In part 2 of his commentary, The Real News Network’s Senior News Analyst Aijaz Ahmad talks about Senator Barack Obama’s speech at the AIPAC policy conference in Washington DC this week. Obama talks about how he would deal with Iran including using military force if necessary to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons. He also suggests that in 2002 the US should have “pursued a strategy” to address the threat posed by Iran instead of invading Iraq.
AIJAZ AHMAD, SENIOR ANALYST, THE REAL NEWS NETWORK: In his address to the AIPAC policy conference in Washington, DC, Senator Obama continued to hold two positions that distinguish him from the Bush administration, as well as McCain. He still speaks of a phased withdrawal from Iraq, even though he didn’t specify any time frame for that phasing out. And he still speaks of direct diplomacy with Iran, even though the talk of actually meeting Irani leaders unconditionally is now gone. He speaks now of tough diplomacy, of presenting to the Iranis a clear bill of demands that they must accept, of building a consensus among allies in Europe and the Gulf region outside the UN for diplomacy, combined with more and more sanctions. With all these changes in his position, the theme of direct diplomacy still remains. This much is different and somewhat better than what McCain offers, but there are other differences as well. One is that, in his own speech at the AIPAC conference, McCain actually did not directly threaten military action against Iran—Obama did. Borrowing his language from President Bush and Condoleezza Rice, Obama said emphatically that he will always keep the threat of military action on the table, only that he will first build support among allies for military action.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA, US PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (D): I will always keep the threat of military action on the table to defend our security and our ally, Israel.
The other difference between him and McCain is that, according to Obama, Iraq was the wrong war, and the US should have taken care of Iran first. Listen to this.
OBAMA: We knew in 2002 that Iran supported terrorism. We knew Iran had an illicit nuclear program. We knew Iran posed a grave threat to Israel. But instead of pursuing a strategy to address this threat, we ignored it, and instead invaded and occupied Iraq.
The use of the word “instead” twice in one sentence is significant. The suggestion is that the US should have invaded not Saddam’s Iraq but Khatami’s Iran. That is said to have been the position of the Israeli military establishment at the time—you got into the wrong war. Real men go to Tehran, as the neocons used to say. For the rest, Obama’s recipe for Iran is so close to McCain that Obama’s great emphasis on bipartisanship seems fully justified. His speech writer seems to have been given McCain’s speech and instructed to just go a couple of steps further. Like McCain, he speaks of divestment from companies that do business in Iran, but accuses McCain of not being tough enough.
OBAMA: I introduced legislation over a year ago that would encourage states and the private sector to divest from companies that do business in Iran. This bill has bipartisan support. This bill has bipartisan support, but for reasons that I’ll let him explain, Senator McCain never signed on.
Like McCain, Obama also speaks of building a coalition of the willing outside the purview of the United Nations for imposing on Iran precisely the sanctions McCain proposes, and then some more.
OBAMA: And we should work with Europe, Japan, and the Gulf states to find every avenue outside the United Nations to isolate the Iranian regime, from cutting off loan guarantees and expanding financial sanctions, to banning the export of refined petroleum to Iran, to boycotting firms associated with Iranian Revolutionary Guard, whose Quds Forces have rightly been labeled a terrorist organization. We should also pursue other unilateral sanctions that target Iranian banks and Iranian assets.
There once was a Barack Obama who used to talk of direct and unconditional talks with adversarial countries in pursuit of peace. Now we have tough diplomacy, tough sanctions to cripple Irani economy and society, tough demands on all the basic issues that Iran must accept, while military threat stays on the table. Sounds a lot like the policy the US pursued in the run-up to the Iraq war. The main difference seems to be that Bill Clinton made sure that the sanctions against Iraq were approved by the Security Council, while Bush and Powell tried to persuade the Security Council to approve invasion as well. This remaking of Barack Obama now seems fairly complete. He can now go out and meet McCain on his own ground. With liberalism like this, no one needs the neocons.
Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.