"I want the Iranians to know that if I'm the president, we will attack Iran," Senator Clinton told ABC News, asked what she would do as president were Iran to launch a nuclear attack on 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."
The tough talk came just prior to today's Pennsylvania primary, a key milestone in the marathon Democratic nominations race pitting Senator Clinton against her rival Barack Obama.
Senator Clinton must win the Pennsylvania primary, but she needs to do more than simply scrape past Senator Obama to rescue her trailing White House bid, pundits say.
Senator Obama's camp yesterday accused Senator Clinton of trying to scare voters, as she rocked their White House race with a dark campaign ad featuring images of al-Qaeda mastermind Osama bin Laden.
The ad uses pictures of Pearl Harbour, bin Laden and the devastating 2005 hurricane that swamped New Orleans, mirroring the "3am phone call" spot credited with helping Senator Clinton to win in Texas and Ohio last month.
"You need to be ready for anything - especially now, with two wars, oil prices skyrocketing and an economy in crisis," the male narrator intones.
"Who do you think has what it takes?"
Both Democrats have vowed to defend Israel against any Iranian attack, but they differ on how to engage the Islamic republic over its nuclear ambitions.
Both call for diplomacy, but Senator Obama has gone further, renewing a promise of "direct talks" at a leaders' level with Tehran and others the United States regards as foes, at a candidate debate here last week.
Iran should be presented with "carrots and sticks," the Illinois senator said, while stressing "they should also know that I will take no options off the table when it comes to preventing them from using nuclear weapons or obtaining nuclear weapons."
At the debate, he said: "An (Iranian) attack on Israel is an attack on our strongest ally in the region, one whose security we consider paramount."
"That would be an act of aggression that I would consider unacceptable, and the United States would take appropriate action."
© 2008 Agence France Presse