Barack Obama

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.

December 10, 2007

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.

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.

November 21, 2007

Obama: withdraw combat troops within 16 months

Barack Obama continues to promise to withdraw only combat troops from Iraq – paving the way for a prolonged, albeit diminished, occupation of the country. He laid out his platform in the recent Nevada debate:

There is no doubt that because we put American troops in Iraq, more American troops in Iraq, that they are doing a magnificent job.

And they are making a difference in certain neighborhoods. But the overall strategy is failed because we have not seen any change in behavior among Iraq's political leaders. And that is the essence of what we should be trying to do in Iraq.

That's why I'm going to bring this war to a close. That's why we can get our troops out -- our combat troops out within 16 months. That's why we have to initiate the kind of regional diplomacy, not just talking to our friends, but talking to our enemies, like Iran and Syria, to try to stabilize the situation there.

But I just want to make this important point, because all of us as we're campaigning, we're seeing this in human terms. People are on two, three, four tours of duty. Families are carrying an enormous burden.

This year, we saw the highest casualty rates for American troops in Iraq since this war started.

The same, by the way, is true in Afghanistan. If we have seen a lowering violence rate, that's only compared to earlier this year. We're back to where we started back in 2006.

And so the notion that somehow because we've gone from horrific violence to just intolerable levels of violence, and that somehow that justifies George Bush's strategy is absolutely wrong, and I'm going to bring it to a halt when I'm president of the United States.

November 07, 2007

Clinton deals with fallout from controversial Iran amendment at debate

In MSNBC's recent debate, Hillary Clinton was forced to go on the defensive regarding her vote last month to designate Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps as a global terrorist entity. Clinton was forced to repeatedly deny any support of an attack on Iran.

Well, first of all, I am against a rush to war.  I was the first person on this stage and one of the very first in the Congress to go to the floor of the Senate back in February and say George Bush had no authority to take any military action in Iran.         

Secondly, I am not in favor of this rush for war, but I'm also not in favor of doing nothing. Iran is seeking nuclear weapons, and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard is in the forefront of that, as they are in the sponsorship of terrorism. So some may want a false choice between rushing to war -- which is the way the Republicans sound; it's not even a question of whether, it's a question of when and what weapons to use -- and doing nothing. I prefer vigorous diplomacy, and I happen to think economic sanctions are part of vigorous diplomacy. We use them with respect to North Korea. We use them with respect to Libya. And many of us who voted for that resolution said that this is not anything other than an expression of support for using economic sanctions with respect to diplomacy.

Chris Dodd, who voted against the amendment, saw things differently,

This issue is going to come back to haunt us. We all learned, some of us here painfully, back in 2002 that by voting for an authorization regarding Iraq, that despite the language of that resolution, which called for diplomacy at the time, this administration used that resolution, obviously, to pursue a very aggressive action in Iraq.

Joe Biden, who also voted “no”,  criticized the vote further,

Let's look at what happened from the moment that vote took place.      

Oil prices went up to $90 a barrel. Who benefits from that?  All this talk of war, all this talk of declaring people to be terrorists, drove up the price of oil.         

Secondly, we have emboldened Bush at a minimum. His talk of World War III, totally irresponsible talk. We've emboldened him, Tim, to be able to move if he chooses to move.  They're terrorists. The fact that they're terrorists on one side of the border or the other, we've just declared them terrorists.  That gives him the color of right to move against them.               

Thirdly, this has incredible consequences for Afghanistan and Pakistan. Nobody talks about this. Do 75 of our colleagues not understand?  We have now driven underground every moderate in Pakistan and in Afghanistan. This literally -- literally -- puts Karzai, as well as Musharraf, in jeopardy.            

The notion here is it plays into this whole urban legend that America is on a crusade against Islam. This was bad -- if nothing else happens, not another single thing, this was bad policy.

The president had the ability to do everything that that amendment, that resolution called for without us talking to it. And all it has done is hurt us, even if not another single action is taken. Actions  have consequences. Big nations can't bluff.

Barrack Obama was absent for the vote, but joined in criticizing the outcome of the vote,

I don't think we should be talking about attacking Iran at this point, for some of the reasons that Chris and Joe just talked about. Look, we have been seeing, during the Republican debates, the drumbeat of war. The president has been talking about World War III. That is a continuation of the kinds of foreign policy that rejects diplomacy and sees military action as the only tool available to us to influence the region. And what we should be doing is reaching out aggressively to our allies but also talking to our enemies and focusing on those areas where we do not accept their actions, whether it be terrorism or developing nuclear weapons, but also talking to Iran directly about the potential carrots that we can provide, in terms of them being involved in the World Trade Organization, or beginning to look at the possibilities of diplomatic relations being normalized.

We have not made those serious attempts. This kind of resolution does not send the right signal to the region. It doesn't send the right signal to our allies or our enemies, and as a consequence, I think over the long term it weakens our capacity to influence Iran.

John Edwards went further in his criticism,

Well, I just listened to what Senator Clinton said, and she said she wanted to maximize pressure on the Bush administration.  So the way to do that is to vote yes on a resolution that looks like it was written literally by the neocons?  I mean, has anyone read this thing?  I mean, it literally gave Bush and Cheney exactly what they wanted.      

It didn't just give them what they wanted; they acted on it.  A few weeks later, they declared the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization and -- this is going to sound very familiar remember from Iraq, the prelude to Iraq? -- proliferators of weapons of mass destruction.  The way you put pressure on this administration is you stand up to -- you say no.

A lot of us on this stage have learned our lessons the hard way, that you give this president an inch and he will take a mile. And this is about such an important issue, and we have to stand up to this president.  We need to make it absolutely clear that we have no intention of letting Bush, Cheney or this administration invade Iraq (sic) because they have been rattling the saber over and over and over.

And what this resolution did, written literally in the language of the neocons, is it enables this president to do exactly what he wants to do. He continues to march forward.  He continues to say this is a terrorist organization.  He continues to say these are proliferators    of weapons of mass destruction.  How in the world is that Democrats? We're not talking about Republicans now, Chris and Joe -- Democrats standing up to this president and saying no, we are not going to allow this; we are not going to allow this march to war in Iran.

Full debate transcript here.

October 19, 2007

Barack Obama in Las Vegas - October 18

Obama_1018 Senator Obama arrived at Cheyanne High School, greeted by about 1,500 people in a packed standing room-only auditorium. As the Senator walked in, I got a chance to shake his hand, while at the same time ask him face-to-face if he was going to end the war. To which he looked me dead in the eye, smiled and repeated twice, before climbing on the podium, “that’s what I’m going to do.”

In his speech he mentioned his plans to remove 1-2 brigades a month for the next 16 months until all the troops had been removed. He followed it by repeating three times, “I will end this war,” to standing ovations across the hall. 

During the question and answer segment , he called on me and I got the chance to ask him the following:

Thank you for calling on me Senator Obama. You spoke about leading by example, yet you have also said that you will leave ‘all options on the table when it comes to Iran’. If you are elected President, what will be your position on Iran with U.S. nuclear weapons, such as the Reliable Replacement Warhead?

He did not address the issue of whether or not he would use nuclear weapons in Iran, but he did proclaim loudly and clearly that "military solutions will not work in Iran and that we need to work on "better diplomatic relations" in the world. He also said that he “would reach out to Russia to begin nuclear non-proliferation."

It would be interesting to know if part of non-proliferation includes current U.S. stockpiles.

October 02, 2007

Obama Campaign Sets Sights On Nuclear Weapons

The New York Times reported yesterday that Barack Obama will announce a goal of eliminating nuclear weapons worldwide, with the United States leading the way by drastically reducing its vast nuclear stockpiles.

Mr Obama's proposal echoes the words of John Edwards, who we reported as saying that he wants to be the president who "rids the world of nuclear weapons."

The anti-nuke platforms of Edwards and Obama seem to reflect a developing political climate. Back in January a bi-partisan group of former high-level government officials, including the infamous Henry Kissinger, urged immediate actions by the US to reduce nuclear stockpiles in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece. The fact that these top contenders for the 2008 presidency are advocating a nuclear free world make this dream a real possibility. Let us hope that these ideals catch on.

Edwards sides with Obama on Pakistan military strikes

AP reports that presidential candidate John Edwards, speaking before an audience at Pace University, said that he would invade Pakistan to eradicate terror cells if it were "necessary."  These comments come on the heels of Barack Obama's recent mini-scandal after he announced the exact same policy and was labeled as "inexperienced" by the media. Edwards seems to have been unaffected by the widespread criticism of Obama's interventionalist stance, and in fact, reiterates the position almost exactly:

I want to be clear about one thing: If we have actionable intelligence about imminent terrorist activity and the Pakistani government refuses to act, we will.

While AP says that Edwards' "act" would likely be a military strike or some kind of invasion, the candidate said that other methods should be used to persuade governments not to harbor terrorist cells.

We ought to use our tremendous tools - diplomacy, arm sales, trade, foreign aid - to get states to shut down terror cells.


September 28, 2007

Obama: America Cannot Sanction Torture

Obama made clear in last night’s Democratic Presidential Debate his stance on torture:

“America cannot sanction torture. It’s a very straightforward principle, and one that we should abide by.”

Obama continued by explaining the importance of abstaining from torture as a part of America’s world image.

“What we cannot do is have a President of the United States state, as a matter of policy, that there is a loophole or an exception where we would sanction torture.  I think that diminishes us and it sends the wrong message to the world.” 

Debate transcript available at The New York Times

Obama: Anything to Stop a Nuclear Iran

In last night’s presidential debate, Senator Obama made it clear that he will do anything to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

“I make an absolute commitment that we will do everything we need to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.”

However, Senator Obama has continued to make diplomacy a vital first step in how he would engage Iran, a strategy that he feels has been underutilized in the United States’ foreign policy.

“One of the things we have to try, though, is to talk directly to Iran, something that we have not been doing.”

Obama stressed the importance of talking to all nations:

“We’ve got to talk to our enemies and not just our friends."

Debate transcript available at The New York Times

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