Former Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Mitt Romney, the former Republican nominee who failed to unseat incumbent Barack Obama in the 2012 elections, lambasted the president this week for reaching out to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to gauge possible cooperation in the campaign against Islamic State.
Speaking at the inaugural conference hosted by the Israeli American Council in Washington, Romney said that he was “frankly stunned” that Obama would “legitimize a nation and a leadership which is violating international norms and is threatening the world.”
“To suggest that we might somehow work together is something which is so far beyond the pale, I was speechless as I heard about it,” Romney is quoted as saying by the Internet news site Politico. “I simply can’t understand it.”
Obama sent a secret letter to Iran's supreme leader last month stressing the two countries' shared interest in fighting Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, a media report on Thursday said.
According to the Wall Street Journal
, the letter in mid-October said cooperation between the United States and Iran on combating the militant group was tied to a deal being reached between Iran and other nations on its nuclear program.
The newspaper cited people briefed on the letter. It said Obama administration officials declined to discuss the letter with the Journal.
"Administration officials didn't deny the letter's existence when questioned by foreign diplomats in recent days," it said.
US Secretary of State John Kerry said on Saturday that there was no link between talks on Iran's nuclear program and other issues in the Middle East.
The United States has already rejected a proposal floated by Iranian officials in which Tehran would cooperate in the fight against Islamic State forces in exchange for flexibility on its nuclear program.
In his appearance at the Washington dinner, Romney said that the international community should ostracize Iran similarly to the approach taken toward apartheid South Africa, according to Politico.
The former Massachusetts governor said Obama’s contacts with Khamenei were “an enormous error.” He also accused Tehran of complicity in enabling the regime of Bashar Assad in Syria, thus helping to pave the way for ISIS’ rise.
[Iran] “is in part responsible, to a degree, for the elevation of ISIS, for the creation of ISIS,” Romney said to applause.
“This is the fourth time the president has reached out an open hand to Iran,” Romney said. “It continues to diminish himself and America, these acts of his that unfortunately lead bad people to assume that American can be pushed around and I find it very unfortunate.”