Who’s best to take on Obama on Iran?
By Jennifer Rubin
The Huffington Post’s Jon Ward reports that the Mitt Romney campaign “recently decided to make Iran the centerpiece of their foreign policy strategy, believing it to be the most sensible point of attack, as well as a potent counterpoint to the inevitable Obama campaign boasts about bin Laden and Libya.”
Romney’s Iran strategy clearly depends on sending a message to Tehran that, if elected president, he would not shrink from using military force to destroy their nuclear weapons program.
“Mitt Romney will make clear to the Iranian regime through actions — not just words — that a military option to deal with its nuclear program remains on the table,” the campaign said in a recent release detailing the steps Romney would take to put additional pressure on Iran. “Only if Iran understands that the United States is determined that a nuclear-armed Iran is unacceptable will there be any possibility that Iran will give up its nuclear aspirations peacefully.”
Romney further points out, correctly, that Russia’s foot-dragging on Iran sanctions is further evidence (in addition to a worsening human rights record, involvement in bombings in Georgia, etc.) that the Obama administration’s Russian reset policy is a bust.
Dan Senor, a principal adviser to Romney on foreign affairs, told me this afternoon that the opportunity for sanctions to be effective is passing. He explained, “The administration’s sanctions policies are unlikely to stop Iran’s progress toward acquiring a nuclear weapon. Iran is unlikely to enter serious negotiations toward a resolution of this problem. As we’ve learned from the IAEA report, the overall trajectory will almost certainly not change. And the Russian response, which was to dismiss the IAEA report and any possibility of further sanctions, highlights the failure of Obama’s ‘reset.’ Moreover, we have evidence that Iran is getting more, and not less, aggressive.”
Senor added, “The failed attempt to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in Washington, in an operation that could have killed scores of Americans, is a significant ratcheting-up of Iranian terrorist activities. It is not the first such attempt on American soil, but it is by far the most ambitious. It makes clear that as Iran moves closer to possession of nuclear weapons, it is also becoming bolder in the use of terrorism against targets in the U.S. The combination is a nightmare scenario.”
Our actions in Iraq and our stance toward Syria have only made things worse, Senor told me: “The Obama administration’s precipitous and unexpected total withdrawal of American forces from Iraq has given Iran an enormous opportunity in that key neighboring state. The entire region views our pullout as an American defeat and an Iranian victory, which has shaken the confidence of our allies. The fact that Obama made this decision within days of the revelation of the Iranian terrorist plot is especially damaging.”
And as for the butcher of Damascus, Senor warned that “getting our Syria policy right is crucial because [Bashar al-]Assad’s regime is Tehran’s only Arab-world ally; it’s Tehran’s only port on the Mediterranean; and it’s Tehran’s path to arming Hezbollah. The fall of Assad would be a strategic blow to Tehran. So Syria is important not only because of the human catastrophe, but also due to the strategic imperative of setting back Iran.”
At the debate tonight, we will see other candidates’ views on Iran. Rick Santorum has also offered a comprehensive approach to Iran. The issue for voters will be to determine who has the determination, the judgment and the smarts to construct a foreign policy that effectively disarms Iran. Rhetoric is nice, but it is much harder to discern who is most capable.
To Romney’s credit, he’s already revealed the sorts of people he’d select as advisers on foreign policy. (His foreign policy team includes serious voices, such as Senor, Eliot Cohen, Robert Kagan and Michael Hayden.) Part of Romney’s argument for his own candidacy is that — in contrast to President Obama, who selected feckless aides (retired Gen. James Jones, among them) and fell down in executing an effective policy — he will have a capable team, experienced in national security and with clear direction. (Contrast the Romney team with the hodgepodge of odd voices assembled by Newt Gingrich, including Robert McFarlane, whose claim to “fame” was the Iran-contra debacle and was part of a team assembled to push for an imposing a peace plan on Israel.)
But ultimately we don’t know for certain how a candidate will react under pressure in a foreign-policy crisis. Few expected that George W. Bush would become a wartime president. Jimmy Carter boasted Navy credentials but turned into a wet noodle in office. It’s perhaps the most important element in electing a president and the one which is arguably the toughest to assess. We’ll get at least some insight tonight.
Iran Policy: The Problem Is Obama
By Ed Lasky
Iran is well on its way to developing nuclear weapons. Years of sanctions have not stopped them, and now President Obama will not use his most effective tool short of acts of war.
The administration opposes new sanctions on Iran's Central Bank, despite the overwhelming support that measure (spearheaded by Illinois Republican Senator Mark Kirk) enjoys on both sides of the aisle in Congress. The administration says such a measure would lead to a spike in oil prices and harm the world economy. That is speculation.
What is not speculation is that sanctions on the Central Bank would impose crippling costs on a weak Iranian economy and be an effective measure to help dissuade Iran to end its nuclear weapons program. Iran's Central Bank plays a crucial role in Iran's economy. Sanctioning the Central Bank makes it difficult for companies to pay for oil purchases -- and oil sales represent 50-75 percent of the government budget.
Many Iranians are disgusted with the economic stewardship shown by the theocrats and terrorists running the nation. Any additional sanctions that are actually enforced would exacerbate the tensions within Iran and widen the schisms between merchants and mullahs.
Not only does the Obama team oppose this type of sanction, but they have inverted, twisted, and perverted the logic of its proponents.
In the past few days, a Treasury official, Adam Szubin, testified before Congress that sanctions on Iran's Central Bank would actually help Iran and therefore should not be passed. Huh? His reasoning is that it may lead to a spike in oil prices.
A milder version of an amendment promoted by Senator Robert Menendez (Democrat-New Jersey) would give Barack Obama broad waiver authority to give a pass to central banks of other nations that continue to do business with Iran's Central Bank.
This is a classic "national security" loophole that often allows presidents to blithely ignore the legislation Congress has passed. Of course, Barack Obama is wont to do this anyway, but the loophole allows him a fig leaf of legality. The stronger Kirk Amendment does not contain this broad waiver authority and would make it far tougher for President Obama to evade the intent of the law.
If the measure does pass with a national security waiver, no one can rest assured that the waiver will be used. The Obama team clearly did not want to cut off American money to UNESCO in the wake of its admission of the Palestinians as a member. However, the legislation governing this issue was passed years ago without the waiver loophole, so the administration was forced to stop funding UNESCO (it has subsequently tried to enlist businesses in trying to get Congress to eliminate the waiver, an effort that is dead on arrival).
Where is the logic, then, of the administration periodically trotting out the statement that "all options are on the table"? This is a codephrase for a military option. It is also used to try to garner support among supporters of Israel in America. It is a campaign slogan and political strategy; it is not a real threat, and the Iranians know this fact. Why some Americans are gullible enough to believe Obama's latest campaign slogan is the topic of another column.
If the White House will not impose legal sanctions on the Central Bank because of putative economic concerns, how likely is a military strike against nuclear installations? It has a zero likelihood of happening.
That is a certainty. The Iranians know this logic, know Obama will do nothing, and know they can act with impunity -- as they have for years, murdering our soldiers in Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Afghanistan. Most recently, they have stepped up their game and tried to bring terrorism to our nation's capital (plotting to murder the Saudi and Israel ambassadors and any innocent Americans who happened to be near them).
The Iranians can see the Obama administration's clear resistance to more potent sanctions. They can reasonably assume that stronger actions -- such as a military strike -- are definitely off the table. In fact, they were never on the table.
If Obama won't impose sanctions on Iran's Central Bank, he certainly won't order military strikes on nuclear installations.
Furthermore, President Obama said he wants a "common response" to Iran's nuclear program with Russia and China. Since Russia has dismissed the IAEA report as "biased and unprofessional," that common response would be the "lowest common denominator" response -- meaning little or no response. The best that can be hoped for is the steady drip, drip, drip of individual small companies or individuals being named as subject to sanctions. In other words, more of the same weak measures that have failed to work in the past and will fail to work now and in the future.
We periodically hear that President Obama signed the strongest Iran sanctions legislation of any U.S. president. Of course, the passage of that legislation took quite a long time to pass through Congress -- as it met resistance from certain quarters allied with Barack Obama.
Furthermore, legislation is merely a scrap of paper if the sanctions are not enforced by the Executive Branch. The Obama administration has been all but feckless in enforcing the existing sanctions on Iran. There are reasons why so many members on both sides of the aisle signed onto the Kyl-Menendez letter calling on the administration to actually enforce the legislation Congress already passed. A House letter (spearheaded by Illinois Congressman Dan Lipinski) also called on the Executive Branch to enforce the sanctions on Iran.
We have a president overseeing a policy that is bankrupt, feckless, weak, and immoral.
Meanwhile, the centrifuges are not the only things spinning these days...so is the Obama administration when it comes to Iran. Richard Grenell writes in the Wall Street Journal of "Obama's Failing Diplomacy":
On Nov. 13, President Obama made some remarkable statements. "When I came into office," he said at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in Honolulu, "the world was divided and Iran was unified around its nuclear program." Now, he said, "the world is united and Iran is isolated. And because of our diplomacy and our efforts, we have, by far, the strongest sanctions on Iran that we've ever seen." Mr. Obama added, "China and Russia were critical to making that happen. Had they not been willing to support those efforts in the United Nations, we would not be able to see the kind of progress that we've made."
This was pure spin. The United Nations Security Council actually began instituting resolutions and sanctions in 2006, agreed to and voted on by all 15 members, that called upon Iran to stop enriching uranium.
In its nearly three years in office, the Obama administration has helped pass just one of those resolutions -- in June 2009. Only 12 of the 15 members of the Security Council voted in favor of it. Brazil, Turkey and Lebanon did not.
The simple fact is that the world is less unified on Iran now than it was under President George W. Bush. True enough, Mr. Obama may hear fewer complaints about hard-charging U.S. foreign policies than his predecessor. But silence is not cooperation.
The Bush administration got five Security Council resolutions passed on Iran starting in 2006. Three were sanctions resolutions. The Security Council was unanimous on two of the votes and lost only one country's support (Indonesia) in the third vote in 2008. In total, the Bush team lost the support of one country in its three sanctions resolutions while the Obama team lost the support of three countries in one resolution.
Ultimately, President Bush got five Security Council resolutions passed on Iran, and Obama has had one. Granted, Bush's were done over a two-term period, but the threat is even more critical now, and certainly more actions at the Security Council could have been taken had there been the will in the White House.
Lest we forget, the mullahs loathe America as much as they hate Israel and have boasted of their desire to destroy the United States. They are possessed of an apocalyptic vision that nuclear war will bring about the return of the "Twelfth Imam" and millennial bliss (for those few left).
The problem is that there is no will to stop them. The problem is Obama.