I think he’s getting a bit of a bad rap on this today, but for the record, via Ace, here’s his latest pronunciamento on the subject from a town hall this morning in Montana.

“The Soviet Union had the ability to destroy the world several times over, had satellites spanning the globe, had huge masses of conventional military power, all directed at destroying us,” he said. “So, I’ve made it clear for years that the threat from Iran is grave. But what I’ve said is that we should not just talk to our friends. We should be willing to engage our enemies as well. That’s what diplomacy is all about.”

Obama repeatedly stressed the risk posed by Iran, as he suggested that danger has grown because of policies supported by McCain.

“Iran is a grave threat. It has an illicit nuclear program. It supports terrorism across the region and militias in Iraq. It threatens Israel’s existence. It denies the Holocaust,” he said. “The reason Iran is so much more powerful than it was a few years ago is because of the Bush-McCain policy of fighting in Iraq and refusing to pursue direct diplomacy with Iran. They’re the ones who have not dealt with Iran wisely.”

Impromptu reversal to mitigate the damage from last night’s comments or is it really true that he’s been saying “for years” that Iran poses a grave threat? Well, if last year qualifies as “years,” then yeah, it’s true. March 3, 2007:

Obama said global leaders must do whatever it takes to stop Iran from enriching uranium and acquiring nuclear weapons. He called Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad “reckless, irresponsible and inattentive” to the day-to-day needs of the Iranian people.

The Iranian “regime is a threat to all of us,” Obama said.

While Obama wouldn’t rule out force, he said the United States should engage in “aggressive diplomacy combined with tough sanctions” to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear threat.

If there’s one thing we’ve learned about the Messiah it’s that he knows how to tailor his message, so note well that those remarks were made in a speech to AIPAC. Even so, this context suggests he didn’t mean last night that Iran wasn’t a serious threat, just less of a serious threat than the Soviet Union — a debatable point if you believe Iran’s regime has irrational/suicidal impulses but less debatable if you don’t. Rather than beat him over the head on how seriously he takes Iran, the better question would be why, if he thinks we’re so vastly stronger than they are, he’s prepared to offer them economic benefits, membership in the WTO, and possibly formal recognition rather than deal with them militarily. It’s more likely that he doesn’t think we’re vastly stronger than they are: The left’s constantly telling us that the war has broken the military and destroyed its readiness, and Obama himself makes the point in the blockquoted part that the war has expanded Iranian influence. In which case, how can he blithely assert that we’d be negotiating from a position of strength if we sat down with them? That’s true only in terms of our nuclear capability, which no president from either party is going to use (least of all him) and Iran knows it. So where’s our leverage? The sanctions haven’t worked and European negotiations have gotten largely nowhere. To go to the bargaining table now would be a show of weakness and would inevitably be taken that way. If you think there’s no other option left, that’s fine, but at least own it.