September 13th, 2007
06:42 AM ET
9 years ago

Obama to Bush: Don't invade Iran

Sen. Barack Obama spoke in Iowa on Wednesday.

CLINTON, Iowa (CNN) - Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama warned the Bush administration against expanding the war in Iraq to neighboring Iran, telling an Iowa audience Wednesday that he hears "eerie echoes" of the rhetoric that led up to the invasion of Iraq.

"George Bush and Dick Cheney must hear loud and clear from the American people and the Congress: You do not have our support, and you do not have our authorization, to launch another war," he said.

The Illinois senator's comments came during a speech on the future of the 4-year-old war in Iraq, which he said has only bolstered Iranian influence.

Obama said the Islamic Republic poses a "grave challenge" to U.S. interests in the Middle East by refusing international demands to freeze its nuclear fuel program and supporting Shiite Muslim militant groups - "But we hear eerie echoes of the run-up to the war in Iraq in the way the president and vice president talk about Iran."

"They conflate Iran and al Qaeda, ignoring the violent schism that exists between Shia and Sunni militants," he said. "They issue veiled threats. They suggest the time for diplomacy and public pressure is running out, when we haven't even tried direct diplomacy."

There was no immediate response to Obama's remarks from the White House.

A U.S.-led army invaded Iraq in 2003 after months of Bush administration warnings that then-Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was concealing stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons and efforts to build a nuclear bomb. But U.N. weapons inspectors found no sign of banned weapons before the invasion, and the CIA later concluded that Iraq had dismantled its weapons programs in the 1990s.The Bush administration now accuses Iran of arming Shiite Muslim militias that are attacking U.S. troops in Iraq, and of developing a clandestine nuclear weapons program. Gen. David Petraeus, the U.S. commander in Iraq, told CNN on Wednesday that there is "no doubt" that Iran is supplying advanced explosives that have been used against American troops.

U.S. forces have conducted two rounds of naval exercises in the Persian Gulf this year. Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., questioned Tuesday whether Petraeus needs the authorization to strike targets in Iran "in order to protect America's troops in Iraq." And administration officials have refused to say whether they believe they have that authority now.

Obama said he would use "tough and sustained diplomacy backed by real pressure" to limit Iranian influence, reminding Tehran that it faces further isolation - "including much tighter sanctions" - if it continues to defy international demands regarding its nuclear programs and to support violent elements in Iraq.

"As we deliver this message, we will be stronger, not weaker, if we disengage from Iraq's civil war," he said.

Earlier, Obama told CNN that Congress needs to send President Bush a "clear message" that change is needed in Iraq. He said that unless Congress forces the president to accept a timetable for withdrawing American troops, "We are essentially engaging in a bunch of symbolic action there."

Senate Republicans have managed to block efforts to wind down the war, using filibuster tactics that require a 60-vote majority to move ahead. But in Iowa, Obama said U.S. troops should begin to withdraw immediately despite Bush's warnings that chaos would follow a premature American withdrawal.

"He warns of rising Iranian influence - but that has already taken place. He warns of growing terrorism - but that has already taken place. And he warns of huge movements of refugees and mass sectarian killing - but that has already taken place," Obama said.

"These are not the consequences of a future withdrawal, they are the reality of Iraq's present. They are a direct consequence of waging this war."

Obama also used Wednesday's speech to remind supporters that he opposed the now-unpopular Iraq war from the beginning - unlike his leading Democratic rivals, Sen. Hillary Clinton and former Sen. John Edwards, both of whom voted for the 2002 congressional resolution that authorized the invasion. Obama, who was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2004, was an Illinois state senator at the time.

And he discounted Petraeus' congressional testimony this week about reduced levels of violence since Bush ordered 30,000 additional troops to Iraq in January. Despite the reduction from levels earlier this year, "We are at the same levels of violence now that we were back in June of 2006," he said.

"The same people who told us that we would be greeted as liberators; about democracy spreading across the Middle East; about striking a decisive blow against terrorism; about an insurgency in its last throes - those same people are now trumpeting the uneven and precarious containment of brutal sectarian violence as if it validates all of their failed decisions," Obama said. "The bar for success is so low that it's almost buried in the sand."

Related: Foreign policy expert stumps for Obama

Filed under: Candidate Barack Obama • Iowa • Iraq • President Bush
soundoff (191 Responses)
  1. Anonymous

    This guy gives me hope. Obama has been the best presidental candidate since Bobby Kennedy.

    Obama 08

    September 12, 2007 11:45 pm at 11:45 pm |
  2. RDC TN

    Obama has it right for once. We SHOULD NOT invade Iran. Oil Oil Oil is all Im gonna say. Here is a noble idea, stop acting like world police and secure our borders like you are suppose to. We have enough trouble with Iraq as it is. We are spread to thin. For once listen to us citizens of the U.S of A. We've lost enough troops as it is. Peace with Iran, not carpet bombs. Much love to the Iranians. RON PAUL 08'The only one that gets it. RON PAUL FOR PRESIDENT

    September 12, 2007 11:45 pm at 11:45 pm |
  3. Mary, Westmont, IL

    Yet again, Obama is right on the money. People shy away from the so called "rock star status". Even the media is afraid they will perpetuate that image if they show all that is really newsworthy of this candidate. The reason he draws large crowds is not because he is some kind of prophet, but a real no nonsense human being. Incredibly intelligent and really listens. Even his previous detractors, after speaking with him, have turned around. Not because he has some magical potion, but because he has what it takes.

    September 12, 2007 11:55 pm at 11:55 pm |
  4. KM, Atlanta GA

    Can't argue with that.

    September 13, 2007 12:01 am at 12:01 am |
  5. Chris Piatt, Chicago, IL

    I have to say that I am now in Barack Obama's corner %100 – he really seems to have serious, pragmatic vision on these issues.

    September 13, 2007 12:11 am at 12:11 am |
  6. Alan St Louis Mo

    I agree or at least you give the miltary a breack to undue the breacking point its about to hit. If the military have to do Iraq, Afganstain and Iran you can kiss the all volunteer miltary good bye. An Iran Invasion means DRAFT and 10 plus years on relentless deployments. The current count of dead americans and causilties as they are rite now will be a minor bruse on your body compered to the bloodsheed that will last for the next 10 years or so. Instead of 4 digits figures of dead americans go ahead add another 1 or 2 digits to em if we got hold 3 countries that hate america. And will die sucidaly in doing so. but not before having a bunch of kids so they can continue their foot steps to. And this invasion will trigger a real gihad aginst the united staates. Which means the war will spead all over the world (not ww3 type scnerior just terror strikes))to include america soil. How would you like to hear on news IEDS be planted all over america,s hiways. And sucide bombers hitting walmart and seven eleven. and the current all voulenteer miltary coallaspe. IF ya got to do something about iran limit it to a few presice missle strikes on em. If you dont know Islam is the fastest growing religion around the world. This will send a rally cry to all islam most of the major islam nation will be in a fight with the us. All iam saying we better think real hard before upsetting another islam nation. and be prepared for a nasty fight.

    September 13, 2007 12:24 am at 12:24 am |
  7. Pete, Washington, MI

    WOW !!!

    This IS the man that is not only going to be our next president, but also the statesman that will restore our respect among the nations of the world.

    It has been such a LONG time since we have had a leader with integrity, wisdom, and vision. I have not been so energized and inspired by a candidate since I was a seventeen year-old kid, doing what I could for the election of John Kennedy in 1960.

    There is no doubt, Barack is the 'real deal.' His support is growing, even among many of my republican friends.
    We all agree, that he is the only candidate that can unite our country and address the many issues before us without the petty, unproductive politics of the last few years.

    America, let's do it right this time.


    September 13, 2007 12:34 am at 12:34 am |
  8. J. M Elliot

    Whose side is this guy on?

    September 13, 2007 12:42 am at 12:42 am |
  9. MCD, San francisco, CA

    He is dead on right! Every Dem should be talking like this. In fact, every Republican should also be saying the same thing! Our president is not only out of touch, he of control.

    September 13, 2007 12:54 am at 12:54 am |
  10. WD,Silver Spring,MD

    Obama makes since and he is taking on our problems the way we need our next President to be!

    September 13, 2007 01:18 am at 1:18 am |
  11. John, Atlanta, GA

    Because Obama wants the troops so he can invade Pakistan. Nice try Obama but you are fooling no one.

    September 13, 2007 01:36 am at 1:36 am |
  12. Perry Casilio / Talent, Oregon

    This analysis by Senator Obama is probably one of the most reasoned foreign policy commentaries that I've seen in a long time. Hopefully, this will start a positive ripple effect that'll resonate across party lines.

    Obama correctly senses that there's a profound division in America about the value of warfare itself. This division is shown by the growing hysteria that has gripped both extremes of our political spectrum.

    It's obvious that the post-Vietnam pacifist left wing has helped to create a counter reaction in the radical right that has pushed America away from it's ideals. As a republic, America has prided itself on the fact that we usually use military strength only when there is a clear threat.

    In line with this, when one looks at American history, one notes that we have never engaged in the type of pre-emptive war that we are engaged in now with Iraq. Obama correctly notes that it's very hard to believe that the right wing would even consider attacking Iran in light of the failure that Iraq has become.

    Yes, through our history, America, like many countries, has fought many wars. However, an important distinction that's lost on the radical right is that America has never fought the type of pre-emptive war that we are now fighting in Iraq.

    For all of the controversy that arose out of the Vietnam War, there is an important disinction to be made between Vietnam and Iraq.

    As opposed to Vietnam, the current Iraqi war has marked the first time in America's history that we invaded a country and overthrew their government, BEFORE that country did aggressive actions against other countries. Let's not forget that since 1991, Iraq had not invaded anyone.

    This distinction between the different types of warfare that we are willing to engage in is important.

    If America, one of the shining lights in world history, can now rationalize pre-emptive war, what's to stop the countries wih lesser ideals from doing the same?

    The problems with Iraq and Iran are tied at the hip. Iran's current belligerence was been heightened by our pre-emptive invasion of Iraq. Once we recognize that, we'll be able to respond assertively to isolate the inflammatory Ahmedinajad.

    We need to respond to Iran in an adult-like way that'll work to contain their aggressive rhetoric by inflicting the type of economic damage on them that they now deserve.

    Obama's suggestions are totally in line with achieving this goal.

    Before we forget, even though America was involved in proxy wars like Vietnam during the Cold War, we need to remember that we NEVER invaded or bombed the Soviet Union.

    The reason that we never bombed or invaded the Soviet Union is that this type of pre-emptive attack would have destabliized the world. Similarly, most respected authorities believe that a pre-emptive attack on Iran would not only destabilize the world, but forever stain the ideals of justice that America's treasured.

    Win or lose, Senator Obama has done an ingenious thing by pushing this dialogue. Someone has to step up to the plate.

    Senator Obama rightly recognizes that both the radical left and the radical right are unrealistic about war. The wide division between them has helped to fuel the foreign policy crisis now gripping our great nation.

    War is still a fact of life. However, the march of human history has shown us that globalism has not only reduced the need for war, it has also reduced it's attractiveness.

    Just wars will still need to be fought in the future. However, Iraq has shown us that pre-emptive war, whereby a country invades another based mostly upon fear of the other, has gone out of style.

    By addressing these foreign policy issues with clarity, Senator Obama deserves our respect and our attention.

    September 13, 2007 02:19 am at 2:19 am |
  13. Julius

    OBAMA is absolutely hitting the hammer where it matters and i love this. It's not just enough for Democrats to talk to gain supporters for their mandate. But they need to start mobilising supports from all sources against this failed Bush administration as Obama! Making such claims as Gen. Petreus about Iran and hiting Iran would eventually bring down america, and watch if China would not take advantage of that. Let's not forget that Russia's military prowess is growing now that ever.
    Obama, that is the way to go!

    September 13, 2007 02:55 am at 2:55 am |
  14. Robert M. Reidy N.Y.

    How fortunate we are in this country to
    have one such as this Barak Obama! He is courageous, intelligent and articulate, energetic and committed, compassionate and strong, creative and charismatic with a heart for the people. As a leader – he is a natural. I feel proud when I hear him speak. He will unite us and America will be admired throughout the world once again! Our children will have a role model to look up to. This is going to be the most exciting election to hit this country in a long time. Thank you Barak Obama!!!

    September 13, 2007 03:18 am at 3:18 am |
  15. d.y., houston, texas

    here is a comment – The politicians are not working for the people anymore, they are working for themselves and big business. A recent pole stated the american, legal citizens registered to vote stated 100% of the time that illegal immigration must stop and opening the border through NAFTA is not what the people want today. Worrying about 12 million illegal immigrants is not the answere today, stopping the next 2 million illegal immigrants is the issue today. Do not put up a 12 foot fence, enhance the security and deter the illegals from wanting to come to the United States by making healthcare and earning money so difficult they will want to legalize themselves.

    September 13, 2007 03:23 am at 3:23 am |
  16. Lyons Steve

    Obama's been getting my attention the last few days.

    A sudden, eerie calm descends over the country as a top candidate for president actually tells it like it is.

    Can he keep it up? Is there some inevitable point when big interests buy off any candidate and turns them into another establishment weenie?

    Stay tuned.

    September 13, 2007 04:00 am at 4:00 am |
  17. Michael Oklahoma City Oklahoma

    Obama is a good man for speaking his mind but,I dont think that idiot GW will listen if he is set on war....The 2008 cannot come quick enough for me....God help us all

    September 13, 2007 05:19 am at 5:19 am |
  18. Shawnie - Grants Pass, OR

    OK Obama, let's not invade Turkey or Syria either. You are so sage. I'll bet everyone is changing their plans now.

    September 13, 2007 05:58 am at 5:58 am |


    September 13, 2007 06:15 am at 6:15 am |
  20. Jov,Bronx New York

    i think that obama is wrong to call the war in iraq a failer because no that we are seeing a diffrence he wants the army to withdrawe so he can be elected president but that will not work because we know the war is now headed in the right direction since June 2006.

    September 13, 2007 06:36 am at 6:36 am |
  21. Ray, Rochester

    Goofy Obama...naive Obama...let's just sit down and have a chat with Iran. They really are a bunch of swell guys those Mullahs.

    Thank god Obama has no chance of getting elected. Iran must be praying for his victory because they know he would curl up in the fetal position if they did anything to Israel.

    Maybe Obama should ask Iran why they keep supplying weapons that are used to kill Americans and why they train insurgents to kill Americans. Of course if we just ask them nicely they will stop.

    Give me a break. This guy needs to go back to organizing rallies in the projects. They only reason he was even elected senator is because the Republican running against him dropped out of the race and Alan Keyes came in at the last minute.

    Wake-up America!! Do not be fooled by the Obama/Oprah hype. This guy is too naive and weak to defend our country. He will gut all of the defenses put in place and return us to the Clinton model of "do nothing" policies against terrorism. Then, when we are attacked in a more devastating manner, we will have no one to blame but ourselves.

    September 13, 2007 06:39 am at 6:39 am |
  22. Blue in a Blue state, North Wales PA

    Obama doesn't want to attack Iran. He wants to save his bombs for Pakistan. "... I think there are elements within Pakistan right now–if Musharraf is overthrown and they took over, I think we would have to consider going in and taking those bombs out, because I don't think we can make the same assumptions about how they calculate risks."
    In his opinion we should go bomb a nuclear armed extremist state rather than stopping one from arming itself with nuclear bombs. Can you say hypocrite?

    September 13, 2007 06:42 am at 6:42 am |
  23. Cooper McRaven

    Shall this war start it is sure to cause an influx in Iranian presence to the already crowded battlefield of Iraq. Can the US conduct three wars at once? And what if we do... will the Iranians attack back at say Isreal? Make this certain though, Mr. Bush I hope you find this out and listen carefully before you make your decision.

    September 13, 2007 06:44 am at 6:44 am |
  24. John Bahran, Houston,Texas

    So I guess President Barack, would let the Iranians develop nuclear bomb, drop the first one on Israel and do whatever they want. May be I am missing something, didn't US try diplomacy twice and found out there was no hope in talking to this rogue regime? Didn't the Europeans talk for 3 years before they found out the same thing? Mr. Barack would not get my vote as an Iranian-American. His government would let terrorists get a nuclear bomb.

    September 13, 2007 06:46 am at 6:46 am |
  25. Rob Browning, Atlanta, GA

    Obama is imminently unqualified to be president. I fear for the future of our country if he is allowed to get anywhere close to the White House. America needs to wake up! Iran is and will be a threat just as an unqualified individual in the White House will be a threat to our national security.

    September 13, 2007 07:13 am at 7:13 am |
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