Washington: Democratic presidential front- runner Hillary Clinton on Wednesday came out in strong support of the nuclear deal with Iran, describing how she as the top American diplomat persuaded energy-hungry countries like India and South Korea to cut back on their dependence on Iranian oil.
"One by one, we persuaded energy-hungry consumers of Iranian oil, like India and South Korea, to cut back," Clinton told a Washington audience as she urged the Congress to pass the historic nuclear deal.
As Secretary of State from 2009-2013, Clinton played a key role in convincing countries like India to cut dependence on Iranian oil. She even dashed to New Delhi to convince India to join US efforts to reduce the sale of Iranian oil.
"Soon, Iran's tankers sat rusting in port. Its economy was collapsing. These new measures were effective because we made them global," said the 67-year-old former secretary of state.
"American sanctions provided the foundation, but Iran didn't really feel the heat until we turned this into an international campaign so biting that Iran had no choice but to negotiate. They could no longer play off one country against another; they had no place to hide," she said.
Clinton said the deal blocks every pathway for Iran to get a nuclear bomb, and it gives the US better access for verification and inspection and to compel rigorous compliance.
"Without a deal, Iran's breakout time, how long they need to produce enough material for a nuclear weapon, would shrink to a couple of months. With a deal, that breakout time stretches to a year, which means that if Iran cheats, we'll know it, and we'll have time to respond decisively," she said.
"Without a deal, we would have no credible inspections of Iran's nuclear facilities. With a deal, we'll have unprecedented access; we'll be able to monitor every aspect of their nuclear program," she said.
"If we were to reject this agreement, Iran would be poised to get nearly everything it wants without giving up a thing. No restrictions on their nuclear programme. No real warning if Tehran suddenly rushes towards a bomb," Clinton stressed.
The International Sanctions regime would fall apart, so no more economic consequences for Iran, either, she warned.
"Those of us who have been out there on the diplomatic frontlines know that diplomacy is not the pursuit of perfection. It's the balancing of risk," she said.
"And on balance, the far riskier course right now would be to walk away. Great powers can't just junk agreements and expect the rest of the world to go along with us. We need to be reasonable and consistent, and keep our word, especially when we are trying to lead a coalition," she said.
"That is how we will make this and future deals work. But it is not enough to say 'yes' to the deal. Of course it isn't," Clinton said.
The US Congress began debate yesterday on the nuclear deal. President Barack Obama has just enough support in the US Senate to prevent the deal being blocked.
But a majority of lawmakers oppose the deal, saying it does not do enough to prevent any possibility of Iran developing a nuclear weapon.