Hillary Clinton Not a 'Wild-Eyed Optimist' on Iran

The secretary of state supports the IAEA ambassador's threats toward Tehran's nuclear program.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton listens to Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saudi al-Faisal, right, speak after a meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council "GCC" in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, March 31 2012.
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Hillary Clinton sought to explain threatening words from a U.S. ambassador toward Iran on Thursday, pointing to the practical benefits of a newly imposed deadline.

U.S. Ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency Robert Wood on Thursday castigated Iran for "refusing to cooperate" with the agency tasked with overseeing international nuclear energy, and for "taking steps to seriously undermine" efforts to verify Iran's nuclear program.

If Iran has not begun cooperation with the agency by March, Wood said the U.S. will "work with other Board members to pursue appropriate Board action, and would urge the Board to consider reporting this lack of progress to the U.N. Security Council."

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Later on Thursday, Clinton reaffirmed her skepticism that Iran would cooperate, but also said diplomatic efforts remain America's most likely tool for success.

"We continue to believe that there is still a window of opportunity to reach some kind of resolution over Iran's nuclear program, but I'm not a wild-eyed optimist about it," she said while speaking to reporters and guests at a Foreign Policy event Thursday evening.

Wood's reference to a March deadline was likely to do with the IAEA schedule, she said, or the recent election cycles in the U.S. and Iran.

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"We finished out the election, and now would be a good time to test the proposition that there can be good faith serious negotiations before the Iranians get into their elections, which are probably going to heat up around March heading into the June election."

Clinton added, "it really depends on how serious the Iranians are about making a decision that moves the possibility of their being able to acquire a nuclear weapon or the components of one that can….have the basis for intimidation."

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Paul D. Shinkman is a national security reporter for U.S. News & World Report. You can follow him on Twitter or reach him at pshinkman@usnews.com.