In a foreign policy speech delivered Monday at Virginia Military Institute (VMI), Governor Mitt Romney sounded, well, to be charitable, like a man in an echo chamber.
I will put the leaders of Iran on notice that the United States and our friends and allies will prevent them from acquiring nuclear weapons capability. I will not hesitate to impose new sanctions on Iran, and will tighten the sanctions we currently have.
I will restore the permanent presence of aircraft carrier task forces in both the eastern Mediterranean and the Gulf the region – and work with Israel to increase our military assistance and coordination. For the sake of peace, we must make clear to Iran through actions – not just words – that their nuclear pursuit will not be tolerated.
In an additional blow against Romney’s effort to build his foreign policy credentials, he was apparently unaware that a day after his speech, Ha’aretz, a leading Jerusalem newspaper, would report:
Iran has diverted much of its enriched uranium to scientific research, an aspect in the International Atomic Energy Agency’s latest report [to which] Israeli policy makers are giving greater emphasis . . . The new emphasis ostensibly justifies a delay in Israel’s timetable for possible military action against Iran’s nuclear program. That data was included in the IAEA’s August report; defense sources say additional information has been received that clarifies the report’s conclusions.
The key phrase in that statement is, “justifies a delay in Israel’s timetable for possible military action”. Were there no staffers on Romney’s team assigned to read IAEA reports? Was there no one in Jerusalem who could have alerted Romney what was about to be announced?
Why wasn’t Romney informed of what Ha’aretz planned for the Tuesday papers? The Romney-Netanyahu friendship began when they were young men working in Boston. It was no surprise that Netanyahu made what was essentially a pro-Romney television ad for the Romney Florida campaign. Florida is a swing state with a large Jewish voting population.
Romney staffers presumed, wrongly, many analysts felt, that Florida voters would respond positively to an implied Romney endorsement from Israel’s Prime Minister during the final weeks of a U.S. political campaign. Campaign veterans know that outside interference in U.S. politics is frowned on in most political and media circles.
It was also a major Romney stumble not to have known that Ha’aretz had been given information it would use the day after Romney’s VMI speech. A friend should not let another friend drive steeped in ignorance during the final weeks of a campaign, especially when that friend was trying to embellish his limited foreign policy credentials.
This was the information Ha’aretz was holding for its Tuesday paper, as Romney was delivering his speech:
The report, which the Israeli intelligence community considers highly reliable, states that on a number of occasions in the recent past, Iran has allocated uranium enriched to 20 percent for another purpose: the manufacture of fuel rods for a research reactor in Tehran, where isotopes can be manufactured for cancer treatment. This information was behind Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s statement during his UN speech last month that Israel was extending its deadline for international action on the Iranian nuclear program until the spring of 2013.
Uranium enriched to 20 percent could help make an atom bomb if it were further enriched to 93 percent. But the moment 20-percent enriched uranium is allocated for scientific purposes, it is difficult to put it back on a bomb-making track.
Senior Israeli defense officials told Haaretz that “Iran has moved the wall back by eight months at least,” and Israel’s latest position is a consequence of this action.
If Romney had possessed this behind-the-scenes data befoe delivering his speech, he might have at least been able to appear like he was in Israel’s loop. If the Mitt-Bibi special bond is a Romney plus, it did not show itself in Romney’s VMI speech.
Israel was “standing down” until after the November 6 election. Romney was left to saber rattle alone. Next time fellows, give a friend an early warning.
To be sure, Obama’s sanctions program against Iran, now that it has continued for so long, is, by any moral standard, both onerous and immoral. The ongoing sanctions against Iran meet the standard of “terrorist” action, as defined, cogently, by Guardian columnis Glen Greenwald:
If “terrorism” means the use of violence aimed at civilians in order to induce political change from their government, what is it called when intense economic suffering is imposed on a civilian population in order to induce political change from their government? Can those two tactics be morally distinguished?
Yes, to me, the U.S. sanctions policy against Iran’s public, matches Greenwald’s “terrorist” definition. It is, however, a policy that has worked, in own devilish, cruel, and immoral manner. It is a “successful” policy that should be terminated.
Don’t expect any termination recommendations Thursday night during the Paul Ryan-Joe Biden vice-presidential debate on the campus of Centre College, Kentucky.
The moderator for the only vice-presidential debate of the campaign will be Martha Raddatz, ABC’s chief foreign affairs correspondent. Unlike the first Obama-Romney debate, which was confined to domestic issues, the questions from Raddatz will cover both domestic and foreign policy issues.
Debate preparation has been intense for Paul Ryan and Joe Biden, each of whom has left the campaign to practice for Thursday night. Beginning Wednesday morning, thanks to an unexpected announcement Tuesday night from Jerusalem, both vice-presidential candidates will have a new topic to examine which relates to Iran and Israel-Palestine.
The new topic will involve U.S. domestic and foreign policy. Prime Minister Netanyahu has called for early Israeli national elections early in 2013.
Edmund Sanders, of the Los Angeles Times, has the story:
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Tuesday night that he is disbanding his right-wing government and calling for early elections, blaming a coalition deadlock over how to slash nearly $4 billion from next year’s budget. Speculation has been rife for months that Netanyahu’s inability to pass a 2013 budget would force him to dismantle what has been one of Israel’s longest-serving coalition governments.
Parliamentary elections, which were expected to take place in October 2013, will probably occur by February. Although most polls suggest Netanyahu and his Likud Party will remain in power, the makeup of his next coalition could change if the budget becomes the driving issue, analysts say.
Sanders also reports that potential opponents who might contest Netanyahu in the election, are already shifting their focus to politics:
Signs of impending elections were apparent in recent weeks as leading Cabinet members, including Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, began appearing to exert their independence and to distance themselves from Netanyahu’s policies, apparently in preparation for their own reelection campaigns.
Check out the Thursday night debate, which begins at 9 p.m. (EST). And watch Martha Raddatz, fresh from her own campaigns reporting on numerous foreign conflicts, as she demands that Vice President Biden and Congressman Ryan, adhere to the designated time limits and topics of the evening.
As Margo Channing famously said, “Fasten your seatbelt, it’s going to be a bumpy night”.
The photo above is from AFP (Agence France Presse ).