Yikes — this kind of puts a highly visible dent in Team Obama’s recently assertive arguments that Obama has been a perfect ally to Israel and that his and Mitt Romney’s policies and attitudes toward Israel are all but identical. As Jennifer Rubin writes, the Obama administration has one version of things:
The worst-kept secret in Washington is that the Obama administration never asked for and is indifferent if not hostile to the latest round of Iran sanctions. President Obama has claimed publicly to have put in place the toughest sanctions yet, but he hasn’t publicly or, according to congressional sources, privately tried to turn up the heat since he signed the Defense Authorization Act in December and the E.U. weighed in with its own sanctions. …
State is quite convinced the administration has already done enough. Vasquez asserts: “Together with our international coalition, we have put in place the strongest sanctions that the Iranian government has ever faced. Even the Iranian regime’s leadership has talked of the ‘crippling’ effect sanctions have had on the Iranian economy.” He goes so far as to claim, “These sanctions have slowed Iran’s nuclear efforts, and they are having a significant impact on its currency and economy, which has ground to a halt. We’ve expanded these sanctions to further target Iran’s banking and petroleum sectors, and we will continue to ratchet up this pressure if Iran continues to violate its international obligations.” But the administration isn’t ratcheting up the pressure by insisting that sanctions get to Obama’s desk. Moreover, the evidence is that Iran has accelerated progress on its nuclear program.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, however, has different ideas about the Obama administraiton’s effectiveness. Speaking alongside Mitt Romney earlier, via BuzzFeed:
“I think it’s important to do everything in our power to prevent the Ayatollahs from possessing that capability,” Netanyahu said. “We have to be honest and say that all the sanctions and diplomacy so far have not set back the Iranian program by one iota. And that’s why I believe that we need a strong and credible military threat coupled with the sanctions to have a chance to change that situation.”
Obama has been trying to prove that they can go tit for tat with Romney on Israel, but Netanyahu at least feels a little milquetoast about some of the Obama administration’s policies, it seems. Romney, meanwhile, spoke earlier today in Jerusalem, taking an aggressive stance and confirming that he would fully support Israel’s decision to make a unilateral military strike against Iran in order to prevent Tehran from obtaining nuclear capabilities:
Romney has said he has a “zero tolerance” policy toward Iran obtaining the capability to build a nuclear weapon. …
Democratic U.S. President Barack Obama has also affirmed the right of Israel to defend itself, but in contrast to Romney, Obama has warned of the consequences of an Israeli strike on Iran. …
“Make no mistake: the ayatollahs in Tehran are testing our moral defenses. They want to know who will object, and who will look the other way,” Romney plans to say later Sunday in a speech in Jerusalem. “My message to the people of Israel and the leaders of Iran is one and the same: I will not look away; and neither will my country.”
The Obama administration hasn’t ruled out the military option, but Obama has so far been relying on economic sanctions and diplomatic negotiations to discourage Iran from building a nuclear bomb.