Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Obama: Clamp Iran so Israel Isn't 'Pushed to Wall'

Nissan Ratzlav-Katz

Presumptive U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama told Iowa voters Monday that the international community must tighten sanctions on Iran so that Israel does not feel that its "back is against the wall," prompting the Jewish State to stage a military strike against Iranian nuclear facilities. Some sanctions have been imposed on Iran in an effort to convince the regime to suspend its efforts to obtain nuclear weapons capabilities. Israeli and American leaders have been calling for expanded sanctions on the Islamic Republic, but have thus far insisted that the military option remains a viable one.

"My job as president is to make sure we are tightening the screws on Iran diplomatically... to get sanctions in place so that Iran starts making a different calculation," Senator Obama (D., Illinois) said. "And we have got to do that before Israel feels like its back is against the wall." He made the comments at a campaign stop attended by more than 200 people.

"We have to act much more forcefully and effectively on the world stage to contain Iran's nuclear capabilities," Obama added in response to a question regarding Israeli intentions. Israel, he said, is "one of our strongest allies in the world."

Aside from its effect on Israel, Obama said that a nuclear Iran would be able to project its power with impunity in Iraq and threaten regional oil production.

At the same time, Senator Obama reiterated his position that direct talks with Iran are the best strategy to moderate its nuclear ambitions. "The problem is that for most of the Bush administration, instead of trying to engage directly with Iran, there was a lot of saber-rattling," he said.

Approximately 60,000 people have gathered in Denver, Colorado, for the Democratic National Convention (DNC) Monday. Senator Obama is set to receive the party's presidential nomination alongside Senator Joe Biden of Deleware. Biden was tapped to be Obama's running mate on Saturday.

Biden, too, supports unconditional talks with the Islamic Republic. "The net effect of demanding preconditions that Iran rejects is this: We get no results and Iran gets closer to the bomb,'' he said in a July media statement.

In a 2007 interview with the American Jewish affairs program Shalom TV, Senator Biden said that Israel was "the single greatest strength America has in the Middle East." He further declared, "I am a Zionist. You don't have to be a Jew to be a Zionist." Asked about imprisoned Israeli agent Jonathan Pollard, Biden said that he should be given "leniency."

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