Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama on Friday blamed Bush administration failings in Iraq for strengthening the strategic position of Iran, which he says must be stopped from acquiring nuclear weapons. The Illinois senator said that means "direct engagement" with Iran similar to the meetings with the Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War. "A consequence of the Administration's failed strategy in Iraq has been to strengthen Iran's strategic position; reduce US credibility and influence in the region; and place Israel and other nations friendly to the United States in greater peril," according to a text of a speech Obama was set to deliver to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.
Column One: If Iran gets the bomb
Middle Israel: Nuclear perspectives (II)
US announces plans for new nuclear warheads
The Bush administration recently altered its position, with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice saying this week that the United States is willing to talk to Iran on security in Iraq.
Obama also emphasized in his speech his commitment to protecting the security of Israel, which he called "our strongest ally in the region and its only established democracy."
The speech was the second time in recent months that Obama has formally addressed foreign policy in his hometown of Chicago. In November, Obama called for a reduction of US forces in Iraq at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.
But Obama focused on Iran Friday, calling President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's regime "a threat to all of us."
A member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Obama said the world - not just the United States - must stop Iran's uranium enrichment program.
"While we should take no option, including military action, off the table, sustained and aggressive diplomacy combined with tough sanctions should be our primary means to prevent Iran from building nuclear weapons," Obama said.
Obama said Iranian nuclear weapons would destabilize the region and could set off a new arms race.