2008 Presidential Candidates’ Views on the Middle East
“If he takes the country to war in [Iran] without a vote of Congress, which will not exist, then he should be impeached.” (November, 15 2007)
“I stand with the many citizens- from the U.S. and around the world- who are concerned at the prospect of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons. Nuclear proliferation is a grave concern to international stability, and in the hands of the sponsors of terorism is entirely unacceptable.” (Statement to the Israel Project, July 19, 2007)
“Iran with the bomb could spark an arms race in the Middle East, with Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Syria joining in. Given the fault lines - between Sunni and Shia, Israelis and Palestinians, Persians and Arabs, Turks and Kurds, fundamentalists and moderates - that's the last thing we need. And it's the last thing Israel needs.
No President should take any option off the table, including force. But we have time: Iran is years away from having a bomb and a missile to deliver it. We need to use the time wisely.
We have to keep our eyes on the prize: preventing Iran from getting the bomb. This administration spent five years obsessed with the idea of getting rid of the Iranian regime.
None of us like the regime, but think about the logic: We want you to renounce the bomb - and by the way, when you do we're still going to try to take you down. The result: Iran accelerated its efforts to get the bomb and it is much closer now than it was when President Bush took office.
We need a policy that isolates Iran, not America and tips the balance in Iran against pursuing nuclear weapons. That means keeping our allies, Russia and China on the same page as we ratchet up economic and diplomatic pressure on the government to stop pursuing nuclear weapons. At the same time, there are growing fissures within the ruling elite - we need to exploit them.
Above all, we have to recognize that our biggest allies in this effort are the Iranian people. They're open to America. They don't like a regime that denies them basic political and social rights and that can't deal with corruption, unemployment and inflation. The Iranian people need to know it is their government, not the US that is choosing confrontation over cooperation. So we should tone down the rhetoric and talk. It's amazing how little faith this administration has in America's ideas and ideals.
Force must be the last option because it's a bad option. First, with our forces bogged down in Iraq, our threat to use force doesn't look very credible. Second, we can set back Iran's program but not stop it. Using force would lead to retaliation by Iran, including against our troops in Iraq. It would cause the Iranian people to rally behind Ahmadinejad and the extremists. Third, even a 'limited' strike would be perceived as something much bigger by the Iranians and could spark a real war. The only thing worse than a poorly planned intentional war is an unplanned unintentional war.” (Jerusalem Post, June 7, 2007)
“The bottom line here is, if regime change is the operative element of this administration's policy [in Iran], you are never going to get to the point where you end up with a diplomatic solution. There may be no diplomatic solution, in the end. That's possible. We may have crossed the line, or they may have crossed the line...while we fool around with this, you're going to see Japan go nuclear, and you're going to see China react to Japan going nuclear, and you're going to see a chain of events set in motion that are going to be significantly damaging to the next generation of Americans. And so, it seems to me we should get off this wicket of suggesting that we won't talk. I mean, what are we afraid of in talking?” (FOX News Sunday with Chris Wallace, October 22, 2006)
“It seems to me what we have to do is continue to push to see if we can hold this coalition together to increase gradual sanctions [on Iran]. Without that, we don't have a whole lot of options here...This is a test for the diplomacy. This is a test for the United Nations. If it fails, then what we're going to have to do is begin to come up with a serious containment policy, here.” (August 27, 2006)
Hamas and the Situation in Gaza:
“We contract our foreign policy, and that is a dangerous situation. Do you think there’s any reasonable prospect that the Saudis are going to push Hamas to recognize Israel?” (Forward, March 20, 2007)
“Israel cannot be expected to negotiate with a party that calls for its destruction, engages in terrorism and maintains an armed militia. Hamas must choose: bullets or ballots.” (January 2006)
Peace with the Palestinians:
“I would do what I called on the Bush Administration to do two years ago - and that it failed to do: urgently support Abbas and Salam Fayad to shore up their position in West Bank and help them deliver real benefits to their constituents. But I would tie our assistance to genuine transparency and accountability.
At the same time, I would work to isolate Hamas. We should not talk to Hamas unless and until they recognize Israel, renounce terrorism and accept past agreements. These are the demands not just of the United States, but of the so-called Quartet: Russia, US, the European Union, and UN.
Hamas has to decide between bullets and ballots - either it lays down its arms and acts democratically, or it continues as a terrorist organization and is treated as such. It cannot have it both ways.
I would seriously talk to our European allies, Israel, Egypt, and Abbas about the possibility of an international force deployed along the Egypt-Gaza border to prevent smuggling of arms into Gaza. I know that Israel is interested in such a force.
I would also support alternatives to Hamas. I would urge Palestinian leaders to reform Fatah, to combat corruption and build efficiency. I would use a $20 million fund that I created last year to promote democratic alternatives at the grass roots in the Palestinian areas - a fund the Administration has never used. And I would press the oil-rich Arab states to do the same.” (Jerusalem Post, July 5, 2007)
“The outcome [of the Palestinian elections] reflects Palestinian anger and frustration at the Palestinian Authority and Fatah for their corruption, mismanagement, and failure to provide law and order.” (January 2006)
Negotiations with Syria and Lebanon:
“There are plenty of reasons to mistrust Assad, but there could be real benefits to hard-headed diplomacy. Syria is the common denominator of many problems - in Lebanon , the Palestinian territories, and to a lesser extent Iraq. They are Iran 's closest ally. But it is also a fundamentally weak and isolated regime. We should work to break up its marriage of convenience with Iran. If Syria could be encouraged to act less irresponsibly it could have a real impact in the region.” (August 8, 2007)
“It is a mistake not to let Israel, if it wishes to, if it sees an opportunity to go out and explore possibilities with the Syrians. If I’m in Damascus, what’s in my best interest? My best interest is to be free of Iran’s yoke, on the good side of the equation with the oil-producing Sunni states, and able to deliver for my people what appears to be a victory by having a settlement on the Golan. Now, whether that can be accomplished remains to be seen, but it should be explored.” (Forward, March 20, 2007)
The United States-Israel Relationship:
“In my 34-year career, I have never wavered from the notion that the only time progress has ever been made in the Middle East is when the Arab nations have known that there is no daylight between us and Israel. So the idea of being an ‘honest broker’ is not, as some of my Democratic colleagues call for, the answer. It is being the smart broker, it is being the smart partner.” (Forward, March 20, 2007)
“The Democrats' support for Israel “comes from our gut, moves through our heart, and ends up in our head. It's almost genetic.” (October 5, 2006)
“There has never been progress in the Middle East without the United States acting as a catalyst. The fact of the matter is that our good offices are important. The fact as the matter is that I would not do anything that I did not coordinate with the Israeli government. I would not pretend to be anything other than we are. Arabs know where we are and all they want to know is that we are going to, in fact, be blanced and fair about it. I think we can still establish that...My point is that we should have some very important person on the ground there, ready to explore all the initiatives, any serious person in the government thinks it might be worth considering. We should be a catalyst here.” (October 5, 2006)
“The single most important thing we could do for Israel right now is to get a political settlement in Iraq. That changes the dynamic, frees up resources for us, frees up our capability and changes the whole game, but we don't seem to have anyone in this administration that can connect the dots.” (October 5, 2006)
“Because of our lack of a prevention strategy, we're left with no option here (in the Israel-Lebanon War), in my view, but to support Israel in what is a totally legitimate self-defense effort.” (Washington, July 16, 2006)