2008 Presidential Candidates’ Views on the Middle East
[The Senate resolution urging the President to label the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization amounted to] “saber-rattling” [that would embolden the (Bush) administration. (Washington Post, October 31, 2007)
“A fundamental goal of our foreign policy should be not to permit Iran to develop nuclear weapons.” (September 27, 2007)
“Refusing to engage Iran diplomatically prevented us from making headway on issues vital to our national security, including not only nuclear weapons but also Iraq, energy security and Middle East peace, we need to approach Iran with both fierce determination and with open eyes. The key is to make them see that they will be better off and more secure without nukes than with them. If we unite the world behind the right carrots and sticks, and provide the Iranians with face-saving ways to step back from the nuclear brink, we will prevail. If we want Iran to improve its behavior, we would do well to stop threatening to attack them.” (June 27, 2007)
“The Iraq war has greatly strengthened Iran in the region. Saddam's Iraq was the main constraint on Iranian power and Iran now holds great influence with Shi'ite groups in Iraq and Hizbullah. Without a plan to constrain Iran today, thanks to a poorly executed effort in Iraq, Iran has more power and influence in Iraq and in the region than it has enjoyed in decades.
The current Iraq situation strengthens most of America's adversaries in the region and elsewhere, as it ties down our military, consumes our resources, weakens our alliances, and damages our reputation. And, as I have explained elsewhere, we need to get out of Iraq as quickly as we can, so that we can start rebuilding our reputation, redeploy our troops to fight terrorism and restore our capacity to work with and lead other nations.
Also in recent years anti-American and anti-Israeli politicians have come to power in places like Palestine and Iran. This gravely threatens our best friend in the region, Israel. A successful foreign policy will require that we be more attentive than the Bush administration has been to how our efforts can impact the domestic politics of Muslim states. I would re-establish a permanent Middle East special envoy as President.
President Ahmadinejad is a dangerous man with reprehensible views. But his power is constrained, and his popularity is collapsing. While many elements of the regime, including much of the clergy and the President, are fanatics and ideologues, there also are pragmatic and moderate figures in Iran - and much of Iranian society wants Iran to liberalize and to play a more constructive role in the world. We need to stop inadvertently assisting the most hard-line and paranoid elements, and instead start strengthening these moderate forces we can work with.
Ultimately, our challenge is to bring Iran out of the cold and into the community of nations. This will require constant engagement and tough, skillful diplomacy. We have four crucial priorities in our relations with Iran. First, we must prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear weapons power. Second, we must steer Iran toward playing a constructive, helpful role in stabilizing Iraq. Third, we must continue to enlist their help in defeating the Taliban in Afghanistan. And finally, we must get the Iranians to desist from supporting terrorist organizations like Hizbullah and Hamas.
To accomplish these goals, we absolutely must engage in direct talks with Iran. Refusing to negotiate with difficult regimes is not a foreign policy. To talk tough, you need to talk. Iran does not want Iraq to collapse and to see millions of refugees fleeing into Iran and other neighboring countries. Iran wants stability on its borders, and in the past has worked with us in Afghanistan against the Taliban. So there is some common ground, and we need to find it and build upon it.
Preventing Iran from going nuclear, and encouraging them work with us in Iraq and Afghanistan and to desist from supporting terrorists will require strong diplomacy backed up by credible power and clarity of purpose. This sort of engagement, with a stick in one hand and a carrot in the other, is how we got Libya to renounce nukes and terrorism, and this is how we must approach Iran.
We need tough sanctions, while at the same time offering Iran security guarantees and secure access to nuclear fuel if they desist from nuclear enrichment. The Iranians also must know that full diplomatic recognition, better access to international credit and investment, an end to trade sanctions, and acceptance as a legitimate regional power will be contingent upon ending their support for terrorists.
Success in all of these areas will require the cooperation of the international community, above all the Europeans, China, and Russia. If all these parties join us in tough economic sanctions, they will work. If they do not join us, they will not work. There is reason for optimism.
The Iranian economy is fragile and vulnerable, and the regime is increasingly unpopular because of this. With the right combination of carrots and sticks, we can strengthen Iran's moderates, weaken the extremists, and lay the bases for a more constructive relationship in the future.” (Jerusalem Post, June 21, 2007)
“Iran must not acquire nuclear weapons. But preventing Iran from going nuclear will require strong diplomacy backed by credible power and clarity of purpose. It also will take realism: above all, we must understand that no nation has ever been forced to renounce nukes, but that many have been persuaded to do so with a combination of carrots and sticks.
We need to approach the Iranian nuclear problem with both fierce determination and with open eyes. The key is to make them see that they will be better off and more secure without nukes than with them.
If we unite the world behind the right carrots and sticks, and provide the Iranians with face-saving ways to step back from the nuclear brink, we will prevail.
As we know from the Cold War, deterrence is above all a matter of clarity and credibility. We need to be absolutely clear that a nuclear Iran is unacceptable, and we need to be absolutely credible when we say what we will do about it if the Iranians continue to disregard the will of the international community.
The clear message must be this: develop nukes and you will face devastating global sanctions which will damage your economy and weaken you politically; desist from developing nukes and you will receive meaningful rewards, including robust security guarantees (above all from the United States), diplomatic recognition, better access to international credit and investment, guaranteed supplies of nuclear fuel from abroad, and an end to trade sanctions.
This sort of engagement, with a stick in one hand and a carrot in the other, is how we got Libya to renounce nukes, and this is how we must approach Iran.
For this message to be credible, the United States needs the solid support of the Europeans, China, and Russia in support of UN Security Council resolutions. If all these parties join us in sanctions, they will work. If they do not join us, they will not work. Russia is the key, because of its substantial economic interests in Iran, such as the Bushehr nuclear reactor.
Preventing Iran from going nuclear is inevitably linked to the power struggle between hardliners like President Amadenejad, on the one hand, and pragmatists and moderates in the Iranian leadership, on the other.
If we can keep Russia on board, the moderates and pragmatists will be strengthened. They will be further strengthened if we make sure that Iran can save face as it renounces nuclear enrichment. This is possible: Iran insists that it only wants nuclear energy, not weapons. Accordingly, a solution that guarantees them secure supplies of enriched uranium, to be monitored by the IAEA, may become politically palatable.” (Jerusalem Post, June 7, 2007)
Negotiations with Syria and Lebanon:
“I do think you have to deal with Syria. How can you disarm Hezbollah? How can you control their supply lines without dealing with Syria?... they have to be plugged in to an overall settlement because we have diplomatic relations with Syria. The relationship is not good but it doesn't make sense to try to fashion a settlement without all the major actors. Iran is another story. I believe you have to deal with them differently. But with Syria they're directly engaged and I do believe we have to move in rapidly. Unless there is aggressive diplomacy this situation is going to deteriorate to the point where you can't put it back together.” (Larry King Live, July 26, 2006)
“If we would have had a permanent Middle East envoy in the region, we would have been in a better position to disarm Hezbollah and protect Israel.” (July 2006)
The United States-Israel Relationship:
“Another cornerstone of our foreign policy should be the strength and the security of Israel. So you cannot deny a nation the right to legitimately defend itself.” (September 27, 2007)
"I am firmly committed to one of the United States' closest and most important allies - the State of Israel. Throughout my career, I've steadfastly supported Israel, obtaining a consistently pro-Israel voting record in Congress and defending Israeli interests as Ambassador to the United Nations.
As Governor of New Mexico, I'm proud that my state has invested heavily in Israel's economy. We re-opened New Mexico's trade office with Israel and in 2005 generated $27.7 million in Israeli-New Mexican trade. We also invested $10 million in the form of Israel bonds. This is the first bond purchase of its type in New Mexico's history.
While George Bush has sought to support Israel, his actions have made Israel less secure in my view. Syria is stronger than ever. Iran's influence in the region has increased and is now in a stronger position to procure nuclear weapons.
As President, I will:
“The partnership between our two countries [Israel and the U.S.] has never been stronger. We are fortunate to have each other in the fight against terrorism and in advancing our common cause of a lasting peace in the Middle East.” (March 2006)
“Our commitment to the security of Israel is not negotiable.” (Tel Aviv University, February 2000)
“Richardson pointed out that as United Nations ambassador, he had vetoed resolutions critical of Israel, was one of the first governors to buy Israel Bonds, and voted with the American Israel Public Affars Committee '97 percent of the time'. Noting he had visited Israel 11 times, he said that he is 'fully committed to the American-Israeli relationship' and the Jewish state's being the 'cornerstone' of U.S. Middle East policy. But he does believe that during the past six years, Israel has 'lost strength in the region, not because of what (it's) done,' but because of the increased power of Iran and terrorist groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah. 'We're not moving in the right direction' in the Middle East, Richardson said, adding that if he were elected, he would ask Israel what he could do to 'fortify' the U.S.-Israel relationship. Discussing Iran, the candidate said he believed in holding talks with thte Iranians, but would keep open the option of force to prevent that nation from acquring nuclear weapons. Richardson also clarified a remark that raised eyebrows last month, He had told reporters at the National Jewish Democratic Council policy conference that he might name former Secretary of State James Baker, seen by many Israel supporters as unfavorable to the Jewish state, as a Middle East envoy. Following last week's speech, he told WJW that he wanted to be bipartisan and that Baker's name had been the 'first thing that came to mind,' but that there are 'plenty of other' statesman who could fill the role as well.” (Washington Jewish Week, May 24, 2007)