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December 2007

December 11, 2007

Obama: Iran could be used as an excuse to stay in Iraq

From the Nevada Democratic debates:

…the problem with this vote on the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. It wasn't simply that it was identified as a terrorist organization. It was also that in the language of the resolution it said we should maintain our forces in Iraq with an eye towards blunting Iranian influence. So it's not just going to have an impact in terms of potentially having a war against Iran. It also gives this administration an excuse to perpetuate their failed strategy in Iraq, and that could mean that you could be redeployed in Iraq. That's why this was a mistake, and that's why not only do we have to bring the war in Iraq to a close, but we have to change the mindset that got us into war, which means we initiate -- yes, I agree with Hillary that we've got to initiate bold diplomacy. I think the next president has to lead that diplomacy. It can't just be envoys.

Joe Biden links war rhetoric with troubled economy

Senator Biden responds to a question on Iran at the Nevada Democratic debate:

We had a vote in the United States Senate on declaring the Qods Force -- their special forces -- and the Revolutionary Guard to be a terrorist organization. A lot of people voted for that; 70 some voted for it. It's a serious, serious mistake because what it does, it was completely counterproductive. What it did was, ma'am, what it did was it convinced the rest of the Muslim world this is really a war against Islam and not a war in Iraq; and number two, it rose the -- it caused the price of oil to head to $100 a barrel. We're paying $30 a barrel for what they call a risk premium. And it helped destabilize the situation both in Iran -- I mean Afghanistan and Pakistan.

So the way to do this is to keep quiet, hush up, and do what I told the president personally and what I've said as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. If he takes the country to war in Iran without a vote of Congress, which will not exist, then he should be impeached.

December 10, 2007

Senator McCain says ‘we are winning the war in Iraq.’

Senator McCain, when asked what he would do as president to repair the image of America in the Muslim world, noted that we are succeeding and winning the war in Iraq.

Well, I would do a lot of things, but the first and most important and vital element is to continue this surge which is succeeding and we are winning the war in Iraq.

That's the first thing I would do. I would make sure that we do what we can to help reconstruct the country, to help the Maliki government move forward as rapidly as possible to train the police.

But I'll tell you one other thing we're -- I'm going to do, is we're going to fight back the Democrats' efforts to set a date for withdrawal which is a date for surrender… And I'm telling you, that if we continue this strategy, we can succeed.

Since 2003, the American military presence in Iraq hasn’t solved political problems and sectarian violence in Iraq. Furthermore, an article published by the New York Times in 2006 reveals that 16 US spy agencies inside of the government contend that “the invasion and occupation of Iraq has helped spawn a new generation of Islamic radicalism, and that the overall terrorist threat has grown since the Sept. 11 attacks.”  Withdrawal is needed, not a continued surge.

Thompson avoids question, stating only that ‘we shouldn’t be there longer than necessary.’

When asked if he would make a permanent commitment to the people of Iraq by constructing permanent military bases, Thompson responded,

We shouldn't be in there longer than necessary, and we don't know how long that will be. But we should be there absolutely as long as it takes to complete our mission there. It will make for a safer United States of America.

We're all focused, understandably, on Iraq and Afghanistan right now, but it is part of a much bigger picture. Islamic terrorism has declared war on us and Western civilization. They would like nothing better than to kill millions of people as they bring us down. They would like to be able to advertise to young radicals around the world that, ‘You, too, could help bring down the United States of America.’

Iran is waiting there to fill that vacuum. You think $90, $100 a barrel is high for oil now, wait until that happens.

But more importantly, it would make for a less secure United States of America. We have to do what's necessary. We have to take the opportunity that we have now.

Thompson’s avoidance of a direct “yes” or “no” to the question of permanent bases speaks more loudly than his bland statement that “we shouldn’t be in there longer than necessary.”

Ron Paul says, “The best commitment we can make to the Iraqi people is to give them their country back.”

When asked if he was willing to make a long-term commitment to Iraq by stationing permanent military bases there, Ron Paul had this to say,

The best commitment we can make to the Iraqi people is to give them their country back. That's the most important thing that we can do.

Already, part of their country has been taken back. In the south, they claim the surge has worked, but the surge really hasn't worked. There's less violence, but al-Sadr has essentially won in the south.

The British are leaving. The brigade of Al Sadr now is in charge, so they are getting their country back. They're in charge up north -- the Shia -- the people in the north are in charge, as well, and there's no violence up there or nearly as much.

So, let the people have their country back again. Just think of the cleaning up of the mess after we left Vietnam. Vietnam now is a friend of ours -- we trade with them, the president comes here.

After a back and forth with McCain, Paul concluded saying,

But we have to realize why they want to come here. Wolfowitz even admitted that one of the major reasons that the Al Qaida was organized and energized was because of our military base in Saudi Arabia.

He says, ‘Oh, now, we can take the base away.’ He understood why they came here. They come here because we're occupying their country, just as we would object if they occupied our country.

Clinton calls for engagement in “serious diplomacy, using both carrots and sticks” with Iran

The NPR Democratic Debates (transcript) started off with a question posed to all candidates.

The Nation Intelligence Report which was released earlier in the week and said that Iran stopped their nuclear weapons program in 2003. President Bush announced the day of the debate that the findings of the NIE do not change the presidence opinion that Iran poses a threat to the world. The questions asked were,

do you agree with the president's assessment that Iran still poses a threat? And do you agree that the NIE's news shows that isolation and sanctions work?  For all of you — and let's go left to right across the radio dial — do you agree with the president's assessment that Iran still poses a threat? And do you agree that the NIE's news shows that isolation and sanctions work?

Senator Clinton was the first to answer.

Well, I'm relieved that the intelligence community has reached this conclusion, but I vehemently disagree with the president that nothing's changed and therefore nothing in American policy has to change.

I have for two years advocated diplomatic engagement with Iran, and I think that's what the president should do. He should seize this opportunity and engage in serious diplomacy, using both carrots and sticks. I think we do know that pressure on Iran does have an effect. I think that is an important lesson. But we're not going to reach the kind of resolution that we should seek unless we put that into the context of a diplomatic process.

Guiliani says most important way to repair image of America in Muslim world is to ‘remain on offense against Islamic terrorism.’

In the CNN/youtube debate last week, when asked the question, “What would you do as president to repair the image of America in the eyes of the Muslim world?” Guiliani responded not by suggesting specific action but by saying,

Well, the most important thing to do is to make certain we remain on offense against Islamic terrorism.

And then make it clear that what that means is this is a small group of people, Islamic terrorists, who have defiled a great religion, that the vast majority of people who are Islamic, the vast majority of people who are Arabs, the vast majority of people living in these countries are good people. We should be trading with them. We should have contact with them. We should expand our contacts with them. We should have cultural exchanges with them…We shouldn't do the thing that we're being attacked for. We shouldn't blame an entire group of people for the horrible acts of a few people who have distorted a great religion. They have turned it into an ideology of hatred and an ideology of violence.

By the same token, we can't do what the Democrats do. We can't put our head in the sand. You've got a Democratic debate and not a single one of those Democratic candidates used the word ‘Islamic terrorism.’ I don't know who they think they're offending. The people they're offending are the people we want to offend -- the Islamic terrorists ...and not decent people like Yasmin [the person asking the question]. We are intelligent enough and good enough as Americans to make this distinction.

Polls indicate that the US military is viewed as not a liberating but an occupying force in Iraq, and that 61% of Iraqis support attacks on American troops. It will be very difficult to repair America’s reputation as long as we remain an occupying force.

Obama says diplomacy with Iran could include “the prospect of joining the World Trade Organization”

The first question of the NPR Democratic Debate (transcript) dealt with President Bush’s claim that the NIE report, which said Iran halted nuclear weapons production in 2003, does not change anything and that Iran still poses a threat. In such a context this question was asked,

Do you agree with the president's assessment that Iran still poses a threat? And do you agree that the NIE's news shows that isolation and sanctions work?  For all of you — and let's go left to right across the radio dial — do you agree with the president's assessment that Iran still poses a threat? And do you agree that the NIE's news shows that isolation and sanctions work?

Obama’s response:

Well, I think Iran continues to be a threat to some of its neighbors in the region, so they're still funding Hamas, they're still funding Hezbollah, and those are things we have to be concerned about. But it is absolutely clear that this administration and President Bush continues to not let facts get in the way of his ideology. And that's been the problem with their foreign policy generally. They should have stopped the saber-rattling, should have never started it, and they need now to aggressively move on the diplomatic front.

I have said consistently since the beginning of this campaign that it is important for the president to lead diplomatic efforts, to try to offer to Iran the prospect of joining the World Trade Organization, potential normalized relations over time, in exchange for changes in behavior. That's something that has to be pursued.

John Edwards says the Senate “had an important responsibility in standing up to [Bush] and stopping him on the vote on whether to declare the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization.”

In response to the President’s reaction to the NIE report released earlier in the week, Edwards said,

What — what I believe is that this president, who just a few weeks ago was talking about World War III, he, the vice president, the neocons have been on a march to possible war with Iran for a long time. We know that they've prepared contingency plans for a military attack. My view is that the — this has been going on since the famous "Axis of Evil" speech, and the United States Senate had an important responsibility in standing up to him and stopping him on the vote on whether to declare the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization. The president says we're in a global war on terror, and then he declares the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization and also a proliferator of weapons of mass destruction. It's absolutely clear and eerily similar to what we saw with Iraq, where they were headed — and there's a different approach, a smart approach using our friends in Europe and the European banking system to deal with this.

Senator Clinton says “many of us believe that,” the Iranian Revolutionary Guards are proliferators of mass destruction and turned attention to Edwards and Obama

The following question was asked at the NPR debates (transcript):

Senator Clinton, as some of your opponents have noted, in September you voted on a resolution involving the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, which, among other things, called them proliferators of mass destruction. In view of this latest intelligence estimate, which says Iran's nuclear program was stopped in 2003, do you believe that's still true?

When Clinton failed to answer the question directly, moderator Steve Inskeep said, “Forgive me,” and reiterated the question, “are the Revolutionary Guards proliferators of mass destruction?”

Clinton responded,

Well, many of us believe that. You know, earlier this year, Senator Edwards told an audience in Israel that the nuclear threat from Iran was the greatest threat to our generation. Back in 2004, Senator Obama told the Chicago Tribune Editorial Board that he would even consider nuke — surgical strikes by missiles to take out Iran's nuclear capacity. So there was a very broadly based belief that they were pursuing a nuclear weapon.

Edwards responded in disagreement, though never addressing his comment to the Israeli audience, and said,

…It was important for us to stand up because what Bush and Cheney did after the vote in the Senate is they declared the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization and a proliferator of weapons of mass destruction.

Obama contended that Clinton took his quote out of context,

…what I was specifically asked about was if Iran was developing nuclear weapons, how could we respond? And in those situations, what I said is we should keep options on the table. But what I've been consistent about was … that we needed to oppose George Bush again.

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