- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Wednesday predicted an “arms race in the Middle East” if Iran succeeds in building an atomic weapon and said the U.S. strategy is to persuade Tehran that it will be “less secure” with such a weapon.

Mrs. Clinton’s comments, made during a budget hearing before a Senate Appropriations subcommittee, came hours after Iran staged an apparently successful missile test.

“A nuclear-armed Iran with a deliverable weapons system is going to spark an arms race in the Middle East and the greater region,” she said. “That is not going to be in the interest of Iranian security, and we believe that we have a very strong case to make for that.”

The goal of diplomatic efforts by the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China “is to persuade the Iranian regime that they will actually be less secure if they proceed with their nuclear weapons program,” Mrs. Clinton said.

Last week, the Obama administration’s chief envoy for the region said that Iran’s nuclear program and its increased regional influence have replaced the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as the main concern of governments in the Middle East.

Jeffrey D. Feltman, acting assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during his confirmation hearing that the fears about Iran have become “the key development in the region.”

“When you traveled around the [Middle East] five, six, seven years ago, almost everywhere you went, the first thing that came up was the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” Mr. Feltman said. “When you travel around today, what you are going to hear about is Iran.”

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced Wednesday that Iran test-fired a new missile with a range capable of reaching Israel and U.S. bases in the Middle East.

The solid-fuel Sajjil-2 surface-to-surface missile is believed to have a range of about 1,200 miles. It is a new version of the Sajjil missile tested late last year. Analysts say such missiles are more accurate than liquid-fuel missiles of similar range, such as Iran’s Shahab-3.

• Nicholas Kralev can be reached at nkralev@washingtontimes.com.

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