Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Clinton's umbrella imbroglio

Hillary Clinton freaked out the Israelis today by suggesting a possible nuclear umbrella against Iran... implying Iran might have nukes someday. Later, according to the AFP, she clarified her remarks:

However, Clinton, during a visit to Thailand for an Asian security conference, said later that she was not announcing a new policy and simply wanted to turn Iran away from pursuing a nuclear weapon.

Clinton told Thai television in Bangkok that President Barack Obama's administration was still open to engage Iran in talks about its nuclear programme but warned that Tehran would not be safer if it obtains a bomb.

I've been worried about Clinton's Iran stance for some time, but this seems to be the right course to take. Clinton's premise is based on the idea that the Iranians want the bomb largely for deterrence and prestige, rather than to go on some messianic suicidal crusade agaisnt Israel. In that sense, establishing security norms that a) convince Iran that it doesn't need the bomb and b) convinces them that they won't gain anything by getting it. Clinton's comments effectively accomplish the second of these things, and give a diplomatic solution the best chance to succeed.

At the very least, this beats the hell out of saying we'll "obliterate them."

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