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Clinton In 2011: Iran Only Has Right To Enrich After Nuclear Weapons Program "Irreversibly Shut Down"

The Democratic presidential candidate endorsed the deal reached on Tuesday, which restricts Iran's nuclear fuel for 15 years.

Posted on July 15, 2015, at 2:44 p.m. ET

Hillary Clinton said in 2011 that it was her and the Obama administration's position that Iran would not have a right to enrich uranium until it had "irreversibly shut down its nuclear weapons program."

On Tuesday, as a Democratic presidential candidate, Clinton endorsed a deal that would restrict Iran's nuclear fuel for 15 years, while allowing it to continue to enrich uranium at levels well below bomb-grade, in exchange for the removal of economic sanctions.

At a hearing of the House Committee of Foreign Affairs on March 1, 2011, Ohio Congressman Steve Chabot asked then-Secretary of State Clinton whether the administration believed that "the current regime should be allowed to enrich or reprocess domestically."

Clinton did not specifically answer the question with regard to the regime of the time, which, below Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, was led by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who was widely seen as less open to compromise than current President Hassan Rouhani. Clinton did, however, say that Iran would have such a right "sometime in the future," if it met certain conditions, such as the irreversible shutdown of its nuclear weapons program.

"Well, Congressman, it has been our position that, under very strict conditions, Iran would sometime in the future, having responded to the international community's concerns and irreversibly shut down its nuclear weapons program, have such a right under IAEA inspection," she said. "I think that is the position of the international community, along with the United States."

Months before, in December 2010, Clinton said to the BBC that the administration had told Iran "that they are entitled to the peaceful use of civil nuclear energy," once they had "restored the confidence of the international community," but did not mention an irreversible shutdown of their weapons program as a prerequisite for that.

On the other hand, in a story published in August 2014, Clinton told Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic that "I've always been in the camp that held that they did not have a right to enrichment" and that the assertion of such a right was "absolutely unfounded."

Of the deal reached on Tuesday, which is now awaiting Congressional action, Clinton said, "I support this agreement because I believe it is the most effective path of all the alternatives available to the U.S. and our partners to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon."

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