• 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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7,350 signatures

Tell Google: Stop playing Persian Gulf name games!

May 14, 2012
Larry Page
Chief Executive Officer
Google Inc.
1600 Amphitheatre Parkway
Mountain View, California 94043

Dear Mr. Page:

It has come to our attention that Google has begun omitting the title of the Persian Gulf from its Google Maps application. This is a disconcerting development given the undisputed historic and geographic precedent of the name Persian Gulf, and the more recent history of opening up the name to political, ethnic, and territorial disputes. However unintentionally, in adopting this practice, Google is participating in a dangerous effort to foment tensions and ethnic divisions in the Middle East by politicizing the region’s geographic nomenclature. Members of the Iranian-American community are overwhelmingly opposed to such efforts, particularly at a time when regional tensions already have been pushed to the brink and threaten to spill over into conflict. As the largest grassroots organization in the Iranian-American community, the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) calls on Google to not allow its products to become propaganda tools and to immediately reinstate the historically accurate, apolitical title of “Persian Gulf” in all of its informational products, including Google Maps.

Historically, the name “Persian Gulf” is undisputed. The Greek geographer and astronomer Ptolemy referencing in his writings the “Aquarius Persico.” The Romans referred to the "Mare Persicum." The Arabs historically call the body of water, "Bahr al-Farsia." The legal precedent of this nomenclature is also indisputable, with both the United Nations and the United States Board of Geographic Names confirming the sole legitimacy of the term “Persian Gulf.” Agreement on this matter has also been codified by the signatures of all six bordering Arab countries on United Nations directives declaring this body of water to be the Persian Gulf.

But in the past century, and particularly at times of escalating tensions, there have been efforts to exploit the name of the Persian Gulf as a political tool to foment ethnic division. From colonial interests to Arab interests to Iranian interests, the opening of debate regarding the name of the Persian Gulf has been a recent phenomenon that has been exploited for political gain by all sides. Google should not enable these politicized efforts.

In the 1930s, British adviser to Bahrain Sir Charles Belgrave proposed to rename the Persian Gulf, “Arabian Gulf,” a proposal that was rejected by the British Colonial and Foreign offices. Two decades later, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company resurrected the term during its dispute with Mohammad Mossadegh, the Iranian Prime Minister whose battle with British oil interests would end in a U.S.-sponsored coup d'état that continues to haunt U.S.-Iran relations. In the 1960s, the title “Arabian Gulf” became central to propaganda efforts during the Pan-Arabism era aimed at exploiting ethnic divisions in the region to unite Arabs against non-Arabs, namely Iranians and Israelis. The term was later employed by Saddam Hussein to justify his aims at territorial expansion. Osama Bin Laden even adopted the phrase in an attempt to rally Arab populations by emphasizing ethnic rivalries in the Middle East.

We have serious concerns that Google is now playing into these efforts of geographic politicization. Unfortunately, this is not the first time Google has stirred controversy on this topic. In 2008, Google Earth began including the term “Arabian Gulf” in addition to Persian Gulf as the name for the body of water. NIAC and others called on you then to stop using this ethnically divisive propaganda term, but to no avail. Instead of following the example of organizations like the National Geographic Society, which in 2004 used term “Arabian Gulf” in its maps but recognized the error and corrected it, Google has apparently decided to allow its informational products to become politicized.

Google should rectify this situation and immediately include the proper name for the Persian Gulf in Google Maps and all of its informational products. The exclusion of the title of the Persian Gulf diminishes your applications as informational tools, and raises questions about the integrity and accuracy of information provided by Google.

We strongly urge you to stay true to Google’s mission – “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful” – without distorting or politicizing that information. We look forward to an explanation from you regarding the recent removal of the Persian Gulf name from Google Maps and call on you to immediately correct this mistake.



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