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Obama Flip-Flop on Iran

3:20 PM, May 19, 2008 • By MICHAEL GOLDFARB
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This morning Dean posted the video of Obama's comments in Oregon yesterday:

I mean think about it. Iran, Cuba, Venezuela, these countries are tiny compared to the Soviet Union. They don't pose a serious threat to us the way the Soviet Union posed a threat to us....You know, Iran, they spend one-one hundredth of what we spend on the military. If Iran ever tried to pose a serious threat to us, they wouldn't stand a chance.And we should use that position of strength that we have to be bold enough to go ahead and listen. That doesn't mean we agree with them on everything. We might not compromise on any issues, but at least we should find out other areas of potential common interest, and we can reduce some of the tensions that has caused us so many problems around the world.

Today in Montana, Obama changed his tune:

Iran is a grave threat. It has an illicit nuclear program. It supports terrorism across the region and militias in Iraq. It threatens Israel's existence. It denies the Holocaust...

Senator Obama just doesn't seem to get it. Again today, while acknowledging the grave threat that Iran poses, he went on about how the regime in Tehran does not pose the same kind of conventional threat that the Soviet Union did. Obviously that's true, but it does little to help voters understand his calls for direct diplomacy, without precondition, with the Iranian leadership. If Iran is different than the Soviet Union, perhaps that explains why it has been treated differently than the Soviet Union.

It is also bizarre that Obama has fixated on conventional military power as an indicator of the threat posed by Tehran. Al Qaeda does not pose a serious conventional threat to the United States, and yet al Qaeda killed far more American civilians on 9/11 than the Soviet Union ever did. Perhaps Obama could qualify every discussion of al Qaeda by saying how the group does not pose a serious threat to the United States the way the Soviet Union. After all, al Qaeda probably spends only one-one thousandth or less of what the Pentagon spends.

McCain responded to Obama comments directly at a speech in Chicago earlier today (after the jump):


"Before I begin my prepared remarks, I want to respond briefly to a comment Senator Obama made yesterday about the threat posed to the United States by the Government of Iran. Senator Obama claimed that the threat Iran poses to our security is 'tiny' compared to the threat once posed by the former Soviet Union. Obviously, Iran isn't a superpower and doesn't possess the military power the Soviet Union had. But that does not mean that the threat posed by Iran is insignificant. On the contrary, right now Iran provides some of the deadliest explosive devices used in Iraq to kill our soldiers. They are the chief sponsor of Shia extremists in Iraq, and terrorist organizations in the Middle East. And their President, who has called Israel a 'stinking corpse,' has repeatedly made clear his government's commitment to Israel's destruction. Most worrying, Iran is intent on acquiring nuclear weapons. The biggest national security challenge the United States cur rently faces is keeping nuclear material out of the hands of terrorists. Should Iran acquire nuclear weapons, that danger would become very dire, indeed. They might not be a superpower, but the threat the Government of Iran poses is anything but 'tiny'.

"Senator Obama has declared, and repeatedly reaffirmed his intention to meet the President of Iran without any preconditions, likening it to meetings between former American Presidents and the leaders of the Soviet Union. Such a statement betrays the depth of Senator Obama's inexperience and reckless judgment. Those are very serious deficiencies for an American president to possess. An ill conceived meeting between the President of the United States and the President of Iran, and the massive world media coverage it would attract, would increase the prestige of an implacable foe of the United States, and reinforce his confidence that Iran's dedication to acquiring nuclear weapons, supporting terrorists and destroying the State of Israel had succeeded in winning concessions from the most powerful nation on earth. And he is unlikely to abandon the dangerous ambitions that will have given him a prominent role on the world stage.

"This is not to suggest that the United States should not communicate with Iran our concerns about their behavior. Those communications have already occurred at an appropriate level, which the Iranians recently suspended. But a summit meeting with the President of the United States, which is what Senator Obama proposes, is the most prestigious card we have to play in international diplomacy. It is not a card to be played lightly. Summit meetings must be much more than personal get-acquainted sessions. They must be designed to advance American interests. An unconditional summit meeting with the next American president would confer both international legitimacy on the Iranian president and could strengthen him domestically when he is unpopular among the Iranian people. It is likely such a meeting would not only fail to persuade him to abandon Iran's nuclear ambitions; its support of terrorists and commitment to Israel's extinction, it could very well convince him that those policies are succeeding in strengthening his hold on power, and embolden him to continue his very dangerous behavior. The next President ought to understand such basic realities of international relations."