Iran in Crosshairs? Campaign Gets Hot

A stark prediction today from one presidential contender: "The administration clearly is on a drumbeat here ... towards military action against Iran," Chris Dodd said on NBC's "Meet the Press." "I believe we're getting precariously close to that happening."

Tough talk from another: "Whatever it takes. We cannot allow Iran to have nuclear capacity. It's as simple as that," Mike Huckabee said on CNN's "Late Edition."

From talk shows to town halls, Iran is quickly becoming the most important foreign policy issue on the campaign trail.

"Voters, I think, genuinely do want to know how the different candidates are going to approach this incredibly tricky and dangerous subject," said Walter Russell Mead, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

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To many Democrats, the situation has some obvious parallels.

"We hear eerie echoes of the runup to the war in Iraq, in the way the president and the vice president talk about Iran," said Barack Obama in Iowa last month.

Obama and other Democrats have been hammering front-runner Hillary Clinton for supporting a resolution they say gives the president leeway for a possible attack.

At issue: language in the so-called "Kyl-Lieberman amendment," stating it is in the vital national interest of the United States to counter Iran's influence among Shia extremists in Iraq.

In a memo released last week, Obama adviser Greg Craig argued that President Bush could cite that language as authorization to attack Iranian forces.

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The Clinton camp responded with its own memo, arguing Obama "has abandoned the politics of hope, and embarked on a journey in search of a campaign issue to use against Senator Clinton."

Clinton has been defending her vote — even sending direct mail out to Iowa Democrats about it — and said she favors diplomacy. "I will do everything I can to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power, including the use of diplomacy, the use of economic sanctions, opening up direct talks," she said last month.

Among Republicans, it's a very different war of words, over who can sound most hawkish.

"If I'm president of the United States, I guarantee you we will never find out what they will do if they get nuclear weapons, because they're not going to get nuclear weapons," Rudy Giuliani recently told the Republican Jewish Coalition.

After initially saying in a debate that he would consult "attorneys" over taking military action, Mitt Romney has notably ratcheted up his language on Iran, as well: "We have a number of options, from blockade to bombardment of some kind," he said last week.

But at least one Republican, John McCain — who, earlier this year, took some heat for singing about bombing Iran to the tune of "Barbara Ann" — now says the talk is getting a little too heated.

"It's unacceptable for Iran to have a nuclear weapon, but we never want to threaten things that we're not prepared to carry out," McCain told ABC News.

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