Sunday, February 10, 2008

Obama highlights differences with Clinton on Iran

From JTA, By Ron Kampeas, published: 6 February 2008:

.....Obama ... in his remarks [Tuesday night in his speech after he and U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton about tied in the delegate count on Super Tuesday] .... said he and his opponents were friends. He made sure, however, to note their differences.

Riding a wave of cheers, Obama said that if he is the Democratic standard-bearer in the general election, the Republican candidate will not be able to say "that I gave George Bush the benefit of the doubt on Iran, because I haven't, or that I support the Bush-Cheney doctrine of not talking to leaders we don't like, because I profoundly disagree with that approach."

Obama was referring to Clinton's vote last year on an amendment that urged Bush to monitor the Iranian role in the Iraqi insurgency, and her rejection of Obama's call to meet pariah leaders within a year of taking office.

Those remarks underscore differences that will set off alarms in some corners of the Jewish community, said Morris Amitay, the doyen of pro-Israel lobbyists in Washington."If you believe that Iran is a credible threat to Israel and also works against U.S. interests in the Middle East, then to say you'll unconditionally say you'll sit and talk with them only encourages them to continue on their present course," Amitay said. "Clinton's attitude is more realistic and sophisticated, and this does raise the question in how prepared Obama would be in handling national security issues."

... it becomes clear that there is a substantial difference on Iran policy.

Speaking of giving Bush the "benefit of the doubt on Iran," Obama was referring to Clinton's vote last year on a Senate amendment that argues for designating the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist entity. The amendment was not binding, but Bush heeded it in any case.
Of Democratic senators in the presidential race at the time, only Clinton voted for it. Obama was not present.

... other liberal Democrats backed the amendment, including U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, whom Obama thanked at the start of his speech Tuesday night.

The second issue raised by Obama in his speech is even more substantive, although his charge that Clinton supports "the Bush-Cheney doctrine of not talking to leaders we don't like" has been widely criticized as a distortion. Clinton says she would reach out to leaders of countries like Iran and Syria but unlike Obama, would not commit to doing so in her first year in office....

..[her campaign's national security director, Lee ]Feinstein said Clinton disagrees with Obama on the guarantee "to meet personally and without precondition during the first year in office with the leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba and North Korea..... diplomacy requires careful preparation before conferring the legitimacy of a meeting with the president of the United States...." ....

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