US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton faced an unsmiling but polite crowd of students and faculty on Monday during a town hall meeting at Carnegie Mellon’s Doha campus as she tried to rally support for a fourth round of sanctions on Iran.
Addressing an audience of some 500 people from various universities across Education City, Clinton described Iran as an uncooperative rogue entity that is “moving toward a military dictatorship.”
“Part of the reason why we’re so focused on the nuclear threat from Iran is that it would be very destabilizing for the countries in this region,” said Clinton, who addressed the same issue at the US-Islamic World Forum in Doha on Sunday.
“The engagement offer (to talk diplomatically) is still there, but it is important for us to work with like-minded countries who share our concerns about Iran’s nuclear ambitions,” she said. “We have to work to take action to convince the Iranian government not to pursue nuclear weapons.”
“If we give Hillary Clinton some more time, she will be blaming Iran for global warming as well.”
- Mohammad Marandi, political analyst, University of Tehran
Tehran, which denies that it is building a nuclear bomb, announced last week that it had begun enriching uranium for a medical reactor.
Clinton’s message seemed difficult to swallow for many in this tiny oil-rich Gulf country, including Qatar’s top officials. But holding fast to Arab hospitality – and the desire to maintain relations with both the US and Iran – dissent was couched in the most diplomatic terms.
“We are a small country, so peace and stability is important for us,” Prime Minister H E Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem bin Jabor Al Thani told Clinton during Sunday’s forum, which was organized by the Qatari foreign ministry and US-based Brookings Institution.
“During our talks, Iranian officials assure us that they are not making a nuclear bomb, but when we hear from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), they express suspicion,” he said.
Earlier this month, just days after accepting US weapons meant to deter Iran, Qatar sent its heir apparent to meet Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president, in Tehran.
When asked about whether the US is considering launching a military attack on Iran, Clinton said “no,” but added that the administration would not “stand idly by” while the country pursues a nuclear plan that threatens its neighbors.
Iran remains defiant
Meanwhile, many in Iran scoffed at Clinton’s remarks.
In an interview with Qatar-based television network Al Jazeera, Mohammad Marandi, a political analyst at the University of Tehran, dismissed her accusations.
“If we give Hillary Clinton some more time, she will be blaming Iran for global warming as well,” Marandi told Al Jazeera.
During Monday’s forum, Clinton also fielded questions about Iraq, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and US relations with the Muslim world after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.