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Thursday 26 April 2018

Clinton criticises Obama on foreign policy

Hillary Clinton has offered a subtle critique on Barack Obama's foreign policy (AP)
Hillary Clinton has offered a subtle critique on Barack Obama's foreign policy (AP)

Hillary Clinton has resurrected the critique of Barack Obama's approach to world affairs that she presented during the 2008 US presidential campaign.

In a speech, the 2016 Democratic front-runner and former secretary of state once again positioned herself as a hawkish alternative to the president, her one-time campaign rival, on a series of international issues - starting with Iran.

While offering her strong support for the landmark nuclear agreement with the Islamic nation, the former secretary of state lined her praise with scepticism about the intentions and trustworthiness of the long-time US enemy.

"My starting point will be one of distrust," she said.

"We should anticipate that Iran will test the next president. They'll want to see how far they can bend the rules. That won't work if I'm in the White House."

Although none of Mrs Clinton's views are new, her assertive remarks are nonetheless notable in a campaign in which there is little daylight between her and Mr Obama on domestic issues such as the economy, his landmark health care plan and immigration.

Clinton aides said the speech represents the opening of a more aggressive phase of the campaign, during which she plans to sharpen the contrast between her deep expertise in foreign policy and that of her potential Republican opposition.

The strategy will not be easy. Mrs Clinton wants to take credit for the foreign policy victories of the Obama administration - she was, after all, the nation's top diplomat during the president's first four years in office.

At the same time, she is trying to insulate herself against Mr Obama's critics by casting herself as more assertive than the president she served.

It is an argument aimed squarely at voters in the general election. Mrs Clinton is betting that her ability to speak with authority and in detail will win out over the bombastic rhetoric of billionaire Donald Trump and other potential Republican opponents.

When asked about relations with Russia, led by president Vladimir Putin, Mrs Clinton replied that she wanted a bolder approach from the US to "up the cost on Russia, and in particular, on Putin".

"I think we have not done enough. I am in the category of people who wanted us to do more in response to the annexation of Crimea and the continuing destabilisation of Ukraine," she said.

She promised to be the best friend of Israel, implying, perhaps, that Mr Obama had been a little less than a stalwart ally. She said: "To the people of Israel, let me say - you'll never have to question whether we're with you."

But while enough Democrats in US Congress support the Iran deal to ensure its adoption, Mrs Clinton's hawkish approach could still turn off some liberals.

Vermont senator Bernie Sanders, Mrs Clinton's main rival for the Democratic nomination and a supporter of the Iran agreement, referenced his vote against authorizing the war in Iraq while speaking on the Senate floor. Mrs Clinton voted in favour of the war, something she has said she regrets.

"Sadly, much of what I feared in fact did happen," Mr Sanders said. "I do not want to see it happen again."

While Barack Obama has derided critics of the deal as warmongers, Mrs Clinton was careful to say that she respects the sceptics. "We simply have to find a way to work together better than we have been doing," she said.

As would be expected, Republicans are not willing to give Mrs Clinton any quarter as they frequently cast the Iran deal as a plank of an "Obama-Clinton foreign policy".

As secretary of state, she sent a top adviser to participate in secret meetings with Iran that started the international negotiations that led to the agreement.

Press Association

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