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As Opponents Rally Outside The Capitol, Clinton Unveils Broad Iran Plan


This hour starts with the debate over the nuclear deal with Iran as Congress starts to talk about it. The issue was raging today outside of the U.S. Capitol building. Presidential candidates are making sure their feelings on the issue are known. Donald Trump and Ted Cruz rallied on the Capitol lawn in a last-ditch attempt to stop the deal, and Hillary Clinton who supports it made a speech today that laid out a broad plan to deal with Iran's aggression. Our coverage begins with NPR's national political correspondent Mara Liasson.

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: At the Brookings Institution, Washington, D.C.'s, answer to Harvard, Hillary Clinton was right at home. The topic was foreign policy, not emails, and she was comfortable talking about her support for the deal she helped craft as Secretary of State. But...


HILLARY CLINTON: There is absolutely no reason to trust Iran.

LIASSON: She said the success of the agreement would depend on how the next president grappled with its challenges. As president, she said her starting point with the Iranian regime would be a version of Ronald Reagan's maxim. She said when it comes to Iran, she plans to distrust and verify.


CLINTON: It's a ruthless, brutal regime that has the blood of Americans, many others, including its own people, on its hands. Its political rallies resound with cries of death to America. Its leaders talk about wiping Israel off the face of the map.

LIASSON: That's why she said the Iran deal has to be embedded in a broader strategy to counter Iran's bad behavior in the region and around the world. That's something critics say has been missing from President Obama's foreign policy.


CLINTON: Our strategy needs to cover all these bases - Iran's nuclear ambitions and its support of terrorism, its hatred of Israel, and its cruelty toward its citizens, its military resources and its economic strengths and weaknesses. We need to be creative, committed and vigilant.

LIASSON: Clinton laid out a 5-point plan that included deepening America's military commitment to Israel, increasing security cooperation with the Gulf allies and finding new ways to counter Iran's proxies in the region, particularly Hezbollah. Back in 2007 when Clinton was running to the right of Barack Obama in the Democratic primary, she said she would obliterate Iran if it used a nuclear weapon against Israel. Today, she still sounded more hawkish than President Obama as she made a similar threat.


CLINTON: As president, I will take whatever actions are necessary to protect the United States and our allies. I will not hesitate to take military action if Iran attempts to obtain a nuclear weapon.

LIASSON: On the Republican side, every single candidate opposes the deal but not exactly in the same way. Several Republicans say they'd rip it up on day one, but two of the top-tier candidates - Jeb Bush and John Kasich - say that would be impractical. Here's Kasich last night in New Hampshire.


JOHN KASICH: What does that mean? I don't know what that means. You're going to rip it up, and then what?

LIASSON: Although Senate Democrats appear to have enough votes to prevent a bill disapproving the Iran deal from reaching the president's desk, opponents of the deal were still trying to stop it.


R.E.M.: (Singing) It's the end of the world as we know it...

LIASSON: On the west lawn of the Capitol, a rally sponsored by Tea Party Patriots featured Ted Cruz, who had invited Donald Trump. Some of that was political calculus. Cruz is the candidate hurt most by Trump's rise, and he would like to be the second choice of Trump's supporters should they ever turn away from the real estate mogul. Today, Cruz was at his fiery best.


TED CRUZ: So to every Democratic Senator, they are facing a choice. Do you value the lives of millions of Americans, or do you value more party loyalty to the Obama White House?

LIASSON: Donald Trump has a slightly different view of the Iran deal. He's against it, of course, but doesn't want to rip it up on day one because he says he can renegotiate a better one.


DONALD TRUMP: I've been doing deals for a long time. That's what I do. Never, ever, ever in my life have I seen any transaction so incompetently negotiated as our deal with Iran. And I mean never.

LIASSON: Congress is expected to vote on the Iran agreement by the end of next week. Mara Liasson, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Mara Liasson is a national political correspondent for NPR. Her reports can be heard regularly on NPR's award-winning newsmagazine programs Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Liasson provides extensive coverage of politics and policy from Washington, DC — focusing on the White House and Congress — and also reports on political trends beyond the Beltway.
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