Clinton Fights Back at Missile Defense Critics

A steely Secretary of State Hillary Clinton tackled both the administration's European missile defense plan detractors and the Iranian regime in one fail swoop Friday. "Much of [the] criticism is not yet connected to the facts," she told a group at the Brookings Institution in Washington. "We are not, quote 'shelving' missile defense. We are deploying missile defense sooner than the Bush administration planned to do so."

Fox News White House Correspondent Mike Emanuel has learned that a May 2009 National Intelligence Estimate is what led the administration to revamp the Bush-era European missile defense shield. "We ordered up a full scrub of the intelligence as part of our zero-based review on missile defense."

The White House said yesterday that the Bush plan would have provided defenses against Iranian ballistic missile threats, which were a long-term aspiration. The more immediate threat, President Obama said, comes from Iranian short and medium-range missiles and that newly-assessed intelligence buttressed that argument.

Conservatives excoriated the White House for what they called a policy of "appeasement" to the Russians, who have maintained that the previous system was directed at Russia's defenses; something the Bush administration denied.

The Obama administration denied the change in plans had anything to do with politics with Russia.

To further that point, the Secretary used tough talk to illustrate the current administration's approach to dealing with Iran is replacing those which were previously hands-off. "We were on the sidelines," she said. "I mean, we were pacing up and down the sidelines extremely agitated and we were, you know, just trying to figure out how to get other people to go on the field and deal with this problem. And look where we are today. We are, really, nowhere."

The Bush plan had called for ground-based ballistic missile interceptors to be placed in Poland, as well as a related radar site to be based in the Czech Republic. Secretary Clinton assured the two countries Friday that they would not be left to fend for themselves against any threat from Iran. "As we explore land-base interceptors going forward, we have made it clear that those countries will be at the top of the list. And let me underscore that we are bound together by our common commitment as NATO allies and also by deep historical, economic and cultural ties that will never be broken."