POLITICS
08/13/2008 08:14 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Clinton Defends 'Obliterate Iran' Comment, Obama Calls It Bush-Style 'Cowboy Diplomacy'

Sen. Hillary Clinton today defended her statement that the United States would "obliterate" Iran if it ever launched a nuclear strike on Israel. "Why would I have any regrets?" she told George Stephanopoulos and group of Indiana voters on ABC's This Week. "I am asked a question about what I would do if Iran attacked our ally, a country that many of us have a great deal of, you know, connection with and feeling for."

She continued:

"I think we have to be very clear about what we would do," Clinton said. "I don't think it is time to equivocate about what we would do.

"I sure want to make it abundantly clear to them that they would face a tremendous cost if they did such a thing."

Clinton said she disagreed with experts who believe her comments actually undermine Iranian reformers who are trying to build ties with the United States. Moreover, when asked if an Iranian attack on Saudi Arabia would be treated the same as an attack on Indiana, she avoided answering. Watch it:

Barack Obama, for his part, criticized Clinton on Meet the Press for standing by her Iran rhetoric:

"Well, it's not the language that we need right now, and I think it's language that's reflective of George Bush. We have had a foreign policy of bluster and saber-rattling and tough talk, and, in the meantime, we make a series of strategic decisions that actually strengthen Iran. So -- and, you know, the irony is, of course, Senator Clinton, during the course of this campaign, has at times said, 'We shouldn't speculate about Iran.' You know, 'We've got to be cautious when we're running for president.' She scolded me on a couple of occasions about this issue, and yet, a few days before an election, she's willing to use that language."

Last week, Iran's deputy U.N. ambassador sent a letter to Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon denouncing Clinton's comments, and saying they were, "provocative, unwarranted and irresponsible." The Clinton camp shrugged off the letter.

However, the U.N. seems to have taken more interest in Iran's plea than the Clinton campaign. According to a recent interview with a member of Ki-Moon's staff, the U.N. would not treat lightly such statements if Clinton were elected:

Following Iran's United Nations Mission letter to both the United Nations Security Council and Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon on United States Senator Hillary Clinton's recent statement on Iran on ABC News, Ban's spokesperson Ferhan Haq told me on Friday, "If she [Hillary Clinton] becomes president and she keeps saying that, then we'll have to react," when I followed up on the U.N.'s position.

Provocative language aside, the new foreign policy of a nuclear security umbrella against Iran that Clinton advocates is meeting mixed reviews among intelligence and policy analysts:

Some analysts have praised her proposal as a bold initiative, but it has also attracted concerns about its feasibility and whether it would tie the hands of a future president. Martin S. Indyk, a former U.S. ambassador to Israel, one of the originators of the idea and a Clinton supporter, said that Arab states would probably need to promise to recognize Israel for such a treaty to win congressional approval....

Indyk, director of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution, acknowledged that such an agreement with Israel would easily win approval, but "in the case of the Arabs it would be quite controversial." He said the debate would be: "Do we want to be at nuclear war with Iran on behalf of Saudi Arabia, or do we want a region with five nuclear powers?"