Lately there seem to be few issues on which the presumptive presidential nominees, Democratic Sen. Barack Obama and Republican Sen. John McCain, can agree. But if there’s one subject on which the two are in accord, it’s the potentially grave threat that Iran’s uranium enrichment program poses to the Middle East region and beyond.
On and off the campaign trail, Obama and McCain have strongly disagreed on how to deal with Iran’s nuclear issue and whether entering into talks with so-called “rogue nations” would fall under the category of diplomacy or appeasement.
In separate speeches delivered earlier this month at a policy conference hosted by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), a lobby that works to strengthen relations between the U.S. and Israel, both candidates condemned Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weaponry and support of terrorist groups.
Is it ever appropriate to talk with leaders of countries such as Iran or North Korea?
McCain appears to think not. In a dig at his opponent, he said, “Rather than sitting down unconditionally with the Iranian president or supreme leader in the hope that we can talk sense into them, we must create real-world pressures that will peacefully but decisively change the path they are on. Essential to this strategy is the [United Nations] Security Council, which would impose progressively tougher political and economic sanctions.” He also proposes restricting Iran’s ability to import refined petroleum products and severely limiting the country’s gasoline imports.
McCain’s senior foreign policy adviser, Randy Scheunemann, says the two candidates have a fundamentally different approach to diplomacy. “Sen. McCain believes we should work our diplomacy with Iran very closely with our European allies, particularly France, Britain, and Germany,” Scheunemann says. “None of those countries have expressed any support for unconditional meetings with Ahmadinejad. The leaders of those countries have not met unconditionally with Ahmadinejad, the supreme leader, head of the Revolutionary Guard, or any other leaders that Obama might believe is appropriate for a meeting with a U.S. president. In fact, they have placed a condition on any higher level meetings, and the goal of their discussions with Iran has been to get Iran to stop the enrichment of uranium before proceeding to higher level talks. …It may not be the only position to take, but [McCain] certainly would not advocate changing that position without a very close consultation with our allies, rather than a unilateral statement of presidential summitry, which Obama has pursued.”
Obama believes that under certain conditions it makes sense to talk with enemy nations. In his AIPAC speech, Obama also criticized McCain, who he believes would continue what he refers to as the failed foreign policy of the Bush administration. He also debunked the idea that he would enter into unconditional talks. “Contrary to the claims of some, I have no interest in sitting down with our adversaries just for the sake of talking. But as president of the United States, I would be willing to lead tough and principled diplomacy with the appropriate