• 21 April 2008
  • Posted By John Einarsen
  • Diplomacy, Presidential 2008 Elections, US-Iran War

Presidential Candidates Express Views on Iran

The Democratic debate on April 16 marked the first time Iran has been discussed in a presidential debate since October of last year. The event demonstrated that US-Iran relations are no longer an issue that can be swept under the rug. The candidates’ commentary shed light on an issue that remains on the backburner despite its increasing importance. When asked about her strategy for security in the Middle East, Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) responded, “I think that we should be looking to create an umbrella of deterrence that goes much further than just Israel.”

Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) distinguished his Iran policy from his rival’s by highlighting his willingness to “directly engage” Iran while specifically refuting the idea of hosting President Ahmadinejad at the White House and prefers low level engagement. He said, “I would consider an attack unacceptable, and the United States would take appropriate action.” While the way in which these comments will translate into a foreign policy remains unclear, it is obvious that all three candidates advocate different approaches. Clinton was more direct, explaining that “We will let the Iranians know, that, yes, an attack on Israel would trigger massive retaliation, but so would an attack on those countries that are willing to go under the security umbrella and forswear their own nuclear ambitions.”

The Republican presidential candidate Senator John McCain (R-AZ) takes a more aggressive approach. Unlike the Democratic candidates, he does not believe the approval of Congress is needed in order to take military action against Iran and is unwilling to engage in direct talks with Iran without pre-conditions.

He also seems to be a bit confused about the most important actors in the region and the roles they are playing. Last month, during a trip to Jordan where he commented on Iranian influence in Iraq, he mistakenly accused Iran of training members of Al-Qaeda to fight in Iraq. Asked about that statement, Senator McCain said: “Well, it’s common knowledge and has been reported in the media that Al Qaeda is going back into Iran and receiving training and are coming back into Iraq from Iran. That’s well known. And it’s unfortunate.” It was only after Senator Lieberman (D-CT) whispered a correction that he revoked his statement.

In any event, all three candidates remain willing to consider pre-emptive military action as a last resort should sanctions and diplomacy fail. As responsible citizens, it is our duty to contact our representatives in congress and call for a peaceful resolution to what could become, in the absence of an alternative policy approach, a disastrous military engagement like the one already happening in Iran’s neighbor to the west.

Posted By John Einarsen

    6 Responses to “Presidential Candidates Express Views on Iran”

  1. Babak Talebi says:


    some key points you outline here… the quotes from last week’s debate are pretty telling. Our community needs to be aware of these positions by the candidates.

  2. Michael Mahyar Hojjatie says:

    Johnny, Babak, and Company,

    Hear is an email I received from the McCain camp last week (please don’t interpret that as me endorsing McCain, I tend to subscribe to a myriad of political emails from various organizations just for my own personal “education”). I’ve been meaning to share it with the class, please excuse the delay.

    “Wednesday’s Democratic debate provided insight into Barack Obama’s positions on key foreign policy issues. As president he says he would immediately withdraw our troops from Iraq- even if he were strongly advised against this by our nation’s top military commanders. He would also hold direct talks with the Iranian regime- a regime that does not recognize Israel and is the largest state sponsor of terrorism in the world. Iran’s president has even called for Israel to be “wiped off the map.”

    During the debate, Barack Obama once again refused to condemn former President Jimmy Carter- who publicly supports Obama- for holding talks with the Hamas terrorist group, a group supported financially, politically and military by Iran.

    Barack Obama’s foreign policy plans have even won him praise from Hamas leaders. Ahmed Yousef, chief political adviser to the Hamas Prime Minister said, “We like Mr. Obama and we hope he will win the election. He has a vision to change America.”

    We need change in America, but not the kind of change that wins kind words from Hamas, surrenders in Iraq and will hold unconditional talks with Iranian President Ahmadinejad.

    John McCain’s foreign policy provides a stark contrast to the policies of Barack Obama. As president, John McCain will provide the leadership we need to win the war against Islamic extremists. We need your help today to reach out to Americans across the country to spread the message of John McCain’s plan for your national security. Please follow this link to make a financial contribution to our campaign today.

    We are in the middle of a hard-fought campaign, and I am confident that the leadership and bold solutions John McCain will provide as our commander in chief are what our nation needs. We need your immediate donation to take John McCain’s solutions to the American people.

    John McCain will always put the interests of American families above all else. This is the type of leadership we need as a nation, and I hope you will take the time today to join our campaign and make a financial contribution to ensure the policies of Barack Obama do not become the policies of America.


    Christian Ferry
    Deputy Campaign Manager

    P.S. – The differences between our campaign and that of Barack Obama’s could not be more clear. While Senator Obama would surrender in Iraq and hold talks with the Iranian regime, John McCain will never surrender in the struggle with Islamic extremists. Please join our campaign today by making a generous donation of $50, $100, $250, $500, $1,000 or $2,300. Thank you.”



  3. John Einarsen says:

    I agree about the necessity for increased awareness. It’s scary to think that a man who could become president is obviously ignorant about the roles of the most important actors in the region. This only proves that we cannot leave the formation of foreign policy up to leading politicians, as they themselves are by no means omnicient figures capable of making the best decisions without the input of an educated constituency.

  4. Babak Talebi says:


    thanks for forwarding that – I do have to explicitly state that NIAC does not endorse, support, or oppose candidates. I’m sure all of you know this – but I do want to make that clear so nothing is misconstrued.

    As for McCain’s policy positions on Iran – obviously those are very dangerous – the question is, if he is elected, will our community and its allies have an opportunity to change his stance or is it going to be impossible. I’ll allow others to judge for themselves.

    Finally – did you guys see the Clinton quote from “Good Morning America” this morning:

    “We would be able to totally obliterate them”

    this was in response to what will the US do if Iran attacks Israel. She also explicitly stated she would be willing to use Nuclear weapons to ‘retaliate’ for aggression against the countries under her proposed ‘umbrella’.

    As far as I know – this is the first time a President (or candidate) has ever explicitly said he/she would use nuclear weapons in a ‘hypothetical’ situation. Does not bode well for the conversation on US-Iran policy in the fall if she and McCain are the nominees – I fear it may degenerate into a discussion or who is MOST hawkish on Iran.

    Not a good development.

  5. Michael Mahyar Hojjatie says:

    “Totally obliterate”? Wow, that’s really extreme! Granted, we all know the US would immediately retalitate because of its “relationship” ::cough cough:: with Israel, but for this wacko to vouch for obliteration of one of the world’s oldest civilizations instead of containing the threat and possibly retaliating militarily on a lesser scale (which we all know both America and Israel are fully capable of) than obliteration is just ridiculous.

    Well, can’t blame her for her words, she’s getting more and more desperate in the 11th hour!

  6. azadeh says:

    I liked Clinton because I wanted to have a woman as a president and I thought she is well qualified, but after this comment, I am leaned more toward Obama. I would never vote for Mc Caine.

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