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. Arthur Raleigh NC

    I certainly wont be voting for obama, and the childish rhetoric of this speech is one reason why

    September 13, 2007 09:28 am at 9:28 am |
  2. Steve Wittlake Blaine Washington

    I see Oboma thinks he is in command of the military. He need to study constitutional law among other things. It is the President of the United States who commands the military not Obama and not
    the Senate or House of Representatives.
    Maybe he is saying we should switch our form of government to a parlimentary form of government like most European forms of government.

    September 13, 2007 09:29 am at 9:29 am |
  3. Bob Pittsburgh

    Iran does not have oil..!!

    Or does it?

    Iran + Irak would be great for Halliburton

    September 13, 2007 09:30 am at 9:30 am |
  4. as, Lincoln NE

    Interesting pov from Obama. I'm certain that this comes from his many years of experience with foreign policy & dealing with radical governments in other countries....NOT

    September 13, 2007 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  5. Will, NYC

    Thank God there's a powerful voice out there saying these things now. If only he had been more prominent in 2002, we might not be in the Iraqi quagmire. We might even have stabilized Afghanistan and caught Osama by now.

    George Bush, support our troops! Don't invade Iran.

    September 13, 2007 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  6. Tony, Woodbridge, VA

    Bob, it's spelled IRAQ! Sheesh, get it right. Regardless if the Prez has the support of the Congress and the American people he's going to do what he wants. Like he said, "I'm the decider" AND "a dictatorship would be a lot easier."

    September 13, 2007 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  7. Joe, Marietta, Ohio

    Thank God that at least one of our prominent politicians is calling out loud and clear to the President not to further widen this ill-conceived badly managed war. My hope is that other presidential candidates and members of Congress – Democrat and Republican – will do the same, in a voice that is very loud and very clear.

    September 13, 2007 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  8. Joliene, Newark, DE

    Obama should not think he has any control over the military and that an warning he gives has no influence on the administration. He needs to think before he speaks. President Bush is not going to go to war in Iraq he knows we do not have the troops or the will for it. But in policy it is more what is not said then what is said that matters most. He is not pulling things off the table because if he did Iran would recognize that as a weakness. This is just another display of Obama's lack of foreign policy knowledge.

    September 13, 2007 09:42 am at 9:42 am |
  9. Jim, Dublin Ohio

    If it (Iraq war) was left up to Obama and the democratic lead congress Osama would have declared victory a long time ago. The lives lost in the war should not be in vein.

    September 13, 2007 09:45 am at 9:45 am |
  10. Todd, Boston, MA

    Obama is right that we should not invade Iran and should start negotiating with them. Look how we are finally succeeding in North Korea. Look at how the Sunnis are now coming around. However, it seems naive to think that we could pull out immediately and not face consequences without negotiations with Iran. Are we to leave the Sunnis to die at the hands of religious finatic who defy thier own God by killing those who do not agree around them? We atleast are working with both sides eventhough we could do a better job.

    September 13, 2007 09:47 am at 9:47 am |
  11. Pat, Huntington NY

    He's right. If we didn't invade Iraq, and instead "contained it", Iran would not be pursuing a nuke program, and would not be so emboldened. Whether rethuglicans like it or not, Saddam Hussein kept Iran in check. Iran would never think about pursuing nukes with Saddam in power, and Saddam would never permit Iran to do so. Thanks to Bush's stupidity and C average thinking, he made the middle east even more dangerous, and Iran more powerful. Thanks Bush, for creating a terrorist training ground in Iraq, and making Iran the most powerful middle eastern country. You are the worst president ever!

    September 13, 2007 09:47 am at 9:47 am |
  12. T. Veritas

    What would Barak Hussein Obama have us do? Let Iran have "The Bomb?" He is proving himself childish naive when it comes to international issues? Iran has been an explicit enemy causing death and terror in the West since 1979, and now we should allow a country that has professed not only the desire but the intent to destroy not only one country, but another as well (the U.S.).

    Iran's president is a madman who literally wishes to so chaos and destruction in order to herald in the return of the Mahdi (something akin to an Islamic version of Armegeddon and the Second Comming)Islamic. This is what milions of Shia and even some Sunni want (albeit this is typically a core difference of the two groups' beliefs). These folks are somewhere between religious zealots and insane, and Obama thinks we can negotiate? He needs an education, or has he forgot his muslim education as a youth?

    September 13, 2007 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  13. Carl Maryland

    When will the people of this country stand up, raise your fist and resist the warmonger in the oval office. He is not worthy of the postition and should be removed. We cannot afford to send more young men to die in another conflict with another Islamic state. We can't win in Iraq, so what makes this man think that we can defeat another regime. He is a moron and a dumb redneck and has not forethought on what he is doing to this country in the long run. He legacy will be that of lies and misdeads. When the Iraq war is finally over and we see that we can't govern another country he should be tried for war crimes. Any of you idiots who voted for him should be ashamed of yourselves.

    September 13, 2007 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
  14. Xavier, Washington, DC

    8:45 am

    I'm sick of his statements being taken out of context. He did not advocate bombing Pakistan. What he said was if we had actionable intelligence on high value terrorist targets (such as Bin Laden) inside Pakistan and the Pakistani government either would not or could not act, we will. This is no different that what Bush or Clinton would do. It's just that Obama had the "audacity" to actually say it.

    September 13, 2007 09:55 am at 9:55 am |
  15. Ron, TX

    OBama has the backing of one of the TOP democratic foreign policy advisors- advisor to Carter, Kennedy, and Johnson. Discounting his foreign policy ideas as dangerous statements from a "rookie senator" is a touch out of step with reality. Obama is dead on. He has said and still claims he would strike Iran, Pakistan, or any other nation if the need arose, but the need has NOT arose yet.

    September 13, 2007 09:55 am at 9:55 am |
  16. Chris, FL

    I'm not a fan of Obama, but I agree with him. We are so blindsided by what is really going on in the world. It is the US who are the agressors, not the Middle Easterners. It is us, the white mans society, that have caused this mess.

    I personally like the Iranian president and feel he speaks from the heart and from God. I am a Christian to boot.

    I know it's hard to swallow for many Americans that it is possible we are the bad guys, but don't believe everything your told in life.

    The time will soon come when you eyes and ears will be opened. Please pray for our country.

    September 13, 2007 09:58 am at 9:58 am |
  17. Mike Dallas, TX

    "He needs to study constitutional law among other things.."


    Senator Obama is a constitutional law professor. He already studied it and taught it to hundreds of future lawyers.

    September 13, 2007 09:59 am at 9:59 am |
  18. Theresa LV NV

    Senator Obama is the only front runner that had the good judgement to plead with congress not to approve this invasion of Iraq. Although he couldn't vote, it could still have been political suicide for him since he was running for state senate.

    Clinton held the lives of our young men and women in such disregard that she didn't even bother to read the intelligence report. She helped put us where we are today – now she is grandstanding and acting tough to pull our troops out. Making demands directly to the president – how pathetical. When the polls were for the war – so was the polls are against the war – so is she. this is not just Bush's war - it is Clinton and Edwards war also. No amount of rhetoric from them can erase that fact. Wake up America

    September 13, 2007 09:59 am at 9:59 am |
  19. Ramin Rezai , London , England

    yeah obama you think if you surended to enemy ( ayatollah's in IRAN) and make friend ship with them will be world secure in future and doesn't need to cost of war by this way , but you don't know any thing of ayatollah's or Al-Qaida plan in future to another attact worst than 9/11 . so think little more about cost of war isn't realy high to compare and distroying AL-Qaida and Ayatolla's will perevent of any cost in future and we will have safer and better world for economic and security.

    September 13, 2007 10:00 am at 10:00 am |
  20. MCD, San Francisco, CA

    "He doesn't have any experience"... what the heck kind of experience did bush have!?! None. Zero. that is why we are in this mess and losing!

    "He shouldn't question the president"?!? Why the heck not?! The President works for the people! Where did you grow up? Under a dictatorship?

    September 13, 2007 10:01 am at 10:01 am |
  21. Matt warschauer Columbus Ohio

    If they(Iran) are posing threats to our servicemen then they need to pay the price. Obama if you dont support our troops then shut up!

    September 13, 2007 10:01 am at 10:01 am |
  22. Maureen Gobin, Mclean, Va, 22101

    Finally a candidate not under the full sway of the Jewish/right wing Israeli "interest groups" highly dangerous view and lobbying against Iran in this country. We, the US need our own policy, not one dictated, by outside interest groups.Israel's current apartheid racist policies are inflammatory to the region

    September 13, 2007 10:02 am at 10:02 am |
  23. Dan, TX

    Anybody actually read his whole speech here? I think not. CNN certainly won't report anything that promotes reasonable debate, they want to report only that which will evoke the most partisan outrage. Here's an important excerpt from Obama's speech.

    "We will need to retain some forces in Iraq and the region. We'll continue to strike at al Qaeda in Iraq. We'll protect our forces as they leave, and we will continue to protect U.S. diplomats and facilities. If – but only if – Iraq makes political progress and their security forces are not sectarian, we should continue to train and equip those forces. But we will set our own direction and our own pace, and our direction must be out of Iraq. The future of our military, our foreign policy, and our national purpose cannot be hostage to the inaction of the Iraqi government.

    Removing our troops is part of applying real pressure on Iraq's leaders to end their civil war. Some argue that we should just replace Prime Minister Maliki. But that wouldn't solve the problem. We shouldn't be in the business of supporting coups. And remember – before Maliki, we said that we just needed to replace the last Prime Minister to make everything all right. It didn't work."

    Obama absolutely does not support pulling out troops and leaving Iraq completely.

    For those who think we need to stay in Iraq for another 10 years, you'd better get ready for some huge tax increases to pay for it.

    For those who think we need to force Iraq to make political progress within the next two years, Obama has a good plan.

    Frankly, I don't think any we have any choices. We can't afford the money to stay longer. There isn't anyone who doesn't want out of Iraq as soon as Iraq takes responsibility for its own governance. There isn't anyone who doesn't think Iraq has to do that soon.

    Any criticism of Obama here is simply that people only read what the news tells you, rather than going to the source and finding out what the candidates really say.

    Shame on you all, and shame on America, for choosing ignorance over knowledge in making such comments and such decisions.

    September 13, 2007 10:03 am at 10:03 am |
  24. Linda SAT

    I don't remember Bush talking about bombinhg Iran. Qprah's boy is trying to appear as the "SANE" candidate, while everyone else is off their rocker. Well, Barry Boy- you have a long way to go. You want to Bomb who again? Pakistan?

    September 13, 2007 10:06 am at 10:06 am |
  25. Clinton, Madison WI

    Wow... so many ignorant comments about this...

    To those of you who criticize Obama for not being Commander in Chief... he has every right to criticize the presidents policies. Not only does it make sense as a politician running FOR PRESIDENT WHERE HE WOULD BE COMMANDER AND CHIEF IF ELECTED (hence making it important for us to know what he would do as commander and chief), but he also has the right to criticize the presidents military decisions just as any american does.

    Secondly, don't think that his ideas about direct talks with Iran are ignorant. I gaurantee he has spent a lot of time and research into the issue. Just look at what direct talks did for us with North Korea! Not to mention the majority of people in Iran like and support the US, and direct talks with Iran would help foster that sympathy, where as neglecting Iran will only make them angrier at us.

    This stand-off approach to "rogue" nations doesn't work. It just makes them angrier. It's just like ignoring your spouse. You have to live together, so you might as well communicate other wise there is going to be fighting. Bravo Obama for taking the more reasonable approach to the situation in the world.

    September 13, 2007 10:07 am at 10:07 am |
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