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McCain, Obama both say Iran is other's weakness

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At the very least, we need to have a high-level meeting with Iran to discover what, if anything, there is to talk about. Ideally that meeting would take place at the very highest levels since those levels are best positioned to assess what they are willing to attempt to accomplish in their respective nations.

Obama has never said that he expects talking to solve the problem. I think that his claim is that talking is an ingredient of the solution. If that is not an ingredient of McCain's solution, he is not using all his tools.

McCain would do better to concentrate on real issues rather than playing to hysterical prejudices. Or maybe not. A lot of Americans still seem to be stuck on 1979.

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It's good they both recognize Iran will be the most important security challenge for the next administration. GWB isn't going to do anything at this late date; he has no credibility after coming up empty handed in the search for WMD in Iraq.

There he really benefited from the general public's inability to distinguish one weapon from the next in making the case Saddam's arsenal posed an "imminent threat." On Iran, by contrast, he has been disadvantaged by the public's lack of knowledge, not to mention his own. Inveighing against "their gaining the knowledge of how to make a nuclear weapon" is absurd; anyone with an internet connection has access to the knowledge. It's gettin' the fuel that's the hard part.

Under the terms of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), nations have the right to enrich fuel for civil nuclear power, subject to inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). While Tehran has consistently claimed its program is for peaceful purposes, capability is what counts, not intent. Iran is in the process of developing a complete fuel-nuclear cycle that will bring it close to full-scale weapons manufacturing capability.

Because GWB has no knowledge of the process (and lacked credibility with his critics), he was unable to counter the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE)'s conclusion, released in December 2007, that Iran had ceased work on designing a nuclear weapon in 2003. Had he had some understanding, he could have pointed out the crucial question is how far did they Iranians get in this endeavor. They are currently enriching uranium fuel and, with a decent warhead design, will have the capability to produce a weapon.

Bombing is not really an option to put their nuclear program out of business, otherwise the GWB administration would have done it long ago. So the approach is going to have to be different.

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Meanwhile, Israel is getting ready to bomb Iran. Reading the news with headlines in the passive voice it sounds as if its inevitable like the coming of summer. Iran is not bothering anyone at the moment. In fact Iran thus far been the victim of aggression. I find both Obama and McCain wishy-washy. But I trust Obama over McCain in dealing with American-Israeli issues with Iran. Anyone who even "jokingly" sings about bombing Iran or anyone has no business being the president of the most powerful nation on earth.

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This isn't the story. The story is Isreal is going to attack Iran and force the US to back them. The US has painted itself in a corner by ovber and over giving military aid and kissing their butt.

I hope to hell we get some of our troops out of Iraq before they attack. < :-)

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Bombing is not really an option to put their nuclear program out of business

Sure it is. I'm sure the plans are already drawn up. Could probably be done in a couple of weeks. The reason Bush hasn't done it is because he foolishly invaded and occupied Iraq. Iran's nuclear facilities can be destroyed by air, no invasion, no occupation. Iran must never be allowed to acquire nukes.

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Could probably be done in a couple of weeks.

The question is at what cost? The Iranians are in a position to retaliate in a number of different ways. And such action would rattle world financial markets with unpredictable consequences.

Iran must never be allowed to acquire nukes

I think most people feel it's inevitable they will get them. Bombing would only slow do the process, not derail it. It won't necessarily be with this government, or at least not this leadership, in power.

.

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The difference is Obama flip-flops continuously in his position.

"Iran is not bothering anyone at the moment. In fact Iran thus far been the victim of aggression. "

Hezbollah and Hamas are both backed by Iran.

The Left know this, but hundreds of thousands of lives lost or destroyed in Lebanon or "Palestine" is nothing if the potential showdown, military or diplomatic, holds even the slightest possibility that the US might suffer real harm or a perceived loss of prestige.

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Betzee's point of view:

Bombing is not really an option

jeancolmar's point of view:

Israel is getting ready to bomb Iran

Who is right and who is wrong?

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The one thing the extreme Left and Right were in agreement on over the past two years was that GWB would bomb, or more specifically order air strikes, against Iran's nuclear facilities. But it never happened and I concluded he's going to pass the problem of a rising Iran, along with the mess in Iraq which has caused the U.S. to suffer a terrible loss in prestige among other consequences, on to his successor to sort out.

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Iran is not bothering anyone at the moment.

Sure, if you don't count the support they give Hamas to launch rockets against Israel, the support they give Hezbollah to launch rockets into Israel and to assassinate leaders in Lebanon, capturing British soldiers in international waters, killing both Americans and Iraqis in Iraq, not cooperating with the IAEA, hosting anti-Holocaust conventions, and....

Your statement about Iran shows the extent to which you have trained yourself to project your fears about Iran onto others. And needless to say you're very well trained. Criticizing the US is one thing, saying that Iran "isn't bothering anyone" is more like evidence of psychosis.

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"carrot-and-stick policy"

With Tehran, you need to make sure you have a good stick.

"Obama would make more changes than McCain"

More is not necessarily better.

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The question is at what cost? The Iranians are in a position to retaliate in a number of different ways.

True. And don't think they won't. But whatever retaliation they use, be it military or economic, it doesn't compare to the devastation of an Iranian nuke going off in a major Western city. Think about the cost to that country and to Iran as well. Iran would be obliterated.

I think most people feel it's inevitable they will get them. Bombing would only slow do the process, not derail it.

Maybe. But if we can set their nuclear program back a decade, who knows what changes might occur in Iran over that time. Perhaps a regime change or revolution. Israel destroyed Iraq's nuclear program in 1981 and they never rebuilt it. And we could always destroy their nuclear program again. I do know that if we do nothing, Iran will acquire nukes which even some of the Leftists here view as unacceptable.

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I've said it before and I will say it again. Just give Iran two nukes primed and ready to go - one aimed at Washington and the other at Jerusalem. Talk of more wars and pre-emptive strikes will cease immediatly and "diplomacy" will flourish. Worked just dandy with USA - USSR under the MAD policy. Iran, like Iraq, has/had no plans to attack anyone. Stop the hype. Remember how scared americans were about Iraq? The plastic sheeting and duct tape? Made fools of themselves. Could they be so stupid to buy this again? Obama, get elected and go and talk with them. Sometimes, as in my job, you have to break bread with the devil to achieve your aims. This 'I'm not talking to him until he does XYZ' is schoolgirl or school boy bully language. Now we may have grown to expect this from schoolboy Bush but can it be too much to expect the next President to be a bit above this? I mean, it is not a high bar.

What would americans prefer? A third war in the ME or diplomacy and , God forbid, workable relationships?

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McCain: the one who wants to continue the policy of the President who was duped into strengthening Iran (fmr 3rd-rate power, w/whom US now plays zero-sum game)

Iran, which was a mortal enemy of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and fought a bloody eight-year war with Iraq during his reign, has been the primary beneficiary of U.S. policy in Iraq, where Iranian-backed groups now run much of the government and the security forces. http://www.mcclatchydc.com/227/story/40080.html

Nice going, righties. When the neocons gained control of Washington, full of hubris, they ignored or ousted any career intelligence people, or military, who contradicted the strategy derived from their self-serving ideology; the US then made a huge strategic blunder. W/McSame-supporters are really appreciated in Tehran.

As for the nukes, the immediate threat is the loose nukes in Qaeda hands, esp. from the fmr. Soviet Union, but also North Korea (2000: Donald Rumsfeld sat on the board of a company which sold two light water nuclear reactors to North Korea. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2003/may/09/nuclear.northkorea)

"I think Iraq is finished. We'll just find a way to get out. I frankly don’t think we ever intended to win there. We certainly didn't send enough troops to close borders, to control the country. Rumsfeld was obsessed, apparently with his new, lighter, faster military. The inflow of fighters is growing. The pace of the insurgency, both there and in Afghanistan, is increasing. I don't hold much of a brief for Sen. John McCain, but he’s right, in an unpalatable way: Unless we greatly increase the number of troops we have in Iraq, we're going to have to leave. I think the question is how do we leave? Do we leave with some dignity, or do we leave by flying off the top of the embassy as we did in Saigon?" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Scheuer

Righties: still fighting the Vietnam War--any Vietnam War.

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Just give Iran two nukes primed and ready to go - one aimed at Washington and the other at Jerusalem.

Tell me you live in one of these cities and then perhaps I'll consider reading the rest of your nonsense.

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simon: While I do not support Iran at all, I will say the Machevelli philosophy does work best that those who are afraid of you will respect you.

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George Galloway endorses Obama.

http://www.memritv.org/clip/en/1785.htm

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But if we can set their nuclear program back a decade, who knows what changes might occur in Iran over that time.

The concern for many is that the power of the mullahs, who are rational actors that enjoy life in the here and now, is receding. But this is not ushering political pluralism. Instead the Revolutionary Guards, of which Ahmadinejad is one, are gaining within the system.

Amadinejad's predecessor Mohammed Khatami, a cleric, was a genuine moderate but as American conservatives were quick to point out, the Iranian presidency is a largely ceremonial post. He does not control the armed forces and therefore Ahmadinejad does not have his finger on the button (a detail that is frequently omitted).

It's an odd system, a theocratic republic. A theocracy derives its legitmacy from God while a republic, a form of government invented to counter monarchies, from the people. So it has both elected and unelected components. Usually 200-some citizens, including a number of women, apply to run for the presidency. The list is whittled down to about about five on the basis on the basis of ideological considerations. But once the campaigining kicks off, the techniques employed by the candidates are very sophisticated as to how to get their message across.

Turn-out levels have been declining. The Iranians now know nobody has a solution to their economic woes. Ahmadinejad hasn't done any better than his predecessor, and many Iranians are angry public money has been drained off to support insurgencies elsewhere on his watch.

Iran is one of the few, perhaps only, Muslim countries in the Middle East where the average person feels warmly toward Americans. This is the impression of every visitor, "They really like us!" Policy-makers have to find some way to access this in dealing with Iran.

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Iran will acquire nukes which even some of the Leftists here view as unacceptable.

I think most on the Left would like to see a movement toward everyone giving them up, an IAEA-type body could be created to oversee this. Because the current system, namely we can have them but you can't, is unsustainable. The lesson of the U.S. "pre-emptive strike" against Iraq was "develop nukes if you want to avoid the fate of Saddam Hussein."

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The lesson of the U.S. "pre-emptive strike" against Iraq was "develop nukes if you want to avoid the fate of Saddam Hussein."

At this point it's probably fair to assume that you want to believe this as opposed to actually looking at evidence and drawing this conclusion. You can type it again tomorrow and I'll be here again tomorrow asking you to back it up with evidence.

We have jeancolmar telling us that Iran is nothing more than a victim in this world. We have SimondB advocating nukes being pointed at Washington with Iran's finger on the button. We have Betzee justifying Iran's nuclear ambitions. You guys have lost all touch with reality and really need to excuse yourselves from the debate. People/countries might disagree with some of the things the US has done, but they sure as hell don't support the things you're saying even if you convince yourself that they do.

If you want to talk about the US and criticize us then go ahead. We're not above criticism. But if you want to criticize the US as a way to excuse Iran then you're just being careless. The world is not here to enable your psychosis. It's a very serious and real issue and it's why just about every nation on earth feels that Iran is a threat no matter how much your mental condition forces you to only see Iran as a vehicle to criticize the United States.

So stop being so selfish. Stop making this issue about you and what you want to believe.

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In fact it came from none other than a site administered by your alma matter which I was looking at earlier this week (since I'm employed to be part of the debate). The insight is hardly original, however, the danger was raised at the time.

Superlib, stop spending so much time criticizing others and start offering some proposals of your own. Could it be you don't have any? Thought so.....

Q: But does this make it harder to convince Iran and others not to develop nuclear weapons?

A: It’s true that some countries have pointed to U.S. hypocrisy in carving out a special waiver for India. The question is: If India gets the special pass, then why don’t others? But ultimately countries will make decisions based on their strategic interests; I think that’s what happened here and what will continue to happen.

The problem with Iran has more to do with the global diffusion of nuclear weapons technology and with the Iraq war. Rogue regimes learned the lesson that you avoid Saddam Hussein’s fate by developing nuclear weapons. Iran has drawn the conclusion that its best insurance policy is a nuclear program.

http://election2008.usc.edu/2008/05/next-presidents-nuclear-challenge.html

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The anti-American charge has been raised here frequently though the definition is highly partisan. Obama has been branded as anti-American for expressing an interest in talking to the Iranians but it's no problem to have the Chinese underwrite the war on terror by purchasing US treasury bonds to keep Uncle Sam afloat.

The purpose of modeling strategic interaction is to ascertain how your opponent might respond to different actions on your part. Thankfully those who have repeatedly claimed this amounts to a self-indulgent exercise in anti-Americanism are very far from the policy-making process.

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I think there is a difference between "criticizing the US to excuse Iran" and "criticizing the US while explaining Iran". I don't see how Betzee is being selfish or psychotic by pointing to the likelihood that the US would likely be more circumspect in attacking countries which are nuclear-armed or by suggesting that a system in which some nations assert unilateral or multilateral power and control over others is not workable.

There should not be any necessity to state that the US is not above criticism. But I wonder now what "not being above" criticism really means. Does it mean that the US is not irreproachable? If so, that's certainly true. Or does it mean that the US is not so lofty that it cannot entertain criticisms? That is less certainly true, if true at all.

Nuclear weapons are a problem. But denying nuclear technology to Iran to prevent it from any possibility of acquiring weapons is not the solution to that problem. It's not even the solution to other problems--how to prevent proliferation, how to ensure Israel's safety, how to combat terrorism, how to heal the racial and ethnic divides in the Middle East.

As long as nuclear-armed nations insist on the exclusive rights to hold and use the nuclear hammer, the nuclear weapons issue will be fueled by that insistence. The NNPT--under which Iran has the right to develop nuclear technology--contained provisions under which nuclear-armed nations would work toward eliminating their own nuclear weapons. The US attitude seems to be more characterized by "let's be sure that there are no new players first and then we'll think about reducing our own arms". The departure from reality is in thinking that the policy of insisting upon temporary nuclear dominance can work indefinitely.

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Thank you SezWho. While Simon B's opening sentence is a bit provocative, in large part that's because it's politically incorrect from the point of view of war supporters. Upon examination it's clear he is essentially reiterating the logic of Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) which kept the peace during the Cold War. There is a counterargument to that, other than labelling the poster mentally ill which is an old totalitarian trick, but you would have to know enough about it to address the differences.

The first time I was exposed to this logic with respect to the post-Cold War world order was in the documentary film Uncovered: The Truth About the Iraq War, released in 2004, which is full of establishment talking heads. In particular, the former U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia observed: "One of the more ironic effects of the attack on Iraq, was to buttress other countries in the conviction that, the infamous remark by an Indian general after the first Gulf War when he said, the lesson of this war is that if you have to fight the United States you better have nuclear weapons."

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0388495/quotes

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Betzee,

Yes, I thought so too. The best description of SimondB's perhaps tongue-in-cheek suggestion is "provocative". However, it goes right to the heart of mutually assured destruction.

It seems to me that we are currently offering Iran a choice between capitulation or consequences. I'm sure Iran would like to keep its nuclear options open so that, as one Japanese politico indicated about Japan, it could build a bomb within 30 (?) days if it needed to do so. I think our goal should be that it never perceives a need to do so.

Nuclear annihilation of Iran would be one strategy to try to destroy that perception. I think that would be a poor choice although it would free up a lot of contaminated ground for reorganization of the Middle East. Limited strikes on nuclear facilities might set Iran back, but it seems to me that it would increase the desire not to capitulate and perhaps radicalize a fairly liberal country.

Something new might be (1) talking with Iran and (2) diverting some of our military budget to regional development from outdated fighters and unnecessary submarines. I can't imagine anyone more interested than Iran in not having a nuclear device launched from within Iran or detonating anywhere in the Middle East. I suspect McCain would immediately and gladly counterattack with nuclear weapons and I doubt that Obama, whatever his inclinations toward diplomacy, would be unable to resist the political pressure to do the same.

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SezWho, I date my earliest memories to the Cuban Missile Crisis. It's not the specifics but the tension and uncertainty it generated which were felt by young children. (I'm sure my infant brother felt it too it's just he wasn't able to store the memories and articulate them later.) Everyone in my neigborhood was wondering, "Is this it?"

Reasonable people can disagree as to whether the government in Tehran is a rational, risk averse actor. But by completely vilifing Iran, we've set up a situation where anything less than continued brinksmanship is immediately denounced as backing down in the face of evil, also known as "appeasement." So Obama found own. Yet taking that hard line position really limits our options in dealing with the situation; few would disagree Iran poses the greatest security challenge to the next administration..

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Betzee,

I date my earliest political memories to Truman whistle-stopping in my little town when the USA still had a train system and to my WWII marine officer father nearly crying when forced to take the McCarthy-driven loyalty oath at the state university where he taught. I was almost out of high school during the missile crisis. But, yes, in my town too, everyone was wondering if that was where the nuclear holocaust would begin.

The SALT treaties, the NNPT treaty and the START treaties all seemed to promise a way forward that has not materialized. Reagan wanted us to "trust but verify" and to me that seems to be a much more promising approach than demonization. I'm not sure how much of a security challenge Iran really is or need be. However, it seems to me that it will certainly be one of the greatest political challenges for the next administration.

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SezWho, I now regret holding Reagan in such contempt when I was a young adult. In fact he was a highly effective leader precisely because he was unafraid to utilize diplomacy as a means to advance U.S. interests. When he indicated he wanted to negotiate with Gorbachev, there was tremendous resistance on the Right by those who proclaimed "Oh no, we don't negotiate with evil we defeat it."

As Gary Kamiya observes in a recent piece entitled "We are All Appeasers Now":

[T]he chest beating, the contempt for "naiveté" and the fetishization of "toughness" are not limited to the right. The Democratic Party abandoned its post before the Iraq war precisely because it was afraid of being smeared as "soft on terrorism,".......

Still more embarrassingly for the appeasement crowd, Israel is talking with its old foe Syria, using Turkey's good offices. No one dreams that Israel has suddenly joined the Basher Assad fan club; its goal is to split Syria off from Iran, and if the price for doing that is ending its 40-year occupation of the Golan Heights, that's a price it deems worth paying. The U.S., which has opposed any diplomatic openings to the nation it regards as a junior member of the Axis of Evil, thus finds itself in the ridiculous position of being ignored by the very country its boycott was intended to protect. There couldn't be a clearer example of the way that moralistic posturing dissolves when confronted with facts on the ground....

http://www.salon.com/opinion/kamiya/2008/06/03/appeasement/

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To talk or not to talk to one's is too stark a dichotomy. The US and Iran already "talk" today - through intermediaries and low- and intermediate-level diplomats. IMO, direct talks between the heads of state should not be ruled out but neither should they be unilaterally granted. That's where I part company with Obama who would dispense with "preconditions". Normalized relations are a uaseful bargaining chip that shouldn't be squandered. Both candidates' positions could do with a bit more, er, "nuance".

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Both candidates' positions could do with a bit more, er, "nuance".

Unfortunately in a black-and-white world ("you're either with us or against us") nuance necessarily falls in the grey area in between and anyone who advocates a policy which falls into that realm will be accused of flip-flopping to garner votes.

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To talk or not to talk is too stark a dichotomy, as are most dichotomies. However, it is silly not to talk unless the other party agrees to the precondition of giving up a treaty right that we wish it to relinquish as a result of our talks.

Obama has not said he will dispense with preconditions. His position is simply positive where the current administration's has been severe. Bush refuses to talk unless Iran does that which it is not willing to do. Obama recognizes preconditions but they are considerably less restrictive than Bush's.

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Recently some scholars have been having a debate about the case for pre-emptive wars. As one observes:

"The Security Council should develop a pattern of taking threats seriously so that these questions will develop a jurisprudence, such that we will have a common understanding of what it means to have a severe threat. That will make the Security Council more responsible in the long run."

In the Iraq case...the United States brought forward a flimsy, "cooked up" threat, and the Security Council failed to have a serious debate about the American claims."

[T]he two — as of press time — surviving Democratic candidates are fundamentally critical of the Iraq war. "That's the crucial thing,...[i]n general, I don't see much difference between the two of them on foreign policy." Of John McCain,..."he has a record of better prudence than George W. Bush, but he's been making rash statements lately." (On the campaign trail last year, McCain said, "You know that old Beach Boys song, 'Bomb Iran'? Bomb, bomb, bomb....")

http://chronicle.com/weekly/v54/i40/40b01601.htm

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