On Fox News' Special Report, Charles Krauthammer claimed that Sen. Barack Obama's policy regarding Iran's purported nuclear weapons program “takes all aggression, all threats, everything serious off the table in advance.” But in an interview with The New York Times that formed the basis for an article Krauthammer cited, Obama did not take military action against Iran “off the table.” When asked whether he would “retain a military option for striking Iran's nuclear facilities,” Obama said, “I don't think the president of the United States takes military options off the table, but I think that we obviously have to measure costs and benefits in all the decisions that we make.”
During the “All-Star Panel” segment of the November 2 edition of Fox News' Special Report, Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer claimed that Sen. Barack Obama's (D-IL) policy regarding Iran's purported nuclear weapons program “takes all aggression, all threats, everything serious off the table in advance.” Pointing to a November 2 New York Times article, Krauthammer went on to claim that Obama “talks about sticks and carrots. In his story in The New York Times, there is nothing in there that has to do with sticks,” adding: “This man is all carrots and extremely unserious.” However, according to the transcript of the interview with the Times that formed the basis for the article Krauthammer cited, Obama did not take military action against Iran “off the table.” When asked whether he would “retain a military option for striking Iran's nuclear facilities,” Obama said, “I don't think the president of the United States takes military options off the table, but I think that we obviously have to measure costs and benefits in all the decisions that we make.” According to the transcript, Obama also told the Times, in a comment quoted in the article: “My decision making, with respect to military options versus diplomatic options, a containment strategy versus a strike strategy, is going to be informed by how is that going to impact not just Iran, but how is that going to impact the stability of the region and how's that going to impact our long-term security interests.”
In the same segment, Washington Post staff writer Jeffrey Birnbaum claimed that Obama, with his Iran policy, “is trying to make himself to be an outsider. That is why he is pushing hard, and it's essentially working, because it has put [Sen.] Hillary Clinton [D-NY] on the defensive for a while and given him a chance in the early caucus and primary states.” Birnbaum added without explanation: “It's actually working, even though he may not be serious in a purely foreign policy sense.”
From the November 2 New York Times article:
For all Mr. Obama's efforts to emphasize an approach that calls for minimal military involvement in Iraq, his plan is in one respect more ambitious than Mrs. Clinton's. While Mr. Obama said he hoped to withdraw all American combat forces within 16 months of taking office, his plan states that American and allied troops should be prepared to return to Iraq and protect civilians if there were genocidal attacks.
''I do not anticipate that happening, because I think we can execute our withdrawal in an effective way,'' he said. ''What I am saying is that I as president am obviously going to be mindful of the possibility of humanitarian disaster, and if that were to occur, I am not ruling out that we wouldn't take steps in concert with other nations -- even if it was short term -- to ensure that a wholesale disaster did not take place.''
Mr. Obama argued that it was ''too speculative'' to say if the United States would undertake such action unilaterally or only if allied nations chose to participate.
Other aspects of his policy for the Middle East also remain unclear. Mr. Obama declined to say if he would take military action if Iran did not abandon its presumed nuclear weapons program or if he would settle for a strategy of deterring and containing a nuclear-armed Iran.
''My decision making, with respect to military options versus diplomatic options, a containment strategy versus a strike strategy, is going to be informed by how is that going to impact not just Iran,'' he said, ''but how is that going to impact the stability of the region and how's that going to impact our long-term security interests.''
Mr. Obama, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, visited Iraq in January 2006. Asked if that was his last visit, given how much events on the ground have changed since then, he jumped in before the question was finished, saying, ''Given how important this is, why haven't I gone back?''
''I'll be honest with you,'' he said. ''Part of it is that my schedule is such that the trips would be one or two days and would be centered around the Green Zone.''
He added: ''I suspect we will be going back. It probably won't be before Iowa, realistically speaking.'' The Iowa caucuses are scheduled for Jan. 3.
From the November 2 edition of Fox News' Special Report:
BRET BAIER (guest host): Well, Senator Barack Obama, saying today that if elected president he would engage what he called in aggressive personal diplomacy with Iran, and you heard [republican presidential candidate] Rudy Giuliani weighing in on that tactic. We're back with our panel. Charles, we've been here before. Barack Obama has said this before. What is new, and how is it playing on the campaign trail?
KRAUTHAMMER: Well, now it's aggressive diplomacy, so it's not just the wimpy diplomacy, but it's the aggressive kind. Of course, he takes all aggression, all threats, everything serious off the table in advance, so it's the old wimpy diplomacy he's talking about -- chatting with the Iranians as a way to denuclearize them. And he says that this hasn't been attempted, and he invokes [Vice President Dick] Cheney and [President] Bush. The Germans, the French, and the British had three years of negotiations, not Cheney and Bush, none of our baggage -- had all of these ideas and attempted every means of having a deal and got nowhere.
He talks about sticks and carrots. Well, in his story in The New York Times, there is nothing in there that has to do with sticks. In fact, a couple of weeks ago, in the Congress, there was a resolution calling the Iranian Revolutionary Guards terrorists and imposing economic sanctions only, a very soft step. He proudly has denounced it. And that isn't even a stick. It's a twig, and he was against it. This man is all carrots and extremely unserious.
BAIER: Mort, this is really about driving a wedge, or trying to, between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.
MORTON M. KONDRAKE (Roll Call executive editor): Yeah, well, it's all about Iowa. And Iowa is famously dove-y, and so Obama is doing whatever he has to do to appeal to the Iowa anti-war crowd. But look, you know, there is a third way between this war talk that you get from the Republicans and the hat-in-hand diplomacy that you get from lots of the Democrats. There is a fellow named Mark Kirk, who is a Republican congressman from Illinois who is the head of the -- co-chairman of the Iran Working Group, who recommends that we cut off Iran's gasoline. They import 40 percent of their gasoline. You don't have to blockade. You can do it with sanctions against the suppliers. Cut off World Bank loans, you create possibilities for China to get its energy elsewhere but besides Iran, and -- but you also talk to them.
I mean, he says, look, we talked to [former Yugoslavian President Slobodan] Milosevic in the course of undermining him. We talked to [Libyan dictator Muammar el] Qaddafi in the process of getting him to give up his nuclear weapons. And you stop the war talk, but you apply heavy-duty sanctions that really bite on the Iranians, and this is coercive diplomacy. It's not the kind of, as Charles says, all-carrot diplomacy that Obama is suggesting.
BAIER: And now Senator Obama has a resolution he wants to raise in the Senate to say that the president will have to come to Congress, right?
BIRNBAUM: Right -- before going to war with Iran, which the president is not suggesting, as best as I can tell, or anyone else is, for that matter. I think, too, what's going on here is that to the liberal left of the Democratic Party, the people who come out in largest numbers to vote in primaries and caucuses, Iran is the new Iraq.
Things are going pretty well in Iraq, as Mort pointed out earlier, and Iran and the possibility of going to war there, the bogeyman of the Bush administration taking us to war there is the most important symbol that somebody running to get a lot of Democratic primary voters can possibly invoke. It's representative of the establishment of Washington. Obama is trying to make himself to be an outsider. That's why he is pushing hard, and it's essentially working, because it's put Hillary Clinton on the defensive for a while and given him a chance in the early caucus and primary states.
It's actually working, even though he may not be serious in a purely foreign policy sense.