WASHINGTON – 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
“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
He specifically objected to the “bluster” and “casualness” with
which some on the campaign trail are talking about Iran.
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
“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
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
“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.
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
Efraim Halevy, former director of the Mossad, told The
Huffington Post that a Monday Washington Post
op-ed by Romney “causes serious
Halevy said that he didn’t care who won the presidency but
was worried about the ramifications of statements made on the campaign
“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.”