Clinton: I don't trust the Iranians

Clinton: I don't trust the Iranians

Charles Mostoller

DOVER, N.H./WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton offered her most pessimistic assessment yet of the Iran nuclear deal on Thursday, telling supporters the United States should not trust Tehran to carry out the agreement.

"Do I trust the Iranians?" Clinton said. "Absolutely not."

Clinton has largely been supportive of the agreement struck between the United States, five other world powers and Iran to limit its nuclear program in exchange for relief from economic sanctions.

But in New Hampshire, she asserted for the first time that critics of the deal had "a respectable argument."

The former secretary of state reiterated her belief that the deal was the best the United States could reach at present, but added later in an exchange with reporters: "No one should be deluded about the continuing threat that Iran poses to the region."

Clinton said that as president, her posture toward Iran would be "Don’t trust, and verify," saying the United States would employ intrusive inspections and extensive monitoring to ensure Tehran complies with the accord.

The comments reflected a continuing attempt by Clinton since the deal was struck to support the Obama administration and yet stake out a tougher stance on the issue of Iran.

If Clinton was trying to distance herself slightly from President Barack Obama’s foreign policy, it would not be the first time. Last year, after the publication of her memoir of her time at the State Department, Clinton criticized the administration’s approach toward the civil war in Syria, arguing the United States should have done more to aid rebels battling the Assad government.

Her remarks are likely to further embolden Republicans in Congress who have broadly panned the agreement and have argued it opens the way for Tehran to eventually get a nuclear weapon.

U.S. House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner told reporters on Thursday it was "pretty clear" that a majority of members of the House and Senate opposed it.

Obama has pledged to veto any attempt by Republicans to sink the deal. It would take a two-thirds vote of both houses of Congress to override such a veto, which is considered highly unlikely.

The Democratic leader in the House, Nancy Pelosi, expressed strong support for the deal on Thursday, adding: "I'm very optimistic about our vote of support for the president."

(Editing by John Whitesides and Peter Cooney)