In the English edition of Asharq Al-Awsat, Eli Lake wrote an article about Hillary Clinton and her private scepticism and concerns about the Iranian regime.
Hillary Clinton allegedly said after the 2013 elections in Iran that Hassan Rouhani had only won because it was allowed by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and the Revolutionary Guard Corps.
The information comes from a speech transcript that was put online by WikiLeaks. According to the information, on 28th October 2013, Hillary Clinton told the Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago: “I believe that Rouhani was allowed to be elected by the two major power sources in Iran, the supreme leader and the clerics and the Revolutionary Guard … in part because the sanctions were having a quite damaging effect on the economy.”
She added: “I don’t think anyone should have any illusions as to the motives of the Iranian leadership. What they really want to do is get sanction relief and give as little as possible for that sanction relief.”
Her private scepticism at Rouhani comes at the time when the Obama administration tried to portray Rouhani as a “moderate” in comparison to the regime’s hard-line elements. Lake wrote: “The Treasury Department, for example, paused its process of blacklisting front companies meant to evade sanctions after his election in June 2013. In 2015, the Obama administration opposed a congressional proposal to increase visa scrutiny of visitors to the U.S. who had also been to Iran, using the argument that the measure would weaken moderate forces there.”
President Obama has made no secret of this optimism regarding reform in Iran under Rouhani. In April last year he said: “I think that, if in fact the Rouhani administration — the forces that are more moderating, even if, let’s acknowledge, that they don’t share our values and they still consider us an enemy — if they are shown to have delivered for their people, presumably it strengthens their hand vis-a-vis some of the hardliners inside of Iran.”
This shows that Obama believed Rouhani can bring democratic change to Iran. Clinton on the other hand is more realistic (albeit in private). She said in her Chicago speech that Rouhani’s outreach to the West is a “charm offensive”.
Lake points out that in the election Republicans have seized on Clinton’s support for Obama’s nuclear deal. She defends the deal in public so a lid can be kept on Iran’s nuclear program for at least the next decade.
However, recently leaked emails show that Clinton’s campaign has been open to sceptics of the deal. Lake said: “For example, e-mail exchanges between Stuart Eizenstat, a senior State Department official under President Bill Clinton, and Hillary Clinton’s top national security aide, Jake Sullivan, show how the campaign sought and incorporated suggestions on her Iran deal statement from the pro-Israel and Jewish community.”
Eizenstat says the Israeli official told him: “The prime minister always had a ‘surprising good relationship’ with Hillary; she is ‘easy to work with,’ and that she is more instinctively sympathetic to Israel than the White House.”
This is in contrast to negotiations with Obama. Obama openly fought with Netanyahu in the summer of 2015 over the Iran deal.