Clinton on Iran Nukes: “Their Belligerence is Helping to Make Our Case”

By Evan Harris

Apr 11, 2010 9:00am

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told me Iran’s “belligerence is helping to make our case every single day” when it comes to that country’s nuclear intentions.   When I asked Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert Gates about changes in the U.S. nuclear posture in my “This Week” joint interview Gates said, “We have more robust deterrents today, because we’ve added to the nuclear deterrent missile defense.  And — and with the phased adaptive approach that the president has approved, we will have significantly greater capability to deter the Iranians, because we will have a significantly greater missile defense.”


The Nuclear Posture Review was released on Monday and administration critics have said changes in how the U.S. would use nuclear weapons could reduce the deterrent effect against rouge states.   But Gates countered that the U.S. has a new array of conventional options.  “We’re… developing this conventional prompt global strike, which really hadn’t gone anywhere in the — in the Bush administration, but has been embraced by the new administration.  That allows us to use long range missiles with conventional warheads.  So we have — we have more tools if you will in the deterrents kit bag than — than we used to.”


WATCH VIDEO HERE:


TAPPER:  Secretary Clinton, I’d like to start with you.  This has been a big
week for talking about deterrents.  Especially deterrents against Iran. 
And yet we learned that Iran is announcing the third generation of centrifuges. 
Six times faster than the previous generation.  Is Iran not saying to
the United States, “We are not deterred”?


CLINTON:  Well, Jake, it has been a very positive week for American
foreign policy, and particularly with respect to our nuclear posture. 
When it comes to Iran, we take everything they say with more than a
grain of salt, because we know that they have a — a tendency to say
things that may or may not be carried out.  May or may not be accurate. 
But in fact their belligerence is helping to make our case every single day.


Countries that might have had doubts about Iranian intentions, who might
have even questioned whether Iran was seeking nuclear weapons, are
having those doubts dispelled as much by the evidence we present as by
what comes out of the leadership of Iran.


TAPPER:  Secretary Gates, just a year and a half ago you had a
different boss but you had the same job.  And you were expressing support
for the idea that nuclear weapons can be an effective deterrent against
chemical and biological weapons. 


GATES (from October 28, 2008): “In the first Gulf War, we made it very clear that if
Saddam used chemical or biological weapons, then the United States would keep all
options on the table. We later learned that this veiled threat had the intended
deterrent effect as Iraq considered its options.”


TAPPER:  It’s a refrain that a lot of Republicans have talked about that the United
States is taking things off the table that would deter other countries.


Did you change your mind?


GATES:  Well I think what’s happened is the situation has changed. 
We have more robust deterrents today, because we’ve added to the nuclear
deterrent missile defense.  And — and with the phased adaptive approach
that the president has approved, we will have significantly greater
capability to deter the Iranians, because we will have a significantly
greater missile defense.


We’re also developing this conventional prompt global strike, which
really hadn’t gone anywhere in the — in the Bush administration, but
has been embraced by the new administration.  That allows us to use long
range missiles with conventional warheads.  So we have — we have more
tools if you will in the deterrents kit bag than — than we used to.

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