Hillary Clinton: Test Iran and wait on new sanctions

NEW YORK (JTA) — Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said that nuclear negotiations with Iran should be given a chance and warned Congress against imposing new sanctions.

Clinton, speaking Wednesday night at an American Jewish Congress gala in New York, credited international sanctions that she worked to implement with bringing Iran to the negotiating table. She stressed the importance of pursuing the current multinational talks aimed at reaching an agreement with Iran over its nuclear program.

“Now, the odds of reaching that comprehensive agreement are not good. President Obama has said that,” Clinton said at the dinner, where she was presented with the AJCongress’ Stephen S. Wise Award. “I’m also personally skeptical that the Iranians would follow through and deliver. I have seen their behavior over years. But this is a development that is worth testing.”

Clinton, who is considered a likely 2016 presidential frontrunner, focused her  speech on the Iranian nuclear issue and the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. On both fronts, she said, “the status quo is unsustainable.”

In her half-hour address, Clinton pointed to her experience as secretary of state in building international support for Iran sanctions and bringing Israeli and Palestinian leaders together.

“It was clear to me that Prime Minister Netanyahu had a deep commitment to testing whether it was possible to create the conditions for peace,” she said, referring to her meetings with the Israeli leader. “He made some unprecedented moves during my four years which convinced me that he was willing to have the substantive conversations that are required for such a difficult undertaking.”

She praised her successor, Secretary of State John Kerry, as a “forceful advocate” for the peace process.

Clinton reiterated her support for the Obama administration’s stance that Congress should refrain from imposing new sanctions on Iran while nuclear talks are underway.

“If the world judges, fairly or unfairly, that negotiations have collapsed because of actions by our Congress, even some of our closest partners will falter,” Clinton said.

She said that if diplomacy ultimately fails, “then we can always — and we will — put on additional sanctions. And we will have the international support necessary to ensure enforcement. And, yes, we will explore every other option. And let’s be clear, every other option does remain on the table.”

Clinton was introduced at the gala by actress Julianna Margulies, star of CBS’ “The Good Wife,” and by AJCongress’ president, Jack Rosen.

AJCongress, a storied Jewish advocacy group, suspended its operations in 2010 after suffering massive losses from Bernard Madoff’s financial fraud. Over the past year, Rosen, a businessman, prominent political donor and longtime AJCongress leader, has worked to reorganize the organization with a board that includes his sons. The reorganization has drawn criticism from some of the group’s past activists.

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