The Des Moines Register - U.S. Policy on Iran Must Show Restraint, Obama Cautions
By Thomas Beaumont
Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama has seized on the increasingly pointed debate about U.S. policy toward Iran to suggest that restraint should be the preferred diplomatic tool.
"Typically, we have made our biggest blunders when we overreached militarily," the Illinois senator said in a Des Moines Register interview.
"And we have had our greatest foreign policy successes ... where we showed restraint," he said, referring to the 1962 Cuban missile crisis and the 1991 Persian Gulf War. "And I think that is important as we consider how we approach problems ranging from Iraq to Iran."
Foreign and military policy have become points of friction in the Democratic presidential campaign. Obama has repeatedly attacked New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, the party's national front-runner, for supporting the 2002 measure to authorize military force in Iraq. The vote was taken before Obama was in the Senate.
The debate has reignited recently in light of Clinton's vote for a measure in September that cleared the way for economic sanctions against Iran.
Obama has described the bill Clinton supported as allowing President Bush to keep U.S. troops in Iraq indefinitely and as being a precursor to war with Iran.
Obama said he opposed the measure, but the day it was passed, he was absent from the Senate, campaigning in New Hampshire.
"And I think it's important that we not provide any additional support for blank checks to a president and vice president that have shown no restraint whatsoever when it comes to our foreign policy," Obama said. "I think Senator Clinton has tried to straddle the line at times."
Clinton has defended her vote as strengthening U.S. bargaining power with Iran, noting that she signed on to the bill only after language pertaining to potential use of force was removed. Clinton and Obama have sent dueling mailers about the Iran issue to Iowa households in the past several days.
Clinton said Obama was either misinformed or disingenuous for accusing her of doing too little to distinguish herself from Bush.
"Well, that's just a plain misunderstanding or misrepresentation of my position," Clinton said in a Register interview last week. "The campaign and I have said a lot about that."
Clinton was referring to her campaign's press release last week that included excerpts of an Obama speech in the Senate a year ago in which he argued for deterring Iranian aggression with a military presence in the region.