by Jim Lobe
The pressure on her to take a position must be considerable, if only because, as both the former secretary and presumed front-runner for the 2016 presidential nomination, she could exert a decisive influence on the bill’s fate in the Senate. If she takes a firm stance either pro or con, a dozen or more Democrats who are currently on the fence are likely to scurry in her direction, possibly enough to either persuade Majority Leader Harry Reid to block the bill from coming to the floor or to provide the hawks with enough votes to overcome an Obama veto.
The stakes for her are really quite high, particularly when you consider that her support for the Iraq war was probably the single most important reason for her defeat by Obama in 2008. If she comes out for the bill or declines to support the White House and John Kerry (and her protégée, Wendy Sherman), and the result is the bill’s enactment followed by the collapse of the P5+1 negotiations and a military strike by early 2016, she’ll once again lose the non-interventionist wing of Democratic Party to just about any challenger who now opposes the bill. This, after all, is almost certainly the biggest foreign policy issue of Obama’s second term.
On the other hand, if she opposes the bill and backs the administration of which she was a key part, she will almost certainly incur the wrath of AIPAC and its powerful donors, a situation that the Clintons have tried very hard to avoid since Bill Clinton became a rising star of the Liebermanesque Democratic Leadership Council.
So far, she’s avoided saying anything on the bill. She reportedly told a private meeting just before Christmas that she thought that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s outspoken opposition to the bill and threats of unilateral military action had actually strengthened the administrations’ hand in negotiations. On the other hand, she was the first administration official to declare publicly (as early as 2010) that Iran could conceivably be permitted to enrich uranium on its own soil as part of a comprehensive solution to the nuclear issue — a position that stands in direct opposition to provisions of the Kirk-Menendez bill. Whether she was speaking for herself or was instructed to take that position is unclear. After all, it was Clinton who went beyond Obama’s early demands that Netanyahu suspend settlement activity by insisting that there must be “no exceptions,” including in “natural growth” of the settlements. And it’s clear that neither Bill nor Hillary is particularly fond of Bibi.
But both have consistently been very respectful of AIPAC, which is clearly going all out on this.