February 03, 2007

Iran: Some Presidential Candidate Perspectives

Not-quite-live from the Democratic National Committee's Winter Meeting, I got to ask some of the candidates and possible candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination about their views on the situation with Iran. For other perspectives, Ezra Klein got to talk to John Edwards in a longer interview that focused on the subject, and clammyc at Daily Kos wants a commitment from our Senators that they'll take action to remove Bush from office if he launches a strike against Iran, while McJoan thinks Iran is a red herring.

Friday, Feb 2, 2007

Gen. Wesley Clark

Q: Are you concerned with the escalating tensions between the U.S. and Iran?

"I'm very concerned about Iran. As you know, I've been the first to speak out about it. I've been concerned about it for over four years now, that this administration is ignoring Iran and setting up the conditions then to go to war against Iran. So I'm very concerned about it, yes."

Q: Do you think, as was recently suggested, that things are heated enough that it could be 1914 all over again?

"I think it's a very tough time. It's just a time that the administration really needs to sit down and talk with the people in Iran, the leadership. Not only Ahmadinejad, but the other leaders in Iran. We need to be reaching out and finding out if there's a way to head off the looming confrontation. Because it's clear that confrontation's looming, and you know, if you look at the range of opinions expressed across Iran, that country's not determined to go to war with the United States. You've got some people in power who have been intemperate in their remarks and they're benefitting by pushing toward a confrontation. But for the millions and millions of Iranians, they'll get nothing for it but heartache. So, I think the United States needs to do a better job on diplomacy in the region and put less emphasis on sabre rattling over there.

Sen. Chris Dodd

Q: Are you concerned with the escalating tensions between the U.S. and Iran?

"I'm very worried about it. This brings back memories, having worked on these issues for so many years, that when I begin to see word coming out of the Pentagon that the attack in Karbala two weeks ago was an Iranian attack; we don't know that yet, in fact, I lost a very good friend in that attack. A young captain and West Point graduate, Brian Freeman. We all know that Iran is involved to some degree in Iraq, but the idea, to start building this case to support a military invasion of Iran, I think it's a huge mistake. I'm watching it very carefully, I think Congress ought to stand up very early on, and let the president know that we will not tolerate that kind of an action without a debate coming before the Congress. And I would strongly oppose that direction, I think it's the wrong thing to be doing now."

Q: What should we be doing?

"Well we ought to be changing policy in Iraq, I mean, that's what everyone's been talking about. And what Baker and Hamilton, and eight other bipartisan members of that commission suggested, is that you need an aggressive, robust surge in diplomacy in the region. Doesn't mean we like these people, we disagree with them on many things. But you don't negotiate with your friends, you end up having to negotiate with people you have disagreements with, and we've got serious ones with Iran. I don't have any illusion about that. But instead of threatening war, we ought to be talking about how we can de-escalate this problem, bring some stability to these people over there and some hope for their future. We're not doing that now, and the policy that this administration is following is very dangerous for our country."

Q: Do you think we should have accepted their 2003 offer to negotiate?

"I think we should. There are ways of doing this, and with Syria as well, and also getting these so-called moderate Arab states at the table. Again, you've got to reach out. Look, Richard Nixon could meet with Mao Tse Tung and Ronald Reagan could meet with Soviet leaders, no friends of ours at the time, but they understood the value of diplomacy, as have Democratic presidents. What has happened with this administration, the first in my memory, that is walking away from a very important function of the US presidency. That doesn't mean you give up the option of military action, but you don't draw that arrow out of your quiver as the first thing you do, that ought to be the last thing you do."

Rep. Dennis Kucinich

Q: Are you concerned with the escalating tensions between the U.S. and Iran?

"We should all be concerned. I've given dozens of speeches on the floor of the House warning this country about the steps this administration is taking to escalate towards a conflict against Iran. And I want to say, the extent to which the administration continues to do that is the extent to which this administration incurs constitutional consequences. The president has taken a series of steps to set the stage for war with Iran. Whether he's consulting with Congress or not is beside the point. If we let this administration prosecute a war against Iran, it will destabilize not only the region, but the entire world. Even what he's done so far should be reason for Congress to call people from the administration in and put them under oath. In the last Congress, as the top Democrat on the subcommittee that has jurisdiction over international relations and national security, the administration refused to send people from the Department of Defense and the State Department to even a secret briefing to talk about what they were doing in Iran. [I raise an eyebrow.] Oh yes. So this is a major problem, this Congress has to wake up, because this president is planning to attack Iran."

Q: Are you concerned that Bush will put a motion for a pre-emptive strike before Congress?

"Well I'm concerned that he'll take action without even asking the Congress. And again, I want to state that there are constitutional consequences if he does that."

Saturday, Feb 3, 2007

Gov. Tom Vilsack

Q: Are you concerned with the escalating tensions between the U.S. and Iran?

"I'm obviously very concerned about the situation in the whole Middle East and Iran. Seems to me that we should be engaged diplomatically and aggressively in trying to reach out and trying to find solutions to the situation. We cannot tolerate a nuclear-armed Iran. And so we have to engage them very forcefully and diplomatically. And we also have to take a step in the right direction in terms of Iraq. We've got to not escalate our presence there, not stay the course there, but get our troops out of harm's way now.

Q: How would you feel about their having civilian nuclear technology?

"I have some concerns about that, simply because this is a country that is rich in oil and rich in natural gas. I'm not quite sure what this is all about. But I think we ought to be engaged diplomatically with them. And if there is a way in which we can be sure and certain that this is being used for civilian purposes, that's one thing. But there's some concern about that, especially given the statements they've made about Israel and about the United States."

Q: Do you think we should have accepted their 2003 offer to negotiate?

"Well honestly, I'm not familiar with that proposal, so I don't know how I would respond to it. Obviously, we need to be engaged, and if in fact they were interested in allowing full and complete international inspections, if they are in fact willing to stop support for Hezbollah, if they're willing to disavow terrorism, that's obviously a step in the right direction."

Sen. Mike Gravel

Q: Are you concerned with the escalating tensions between the U.S. and Iran?

"Yes, they're unfounded, they're totally unfounded. Ahmadinejad may be shooting off his mouth, but he's done no worse than George Bush shooting off his mouth. And so as far as I'm concerned, the Iranian people want to live in peace, I know that firsthand. And the United States turning around and really, continually trying to box them in is, one, it's not going to work, two, it's very destabilizing and very dangerous and three, ... that Iran is not a threat to our well-being. If anything, we're the ones who did damage to Iran back in 1953, when we overthrew their democracy. And so what we see there is, we're responsible for it. If I'm president, I will turn around and stop all the sanctions immediately, which I think are terrible. I would seek diplomatic relations immediately, and if the Iranian government wants to continue to waste their money on some nuclear stuff, fine. We do the same thing in this country."

Q: How would you feel about their having civilian nuclear technology?

"First off, keep in mind, Iran signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty. And they only pulled out of it when we started putting on sanctions and making demands of them which were somewhat unreasonable. So as far as I'm concerned, if they say that they want to do it for peaceful reasons, fine. I take them at face value. If they develop a bomb, if they want to waste their money in that area, that's up to them. We've made that mistake in this country."

Q: Do you have anything further to add?

"I think it's really very sad, most Americans, because of the propaganda, develop a negative attitude towards Iran and it is without foundation. It's without foundation. And unfortunately, when you get a person like Ahmadinejad, who then makes some statements, it just exacerbates the situation. He's made some good statements too. He's very interesting, he's a very bright guy, but he ought to learn to control some of his statements, which are inflammatory. Just as George Bush, who's been a hell of a lot more inflammatory than he'll ever be."

Gov. Bill Richardson

Q: Are you concerned with the escalating tensions between the U.S. and Iran?

"Yes, I'd practice diplomacy. I think we need to negotiate with Iran. They're a difficult country, they're hostile to us, but I believe you negotiate your differences. We want Iran to be more stable when it comes to oil prices. We want Iran to stop meddling in Iraq. We don't want them to build nuclear weapons. So how do you resolve this? You talk to them, negotiate. Tough message, but not talking to them is foolish."

Q: Do you think we should have accepted their 2003 offer to negotiate?

"I think when you enter into a negotiation, there should be no preconditions. However, the security of Israel is at stake. I'm very concerned about that. What I want to see is an Israel that flourishes, but we need to bring Syria and Iran to help stabilize the region. You do that by negotiaton, not by threats."

Posted by natasha at February 3, 2007 05:24 PM | Event Coverage | TrackBack(1) | Technorati links |


This is the Internet Freedom desk at Reporters without borders in Paris. We have created a blog called "RSFblog.org" which included a news site called "The World seen through Blogs." The site's aim is simple: to publish the viewpoints of bloggers from different countries on the same event. Rsfblog will showcase content produced by Internet users of very different origins and cultures.

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