(CNN) - Hillary Clinton said Tuesday that her comments that the United States could “totally obliterate” Iran if it made a nuclear attack on Israel had been an attempt to return the United States to Cold War style deterrence.
Responding to accusations from Barack Obama's campaign that she was engaging in the sort of hypothetical thinking she had criticized him for, Clinton said the situations were not equivalent, since the threat from Iran was all too real. “I think in this particular instance of Iran it's a question not of what might be on or off the table concerning a tactical or strategic decision but an effort on my part to get back to what worked during the Cold War which was deterrence,” she told reporters in Conshohocken, Pennsylvania.
“…Iran is feeling quite powerful. They have been empowered by the actions of the last seven years and they must know there are lines that the world will not let them cross.”
Earlier Tuesday, Clinton told ABC’s Good Morning America that "I want the Iranians to know that if I'm the president, we will attack Iran [if it attacked Israel].”"
"In the next 10 years, during which they might foolishly consider launching an attack on Israel, we would be able to totally obliterate them," she said. "That's a terrible thing to say but those people who run Iran need to understand that because that perhaps will deter them from doing something that would be reckless, foolish and tragic."
At last week’s presidential debate, she said an attack on Israel would bring "massive retaliation" from the United States.
On Tuesday, Obama told ABC that her latest comments amounted to “saber rattling” on the day of the crucial Pennsylvania primary.
His campaign said her comments contradicted her statement at a summer debate, when she criticized Obama for saying he might take unilateral action in Pakistan if there was solid intelligence about the location of al Qaeda members.
Clinton had said then that it was unhelpful for candidates to “engage in hypotheticals” or to signal strategic possibilities as Pakistan was potentially in upheaval.
On Tuesday in Conshohocken, she said her statements were intended to send a strong message of intent. “I want Iran to know, number one, it is not in their interest to obtain nuclear weapons and number two, we will work to deter them from using such weapons by making it clear that there would be a very high price to pay,” she said.
She added that it was vital for Iran to “understand unequivocally” continued U.S. opposition to their desire to attain nuclear weapons, and that if they were to attack Israel or the United States “any way to destabilize the world, that they would have to take the consequences.”