Democratic presidential candidates jockeyed over moves to keep President Bush from attacking Iran.
Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) introduced a new non-binding resolution late Thursday saying that the president does not have the authority to use military force against Iran. Obama said the resolution is meant to nullify another non-binding resolution passed last month that favored military action should Iranian forces engage U.S. forces in Iraq.
His chief rival in the race for the party nomination, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, had voted for that resolution, and Obama’s new resolution was aimed squarely aimed at Clinton – although she is already co-sponsoring with Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) yet another resolution that is virtually identical to the one Obama introduced Thursday night, warning Bush that he does not have the authority to attack Iran.
Additionally, she and Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), another presidential hopeful, were two of 30 Senators who wrote a letter Thursday to Bush warning him that he does not have the authority to attack Iran. Obama refused to sign that letter, saying his new resolution was more forceful.
Meanwhile, Obama told the New York Times that he would engage directly with Iranian and Syrian leaders to induce them to cooperate on Iraq and Israel issues through carrots and sticks. “I would meet directly with Iranian leaders,” he said. “I would meet directly with Syrian leaders. We would engage in a level of aggressive personal diplomacy in which a whole host of issues are on the table.”
Obama said he would not take military options off the table, but would also offer incentives, including opening up trade. His comments echo those in a letter to Bush this week by Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), who urged direct negotiations with Iran.