Town Hall Highlights: Diplomacy

Bill Scher

Below are excerpts from yesterday’s MoveOn.org Virtual Town Hall, regarding diplomatic strategy:

From Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del.:

…you have to make Iraq the world’s problems.

Were I President, I would call for the permanent five of the Security Council, along with Germany and the four largest Muslim nations in the world, to call for an international conference on Iraq whereby they impose upon the regional powers … Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Turkey … a political solution based on a federal system of giving local control in order to maintain a unified Iraq.

From Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y.:

…we need to convene an international conference. It is time we bring other countries together to help forge a stable future for Iraq.

I have long advocated engagement with countries in the region including Iran and Syria, and I applaud speaker Pelosi and her delegation for going to the region, as I applaud the Republican delegation that did likewise. We have to start a process to deal with those countries.

From Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn.:

It’s not only important that we talk about what needs to be done to get out of Iraq, but what do we do in the post-Iraq period, and that’s one of the reasons that I’m emphasizing the surge in diplomacy, the surge in politics.

I wanna see an era of constructive bold engagement by the United States, where we rebuild the relationships with the United States seen once again, a source of good it works in the country, where we condemn torture, not condone it; where we end wars, not start them; where we engage the world to be part of smart decisions to allow all of us to live in better opportunity, better hope and prosperity for all people.

So, one of the reasons why I’m so strongly opposed to the Military Commissions Act, why I’ve introduced legislation to overturn that decision which gets rid of habeas corpus, condones torture, and moves us away from the Geneva Conventions — those are very, very dangerous moves, in my view.

And we ought to be doing everything we can to reassert the role of the United States in a very positive way.

From Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio:

My plan for bringing the troops home and ending the war, H.R. 1234, encompasses both diplomatic and humanitarian initiatives.

Diplomatically, in addition to that, we have to reach out to nations like Syria, and to Iran to bring a new sense of cooperation to the region.

With respect to humanitarian relief, we have to have the Iraqi people rebuild their lives. With perhaps as many as a million killed, in the conflict, and with many more injured and with homes and business destroyed, it’s going to take a massive program to help rebuild the entire social network of hospitals, of schools, of places to shop…

…we need to change our direction and that means not simply work to repair Iraq, but we need to end, once and for all, policies of unilateralism, preemption, first strike.

From Gov. Bill Richardson, D-N.M.:

What I would do coupled with that withdrawal, using the leverage of an American withdrawal of forces, would be to convene two very strong diplomatic initiatives, two diplomatic conferences.

One, in a US-led effort to get the three entities, the three religious groups, the three sects, the Sunni, the Shia, the Kurds [and] say [to them:] there’s gonna be a coalition government.

You’re gonna divide up oil revenues. You’re gonna divide up [the] cabinet ministries. There’s gonna be three entities in Iraq, based on the Dayton Accords.

And what I would do is have an Iraqi central government. Hopefully that would be Iraq’s future political structure.

At the same time, a US-led security conference where I would invite nations that we have excluded in the past, NATO, Muslim nations like Saudi Arabia, like Turkey, like Jordan [and] deal with two issues: reconstruction and Iraq’s future security.

What does that mean? That means that we also invite Iran and Syria. We have to look at Iraq not in an isolated way, we have to look at the whole Middle East, the Persian Gulf, the Israeli-Palestinian situation, and you get Iran and Syria to invest in the stability of the region.

From Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill.:

…we have to realize that the entire Middle East has a huge stake in the outcome of Iraq, and that we have to engage neighboring countries in finding a solution.

Now, I believe that includes opening dialogue both Syria and Iran. We know these countries want us to fail. I’m under no illusions there.

But I also know that neither Syria nor Iran want to see a security vacuum in Iraq filled with chaos, and terrorism, and refugees and violence, since those could have a destabilizing effect on the entire region, including within their own countries…

…those who say we shouldn’t be talking to them ignore our own history. Ronald Reagan during the Cold War called the Soviet Union an “evil empire,” but he consistently met with the Soviet Union because he recognized power without diplomacy is a prescription for disaster.

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