Hillary Clinton announced her candidacy for president and the Earth did not move. This wasn’t exactly a surprise since the bench in the Democratic Party isn’t deep. Her brief for doing so is based on the claim she is a woman who cares about the middle class. Of course, this is an odd construction since she had little experience as a member of this class.
Many journalists have commented on her various dissimulations from her opposition to the “surge” in Iraq to her Benghazi testimony to being fired upon in Serbia to her private emails to her financial bonanza on a $1,000 investment in the commodities market. What remains unanalyzed, though, is her foreign policy record.
After all, this subject is the basis for her professional experience. As secretary of state, she did have experience on an international scale. But what, if anything, did she accomplish?
Mrs. Clinton argues that she put together the sanctions regimen that culminated in bringing Iran to the negotiating table. Since she cannot cite one example of a nation that went from instability to stability on her watch, the sanctions regime is her claim to success. Curiously, this assertion hasn’t received very much attention, but it should.
During her years at State her peregrinations around the globe were unprecedented. She was a master, excuse me — a mistress, of shuttle diplomacy. Many nations agreed with her position and some did not. Turkey, for example, engaged in a gold-for-oil deal with Iran in defiance of sanctions. China received a dispensation of 20 percent so that it could continue to buy Iranian oil. Russia sent centrifuges to Iran for hard currency. What might be said is that sanctions worked to some degree. They certainly had an adverse effect on the Iranian economy, but did they force or encourage Iran’s leaders to a negotiating posture on nuclear weapons?
On this point, the evidence is ambiguous. Iran’s leaders want sanctions lifted. The point that remains unclear is whether Iran would abandon its nuclear weapons ambition for the removal of sanctions. In every public comment Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has said there isn’t any action or gesture that will deter Iran from the pursuit of nuclear “energy.” Needless to say, he will not use the word “weapon.” However, the primary goal of enriched uranium for weapons production will not be deterred by the threat of sanctions.
This posture raises a curious issue about Mrs. Clinton’s “accomplishment.” If the partial sanctions regime could not sway Iranian leadership, what conditions accounted for Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s presence at the Geneva and Lausanne negotiating table?
While no one in the Obama administration will say it, and Hillary Clinton will not admit it, Iran’s leaders were eager for the P5+1 discussions. They know President Obama and other world leaders are so eager for a deal that they would be able to secure approval of nuclear weapons and sanctions relief at the same time. Should one rely on the framework — before the details are ironed out — it is no longer a question of whether Iran will have nuclear weapons, but when they will have them.
As a consequence, the one Hillary achievement, the one that is highlighted on her resume, is questionable at best. She traveled a great deal; she met world leaders. But her deeds are remarkably shallow. During a campaign, resumes are blown up like helium balloons. Mrs. Clinton will need all the false air she can get. Yet in the one area she considers most noteworthy, the evidence doesn’t justify the claims.
• Herb London is president of the London Center for Policy Research.