Obama calls Iran threat to U.S.,
By John McCormick
Tribune staff reporter
March 2, 2007
Seeking to woo Jewish votes and contributions, Sen. Barack Obama told an
audience in Chicago Friday that he considers Iran "one of the greatest
threats to the United States, Israel and world peace" and pledged he would
try to end that nation's uranium enrichment program.
As he criticized the Bush administration's
presidential candidate suggested that the danger posed by neighboring
has grown in recent years because of
"One of the most profound consequences of the administration's failed
strategy in Iraq has been to strengthen Iran's strategic position, reduce
U.S. credibility and influence in the region, and place Israel and other
nations friendly to the United States in greater peril," Obama (D-Ill.) said
before a regional gathering of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee,
a major pro-Israel lobbying group.
In advance of the group's national conference later this month in
looking for a friendly audience to make a major policy speech on U.S.-Israel
By speaking to about 800 of the committee's members at the Sheraton Chicago
Hotel & Towers, Obama was able to reaffirm his support of
consider the early presidential field. Democratic front-runner Sen. Hillary
Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) made a similar speech to the group's members in her
home state on Feb. 1.
Despite the eagerness of local news crews for him to comment on the topic,
Obama made no mention of a revelation reported Friday by the
that he has white ancestors who owned slaves. A spokesman also said he would
not be taking any media questions.
Racial issues will again be at the forefront Sunday, as the senator appears
attract Clinton and her husband, the nation's 42nd president. Before his
departure, Obama will headline a major labor rally in
Like labor, the Jewish community is an essential constituency for any
Democrat running for the White House. John Green, a senior fellow with the
Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, said research suggests it is not
uncommon for Jews to represent as much as 20 percent of the donors in a
"Jews are strong Democrats as a group and are a very important source of
money for presidential candidates," he said. "This is a pretty significant
Green said Jews represent only small part of the total electorate, but can
also play a key role in swing states such as
this is a critical bloc," he said.
Although Green said Obama might struggle to differentiate himself from
"Jews are particularly opposed to President Bush's positions in
said. "She has had a little bit of a different policy position on the war in
Rabbi Ira Youdovin, executive vice president of the Chicago Board of Rabbis,
said some Jews were initially supportive of efforts to remove Saddam Hussein
when reports of weapons of mass destruction were credible and
be a target. "Today, there is far less approval and a sense that maybe the
war wasn't a good idea," he said.
Josh Block, a spokesman for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee,
said Jewish voters lean mostly Democratic, but that the group is not
monolithic in its support for the party.
"It requires nurturing," he said. "It can't be taken for granted."
In one of many lines that drew applause, Obama called for "fully funding
military assistance" for
programs. "And when
legitimate right to defend itself," he said.
Obama focused much of his speech on
communication among all players in the region. "My plan includes a robust
regional diplomatic strategy that includes talking to
something this administration has finally embraced," he said.
Earlier this week, Obama also met with family members of kidnapped Israeli
soldier Ehud Goldwasser in
Jeff Simon, a financial planner from
said the senator hit all the right notes for his audience.
"He touched on all the key issues," he said. "He said the right things."