Reuters: U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama said on Monday the world must increase pressure on Iran to rein in its nuclear program and avoid a situation where Israel feels cornered.
By Caren Bohan
DAVENPORT, Iowa (Reuters) – U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama said on Monday the world must increase pressure on Iran to rein in its nuclear program and avoid a situation where Israel feels cornered.
"My job as president would be to try to make sure that we are tightening the screws diplomatically on Iran, that we've mobilized the world community to go after Iran's program in a serious way, to get sanctions in place so that Iran starts making a difficult calculation," Obama said in response to a voter question at a campaign event in Iowa.
"We've got to do that before Israel feels like its back is to the wall," he said.
Obama was asked whether Israel felt it had a "green light" to take military action against Iran if there was not enough progress made soon by the United States and its allies to contain Tehran's nuclear ambitions.
"I don't want to speculate on whether or not Israel feels like it has a green light or not because that would be speculation," he said.
"What is not speculation is that we have to act much more forcefully and effectively on the world stage to contain Iran's nuclear capabilities," he said.
The United States and others accuse Iran of seeking nuclear weapons, using a nuclear energy program as cover. Tehran rejects the charge.
The dispute, hostile rhetoric and U.S. and Israeli maneuvers in the region have fed speculation that a military confrontation between Iran and either the United States or Israel is becoming more likely. That roiled oil markets last month, driving crude prices to new highs.
The United States and its Western allies have been pushing for a fourth round of U.N. sanctions against Iran, the world's fourth-largest oil producer, but negotiations have dragged on as Russia and China sought to delay and water down measures.
Obama's comments came hours before opening night of the Democratic convention, where the party will formally nominate the Illinois senator as its presidential candidate. His opponent, Republican John McCain, has said Obama does not have the foreign policy experience to be president.
Obama, who is vying against McCain in the November 4 election, spent two nights in Israel in July as part of a weeklong tour abroad and met with several Israeli officials.
He said the Bush administration's decision to invade Iraq had strengthened Iran's hand by getting rid of an historical enemy in Saddam Hussein.
But he has expressed solidarity with the administration's calls for the world to move quickly to impose tougher sanctions on Iran. " … Having visited Israel a month and a half ago, their general attitude is we will not allow Iran to get a nuclear weapon," Obama said.
"They recognize that there are no good military options, but they also recognize that it is — from their perspective it is unacceptable for Iran to have a nuclear weapon."
(Reporting by Caren Bohan; editing by Todd Eastham)