What happened
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that the U.S. might erect a “defense umbrella” over the Middle East if Iran developed nuclear weapons. Speaking at an ASEAN summit in Thailand, Clinton said she is not straying from the U.S. policy toward Iran of diplomacy and sanctions. (Los Angeles Times)

What the commentators said
The Obama team is apparently preparing for “the inevitability of a nuclear Iran,” said The Washington Times in an editorial, and that’s a mistake. Once a nuclear power, and thus safe from U.S. invasion, Iran could make more trouble in the Middle East, or even plausibly destroy Israel. If Obama won’t see that's unacceptable, he should be preparing for the “crisis” after Israel’s inevitable preemptive strike.

Hillary Clinton’s not reassuring Iran, said Arab News in an editorial. She’s “ratcheting up” the Obama team’s threats. The trouble is, such outside “veiled” aggression will just help President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad consolidate power. So thanks but no thanks to the “umbrella”—the Gulf states would prefer to deal with Iran “on a regional basis.”

Hillary Clinton said she isn’t changing U.S. policy—“too bad,” said Joe Klein in Time. “There’s far too much hysteria over the notion of an Iranian bomb.” Yes, the Obama team should do what it can to keep Iran nuke-free, but it shouldn’t “paint itself into a corner” by committing to the use of force. “Down that path lies madness—or an embarrassing climbdown.”

Still, with Iran’s “nuclear clock” ticking away, it’s good to hear Clinton say “America’s patience carries a time limit,” said David Blair in Britain’s The Daily Telegraph. Iran should reach the “critical period” where it can start working on a bomb in the second half of next year. When that happens, diplomacy gets much trickier.