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06/19/2008

The Candidates on Iran

The week of June 2, 2008, John McCain and Barack Obama gave
speeches to the pro-Israel lobby the American Israel Public
Affairs Committee. Understanding both were pandering to this
key voting bloc, I nonetheless thought I would relay their
respective thoughts on Iran. No doubt, this topic will be an
increasingly important part of the debate between the two as the
campaign unfolds.

---

Sen. John McCain

I am committed to making certain Israel maintains its qualitative
military edge. Israel’s enemies are too numerous, its margin of
error too small, and our shared interests and values too great for
us to follow any other policy.

Foremost in all our minds is the threat posed by the regime in
Tehran. The Iranian president has called for Israel to be ‘wiped
off the map’ and suggested that Israel’s Jewish population should
return to Europe. He calls Israel a ‘stinking corpse’ that is ‘on its
way to annihilation.’ But the Iranian leadership does far more
than issue vile insults. It acts in ways directly detrimental to the
security of Israel and the United States.

A sponsor of both Hamas and Hizbullah, the leadership of Iran
has repeatedly used violence to undermine Israel and the Middle
East peace process. It has trained, financed, and equipped
extremists in Iraq who have killed American soldiers fighting to
bring freedom to that country. It remains the world’s chief
sponsor of terrorism and threatens to destabilize the entire
Middle East, from Basra to Beirut.

Tehran’s continued pursuit of nuclear weapons poses an
unacceptable risk, a danger we cannot allow. Emboldened by
nuclear weapons, Iran would feel free to sponsor terrorist attacks
against any perceived enemy. Its flouting of the Nuclear
Nonproliferation Treaty would render that agreement obsolete
and could induce Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and others to join
a nuclear arms race. The world would have to live, indefinitely,
with the possibility that Tehran might pass nuclear materials or
weapons to one of its allied terrorist networks. Armed as well
with its ballistic missile arsenal, an Iranian nuclear bomb would
pose an existential threat to the people of Israel.

European negotiators have proposed a peaceful endgame for
Tehran, should it abandon its nuclear ambitions and comply with
UN Security Council resolutions. The plan offers far-reaching
economic incentives, external support for a civilian nuclear
energy program, and integration into the international
community. But Tehran has said no.

The Iranians have spent years working toward a nuclear
program. And the idea that they now seek nuclear weapons
because we refuse to engage in presidential-level talks is a
serious misreading of history. In reality, a series of
administrations have tried to talk to Iran, and none tried harder
than the Clinton administration. In 1998, the secretary of state
made a public overture to the Iranians, laid out a roadmap to
normal relations, and for two years tried to engage. The Clinton
administration even lifted some sanctions, and Secretary Albright
apologized for American actions going back to the 1950s. But
even under President Khatami – a man by all accounts less
radical than the current president – Iran rejected these overtures.

Even so, we hear talk of a meeting with the Iranian leadership
offered up as if it were some sudden inspiration, a bold new idea
that somehow nobody has ever thought of before. Yet it’s hard
to see what such a summit with President Ahmadinejad would
actually gain, except an earful of anti-Semitic rants, and a
worldwide audience for a man who denies one Holocaust and
talks before frenzied crowds about starting another. Such a
spectacle would harm Iranian moderates and dissidents, as the
radicals and hardliners strengthen their position and suddenly
acquire the appearance of respectability.

Rather than sitting down unconditionally with the Iranian
president or supreme leader in the hope that we can talk sense
into them, we must create the real-world pressures that will
peacefully but decisively change the path they are on. Essential
to this strategy is the UN Security Council, which should impose
progressively tougher political and economic sanctions. Should
the Security Council continue to delay in this responsibility, the
United States must lead like-minded countries in imposing
multilateral sanctions outside the UN framework. I am proud to
have been a leader on these issues for years, having coauthored
the 1992 Iran-Iraq Arms Non-Proliferation Act. Over a year ago
I proposed applying sanctions to restrict Iran’s ability to import
refined petroleum products, on which it is highly dependent, and
the time has come for an international campaign to do just that.
A severe limit on Iranian imports of gasoline would create
immediate pressure on Khamenei and Ahmadinejad to change
course, and to cease in the pursuit of nuclear weapons.

At the same time, we need the support of those in the region who
are most concerned about Iran, and of our European partners as
well. They can help by imposing targeted sanctions that will
impose a heavy cost on the regime’s leaders, including the denial
of visas and freezing of assets.

As a further measure to contain and deter Iran, the United States
should impose financial sanctions on the Central Bank of Iran,
which aids in Iran’s terrorism and weapons proliferation. We
must apply the full force of law to prevent business dealings with
Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps. I was pleased to join
Senators Lieberman and Kyl in backing an amendment calling
for the designation of the Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist
organization responsible for killing American troops in Iraq.
Over three quarters of the Senate supported this obvious step, but
not Senator Obama. He opposed this resolution because its
support for countering Iranian influence in Iraq was, he said, a
‘wrong message not only to the world, but also to the region.’
But here, too, he is mistaken. Holding Iran’s influence in check,
and holding a terrorist organization accountable, sends exactly
the right message – to Iran, to the region and to the world.

We should privatize the sanctions against Iran by launching a
worldwide divestment campaign. As more people, businesses,
pension funds, and financial institutions across the world divest
from companies doing business with Iran, the radical elite who
run that country will become even more unpopular than they are
already. Years ago, the moral clarity and conviction of civilized
nations came together in a divestment campaign against South
Africa, helping to rid that nation of the evil of apartheid. In our
day, we must use that same power and moral conviction against
the regime in Iran, and help to safeguard the people of Israel and
the peace of the world.

In all of this, we will not only be defending our own safety and
welfare, but also the democratic aspirations of the Iranian people.
They are a great and civilized people, with little sympathy for the
terrorists their leaders finance, and no wish to threaten other
nations with nuclear weapons. Iran’s rulers would be very
different if the people themselves had a choice in the matter, and
American policy should always reflect their hopes for a freer and
more just society.

---

Sen. Barack Obama

There is no greater threat to Israel – or to the peace and stability
of the region – than Iran. Now this audience is made up of both
Republicans and Democrats, and the enemies of Israel should
have no doubt that, regardless of party, Americans stand
shoulder-to-shoulder in our commitment to Israel’s security. So
while I don’t want to strike too partisan a note here today, I do
want to address some willful mischaracterizations of my
positions.

The Iranian regime supports violent extremists and challenges us
across the region. It pursues a nuclear capability that could spark
a dangerous arms race, and raise the prospect of a transfer of
nuclear know-how to terrorists. Its President denies the
Holocaust and threatens to wipe Israel off the map. The danger
from Iran is grave, it is real, and my goal will be to eliminate this
threat.

But just as we are clear-eyed about the threat, we must be clear
about the failure of today’s policy. We knew, in 2002, that Iran
supported terrorism. We knew Iran had an illicit nuclear
program. We knew Iran posed a grave threat to Israel. But
instead of pursuing a strategy to address this threat, we ignored it
and instead invaded and occupied Iraq. When I opposed the war,
I warned that it would fan the flames of extremism in the Middle
East. That is precisely what happened in Iran – the hardliners
tightened their grip, and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was elected
President in 2005. And the United States and Israel are less
secure.

I respect Senator McCain, and look forward to a substantive
debate with him these next five months. But on this point, we
have differed, and we will differ. Senator McCain refuses to
understand or acknowledge the failure of the policy that he
would continue. He criticizes my willingness to use strong
diplomacy, but offers only an alternate reality – one where the
war in Iraq has somehow put Iran on its heels. The truth is the
opposite. Iran has strengthened its position. Iran is now
enriching uranium, and has reportedly stockpiled 150 kilos of
low enriched uranium. Its support for terrorism and threats
toward Israel have increased. Those are the facts, they cannot be
denied, and I refuse to continue a policy that has made the United
States and Israel less secure.

Senator McCain offers a false choice: stay the course in Iraq, or
cede the region to Iran. I reject this logic because there is a
better way. Keeping all of our troops tied down indefinitely in
Iraq is not the way to weaken Iran – it is precisely what has
strengthened it. It is a policy for staying, not a plan for victory. I
have proposed a responsible, phased redeployment of our troops
from Iraq. We will get out as carefully as we were careless
getting in. We will finally pressure Iraq’s leaders to take
meaningful responsibility for their own future.

We will also use all elements of American power to pressure
Iran. I will do everything in my power to prevent Iran from
obtaining a nuclear weapon. That starts with aggressive,
principled diplomacy without self-defeating preconditions, but
with a clear-eyed understanding of our interests. We have no
time to waste. We cannot unconditionally rule out an approach
that could prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. We
have tried limited, piecemeal talks while we outsource the
sustained work to our European allies. It is time for the United
States to lead.

There will be careful preparation. We will open up lines of
communication, build an agenda, coordinate closely with our
allies, and evaluate the potential for progress. Contrary to the
claims of some, I have no interest in sitting down with our
adversaries just for the sake of talking. But as President of the
United States, I would be willing to lead tough and principled
diplomacy with the appropriate Iranian leader at a time and place
of my choosing – if, and only if – it can advance the interests of
the United States.

Only recently have some come to think that diplomacy by
definition cannot be tough. They forget the example of Truman,
and Kennedy and Reagan. These Presidents understood that
diplomacy backed by real leverage was a fundamental tool of
statecraft. And it is time to once again make American
diplomacy a tool to succeed, not just a means of containing
failure. We will pursue this diplomacy with no illusions about
the Iranian regime. Instead, we will present a clear choice. If
you abandon your dangerous nuclear program, support for terror,
and threats to Israel, there will be meaningful incentives –
including the lifting of sanctions, and political and economic
integration with the international community. If you refuse, we
will ratchet up the pressure.

My presidency will strengthen our hand as we restore our
standing. Our willingness to pursue diplomacy will make it
easier to mobilize others to join our cause. If Iran fails to change
course when presented with this choice by the United States, it
will be clear – to the people of Iran, and to the world – that the
Iranian regime is the author of its own isolation. That will
strengthen our hand with Russia and China as we insist on
stronger sanctions in the Security Council. And we should work
with Europe, Japan and the Gulf states to find every avenue
outside the UN to isolate the Iranian regime – from cutting off
loan guarantees and expanding financial sanctions, to banning
the export of refined petroleum to Iran, to boycotting firms
associated with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, whose Quds
force has rightly been labeled a terrorist organization.

I was interested to see Senator McCain propose divestment as a
source of leverage – not the bigoted divestment that has sought to
punish Israeli scientists and academics, but divestment targeted
at the Iranian regime. It’s a good concept, but not a new one. I
introduced legislation over a year ago that would encourage state
and the private sector to divest from companies that do business
in Iran. This bill has bipartisan support, but for reasons that I’ll
let him explain, Senator McCain never signed on. Meanwhile,
an anonymous Senator is blocking the bill. It is time to pass this
into law so that we can tighten the squeeze on the Iranian regime.
We should also pursue other unilateral sanctions that target
Iranian banks and assets.

And we must free ourselves from the tyranny of oil. The price of
a barrel of oil is one of the most dangerous weapons in the world.
Petrodollars pay for weapons that kill American troops and
Israeli citizens. And the Bush Administration’s policies have
driven up the price of oil, while its energy policy has made us
more dependent on foreign oil and gas. It’s time for the United
States to take real steps to end our addiction to oil. And we can
join with Israel, building on last year’s U.S.-Israel Energy
Cooperation Act, to deepen our partnership in developing
alternative sources of energy by increasing scientific
collaboration and join research and development. The surest
way to increase our leverage in the long term is to stop
bankrolling the Iranian regime.

Finally, let there be no doubt: I will always keep the threat of
military action on the table to defend our security and our ally
Israel. Sometimes there are no alternatives to confrontation. But
that only makes diplomacy more important. If we must use
military force, we are more likely to succeed, and will have far
greater support at home and abroad, if we have exhausted our
diplomatic efforts.

---

Hot Spots will return July 3.

Brian Trumbore


AddThis Feed Button

 

-06/19/2008-      
Web Epoch NJ Web Design  |  (c) Copyright 2016 StocksandNews.com, LLC.

Hot Spots

06/19/2008

The Candidates on Iran

The week of June 2, 2008, John McCain and Barack Obama gave
speeches to the pro-Israel lobby the American Israel Public
Affairs Committee. Understanding both were pandering to this
key voting bloc, I nonetheless thought I would relay their
respective thoughts on Iran. No doubt, this topic will be an
increasingly important part of the debate between the two as the
campaign unfolds.

---

Sen. John McCain

I am committed to making certain Israel maintains its qualitative
military edge. Israel’s enemies are too numerous, its margin of
error too small, and our shared interests and values too great for
us to follow any other policy.

Foremost in all our minds is the threat posed by the regime in
Tehran. The Iranian president has called for Israel to be ‘wiped
off the map’ and suggested that Israel’s Jewish population should
return to Europe. He calls Israel a ‘stinking corpse’ that is ‘on its
way to annihilation.’ But the Iranian leadership does far more
than issue vile insults. It acts in ways directly detrimental to the
security of Israel and the United States.

A sponsor of both Hamas and Hizbullah, the leadership of Iran
has repeatedly used violence to undermine Israel and the Middle
East peace process. It has trained, financed, and equipped
extremists in Iraq who have killed American soldiers fighting to
bring freedom to that country. It remains the world’s chief
sponsor of terrorism and threatens to destabilize the entire
Middle East, from Basra to Beirut.

Tehran’s continued pursuit of nuclear weapons poses an
unacceptable risk, a danger we cannot allow. Emboldened by
nuclear weapons, Iran would feel free to sponsor terrorist attacks
against any perceived enemy. Its flouting of the Nuclear
Nonproliferation Treaty would render that agreement obsolete
and could induce Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and others to join
a nuclear arms race. The world would have to live, indefinitely,
with the possibility that Tehran might pass nuclear materials or
weapons to one of its allied terrorist networks. Armed as well
with its ballistic missile arsenal, an Iranian nuclear bomb would
pose an existential threat to the people of Israel.

European negotiators have proposed a peaceful endgame for
Tehran, should it abandon its nuclear ambitions and comply with
UN Security Council resolutions. The plan offers far-reaching
economic incentives, external support for a civilian nuclear
energy program, and integration into the international
community. But Tehran has said no.

The Iranians have spent years working toward a nuclear
program. And the idea that they now seek nuclear weapons
because we refuse to engage in presidential-level talks is a
serious misreading of history. In reality, a series of
administrations have tried to talk to Iran, and none tried harder
than the Clinton administration. In 1998, the secretary of state
made a public overture to the Iranians, laid out a roadmap to
normal relations, and for two years tried to engage. The Clinton
administration even lifted some sanctions, and Secretary Albright
apologized for American actions going back to the 1950s. But
even under President Khatami – a man by all accounts less
radical than the current president – Iran rejected these overtures.

Even so, we hear talk of a meeting with the Iranian leadership
offered up as if it were some sudden inspiration, a bold new idea
that somehow nobody has ever thought of before. Yet it’s hard
to see what such a summit with President Ahmadinejad would
actually gain, except an earful of anti-Semitic rants, and a
worldwide audience for a man who denies one Holocaust and
talks before frenzied crowds about starting another. Such a
spectacle would harm Iranian moderates and dissidents, as the
radicals and hardliners strengthen their position and suddenly
acquire the appearance of respectability.

Rather than sitting down unconditionally with the Iranian
president or supreme leader in the hope that we can talk sense
into them, we must create the real-world pressures that will
peacefully but decisively change the path they are on. Essential
to this strategy is the UN Security Council, which should impose
progressively tougher political and economic sanctions. Should
the Security Council continue to delay in this responsibility, the
United States must lead like-minded countries in imposing
multilateral sanctions outside the UN framework. I am proud to
have been a leader on these issues for years, having coauthored
the 1992 Iran-Iraq Arms Non-Proliferation Act. Over a year ago
I proposed applying sanctions to restrict Iran’s ability to import
refined petroleum products, on which it is highly dependent, and
the time has come for an international campaign to do just that.
A severe limit on Iranian imports of gasoline would create
immediate pressure on Khamenei and Ahmadinejad to change
course, and to cease in the pursuit of nuclear weapons.

At the same time, we need the support of those in the region who
are most concerned about Iran, and of our European partners as
well. They can help by imposing targeted sanctions that will
impose a heavy cost on the regime’s leaders, including the denial
of visas and freezing of assets.

As a further measure to contain and deter Iran, the United States
should impose financial sanctions on the Central Bank of Iran,
which aids in Iran’s terrorism and weapons proliferation. We
must apply the full force of law to prevent business dealings with
Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps. I was pleased to join
Senators Lieberman and Kyl in backing an amendment calling
for the designation of the Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist
organization responsible for killing American troops in Iraq.
Over three quarters of the Senate supported this obvious step, but
not Senator Obama. He opposed this resolution because its
support for countering Iranian influence in Iraq was, he said, a
‘wrong message not only to the world, but also to the region.’
But here, too, he is mistaken. Holding Iran’s influence in check,
and holding a terrorist organization accountable, sends exactly
the right message – to Iran, to the region and to the world.

We should privatize the sanctions against Iran by launching a
worldwide divestment campaign. As more people, businesses,
pension funds, and financial institutions across the world divest
from companies doing business with Iran, the radical elite who
run that country will become even more unpopular than they are
already. Years ago, the moral clarity and conviction of civilized
nations came together in a divestment campaign against South
Africa, helping to rid that nation of the evil of apartheid. In our
day, we must use that same power and moral conviction against
the regime in Iran, and help to safeguard the people of Israel and
the peace of the world.

In all of this, we will not only be defending our own safety and
welfare, but also the democratic aspirations of the Iranian people.
They are a great and civilized people, with little sympathy for the
terrorists their leaders finance, and no wish to threaten other
nations with nuclear weapons. Iran’s rulers would be very
different if the people themselves had a choice in the matter, and
American policy should always reflect their hopes for a freer and
more just society.

---

Sen. Barack Obama

There is no greater threat to Israel – or to the peace and stability
of the region – than Iran. Now this audience is made up of both
Republicans and Democrats, and the enemies of Israel should
have no doubt that, regardless of party, Americans stand
shoulder-to-shoulder in our commitment to Israel’s security. So
while I don’t want to strike too partisan a note here today, I do
want to address some willful mischaracterizations of my
positions.

The Iranian regime supports violent extremists and challenges us
across the region. It pursues a nuclear capability that could spark
a dangerous arms race, and raise the prospect of a transfer of
nuclear know-how to terrorists. Its President denies the
Holocaust and threatens to wipe Israel off the map. The danger
from Iran is grave, it is real, and my goal will be to eliminate this
threat.

But just as we are clear-eyed about the threat, we must be clear
about the failure of today’s policy. We knew, in 2002, that Iran
supported terrorism. We knew Iran had an illicit nuclear
program. We knew Iran posed a grave threat to Israel. But
instead of pursuing a strategy to address this threat, we ignored it
and instead invaded and occupied Iraq. When I opposed the war,
I warned that it would fan the flames of extremism in the Middle
East. That is precisely what happened in Iran – the hardliners
tightened their grip, and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was elected
President in 2005. And the United States and Israel are less
secure.

I respect Senator McCain, and look forward to a substantive
debate with him these next five months. But on this point, we
have differed, and we will differ. Senator McCain refuses to
understand or acknowledge the failure of the policy that he
would continue. He criticizes my willingness to use strong
diplomacy, but offers only an alternate reality – one where the
war in Iraq has somehow put Iran on its heels. The truth is the
opposite. Iran has strengthened its position. Iran is now
enriching uranium, and has reportedly stockpiled 150 kilos of
low enriched uranium. Its support for terrorism and threats
toward Israel have increased. Those are the facts, they cannot be
denied, and I refuse to continue a policy that has made the United
States and Israel less secure.

Senator McCain offers a false choice: stay the course in Iraq, or
cede the region to Iran. I reject this logic because there is a
better way. Keeping all of our troops tied down indefinitely in
Iraq is not the way to weaken Iran – it is precisely what has
strengthened it. It is a policy for staying, not a plan for victory. I
have proposed a responsible, phased redeployment of our troops
from Iraq. We will get out as carefully as we were careless
getting in. We will finally pressure Iraq’s leaders to take
meaningful responsibility for their own future.

We will also use all elements of American power to pressure
Iran. I will do everything in my power to prevent Iran from
obtaining a nuclear weapon. That starts with aggressive,
principled diplomacy without self-defeating preconditions, but
with a clear-eyed understanding of our interests. We have no
time to waste. We cannot unconditionally rule out an approach
that could prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. We
have tried limited, piecemeal talks while we outsource the
sustained work to our European allies. It is time for the United
States to lead.

There will be careful preparation. We will open up lines of
communication, build an agenda, coordinate closely with our
allies, and evaluate the potential for progress. Contrary to the
claims of some, I have no interest in sitting down with our
adversaries just for the sake of talking. But as President of the
United States, I would be willing to lead tough and principled
diplomacy with the appropriate Iranian leader at a time and place
of my choosing – if, and only if – it can advance the interests of
the United States.

Only recently have some come to think that diplomacy by
definition cannot be tough. They forget the example of Truman,
and Kennedy and Reagan. These Presidents understood that
diplomacy backed by real leverage was a fundamental tool of
statecraft. And it is time to once again make American
diplomacy a tool to succeed, not just a means of containing
failure. We will pursue this diplomacy with no illusions about
the Iranian regime. Instead, we will present a clear choice. If
you abandon your dangerous nuclear program, support for terror,
and threats to Israel, there will be meaningful incentives –
including the lifting of sanctions, and political and economic
integration with the international community. If you refuse, we
will ratchet up the pressure.

My presidency will strengthen our hand as we restore our
standing. Our willingness to pursue diplomacy will make it
easier to mobilize others to join our cause. If Iran fails to change
course when presented with this choice by the United States, it
will be clear – to the people of Iran, and to the world – that the
Iranian regime is the author of its own isolation. That will
strengthen our hand with Russia and China as we insist on
stronger sanctions in the Security Council. And we should work
with Europe, Japan and the Gulf states to find every avenue
outside the UN to isolate the Iranian regime – from cutting off
loan guarantees and expanding financial sanctions, to banning
the export of refined petroleum to Iran, to boycotting firms
associated with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, whose Quds
force has rightly been labeled a terrorist organization.

I was interested to see Senator McCain propose divestment as a
source of leverage – not the bigoted divestment that has sought to
punish Israeli scientists and academics, but divestment targeted
at the Iranian regime. It’s a good concept, but not a new one. I
introduced legislation over a year ago that would encourage state
and the private sector to divest from companies that do business
in Iran. This bill has bipartisan support, but for reasons that I’ll
let him explain, Senator McCain never signed on. Meanwhile,
an anonymous Senator is blocking the bill. It is time to pass this
into law so that we can tighten the squeeze on the Iranian regime.
We should also pursue other unilateral sanctions that target
Iranian banks and assets.

And we must free ourselves from the tyranny of oil. The price of
a barrel of oil is one of the most dangerous weapons in the world.
Petrodollars pay for weapons that kill American troops and
Israeli citizens. And the Bush Administration’s policies have
driven up the price of oil, while its energy policy has made us
more dependent on foreign oil and gas. It’s time for the United
States to take real steps to end our addiction to oil. And we can
join with Israel, building on last year’s U.S.-Israel Energy
Cooperation Act, to deepen our partnership in developing
alternative sources of energy by increasing scientific
collaboration and join research and development. The surest
way to increase our leverage in the long term is to stop
bankrolling the Iranian regime.

Finally, let there be no doubt: I will always keep the threat of
military action on the table to defend our security and our ally
Israel. Sometimes there are no alternatives to confrontation. But
that only makes diplomacy more important. If we must use
military force, we are more likely to succeed, and will have far
greater support at home and abroad, if we have exhausted our
diplomatic efforts.

---

Hot Spots will return July 3.

Brian Trumbore