In an article posted Monday on the Web site of Foreign Affairs magazine, Clinton did not rule out using military force against Iran if it does not comply with international demands. But she wrote that diplomacy should be the first step.
"If Iran is in fact willing to end its nuclear weapons program, renounce sponsorship of terrorism, support Middle East peace, and play a constructive role in stabilizing Iraq, the United States should be prepared to offer Iran a carefully calibrated package of incentives," the New York senator wrote in the article, part of a series written by presidential candidates.
"This will let the Iranian people know that our quarrel is not with them but with their government and show the world that the United States is prepared to pursue every diplomatic option," she wrote.
Neither Clinton nor her campaign elaborated on what those incentives might involve.
Iran has been a flash point in the Democratic presidential primary. Clinton's rivals have been criticizing her vote in the Senate last month on a resolution to designate Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization, saying it was a repeat of the mistake she made by voting to authorize the Iraq war. They say the resolution could be interpreted as an authorization for military action against Iran.
Lee Feinstein, Clinton's national security director, strongly disputed that charge. He said Clinton voted for the resolution because the Revolutionary Guard is "indisputably an odious outfit" and she wanted to strengthen the United States' diplomatic hand.
Clinton wrote in the Foreign Affairs piece that "all options must remain on the table" with Iran, meaning she won't rule out military action.
Said Feinstein: "The commander in chief does not take options off the table and neither does Senator Clinton in this respect take options off the table. But she makes it very, very clear in this piece as she does more recently that the best approach, that the preferred approach right now, is to pursue intensive diplomacy and economic pressure as the best way to avert a nuclear program in Iran. And it's the best way to divert a war."