WASHINGTON – Taking time out of frantic last-minute campaigning for the “Super
Tuesday” slate of primary elections, three GOP presidential candidates slammed
US President Barack Obama on Iran and Israel during appearances at a major
As world powers announced fresh talks with Iran, the
three candidates warned against further delay in halting Iran’s nuclear program
before a receptive audience at the final day of the American Israel Public
Affairs Committee’s three-day policy conference.
Frontrunner Mitt Romney,
who could begin to wrap up the nomination if he performs well in enough of Super
Tuesday’s 10 participating states, lambasted Obama for having a “policy of
procrastination” on Iran.
“As president I will be ready to engage in
diplomacy. But I will be just as ready to engage our military might,” he
He called for communicating more “credible military options”
against Tehran and said he would diplomatically isolate the regime’s
representatives abroad, indict Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad under the
UN genocide convention and station more navel assets in the vicinity of
Former Massachusetts governor Romney, who appeared via live
satellite link in front of American and Israeli flags, also criticized voices in
the administration who have spoken repeatedly in recent days about the fallout
of an Israeli attack.
“We can’t continue to express a point of view that
makes it sound like we’re more concerned about Israel taking action against Iran
than we are about Iran becoming nuclear,” he said to applause in response to a
panel assembled at the AIPAC conference to ask him questions remotely after his
Rick Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator who is
Romney’s strongest challenger, called the administration’s decision to re-enter
negotiations with Iran “another appeasement, another delay, another opportunity
for them to go forward while we talk.”
Santorum, despite being in a
neck-and- neck race with Romney for Tuesday’s biggest prize, the key swing state
of Ohio, was the only candidate to appear personally at the event. The fourth
candidate, Texas Representative Ron Paul, did not address the
Santorum also mocked Obama’s recent repeated comments that he
has “Israel’s back,” saying to applause, “From everything I’ve seen in the
conduct of this administration, he has turned his back on the people of
Former speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, who also appeared via
live satellite link, echoed Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s words to AIPAC
the night before, when he stressed that Israel must be able to decide for itself
what it needs to do to protect its security.
“If an Israeli prime
minister decides that he has to avoid the threat of a second Holocaust through
pre-emptive measures, then I would require no advanced notice,” he said to
Gingrich, who’s hoping a strong victory in his home state of
Georgia Tuesday will keep him in the race, has helped stay in the running
despite trailing significantly in delegates and poll numbers because of the
backing of casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, once a major AIPAC
Gingrich endured an awkward moment when he finished his short
remarks to allow for a panel to ask him questions, but unlike Romney, no panel
had been assembled by AIPAC’s organizers. There was also no panel for Santorum.
AIPAC did not respond to a request for explanation by
Throughout the day the Democrats and Republican campaigns
sparred over Iran, with the Democratic National Committee sending out blast
videos and background sheets challenging the GOP candidates on their Middle East
policies and defending Obama’s record.
The Romney campaign retaliated
with a fact sheet in which it listed six alleged exaggerations on Iran and
Israel contained in Obama’s speech to AIPAC Sunday.
On a DNC press call
to discuss the Republicans’ attacks at AIPAC, New York Democratic Senator Chuck
Schumer strongly defended Obama’s approach to Iran.
A staunch supporter
of Israel, Schumer acknowledged that “it’s no secret we’ve had our differences
on certain parts of Israeli-Palestinian policies.” But he said that when it
comes to Iran, “he’s been resolute from the get-go.”