Democratic presidential candidates said they would exhaust diplomatic options before sanctioning an attack on Iran.
An Israeli or U.S. attack on Iran in order to keep it from obtaining a nuclear weapon should be a last resort, the candidates said at a Sept. 26 debate at Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H.
“I will do everything I can to prevent Iran from becoming an nuclear power, including the use of diplomacy, the use of economic sanctions, opening up direct talks,” U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) said.
Moderator Tim Russert of “Meet the Press” asked the candidates if they would back Israel if it attacked Iran to hinder the manufacture of nuclear weapons. Clinton said it was dangerous to address such “hypotheticals.”
Russert challenged the candidates by quoting Republican front-runner Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York City, who said he would set Iran back “eight to 10 years” if “they get to a point where they’re going to become a nuclear power.”
Clinton said such talk was premature. Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) agreed.
“We are a stalwart ally of Israel, and I think it is important to understand that we will back them up in terms of their security,” Obama said, but added, “Until we have gathered the international community to put the squeeze on Iran economically, then we shouldn’t be having conversations about attacks on Iran.”
Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson also said diplomacy should be the first course of action in dealing with Iran.