State Department, Bill Burns, meet with top senators to oppose the amendment. It eventually passed unanimously.
Menendez angrily accused the administration of negotiating in bad faith, saying “at your request, we engaged in an effort to come to a bipartisan agreement … and now you come here and vitiate that agreement.”
In 2012, Clinton opposed barring Iranian financial institutions from doing business with SWIFT, the global financial clearinghouse.
The administration, reportedly, was afraid that “the SWIFT-related sanctions would cause too much disruption to the system.”
Also in 2012, the administration battled for a six-month delay in additional sanctions. Mark Dubowitz, executive director of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, said that “the decision not to crack down immediately on gold exports … ultimately allowed the Iranians to blow a massive hole in the international financial sanctions.” Iran was able to sell oil to Turkey in return for gold to shore up its dwindling hard currency reserves.
Clinton’s one apparent contribution to the enforcement of sanctions was her help in lining up votes in the United Nations Security Council, but even this claim may backfire. Recent leaks from Edward Snowden indicate that former U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice requested the National Security Agency help in spying on swing votes in the council: Nigeria, Bosnia, Gabon and Uganda. Did the secretary of State use NSA surveillance to get the votes?
Clinton’s role in surveillance has been largely unexplored. It deserves more scrutiny.
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