Debate on preventing Iranian nukes will continue, candidate’s spokeswoman tells ‘Post'; Jewish group cites Iran's Supreme Leader Khamenei's praise of Obama as validation of Republican approach.
The Romney campaign lashed out at US President Barack Obama Thursday for trying to “squelch debate” on Iran by calling on GOP presidential candidates to tamp down their talk of war.
“President Obama is trying to insulate himself from criticism and declare the Iran issue off-limits because he knows his naïve policies have failed to dissuade Iran from its pursuit of nuclear weapons,” Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul told The Jerusalem Post.
“The American people will not tolerate his nakedly political attempt to squelch debate on the most pressing national security issue facing America,” she said.
Saul indicated that Romney had no intention of refraining from offering “strong and resolute” policies on Iran or from criticizing Obama on his approach.
In a press conference Tuesday, Obama warned against “beating the drums of war,” and during an address Sunday to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee called for less “loose talk of war.”
He specifically objected to the “bluster” and “casualness” with which some on the campaign trail are talking about Iran.
White House spokesman Jay Carney denied a report that appeared in Ma’ariv claiming that Obama offered Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu bunkerbuster bombs and airplanes capable of midair refueling in return for a postponement of any Israeli plans to attack Iran.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei offered rare praise of an American president Thursday when he welcomed Obama’s words.
“We heard two days ago that the US president said that [they] are not thinking about war with Iran. These words are good words and an exit from delusion,” Khamenei said, according to the official press agency IRNA.
Republican Jewish Coalition Executive Director Matt Brooks said that Khamenei’s comments validate the Republicans’ approach and expose Obama’s comments as mistaken when it comes to trying to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.
“In the president, the Iranians see a lack of resolve and they see opportunities” for continuing nuclear activities, Brooks charged. “The Republicans in contrast are offering a much different vision that is much tougher and more aggressive.”
Iran expert Ilan Berman argued that it was harmful not to speak about the potential military consequences Iran faced by pursuing its nuclear program.
“We’re talking about the coercive part of coercive diplomacy. Iran has to know that worse things are in store if it doesn’t comply now,” he said.
Berman serves as an adviser to the Newt Gingrich campaign but stressed that he was speaking in his capacity as vice president of the American Foreign Policy Council.
He added that regardless of the rhetoric, at some point the US will need to decide what lengths it would go to to stop Iran’s nuclear program. Should the US choose to take military action, he argued that raising the possibility of that path now would help prepare the American public for taking that step.
There are more voices than just Obama’s, however, cautioning that the harsh talk on Iran could be harmful to the efforts to stop Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.
Efraim Halevy, former director of the Mossad, told The Huffington Post that a Monday Washington Post op-ed by Romney “causes serious issues here.”
Halevy said that he didn’t care who won the presidency but was worried about the ramifications of statements made on the campaign trail.
“This means to an Iranian, if you will wait until another few months and there is a change in the White House, then maybe there will be trouble, so the lesson is, let’s redouble our efforts to do it as quickly as we can,” Halevy was quoted as saying. “In the effort to demolish the president he is making the situation worse.”
In the op-ed, Romney pointed to steps he would take to sharpen America’s Iran policy.
He then added, “Most important, I will buttress my diplomacy with a military option that will persuade the ayatollahs to abandon their nuclear ambitions. Only when they understand that at the end of that road lies not nuclear weapons but ruin will there be a real chance for a peaceful resolution.”
He also wrote, “The United States cannot afford to let Iran acquire nuclear weapons. Yet under Barack Obama, that is the course we are on.”
On Thursday, John Kerry (D-Massachusetts), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, took to the Washington Post himself to rebut Romney’s article.
“Idle talk of war only helps Iran by spooking the tight oil market and increasing the price of the Iranian crude that pays for its nuclear program,” he argued, defending Obama’s record of strong sanctions on Iran, assistance to Israel and stated commitment to denying Iran a nuclear weapon. “Creating false differences with President Obama to score political points does nothing to move Iran off a dangerous nuclear course,” Kerry said.
He concluded, “If we are to avoid a nuclear Iran then at some point we must all act like statesmen, not candidates. We need to be clear-eyed about what we have accomplished and what we have yet to do.”