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In Major Foreign Policy Speech, Clinton Distances Herself from White House on Israel, Iran

If her speech Wednesday at the Brookings Institution is any indication, Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy agenda will mark a break with her former boss, President Barack Obama, according to a Washington Post analysis [1].

Notably, the Democratic presidential candidate and former secretary of state advocated for confronting Iran more forcefully despite her announced support for the nuclear deal and promised a less adversarial approach to Israel. The Post noted that Clinton frequently “pointed to instances overseas where she would have taken a tougher stance than Obama.”

The critique, delivered as part of a Washington speech focused on the Iran nuclear deal, was in many respects subtle — wrapped inside overall praise for Obama and never targeting him directly. But the differences were nonetheless striking for a candidate who has worked carefully to soften her hawkish national security reputation and who badly needs Obama’s liberal coalition of voters to gain the White House. …

Clinton said she would “sustain a robust military presence” in the Persian Gulf. The Obama administration has acknowledged that there will be a gap of about two months this fall when no U.S. aircraft carrier group will be stationed in the gulf, the first time that has happened in several years. …

In response to a question, Clinton also suggested that her former boss had miscalculated by trying to strong-arm Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over dealings with the Palestinians. That tactic was tried during and after her tenure.

Clinton also pointedly noted that she was an early advocate of arming moderate Syrian rebels, and was against the decision not to retaliate against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad after his regime’s chemical weapons attack on civilians two years ago, saying, “I do think that not being able to follow through on it cost us.”

Clinton suggested that as president, she would keep disagreements with Israel private and promised [2] to invite Israel’s prime minister to Washington during her first month in office “to talk about all these issues and to set us on a course of close, frequent consultation.” However, she also used the speech to reiterate her support for the nuclear deal with Iran, which Israel opposes.

A synopsis [3] of Clinton’s speech was published on the Brookings Institution website. Clinton listed “five pillars” of policy intended to counter Iran’s support of terror and “confront them across the board.” A video of this portion of Clinton’s talk is embedded below.

The pillars include an “unshakeable commitment to Israel’s military security;” defending the Persian Gulf and assuring Gulf allies that America will act if they are threatened; building coalitions across the Middle East to battle Iran’s proxies and to enforce embargoes of Iranian arms shipments; taking a strong stand against Iran’s humans rights abuses; and adopting a “comprehensive regional strategy that promotes stability and counters extremism.”

[Photo: Brookings Institution / YouTube [4] ]