CHAFEE: It's certainly the chaos in the Middle East. And it all started with the Iraq invasion.
O'MALLEY: I believe that nuclear Iran remains the biggest threat, along with the threat of ISIL; climate change, of course, makes cascading threats.
CLINTON: I think it has to be continued threat from the spread of nuclear material that can fall into the wrong hands.
WEBB: Our greatest long-term strategic challenge is our relation with China.
Q: Senator Sanders, greatest national security threat?
SANDERS: The scientific community is telling us that if we do not address the global crisis of climate change, transform our energy system away from fossil fuel to sustainable energy, the planet that we're going to be leaving our kids and our grandchildren may well not be habitable. That is a major crisis.
A: Yes there is.I think they (Senate Republicans) ought to go to the nuclear option in the United States Senate, that being that they should declare this a big constitutional issue and whether this agreement is put into effect or not, it ought to be decided by 51 votes, not by 60 votes or some filibuster. When it comes to this treaty, one which I so strongly oppose, I think the Republicans in the senate ought to say that we are not going to permit this to be blocked because of a filibuster.
The second, to the supreme leader, to tell him that unless and until he opens every military and every nuclear facility to real anytime, anywhere inspections by our people, not his, we, the United States of America, will make it as difficult as possible and move money around the global financial system.
We can do that, we don't need anyone's cooperation to do it. And every ally and every adversary we have in this world will know that the United States in America is back in the leadership business, which is how we must stand with our allies.
KASICH: Well, first of all, I think it's a bad agreement, I would never have done it. But, you know, a lot of our problems in the world today is that we don't have the relationship with our allies. If we want to go everywhere alone, we will not have the strength as much as if we could rebuild with our allies. Now, this agreement, we don't know what's going to happen in 18 months. I served on the Defense Committee for 18 years. And, if we find out that they may be developing a nuclear weapon, than the military option is on the table. We are stronger when we work with the Western civilization, our friends in Europe, and just doing it on our own I don't think is the right policy.
SANTORUM: 12 years ago I authored the Iran Freedom Support Act, which put sanctions on the Iran nuclear program. We came within 4 votes of passing it. The 4 people who opposed: Joe Biden, John Kerry, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. And we came four votes short.
GRAHAM: If I believed they were trying to get a bomb, absolutely. And here's the most important thing: they know I would if I had to. None of us are going to be able to defend this country adequately until we rebuild our military. The first thing I'm going to do as commander in chief on day one is call the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and say, what do you need that you don't have?
Some of you may know me because I successfully put sanctions on the Iranian nuclear program in Congress, over opposition of both parties initially.
But hopefully, most of you know me most because I'm the proud father of seven children with particularly a special little disabled girl, who is the heart and core of my heart and married to a wonderful woman named Karen for 25 years, who is the love of my life.
KASICH: We don't know what's going to happen in 18 months. I've been on the Defense Committee for 18 years, and you got to be careful not to paint red lines that you can't keep. In addition to that, I think we ought to hold Iran totally accountable for what they do, if they break any part of this deal, if they fund the radicals like Hamas and Hezbollah. In that kind of case, we've got to slap the sanctions back on. We would then have the high moral ground to talk to our allies and get them to go along with us. But in addition to that, if we get to the point where we think that Iran may be developing a nuclear [bomb], well then I think military action would be warranted. But let's wait until we get there and let's stay calm because that's one of the most important things we need to do when it comes to foreign affairs.
It is with this vision in mind that Bernie supports the Iran nuclear pact. Similarly, Bernie has been working to reduce nuclear weapons stockpiles around the world. In 2015, Bernie co-sponsored the Smarter Approach to Nuclear Expenditures Act, which would reduce the nuclear weapons budget by $100 billion over the next ten years.
Bernie views a nuclear-armed Iran as a threat and, therefore, supports the recent nuclear deal that will reduce Iran's nuclear capabilities. While the agreement needs to be looked over with careful scrutiny, Bernie has hailed the Iran nuclear deal as a victory "for diplomacy over saber-rattling."
Bernie stands with the majority of Americans in supporting diplomacy as the best method to reach a solution to Iran's nuclear threat. He sees military action as the least favorable approach, noting it's "imperative that we do everything we can to reach a diplomatic solution and avoid never-ending war in the Middle East." Even when dealing with hostile nations, diplomatic relations are important: at the height of the Cold War, the US signed treaties with the USSR.
SANDERS: We have got to go through every possible effort in order to make sure that we achieve that goal of Iran not having a nuclear weapon without going to war.
Q: So, do you support the agreement?
SANDERS: Yes, I do. Look, I'm not going to tell that you this is a perfect agreement. And every agreement can be better.
Q: What about hard-liners chanting death to America in Iraq making common cause with the opponents of this deal?
SANDERS: I wouldn't frame it that way. But this is the way I would frame it. It's so easy to be critical of an agreement which is not perfect. But the US has to negotiate with other countries. We have to negotiate with Iran. And the alternative, you know what it is? It's war. Do we really want another war, a war with Iran? I think we go as far as we possibly can in trying to give peace a chance, if you like, trying to see if this agreement will work. And I will support it.
CRUZ: Well, of course they have, and over the last six and a half years we've seen the consequences of the Obama-Clinton foreign policy. Leading from behind is a disaster. We have abandoned and alienated our friends and allies, and our enemies are stronger. Radical Islam is on the rise; Iran's on the verge of acquiring a nuclear weapon; China is waging cyber warfare against America. General Soleimani, the Iranian general is the head of the al Quds forces and directly responsible for the murder of over 500 American servicemen in Iraq--part of this Iranian deal was lifting the international sanctions on General Soleimani. The day General Soleimani flew back from Moscow to Iran was the day we believed that Russia used cyber warfare against the Joint Chiefs. We need a new commander in chief that will stand up to our enemies, and that will have credibility.
PERRY [Video clip]: I will tell you one thing: I would whole lot rather had Carly Fiorina over there doing our negotiation than John Kerry. Maybe we would've gotten a deal where we didn't give everything away.
Q: Are you OK with us being on their side?
FIORINA: Yeah. Sometimes it's a complicated situation, but some things are black and white. On day one in the Oval Office, I would make two phone calls. The first one would be to the Israeli Prime Minister that we will stand with the State of Israel. The second will be to the supreme leader of Iran, and the message is this: Until you open every nuclear and every military facility to full, open, anytime/anywhere inspections, we are going to make it as difficult as possible for you to move money around.
FIORINA: I would hold a Camp David summit with our Arab allies, not to talk them into this lousy deal with Iran, but to say to them, "what is it that you need to defeat ISIL?" You know, Obama has presented the American people with a false choice every time: "It's what I've done or not done, or it's war." It is a false choice. King Abdullah of Jordan has been asking for bombs and materiel. We have not provided them. He has gone to China. The Kurds have been asking us to arm them for three years. We haven't done so. The Egyptians have asked us to share intelligence. We're not doing it. We have Arab allies. They are not perfect. But they need to see leadership, support and resolve from the United States of America, and we can help them defeat ISIS.
TRUMP: I would be so different from what you have right now. Like, the polar opposite. We have a president who doesn't have a clue. I would say he's incompetent, but I don't want to do that because that's not nice. But if you look at the deals we make, whether it's the nuclear deal with 24 hour periods--and by the way, before you get to the 24 hours, you have to go through a system. You look at Sgt. Bergdahl, we get Bergdahl, a traitor, and they get 5 of the big, great killer leaders that they want. We have people in Washington that don't know what they're doing. Now, with Iran, we're making a deal, you would say, we want out our prisoners. We want all these things, and we don't get anything. We're giving them $150 billion dollars plus. I'll tell you what, if Iran was a stock, you folks should go out and buy it right now because you'll quadruple--this, what's happening in Iran, is a disgrace, and it's going to lead to destruction in large portions of the world
PERRY: We need to be on the side that keeps Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. That's the side we need to be on, and that's the side of the bulk of the Middle East. We need to have some coalitions in that part of the world to go after ISIS, but we also need to send a clear message. And hopefully we use Congress to cut this funding. The issue for us is to have a Congress that stands up and says not only "no," but "Hell no" to this money going to a regime that is going to use it for terror. We need to stand up and strongly and clearly tell the ayatollah that the first thing that I will do is tear up that agreement with Iran.
A: The sanctions are already in place. And they would be reinstated. And that's what I would do as president. You don't need to have a Cabinet fully formed to do that. We will not use the national security waiver to hold back US sanctions against Iran, especially not as a result of this flawed deal that he's pursuing. I think that the sanctions were actually forcing Iran to the table. I think we should have asked for a lot more. It also requires us to help Iran technically, economically, develop themselves as a country and become a stronger regional power. That undermines our relationships with our Arab allies in the region and, of course, the state of Israel. I think it almost guarantees that there will now be an arms race in the Middle East.
A: If the Iranians walk away from the table, and tried to break out and get a nuclear weapon, if we can't end their program peacefully, I would stop them. If they get a nuclear weapon, the Sunni Arabs will want a nuclear weapon of their own, and we're on the road to a nuclear arms race in the Mideast. I think a good outcome is to basically leave the interim deal in place and give the next president a chance to conclude a final agreement with the Iranians.
JINDAL: I think a bad deal is worse than no deal. I fear this administration could start a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. Sunni countries like Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Turkey are likely going to want their own nuclear capabilities This would be a threat to Israel, to Europe, to America. We're talking about an existential threat to the region, to the United States. Never mind the fact that we're not even asking Iran to recognize Israel, to cut off ties to terrorism, to release American prisoners. I'm just talking about giving up enriched uranium, giving up all their centrifuges, anytime, anywhere inspections. Those are the basic tenets of a basic deal. And it doesn't look like we're getting any of those things.
Positioned as a hawk on Iran, Jindal has criticized the continued nuclear talks led by the Obama administration, calling them "a bad deal for America and Israel."
Trump has said that the U.S. is mishandling current Iran negotiations and should have walked away from the table once Tehran reportedly rejected the idea of sending enriched uranium to Russia. He would increase sanctions on Iran. Trump has been sharply critical of the Obama administration's handling of relations with Israel and has called for a closer alliance with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu.
Perry said he would like to see a two-state solution to tensions between Israel and Palestinians but that he does not think that is realistic now. He has expressed strong support of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Speaking on ABC's "This Week," O'Malley called the potential of Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon one of the world's greatest man-made threats. He supports ongoing nuclear talks between the Obama administration and Iranian leadership.
A: Who would not be in favor of a deal if it would be a deal that Iran would allow themselves to walk away from any sort of enrichment or reprocessing? But that's not what the deal is. We now know what the outlines of the deal are and they're much worse than anybody anticipated. And in terms of saber rattling in our approach to terrorism: When you give these radical groups safe havens, whether it's in Syria or Iraq or Libya, they use those safe havens to carry out attacks against Americans and our allies, and increasingly here in the homeland.
There has to be the threat of military force. But my hope is really that negotiations continue. There are some in my party who say, "Oh, I don't want any negotiations." They're ready to be done with it. But once you're done with negotiations, the choices are war, or they get a weapon, and I don't want to have just those two binary choices.
Carson has said the U.S. must staunchly back its ally. He supported Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's speech to Congress [denouncing Obama's nuclear limitation deal with Iran].
A: Knowing what I know now, no. Reagan used to say trust and verify. In regard to Iran, it should be verify, verify, verify, without the trust, because I don't trust them.
Q: And you don't think the administration has done that or tried to do that?
A: I think they have fallen in love with this deal. I think a lot of it is about a legacy. I do not like this agreement, what I have read so far.
A: Don't think there's a snowball chance in hell that a Congress is going to approve this framework the way it's set up. The ayatollah saying he gets immediate sanction relief with no intrusive inspections.
Q: So what's your plan for a nuclear deal with Iran?
A: I will release today nine core principles of what I think a good deal will look like. Any time, anywhere inspections of military/nonmilitary facilities will be a bipartisan must. So, this idea that we can't go where we need to go is going to fail. The Chinese are talking about building five reactors for the Iranians. Any nuclear enrichment program must be limited to one reactor. At the end of the day, you can't lift sanctions until the behavior of Iran changes. They can longer be a state sponsor of terrorism before you lift sanctions down the road.
PAUL: Occasionally, I can be partisan, but, on this, I don't think I would jump to the conclusion that, all of a sudden, the ayatollah of Iran is telling the truth, and my government is lying to us. Now, the biggest problem we have right now is that every time there is a hint of an agreement, the Iranian foreign minister tweets out in English that the agreement doesn't mean what our government says it means. So I keep an open mind as to who is telling the truth. It is very, very damaging to the American public, and to the details of this agreement, if we can't trust the sincerity or the credibility of the Iranian government
Q: So, at this point, you have an open mind about this?
PAUL: Yes. I want peace. I want negotiations. I don't want another war. But I also want a good agreement.
Consider American policy towards Iran, a nation that has waged a relentless campaign of terror and war-by-proxy against US troops and American allies for more than three decades. The administration believes Iran will become a responsible partner for peace once it signs up to a deal that largely leaves in place its nuclear infrastructure. In a region that is in a near-constant state of conflict--with Iran as a primary instigator--this approach is foolish. It is clear that nothing will deter President Obama from a potentially risky agreement that may well allow Iran to intimidate the entire Middle East, menace Israel, and, most of all, threaten America. Instead of projecting American determination and leadership, Obama has either withdrawn from the stage or chosen to trust our enemies.
His approach is summed up in a bill the Texas Senator unveiled last week, the "Sanction Iran, Safeguard America Act."
Then, at last, a slight stroke of good luck. Former secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton criticized the letter--and maybe, implicitly, Jindal--on Twitter. "No one considering running for commander-in-chief should be signing on," she wrote.
Jindal seized the moment. "@HillaryClinton No one who allows Iran to become a nuclear power should consider running," he tweeted back. He was in the conversation. "News Alert: Bobby Jindal and Hillary Clinton tussle on Twitter," Jindal's political advisers wrote in a news release.
To Jindal's advisers, there is a method in all this activity: Jindal is not searching for a political identity. He is showing his range.
"Here's the simple truth about our foreign policy: Our allies doubt us and our adversaries are all too willing to test us," he said.
Perry, however, devoted the crux of his appearance to bashing Obama, whose years in office he compared to some of the worst catastrophes to befall the country in recent generations. "This country's been through a lot. We went through a civil war; two world wars; we will survive the Obama years too," he said.
The notion that the president wouldn't go after ISIS because he "doesn't want to upset Iran" is bizarre--ISIS and Iran are enemies. Tehran is more than happy to see U.S. forces go after ISIS targets; in fact, Iran has done the same thing. When it comes to the terrorist group, Americans and Iranians are on the same side. How could Rubio not know this?
For that matter, the argument that Obama "hasn't put in place a military strategy to defeat ISIS" is plainly untrue. Rubio should know this, not only because he's a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, but also because Obama's strategy to defeat ISIS is largely identical to Marco Rubio's.
KING: I think it's a terrible mistake. Iran is powerful enough. Ultimately they are the main threat in that part of the world, and to be doing anything at all to build them up, to give them sanctuary, to in effect have them on our side, what does that do to Israel? What does that do to their nuclear development in plan? I think it weakens our position. I cannot understand why we want to get Iran involved.
The president said absolutely no US boots on the ground in a combat role. Will US forces at some point have to get involved in some kind of a combat role?
KING: Well, we already have American troops on the ground. We have Special Forces there. They are obviously in harm's way. And I don't see how ultimately we can avoid putting combat troops on the ground in some capacity. But more than that, I don't know why the president says up front that we're not going to put boots on the ground. Don't take anything off the table.
[His opponent Thomas] Ravenel says, "Stop fearmongering using other people's sound bites--and other people's blood and treasure--and give us some hard numbers," Ravenel said. "Tell us exactly how much is it going to cost to mold Iraq into the country you want it to be? Trillions of dollars and thousands of lives have already been lost there in the name of 'nation-building'--yet the situation is worse than it's ever been."
President Barack Obama launched so-called "humanitarian" airstrikes in northern Iraq last week.
It is a dumb idea to announce to Iran that you would accept and contain that country if it were to become a nuclear power. But it is equally dumb, dangerous and foolhardy to announce in advance how we would react to any nation that obtains nuclear weapons. If, after World War II, we had preemptively announced that containment of nuclear powers would never be considered, the US would have trapped itself into nuclear confrontations with Russia & China.
I believe all options should be on the table to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons, including the military option. I have voted repeatedly for sanctions against Iran and will continue to do so. But I will also continue to argue that war is a last resort.
PAUL: I think that's an incorrect conclusion, you know. I would say my foreign policy is right there with what came out of Ronald Reagan.
Q: But Reagan went through a huge defense buildup. One of the first things you did when you got elected was propose a nearly $50 billion cut to the Pentagon, bigger than the sequester.
PAUL: The sequester actually didn't cut spending; the sequester cut the rate of growth of spending over 10 years.
Q: But the point is you proposed curbing defense spending more than the sequester.
PAUL: Even though I believe national defense is the most important thing we do, but it isn't a blank check. Some conservatives think, oh, give them whatever they want and that everything is for our soldiers and they play up this patriotism that--oh, we don't have to control defense spending. We can't be a trillion dollars in the hole every year.
PAUL: I've repeatedly voted for sanctions against Iran. And I think all options should be on the table to prevent them from having nuclear weapons. I'm a stickler on what the wording is, because I don't want to have voted for something that declared war without people thinking through this. They said containment will never, ever be our policy. We woke up one day and Pakistan had nuclear weapons. If that would have been our policy towards Pakistan, we would be at war with Pakistan. The people who say, "by golly, we will never stand for that", they are voting for war.
Q: Could the US live with a nuclear armed Iran?
PAUL: It's not a good idea to announce that in advance. Should I announce to Iran, "well, we don't want you to, but we'll live with it." No, that's a dumb idea to say that you're going to live with it. However, the opposite is a dumb idea too.
These negotiations will be difficult. We are clear-eyed about Iran's support for terrorist organizations like Hezbollah; and the mistrust between our nations cannot be wished away. But these negotiations do not rely on trust; any long-term deal we agree to must be based on verifiable action that convinces us and the international community that Iran is not building a nuclear bomb. If JFK and Reagan could negotiate with the Soviet Union, then surely a strong and confident America can negotiate with less powerful adversaries today.
RUBIO: First of all, a moderate by Iranian political standards is not what we could describe as moderate here in the West, but let me just say that I hope so, because the people of Iran do not want the future that their leaders have wanted. The people of Iran want to engage with the rest of the world, and hopefully this will be a step in that direction. But I'm not all that optimistic. In order to have better relations, not just with the US but with the world, Iran needs to abandon its nuclear weapons ambitions. And unfortunately, this gentleman who was just elected is a strong supporter of the nuclear program and the nuclear weaponization as well.
All these pressures put enormous pressure on the State of Israel. We understand that. And we especially understand that if we make a mistake, it's not a threat to our existence. But if Israel makes a mistake, it could be a threat to its very existence. And that's why, from the moment the President took office, he has acted swiftly and decisively to make clear to the whole world and to Israel that even as circumstances have changed, one thing has not: our deep commitment to the security of the state of Israel. That has not changed. That will not change as long as I and he are President and Vice President. It's in our naked self-interest, beyond the moral imperative.
Iran's acquisition of a nuclear weapon not only would present an existential threat to Israel, it would present a threat to our allies and our partners--and to the United States. And it would trigger an arms race--a nuclear arms race in the region, and make the world a whole lot less stable.
So we have a shared strategic commitment. Let me make clear what that commitment is: It is to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. Period. End of discussion. Prevent--not contain--prevent.
The President has flatly stated that. And he always says--he'll turn to other people and say, "as Joe would say, big nations can't bluff." Well, big nations can't bluff. And Presidents of the United States cannot and do not bluff. And President Obama is not bluffing. He is not bluffing.
We are not looking for war. We are looking to and ready to negotiate peacefully, but all options, including military force, are on the table. Our strong preference, the world's preference is for a diplomatic solution. So while that window is closing, we believe there is still time and space to achieve the outcome. We are in constant dialogue, sharing information with the Israeli military & Israeli intelligence, and we're taking all the steps required to get there.
A: Our policy is prevention, not containment. And we have, through hard work with the international community, imposed the toughest set of sanctions on any country. We know it's having an effect. We have to continue to keep them isolated, and keep Russia and China on board. [But] we've said from the very beginning, we're open to diplomacy. We are doing so in the so-called P5-plus-1 format.
Q: What about military action against them?
A: Well, we've always said all options are on the table. The president has been very clear about that. [With regards to the] terrorism aspect of Iran's behavior, when I came into office, there were too many countries that were turning a blind eye to it. We have worked very hard to get the international community to say these guys need to be stopped on the terrorism front. They cannot be permitted to go forward.
ROMNEY: I'd take on diplomatic isolation efforts. I'd make sure that Ahmadinejad is indicted under the Genocide Convention. His words amount to genocide incitation. I would indict him for it. I would also make sure that their diplomats are treated like the pariah they are around the world, the same way we treated the apartheid diplomats of South Africa. We need to increase pressure time and time again on Iran because anything other than a solution which stops this nuclear folly of theirs is unacceptable to America. And of course, a military action is the last resort. It is something one would only, only consider if all of the other avenues had been tried to their full extent.
OBAMA: You know, I'm glad that Gov. Romney agrees with the steps that we're taking. The work involved in setting up these crippling sanctions is painstaking; it's meticulous. We started from the day we got into office.
OBAMA: This notion of me apologizing has been probably the biggest whopper that's been told during the course of this campaign, and every fact-checker and every reporter who's looked at it, Governor, has said this is not true.
ROMNEY: We're four years closer to a nuclear Iran. The reason I call it an apology tour is because you went to the Middle East and you flew to Egypt and to Saudi Arabia and to Turkey and Iraq. And you skipped Israel, our closest friend in the region, but you went to the other nations, and they noticed that you skipped Israel. And then in those nations and on Arabic TV you said that America had been dismissive and derisive. You said that on occasion America had dictated to other nations. Mr. President, America has not dictated to other nations. We have freed other nations from dictators.
OBAMA: My first job as commander in chief is to keep the American people safe, and that's what we've done over the last four years. We ended the war in Iraq, refocused our attention on those who actually killed us on 9/11. And as a consequence, al-Qaida's core leadership has been decimated.
ROMNEY: There's no question but that a nuclear-capable Iran is unacceptable to America. It presents ultimately a threat to us to have Iran have nuclear material or nuclear weapons. It's also essential for us to understand what our mission is in Iran, and that is to dissuade Iran from having a nuclear weapon through peaceful & diplomatic means. And crippling sanctions are something I'd called for five years ago. I laid out seven steps. Crippling sanctions were #1. And they do work. You're seeing it right now in the economy. It's absolutely the right thing to do to have crippling sanctions. I'd have put them in place earlier, but it's good that we have them. #2, something I would add today is I would tighten those sanctions. I would say that ships that carry Iranian oil can't come into our ports. And I'd take on diplomatic isolation efforts.
RYAN: Let's look at this from the view of the ayatollahs. They see this administration trying to water down sanctions in Congress for over two years. They're moving faster toward a nuclear weapon; they're spinning the centrifuges faster. We have to change their mind so they stop pursuing nuclear weapons, and they're going faster.
Q: What's worse: another war in the Middle East, or a nuclear-armed Iran?
RYAN: I'll tell you what's worse. A nuclear-armed Iran, which triggers a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. This is the world's largest sponsor of terrorism. They've dedicated themselves to wiping an entire country off the map. They call us the Great Satan. And if they get nuclear weapons, other people in the neighborhood will pursue their nuclear weapons as well. We can't live with that.
BIDEN: War should always be the absolute last resort.
RYAN: We cannot allow Iran to gain a nuclear weapons capability. This administration watered down sanctions, delayed sanctions, tried to stop us from putting the tough sanctions in place. Now we have them in place because of Congress.
BIDEN: Incredible. These are the most crippling sanctions in the history of sanctions, period. Look, imagine had we let the Republican Congress work out the sanctions. You think there's any possibility the entire world would have joined us, Russia and China, all of our allies? These are the most crippling sanctions in the history of sanctions, period, period. You're talking about doing more; are you going to go to war? Is that you want to do now?
RYAN: We want to prevent war!
BIDEN: We feel quite confident we could deal a serious blow to the Iranians. But #2, the Israelis and the US--our intelligence communities are absolutely the same exact place in terms of how close the Iranians are to getting a nuclear weapon. They are a good way away. When [Ryan] talks about fissile material, they have to take this highly enriched uranium, get it from 20% up. Then they have to be able to have something to put it in. There is no weapon that the Iranians have at this point. Both the Israelis and we know we'll know if they start the process of building a weapon. So all this bluster I keep hearing--Let's all calm down a little bit here. Iran is more isolated today than when we took office. It was on the ascendancy when we took office. It is totally isolated.
RYAN: We cannot allow Iran to gain a nuclear weapons capability. And talk about credibility. When this administration says that all options are on the table, they send out senior administration officials that send all these mixed signals. In order to solve this peacefully, you have to have the ayatollahs change their minds. It's because this administration has no credibility on this issue. It's because this administration watered down sanctions, delayed sanctions, tried to stop us from putting the tough sanctions in place. Now we have them in place because of Congress. They say the military option's on the table but it's not being viewed as credible, and the key is to do this peacefully, is to make sure that we have credibility. Under a Romney administration, we will have credibility on this issue.
BIDEN: Incredible. These are the most crippling sanctions in the history of sanctions, period.
A: The issues are Netanyahu's endless clamoring for war with Iran, which we know will basically amount to a "fly-by" bombing, a beat-down, that will kill innocent civilians. Look, Ahmadinejad's rhetoric is just that, the blustery saber-rattling of a nation ringed by superior military power on every front. Iran is looking down the barrel of Israel's massive nuclear arsenal and the most superior military, by far, in their part of the world. Speaking of honesty: does it make someone "anti-Israel' to point to the fact that Israel has always been coy and elusive about what everyone knows is their nuclear capability, while they demand to know exactly what Iran is up to? I think not. Prime Minister Netanyahu, convinced that Tehran is pursuing nuclear weapons, says the Islamic Republic must be stopped and has devoted his 3 1/2 year term to rallying international support against the Iranians.
Warren said she also supports Israel and is opposed to allowing Iran to gain nuclear arms. She also praised Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Obama, saying he's "done a first-rate job. He's taking nothing off the table."
President Obama has thrown allies like Israel under the bus, even as he has relaxed sanctions on Castro's Cuba. He abandoned our friends in Poland by walking away from our missile defense commitments, but is eager to give Russia's President Putin the flexibility he desires, after the election. Under my administration, our friends will see more loyalty, and Mr. Putin will see a little less flexibility and more backbone.
We will honor America's democratic ideals because a free world is a more peaceful world. This is the bipartisan foreign policy legacy of Truman and Reagan. And under my presidency we will return to it once again.
A: No, cut all support and aid.
Q: Should the U.S. intervene in the affairs of other countries?
A: Yes, but only in matters of national security.
Q: How should the U.S. deal with Iran?
A: Iran does not threaten our national security and there is no proof they are building a nuclear weapon.
Q: Should the U.S. maintain a presence at the United Nations?
A: Yes, but scale back our current involvement.
And Rubio made clear that military action should be on the table in Iran. "We should also be preparing our allies, and the world, for the reality that unfortunately, if all else fails, preventing a nuclear Iran may, tragically, require a military solution," he said.
SANTORUM: They're a theocracy. They're a theocracy that has deeply embedded beliefs that the afterlife is better than this life. President Ahmadinejad has repeatedly said the principal virtue of the Islamic Republic of Iran is martyrdom. So when your principal virtue is to die for Allah, then it's not a deterrent to have a nuclear threat if they would use a nuclear weapon. It is, in fact, an encouragement for them to use their nuclear weapon, and that's why there's a difference between the Soviet Union and China and others and Iran.
Q: What about Pakistan? They are in indifferent ally at best.
SANTORUM: They are not a theocracy. And we're very hopeful of maintaining a more secular state than is in place today. We've had some real serious problems with the Pakistani military. The reason is we have a president that's just very weak in that region of the world and is not respected.
GINGRICH: I think we're asking the wrong questions. Afghanistan is a tiny piece of a gigantic mess that is very dangerous. Pakistan is unstable and they probably have between 100 and 200 nuclear weapons. Iran is actively trying to get nuclear weapons. They go out and practice closing the Strait of Hormuz, where one out of every six barrels of oil goes through every day. You have the Muslim Brotherhood winning the elections in Egypt. The truth is, we don't know who's in charge in Libya. You have a region-wide crisis, which we have been mismanaging and underestimating, which is not primarily a military problem. We're not going to go in and solve Pakistan militarily. We're not going to go in and solve all these other things. We need a fundamentally new strategy for the region comparable to what we developed to fight the cold war. And I think it's a very big, hard, long-term problem, but it's not primarily a military problem.
PAUL: I don't want Iran to get a nuclear weapon. But sanctions themselves always leads up to war.
SANTORUM: Well, Ron, we have a very great relationship with the Iranian people. The Iranian people have taken to the streets repeatedly and still do, in trying to overthrow their government. And we had a president of the United States who stood silently by as thousands were killed on the streets, and did nothing. In fact, he tacitly supported the results of the election. When I was in the Senate, I pushed to help those revolutionaries before the revolution, to give them resources. The Iranian people love America because we stand up for the truth and call evil, which is what Ahmadinejad and the mullahs are, we call evil what it is. That's why they admire us, because we tell the truth. Now we just have to have a president that helps them to do what is necessary, which is to turn that regime out.
Pres. Bush authorized a covert program to "undermine the electrical and computer systems" at Natanz, Iran's uranium enrichment facility. What came out of that initiative was the Stuxnet cyber worm. It was unleashed against Iran's nuclear centrifuges and made them spin so fast they destroyed themselves. The operation was very successful and destroyed roughly 1/5 of Iran's centrifuges. No one knows for sure how many months or years we put back on Iran's nuclear clock. Some analysts say 6 months, others 1 or 2 years, But that's the point: the clock is still ticking.
PERRY: Absolutely. We need to sanction the Iranian Central Bank. That would be one of the most powerful ways to impact that. That is what we need to do before we ever start having any conversations about a military strike, is to use every sanction that we have. And when you sanction the Iranian Central Bank, that will shut down that economy. At that particular point in time, they truly have to deal with the US. All of them working together--and I'm talking about Syria--bring them into the mix as well. One of the options is to have a no-fly zone over Syria at the same time you're putting those types of sanctions against Iran. And in that moment, they will understand that America is serious. This President refuses to do that, and it's another show of lack of leadership from the President of the US.
Gingrich: Every possible aspect short of war of breaking the regime .
Q: Is it worth going to war to prevent that?
Romney: If there's nothing else we can do beside take military action, then of course you take military action.
Santorum: This is the most important national security issue that we're going to be dealing with this year: I agree with Romney on the issue of Iran getting a nuclear weapon. Back in 2004, I proposed giving money to the rebel forces there to help the pro-democracy movement and to put tough sanctions in place. I was opposed by Pres. Bush. And yet, we passed the Iran Freedom and Support Act. And then Pres. Bush didn't provide money for the pro-democracy movement. And Pres. Obama cut that money. Now we have a situation that's different. I disagree with Newt: more sanctions and providing more support for the pro-democracy movement isn't going to be enough.
Gingrich: There are a number of ways to be smart about Iran and relatively few ways to be dumb. And the Obama administration skipped all the ways to be smart.
Q: Could you tell us the smart ways?
Gingrich: Sure. First of all, as maximum covert operations, to block and disrupt the Iranian program, including taking out their scientists, including breaking up their systems. All of it covertly, all of it deniable. Second, maximum coordination with the Israelis, in a way which allows them to maximize their impact in Iran. Third, absolute strategic program comparable to what President Reagan, Pope John Paul II, and Margaret Thatcher did in the Soviet Union, of every possible aspect short of war of breaking the regime and bringing it down. And if in the end, despite all of those things, the dictatorship persists, you have to take whatever steps are necessary to break its capacity to have a nuclear weapon.
Santorum: I disagree with Newt: more sanctions and providing more support for the pro-democracy movement isn't going to be enough. We should be working with Israel right now to do what they did in Syria, what they did in Iraq, which is take out that nuclear capability before the next explosion we hear in Iran is a nuclear one and then the world changes.
Romney: The president should have built credible threat of military action, and made it very clear that the US is willing, in the final analysis, if necessary, to take military action to keep Iran from having a nuclear weapon.
Paul: No, it isn't worthwhile. I'm afraid what's going on right now is similar to the war propaganda that went on against Iraq.
Perry: The issue that has not been raised is that this country can sanction the Iranian Central Bank right now and shut down that country's economy. And that's what this president needs to do and the American people need to stand up and force him to make that stand today.
Romney: This is Pres. Obama's greatest failing, from a foreign policy standpoint, which is he recognized the gravest threat that America faced was a nuclear Iran and he did not do what was necessary to get Iran to be dissuaded from their nuclear folly. What he should have done is speak out when dissidents took the streets and say, "America is with you." And work on a covert basis to encourage the dissidents. #2, he should have put in place crippling sanctions against Iran. Finally, the president should have built credible threat of military action, and made it very clear that the US is willing, in the final analysis, if necessary, to take military action to keep Iran from having a nuclear weapon. Look, one thing you can know: if we reelect Barack Obama, Iran will have a nuclear weapon. And if we elect Mitt Romney, if you'd like me as the next president, they will not have a nuclear weapon.
Romney: Well, it's worth putting in place crippling sanctions. It's worth working with the insurgents in the company to encourage regime change in the country. And if all else fails, if after all of the work we've done, there's nothing else we can do beside take military action, then of course you take military action. It is unacceptable for Iran to have a nuclear weapon. We will not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon. This term "unacceptable" has been applied by several presidents over history, and our current president has made it very clear that he's not willing to do those things necessary to dissuade Iran from their nuclear folly. I will take a different course. I will make sure that the sanctions, diplomatic pressure, economic pressure, and support of insurgents within the country help them become dissuaded to get away from their nuclear ambition. And finally, have a military presence there.
We must move beyond our 9/10 mentality--ignoring clear threats. We must broaden our 9/11 mentality--solely focusing on a shadowing terrorist network thousands of miles away. Instead, we must immediately understand that we are facing a new enemy and entering a new age of international threats to this country and her allies.
As President, I would exhaust every diplomatic option before exercising military might, but we cannot take military action against Iran off the table--because a nuclear Iran is gravely dangerous for American security and Israeli survival.
I think we should send a very clear message that if you are a scientist from Russia, or from North Korea or from Iran, and you're gonna work on a nuclear program to develop a nuclear bomb for Iran, you are not safe.
And if people say, well you can't go out and assassinate people, well tell that to al-Awlaki. Okay, we've done it. We've done it for American citizens. We can certainly do it for someone whose producing a nuclear bomb that can be dropped in the state of Israel or provides a nuclear shield for country that will spread terrorism with impunity and change the face of the world."
SANTORUM: We should be establishing relationships in Pakistan with allies of ours, folks like Pres. Musharraf. So if in fact something like [a coup] would occur, we could work in concert to make sure that that coup could be overturned and make sure those nuclear weapon do not fall in those hands. But working with allies at that point is the last thing we want to do. We want to work in that country to make sure the problem is defused.
SANTORUM: We should be establishing relationships in Pakistan with allies of ours, folks like Pres. Musharraf, so we could work to make sure that that coup could be overturned and make sure those nuclear weapon do not fall in those hands. But working with allies at that point is the last thing we want to do. We want to work in that country to make sure the problem is defused.
GINGRICH: I think people need to understand how real this is. This world is in danger of becoming dramatically more dangerous in the not-too-distant future. People talk about an Iranian weapon? There may be well over 100 nuclear weapons in Pakistan. And the example you used is not too far-fetched to worry about.
GINGRICH: I think we are at the edge of an enormous crisis in national security. I think that we are greatly underestimating the threat to this country. And I think that the day after we celebrated the 10th anniversary of 9/11 we should be reminded exactly what is at stake if a foreign terrorist gets a nuclear weapon into this country. We have failed for a decade to deal with North Korea. We have failed for a decade to deal with Iran. We need, frankly, to ask for a very serious national dialogue.
I'd like to see Congress holding hearings on three levels of security. What do you do in Mexico where there's a civil war underway next door to us? What do you do in the Middle East where we have totally underestimated the scale of the threat? And what do you do about our national domestic industrial base which is crucial if we're going to be competitive with China? All three of those are a major threat to us.
A: I think Israel is an important military ally and I support that alliance. I think Iran gets dealt with by Israel, which is likely to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. I think it's wrong for our government to presume to tell Israel what to do.
PAUL: No, that makes it much worse. This whole idea of sanctions, all these pretend free traders, they're the ones who put on these trade sanctions.
SANTORUM: Well, as the author of the Iran Freedom Support Act, which he is criticizing, it actually imposed sanctions on Iran because of their nuclear program--Iran is not Iceland, Ron. Iran is a country that has been at war with us since 1979. Iran is a country that has killed more American men and women in uniform than the Iraqis and the Afghanis have. The Iranians are the existential threat to the state of Israel, via funding of Hamas and Hezbollah and the support of Syria.
PAUL: The senator is wrong on his history. We've been at war in Iran for a lot longer than 1979. We started it in 1953 when we sent in a coup, installed the shah, and the blowback came in 1979. It's been going on and on because we just plain don't mind our own business. That's our problem.
PAUL: You've heard the war propaganda that is liable to lead us into a sixth war. And I worry about that position. Iran does not have an air force that can come here. And here we are building this case up, just like we did in Iraq--build up the war propaganda. There was no al Qaeda in Iraq. And [Bush claimed Iraq] had nuclear weapons and we had to go in. I'm sure you supported that war, as well. It's time we quit this
Bush said that not maintaining the viable prospect of US military action "empowers bad behavior in Tehran amongst its leaders." Bush criticized the Obama administration for failing to encourage internal resistance to Iran's mullahs. Iran's theocrats have subjected the "green movement" protesters to a series of brutal crackdowns.
"I think we need to be much more aggressive in supporting civil opposition to the regime in Iran," Bush said. "I was saddened to see how the Obama administration handled the post-election revolution on the streets. It seemed like we were very tepid, at a time when we should forcefully support freedom. It's part of who we are as a nation, and I think we should embrace this noble notion: If not for the United States, who? Who will be there to help?"
North Korea and Iran, in contrast, are utterly unpredictable and do present an imminent threat with their nuclear ambitions. Kim Jon Il's regime sunk a South Korean ship, the "Cheonan", for no apparent reason, killing 46 sailors. Iran is rattling its sabers and developing nuclear technology with impunity. Hugo Chavez is harboring communist rebels in Venezuela. All of these issues require our attention and investment in defense capabilities.
Yet it is clear that after decades of ignoring the constitutional division of authority, our bloated national government is distracted and running thin on resources to perform its central mission.
Defense spending is not being squeezed out of the budget because of the explosion in entitlement spending.
Barbara Boxer and this Congress have so far refused to stand up to this administration and get serious about the threat from Iran."
In order to get Russia and China on board, President Obama gutted the sanctions that were once promised to be "crippling' and later downgraded to "biting.' Today's sanctions are so watered down that Russian Prime Minister Putin vowed they would "not put Iran's leadership or the Iranian people into difficulty.'
If Iran's leadership is not put "into difficulty' by these sanctions, American interests and those of our allies will be. This is the fourth round of U.N. sanctions on Iran, yet Iran continues to work toward a nuclear weapon.
The United States Congress can impose its own sanctions on Iran, real sanctions that would cause Iran's leadership great difficulty.
Furthermore, Obama proceeded, he will strengthen the NPT "so that countries like North Korea and Iran that break the rules will automatically face strong international sanctions." He made no mention of the conclusion of US intelligence that Iran had not had a weapons program for five years, unlike US allies in Israel, Pakistan, and India, the three countries that all maintain extensive nuclear weapons programs (with direct US support), all unmentioned as well.
FIORINA: I certainly agree that we need to be extremely concerned about Iran and I believe that we have lost a year to President Obama's failed engagement policy. The time has come for us to impose crippling sanctions unilaterally if necessary. We should be cutting off all access for Iran's leaders and for the Iran Revolutionary guard core to financial institutions to credit, to travel. We should be limiting Iran's imports for fined petroleum. And we should also stand very firmly with the brave men and women in Iran who are challenging the repressive Government and take advantage of the fact that there is a historic split in the theocracy in Iran--the first time in 25 years that that's happened.
FIORINA: HP has been in compliance with all US law. These accusations that we, that HP, did something unlawful are false. The real issue in Iran is how do we stop Iran's never-ending march towards a nuclear weapon? I believe we need to stop talking now and start acting. Congress should impose sanctions against shipment of refined petroleum into Iran.
Q: Chuck Devore, your campaign was the first to bring this to light?
DEVORE: We are not talking about simply compliance with obscure export controls. Carly Fiorina as CEO of HP could have severed relationship with Redington Gulf [the HP intermediary shipping to Iran], as HP has done in the early part of 2009 after a very damaging article came out in the Boston Globe. When she calls for sanctions against Iran, which certainly we can agree with, the hypocritical thing is that she participated as a CEO in undermining those very sanctions.
We live in a world where there are weapons capable of ending civilization as we know it. And we need to be prepared in a very militant and aggressive way to defend America from having a catastrophic disaster of the first order.
If we are to win the war that we have, we must rebuild the army we need. Our friend Paul Begala's motto has become "It Takes a Battalion"--and he's right. We cannot fight and win a long war without more troops. When George Bush ran for president in 2000, he complained that the military had been hollowed out. That wasn't true then, but it is true now. Under Donald Rumsfeld, the Pentagon engaged in a drawn-out debate about military transformation but gave short shrift to the basic needs of the soldiers, the heart and soul of our military might. The army doesn't have enough troops, the National Guard and the Reserves are exhausted to the breaking point, and the soldiers we send into battle don't always get the equipment they need to survive.
McCAIN: We obviously would not wait for the United Nations Security Council. Both Russia and China would probably pose significant obstacles.
OBAMA: We cannot allow Iran to get a nuclear weapon. It would be a game-changer in the region. Not only would it threaten Israel, our strongest ally in the region and one of our strongest allies in the world, but it would also create a possibility of nuclear weapons falling into the hands of terrorists. And so it’s unacceptable. And I will do everything that’s required to prevent it. And we will never take military options off the table. And it is important that we don’t provide veto power to the UN or anyone else in acting in our interests. It is important, though, for us to use all the tools at our disposal to prevent the scenario where we’ve got to make those kinds of choices.
BIDEN: Pakistan already has nuclear weapons. Iran getting a nuclear weapon would be destabilizing, but they are not close to getting a nuclear weapon that’s able to be deployed. John continues to tell us that the central war on terror is in Iraq. I promise you, if an attack comes in the homeland, it’s going to come from al Qaeda in the hills of Pakistan. We need to support that democracy by helping them with their economic well-being.
PALIN: Both are extremely dangerous. And as for who coined that central war on terror being in Iraq, it was the Gen. Petraeus and al Qaeda, and it’s probably the only thing that they’re ever going to agree on. An armed, nuclear Iran is so extremely dangerous. Israel is in jeopardy when we’re dealing with Iran. Others who are dangerous dictators are ones that Barack Obama has said he would be willing to meet with without preconditions. And that goes beyond naivete and poor judgment.
PALIN: Both are extremely dangerous. And as for who coined that central war on terror being in Iraq, it was the Gen. Petraeus and al Qaeda, and it’s probably the only thing that they’re ever going to agree on. An armed, nuclear Iran is so extremely dangerous. Israel is in jeopardy when we’re dealing with Iran. Others who are dangerous dictators are ones that Barack Obama has said he would be willing to meet with without preconditions. And that goes beyond naivete and poor judgment.
BIDEN: Pakistan already has nuclear weapons. Iran getting a nuclear weapon would be destabilizing, but they are not close to getting a nuclear weapon that’s able to be deployed. John continues to tell us that the central war on terror is in Iraq. I promise you, if an attack comes in the homeland, it’s going to come from al Qaeda in the hills of Pakistan. We need to support that democracy by helping them with their economic well-being
A: Ironically, the single thing that has strengthened Iran over the last several years has been the war in Iraq. What we’ve seen over the last several years is Iran’s influence grow. They have funded Hezbollah, they have funded Hamas, they have gone from zero centrifuges to 4,000 centrifuges to develop a nuclear weapon.
So our policy over the last eight years has not worked. We cannot tolerate a nuclear Iran. Not only would it threaten Israel, a country that is our stalwart ally, but it would also set off an arms race in the Middle East.
We are going to have to engage in tough direct diplomacy with Iran and this is a major difference I have with Senator McCain, this notion by not talking to people we are punishing them has not worked. It has not worked in Iran, it has not worked in North Korea. In each instance, our efforts of isolation have actually accelerated their efforts to get nuclear weapons.
A: I believe that under the leadership of Ahmadinejad, nuclear weapons in the hands of his government are extremely dangerous to everyone on this globe.
Q: So what should we do about a nuclear Iran?
A: We have got to make sure that nuclear weapons are not given to those hands of Ahmadinejad, not that he would use them, but that he would allow terrorists to be able to use them. So we have got to put the pressure on Iran.
A: Well, first, we are friends with Israel and I don’t think that we should second guess the measures that Israel has to take to defend themselves and for their security.
Q: So if we wouldn’t second guess it and they decided they needed to do it because Iran was an existential threat, we would cooperative or agree with that?
A: I don’t think we can second guess what Israel has to do to secure its nation.
Q: So if it felt necessary, if it felt the need to defend itself by taking out Iranian nuclear facilities, that would be all right?
A: We cannot second guess the steps that Israel has to take to defend itself.
A: We have built an international coalition of states led by the US, the UK, Germany, France, Russia and China which is showing Iran that there is a course of cooperation. And if they are not willing to cooperate and give up the technologies that could lead to a nuclear weapon then there are consequences. And we’ve passed three Security Council resolutions. Iran has increasingly difficult access issues with th international financial system. People, for reputational and investment risk reasons, are not investing in Iran.
Q: Is it not worth trying to open a discussion with the Iranian leader to get these thoughts on the table?
A: We’ve certainly made every attempt to open a dialogue with Iran. But we need to have them suspend their enrichment and reprocessing, because what we don’t need to do is to negotiate while they’re perfecting the technologies that could lead to a nuclear weapon.
OBAMA: Our first step should be to keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of the Iranians. I will take no options off the table when it comes to preventing them from using nuclear weapons, &that would include any threats directed at Israel or any of our allies in the region.
Q: So you would extend our deterrent to Israel?
OBAMA: It is very important that Iran understands that an attack on Israel is an attack on our strongest ally in the region, one that we would consider unacceptable, and the US would take appropriate action.
Q: Sen. Clinton, would you?
CLINTON: We should be looking to create an umbrella of deterrence that goes much further than just Israel. I would make it clear to the Iranians that an attack on Israel would incur massive retaliation from the US, but I would do the same with other countries in the region.
OBAMA: I will take no options off the table. It is very important that Iran understands that an attack on Israel is an attack on our strongest ally in the region, and the US would take appropriate action.
CLINTON: I think that we should be looking to create an umbrella of deterrence that goes much further than just Israel. Of course I would make it clear to the Iranians that an attack on Israel would incur massive retaliation from the US, but I would do the same with other countries in the region. We are at a very dangerous point with Iran. The Bush policy has failed. Iran has not been deterred. #1, we’ve got to begin diplomatic engagement with Iran. #2, we’ve got to deter other countries from feeling that they have to acquire nuclear weapons. And finally, we cannot permit Iran to become a nuclear weapons power.
Last summer, Senator Barack Obama and I introduced comprehensive nuclear nonproliferation legislation. Among other things, our bill would provide funding for an international fuel bank that would be administered by the International Atomic Energy Agency. This fuel bank has the potential to be a critical mechanism to help reduce the demand for sensitive nuclear technologies that could be used to produce nuclear weapons-grade uranium and plutonium. Our bill would also provide funding to enable the United States to work with other countries to develop the technology to identify sources of nuclear material. If Iran's nuclear intentions prove to be peaceful, as its leaders claim, this bill can put that to the test.
A: Well, many of us believe that. Earlier this year, Senator Edwards told an audience in Israel that the nuclear threat from Iran was the greatest threat to our generation. Back in 2004, Senator Obama told the Chicago Tribune Editorial Board that he would even consider nukes to take out Iran’s nuclear capacity. So there was a very broadly based belief that they were pursuing a nuclear weapon.
A: [The NIE concludes that] in 2003, they stopped their nuclear program. This president is not trustworthy. He has undermined our security in the region. He has undermined our credibility in the world. He has made it more difficult to get cooperation from the rest of the world. He has caused oil to go up roughly $25 a barrel--a security premium--because of his threat of war. It is outrageous, intolerable, & it must stop.
I certainly did not accomplish what I wanted to do on Iran. I was not able to convince enough other people above me of the seriousness of Iran's threat; I suggested early on a multilateral diplomatic course that others hijacked and ran in slow motion, to my dismay and to our detriment; and finally, time just ran out on me as I left State.
A: I would pledge to keep us safe. This is complicated stuff. We talk about this in isolation. The Iranians may get 2.6 kilograms of highly-enriched uranium. But the Pakistanis have thousands of kilograms of highly-enriched uranium. If by attacking Iran to stop them from getting 2.6 kilograms of highly-enriched uranium, the government in Pakistan falls, who has missiles already deployed with nuclear weapons on them that can already reach Israel, already reach India, then that’s a bad bargain. Presidents make wise decisions informed not by a vacuum in which they operate, by the situation they find themselves in the world. I will do all in my power to stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, but I will never take my eye off the ball. What is the greatest threat to the US: 2.6 kilograms of highly enriched uranium in Tehran or an out-of-control Pakistan? It’s not close.
A: We are committed to Iran not having nuclear weapons. We have been governed by fear for the last 6 years. Bush has used the fear of terrorism to launch a war that should have never been authorized. We are seeing the same pattern now. It is very important for us to draw a clear line and say, “We are not going to be governed by fear. We will take threats seriously and take action to make sure that the US is secure.”
A: I have pledged that I will do everything I can to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear bomb.
A: I am against a rush to war. I was the first person on this stage and one of the very first in the Congress to go to the floor of the Senate back in February & say Bush had no authority to take any military action in Iran. Secondly, I am not in favor of this rush for war, but I’m also not in favor of doing nothing. Iran is seeking nuclear weapons. And the Iranian Revolutionary Guard is in the forefront of that, as they are in the sponsorship of terrorism. So some may want a false choice between rushing to war, which is the way the Republicans sound--it’s not even a question of whether, it’s a question of when and what weapons to use--and doing nothing. I prefer vigorous diplomacy. And I happen to think economic sanctions are part of vigorous diplomacy. We used them with respect to North Korea. We used them with respect to Libya.
: A president has to do whatever is necessary to protect the American people. If we think Iran is building nuclear capacity that could be used against us in any way, including selling some of the nuclear capacity to some other terrorist group, then yes, we have a right to do it. And I would do it in a heartbeat.
Q: Without going to Congress?
A: Well, if it’s necessary to get it done because it’s actionable right now, yes. If you have the time and the luxury of going to Congress, that’s always better.
Q: And if Congress says no, what do you do?
A: You do what’s best for the American people, and you suffer the consequences. What you never do is let the American people one day get hit with a nuclear device because you had politics going on in Washington instead of the protection of the American people first.
A: You sit down with your attorneys and tell you what you have to do, but obviously, the president has to do what’s in the best interest of the US to protect us against a potential threat. The president did that as he was planning on moving into Iraq and received the authorization of Congress.
Q: Did he need it?
A: You know, we’re going to let the lawyers sort out what he needed to do and what he didn’t need to do, but certainly what you want to do is to have the agreement of all the people in leadership of our government, as well as our friends around the world. But the key thing here is to make sure that we don’t have to use military action against Iran. And that’s why we’re going to have to put a lot tougher sanctions on Iran, economic sanctions, credit sanctions, and treating Ahmadinejad like the rogue and the buffoon that he is.
CLINTON: I’m not going to answer that because it’s hypothetical. There would need to be a high standard of proof.
Q: Rudy Giuliani said, “Iran is not going to be allowed to build a nuclear power. If they get to a point where they’re going to become a nuclear power, we will prevent them; we will set them back 8 to 10 years. That is not said as a threat; that should be said as a promise.“ Would you make that promise?
CLINTON: I will do everything I can to prevent Iran from becoming an nuclear power, including the use of diplomacy, the use of economic sanctions, opening up direct talks. We haven’t even tried. That’s what is so discouraging about this. We need a concerted, comprehensive strategy to deal with Iran. We haven’t had it. We need it. And I will provide it.
A: Well, clearly your hypothetical suggests that everything we’ve done, up until this point and beyond, didn’t work. And there’s a lot we can do to keep that scenario from occurring. Before you actually take military action, what you do next is this: the president meets with leaders, Republican and Democrat, to make sure we’re all on the same page. We want to make sure that Democrats sign up, that we’re all part of this on a unified basis. Number two, you meet with our allies around the world and make sure we’re on the same page on this, including China & Saudi Arabia. Now we take the military option off the table. When they see our military in our hand, a possible blockade or possible aerial strikes, they recognize we mean business. And that’s going to make them think twice and, hopefully, abandon their folly. Because it is unacceptable to the world for us to have a nuclear Iran.
And the greatest danger for us in meeting this threat is the weakness of our intelligence services. We do not have any significant intelligence on the enemy’s plans, networks, & troop strength.
Second, we must contain powers that could threaten us, including China, Russia, North Korea, Iran, & Pakistan--all of which have weapons of mass destruction.
The greatest threat of rogue dictatorships, like Iran or North Korea, is that they will sell weapons of mass destruction. While North Korea--with nuclear, chemical, & biological weapons--is a big threat to South Korea & Japan, it is a very distant threat to the US. But an Iran or a North Korea willing to sell nuclear and biological weapons to terrorists is very dangerous to America.
CLINTON: I was asked specifically about the Bush-Cheney administration’s policy to drum up support for military action against Iran. Combine that with their continuing effort to try to get “bunker-buster” nuclear bombs that could penetrate into the earth to go after deeply buried nuclear sites. This was not a hypothetical, this was a brushback against this administration which has been reckless and provocative.
Q: Do you accept that distinction?
OBAMA: There was no difference. It is not hypothetical that Al Qaida has established base camps in the hills between Afghanistan and Pakistan. No military expert would advise that we use nuclear weapons to deal with them, but we do have to deal with that problem.
Clinton on videotape:Q: What’s the principal difference there?
“I would certainly take nuclear weapons off the table. And this administration has been very willing to talk about using nuclear weapons in a way we haven’t seen since the dawn of the nuclear age. I think that’s a terrible mistake.”
CLINTON: I was asked specifically about the Bush-Cheney administration’s policy to drum up support for military action against Iran. Combine that with their continuing effort to try to get what are called bunker-buster bombs, nuclear bombs that could penetrate into the earth to go after deeply buried nuclear sites. This was not a hypothetical, this was a brushback against this administration which has been reckless and provocative.
OBAMA: There’s no difference [in our policies].
A: You don’t take options off the table. All over the world we’re seeing the same thing happening, and that is, people are testing the US. We have to make sure they understand that we’re not arrogant. We have resolve. And we have the strength to protect our interests and to protect people who love liberty. For that to happen, we’re going to have not just to attack each one of these problems one by one, but say, “How do we help move the world of Islam so that the moderate Muslims can reject the extreme?” And for that to happen, we’re going to have to have a strong military and an effort to combine with our allies in such a way that we combine for an effort to help move Islam towards modernity. There is a war going on, and we need a broad response to make sure that these people have a different vision.
OBAMA: I think it would be a profound mistake for us to initiate a war with Iran. But, have no doubt, Iran possessing nuclear weapons will be a major threat to us and to the region. They’re in the process of developing it. And I don’t think that’s disputed by any expert. They are the largest state sponsor of terrorism, of Hezbollah and Hamas.
KUCINICH: It is disputed.
OBAMA: There is no contradiction between us taking seriously the need, as you do, to want to strengthen our alliances around the world--but I think it is important for us to also recognize that if we have nuclear proliferators around the world that potentially can place a nuclear weapon into the hands of terrorists, that is a profound security threat for America and one that we have to take seriously.