Thursday, August 16, 2007

Presidential Candidates on Negotiating with Iran

Council for a Livable World today released responses to seven critical questions on national security issues that were posed to all declared presidential candidates from both parties. Joseph Biden, Hillary Clinton, Christopher Dodd, John Edwards, Barack Obama, and Bill Richardson responded to the Council’s questionnaire. Their responses exhibited noteworthy unity while differing on some important details.

The seven questions were on reducing nuclear weapons stockpiles, new nuclear weapons, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, Iraq, space weapons, nuclear non-proliferation, and negotiating with Iran and North Korea. Click here to view the entire resource.

Question #7 asked Candidates about direct negotiations with Iran and North Korea:

Do you support or oppose direct negotiations with Iran and North Korea that would include incentives for Iran not to build nuclear weapons and North Korea to eliminate verifiably its nuclear weapons program?

The candidates all endorsed negotiations with Iran and North Korea and demonstrated an awareness of the value and importance of diplomacy and international engagement in solving some of the toughest nuclear non-proliferation problems.

Biden, Clinton, Edwards, and Richardson all made clear that negotiations are required to achieve a successful outcome and are a necessary part of leadership, not some sort of capitulation or concession.

Biden said that direct talks “could add to, not take away from” the Six-Party talks with North Korea and EU-3 talks with Iran.

Clinton referred to her engagement strategy as “robust diplomacy” and contrasted it with the “cowboy diplomacy of the Bush-Cheney administration.”

Edwards called for cooperating “with other great powers to isolate Iran and to offer Iran economic incentives.” On North Korea, Edwards said that “We must engage the country directly, through the Six Party framework, placing economic and political incentives on the table.”

Obama was the only candidate to explicitly state that he “will not take the military option off the table” in confronting these threats, but he reiterated that “our first measure must be sustained, direct, and aggressive diplomacy.”

Richardson mentioned that “no nation has ever been forced to renounce nuclear weapons,” but rather that “many nations have been convinced to renounce them.” He explained that “meaningful sanctions accompanied by positive incentives and security guarantees” were the right approach. Richardson also cited his personal experience in negotiating with troublesome regimes, adding that “When the North Koreans want to re-engage the U.S., they call me, because they trust me.”

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