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Hillary Clinton: ‘All bets are off’ if Congress rejects Iran nuclear deal

Hillary Clinton campaigns in New Hampshire

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton is on a two-day swing through New Hampshire, the first-in-the-nation primary state, which included a stop in Manchester on Monday.

(Darren McCollester / Getty Images)

Hillary Rodham Clinton made her most forceful defense yet of President Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran on Monday, saying that “all bets are off” if Congress were to reject the deal and warning of the potential impact to America’s standing in the world.

“The Europeans, the Russians, the Chinese, they’re going to say, ‘We stuck with the Americans. We agreed with the Americans. We hammered out this agreement. I guess their president can’t make foreign policy,’” Clinton said at a campaign stop in Manchester. “That’s a very bad signal to send in a quickly moving and oftentimes dangerous world.”

As Republicans warn that the deal could pave Iran’s path to a nuclear weapon, Clinton noted how Iran was able to advance its program during the last Republican administration.

“When George W. Bush was president the Iranians mastered the nuclear fuel cycle,” she said. “They also build covert facilities and stocked them with centrifuges, and they were spinning away trying to get enough highly enriched uranium to be able to, if they so chose, to move toward a weapon. That’s what we inherited.”

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Clinton’s advocacy on behalf of the landmark accord comes at a critical time for the Obama administration. A multimillion-dollar ad campaign is in the works to pressure Democrats in Congress to reject it when it comes up for a vote in September. Under the terms of the agreement, the Iranians agreed to limit their nuclear program in exchange for relief from international sanctions that have deeply hurt its economy.

Obama is vacationing with his family on Martha’s Vineyard, though he continues to tout the deal in interviews released in recent days, and Clinton, his former secretary of State, picked up the torch on the campaign trail.

“I’ve gone into this detail because you’re going to hear a lot about it in the weeks ahead,” she told an audience of more than 500 at the foot of a ski slope in New Hampshire’s largest city. “So please, educate yourself....  We have to pursue diplomacy if we expect to be able to solve difficult problems with the rest of the world supporting us.”

At a time when Republicans are increasingly questioning Clinton’s accomplishments as Obama’s top diplomat, her remarks also gave her a chance to pinpoint ways in which she advanced a major priority.

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“I went to work immediately to persuade China and Russia and other powers to join with us with international sanctions, passed by the U.N. It was really hard to make the case to the Chinese and the Russians, but we did,” she said.

Clinton also said that if elected president, she will form a new coalition to target Iran’s other destabilizing activities. The Obama administration has criticized Iran for its support of terrorist groups and record on human rights.

“We have a lot of other challenges posed by Iran. But personally as your future president, I’d rather be dealing with those challenges knowing that we have slowed down and put a lid on their nuclear weapons programs,” she said.

For more campaign coverage, follow @mikememoli

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