Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Tuesday that the United States needs to do more than merely talk to Iran.

In a speech before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee's conference in Washington, Rice said that the United States is conducting diplomacy with the Islamic state, but she dismissed a debate over whether U.S. leaders should "talk" to the country.

"We would be willing to meet with them, but not while they continue to inch closer to a nuclear weapon, under the cover of talk," Rice said, speaking for the Bush administration. "So the real question is not, 'Why won't the Bush administration talk to Tehran?' The real question is, 'Why won't Tehran talk to us?'"

A greater willingness to meet with leaders who have been antagonists of the United States has been central to Barack ObamaBarack ObamaNumber of refugees entering US drops by half under Trump Former Obama intelligence official: Russian hack ‘the political equivalent of 9/11’ Trump notes 'election meddling by Russia' in tweet criticizing Obama MORE's foreign policy. Obama's proposal has prompted criticism from Republicans and their presidential nominee, John McCainJohn McCainFrustrated Dems say Obama botched Russia response Coats: Trump seemed obsessed with Russia probe The Hill's Whip List: Senate ObamaCare repeal bill MORE, who suggested today that Obama is offering something that has been tried and hasn't worked.

Rice also added that the United States has done more than just talk with Iran. It has sanctioned Iranian military forces and its banks and has sent U.S. ships to the region to deter attacks by Iran on other countries, Rice noted.

"Diplomacy is not a synonym for talking," she said. "True diplomacy means structuring a set of incentives and disincentives to produce change in behavior."