Obama to 'Post': Keep military option against Iran on the table

US Presidential contender Barack Obama has told The Jerusalem Post that when dealing with the Iranian nuclear threat, the option of a military strike should be kept on the table. According to Obama, "I would pursue a comprehensive strategy - of direct engagement, increased economic pressure through international and US sanctions, and keeping the military option on the table - to keep Iran from achieving its goal of acquiring nuclear weapons, which is a danger we cannot tolerate. Israel does not have the luxury of ignoring the Iranian president's genocidal threats, and neither should the United States." Obama was writing for a new bi-monthly feature on the Post's website, in which central presidential contenders were invited to respond to questions on matters of importance to Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world. Obama vowed that as President, he would maintain regular communication with the Israeli Prime Minister, and instruct members of his administration to do the same at all levels. "I would continue and deepen the strategic dialogue between our nations' defense establishments, insist on fully funding military assistance to Israel to ensure it can defend itself, and expand cooperation on the development of the Arrow and other missile defense systems," he stressed. The Illinois Senator added, "Israel's security - which is of vital importance to the United States - can best be guaranteed by reaching negotiated peace agreements with its neighbors. But Israel must have credible partners with whom to negotiate. As President, I would actively involve myself in the effort to strengthen moderate Palestinians and others who can be such partners, and to make such negotiations successful, while working to isolate and weaken those who seek Israel's destruction. But I would never try to dictate to Israel what its security requires. The United States should never try to drag Israel to, or block Israel from, the negotiating table. Senator Hillary Clinton wrote to the 'Post' that her administration would ensure that Israel's interests would be protected. "It is not enough for us to say the right things; we've got to be smart and tough enough to do the right things that will protect American and Israeli interests now and forever," she said. "It is with these principles in mind," she added, "That my Administration would work to sustain, nourish, and enhance the vital partnership between America and Israel." According to Clinton, "Israel and the United States have worked together for years on national security objectives, including developing innovative defense technologies. Today, as the United States deals with issues of homeland security, we are also learning from Israel's experience in preventing attacks and preparing emergency responses." In Senator John McCain's response, the Republican candidate chose to begin with a meeting he had with the families of kidnapped IDF soldiers Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, whom he called "brave and noble young men." According to McCain, "It reminded me of the great sacrifices the Israeli people have made to defend their sacred soil." "Long considered a dear friend to America," McCain went on to write, "today Israel is our natural ally in what is a titanic struggle against Islamic extremists - an enemy whose sinister nature I need not explain to the people of Israel." The Arizona Senator detailed the steps that need to be taken to ensure Israel's security is guaranteed. "First and foremost, we must continue to provide Israel with whatever military equipment and technology required to retain Israel's qualitative military advantage and to defend itself." McCain added, "I would work to further isolate the enemies of Israel such as Syria, Hamas and Hizbullah and I would never pressure Israel to make concessions to states or movements committed to its destruction." "Recently, it was reported that the Iranian regime has begun enriching uranium at an accelerated pace, which means we are that much closer to seeing Israel's security being placed in grave jeopardy. As President, I will pursue every option at my disposal to neutralize that threat. We cannot and must not allow Iran to possess nuclear weapons. I will make sure the American people understand that if we are to defeat the extremists that threaten our way of life, Israel's security cannot be compromised," he said. Another presidential hopeful, former governor of Massachusetts Mitt Romney, praised Israel's economy's ability to grow despite a constant threat to its security. According to Romney "Israel stands on the front lines of the struggle against radical Islam's jihad, whose goals are not confined to the Middle East." "Indeed," Romney noted, "Jihadism's goal of destroying Israel is coupled with its desire to overthrow modern Muslim nations and replace them with a caliphate, and to assault our security and our way of life on a global scale." Romney added, "Among the many existential threats that Israel faces today, Iran poses the most serious. Iran's leaders are determined to destroy Israel, dominate the region, and spread the poison of fear and intolerance far beyond their borders. I believe the United States, Europe and others can and should do more to exploit the vulnerabilities of Iran's regime. To this end, I have outlined a strategy consisting of economic sanctions, greater cooperation with modern Muslim states, a stronger military, and support for progressive Muslim communities and leaders." Romney vowed that his administration would also remain focused on stopping the financial and weapons flows to Hamas and Hizbullah, insist that the Palestinians abandon terror and recognize Israel's right to exist, and actively work towards a two-state solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict where Israelis and Palestinians can each live in security and dignity. To see comments made by Bill Richardson and Sam Brownback visit blogcentral.jpost.com