Entries in AIPAC (4)


Leon Panetta at AIPAC: US ‘Determined’ to Keep Iran Nuke-Free

DOD photo by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeele(WASHINGTON) -- Defense Secretary Leon Panetta spoke at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee on Tuesday and delivered the same message heard earlier this week: There’s no greater regional threat than a nuclear armed Iran, there is no policy of containment, and the U.S. is “determined to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.”

Panetta was the first defense secretary to speak before the group in 20 years, and his speech outlined his close relationship with Israeli leaders and the U.S. commitment to its ally.

“No greater threat exists to the security of Israel and to the entire region – and indeed the United States – than a nuclear armed Iran,” he said. “As President Obama made clear here on Sunday and as he has said consistently, the United States is determined to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.  Let me be clear – we do not have a policy of containment; we have a policy of preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.”

Panetta also noted the Obama administration’s pressure on Iran, which has led to “crippling sanctions and growing isolation.”  He said Iran faced a choice: “Either meet their international obligations and rejoin the community of nations, or violate their international obligations and face severe and growing consequences.”

The U.S. has made clear that it wants diplomacy to work, but “we will keep all options – including military action – on the table to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.” He described that as “a last alternative when all else fails, but make no mistake, we will act if we have to.”

Panetta said that as the president has made clear, the U.S. does not bluff.  He listed the surge of troops into Afghanistan, the Libyan bombing campaign, sending Navy ships through the Strait of Hormuz despite Iranian threats and the bin Laden raid as examples of how President Obama “has shown that we will do whatever is necessary to protect our people, our allies and our interests.”

The defense secretary closed by stressing that strong U.S.-Israeli cooperation is essential when it comes to dealing with Iran:

“I believe – I truly do – that we will succeed if the United States and Israel continue to work so closely together, and forge an international consensus to compel Tehran to change course.  That is my pledge, and that is the solemn and sacred pledge of the United States.  We are stronger when we act as one.  We are stronger when we work together to support a sovereign and secure Israel.  We are stronger when we both embrace our histories that pledge us to fight for what is right and for the dream of giving our children a better and more secure life.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Republicans Take Aim at Obama Over Iran

AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Contenders for the GOP nomination spent the morning of Super Tuesday breaking away from social issues and the economy to thwack President Obama on his approach to Israel and Iran, telling a Jewish audience that the president had abandoned Jerusalem.

“The current administration has distanced itself from Israel and visibly warmed to the Palestinian cause,” Mitt Romney, the current Republican front-runner, told the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

“As I’ve sat and watched this play out on the world stage, I have seen a president who has been reticent,” said Rick Santorum, the runner-up. “He says he has Israel’s back. From everything I’ve seen from the conduct of this administration, he has turned his back on the people of Israel.”

Foreign policy had been mostly sidelined in the Republican presidential contest as the candidates debated abortion, birth control, their ties to Washington, their roles at businesses and mortgage companies, and dozens of other matters.

But the candidates, who spoke Tuesday through video, found a sweet spot with foreign policy-focused Republicans on Iran, suggesting that Obama had nearly allowed the Islamic regime feared by many conservatives to get a nuclear weapon.

“This president not only dawdled in imposing crippling sanctions. He has opposed them,” Romney said in his speech on Tuesday.

The Obama administration has thrown a series of sanctions at Iran. In a defensive memo, the Obama campaign argued that the president’s measures aimed at Iran’s financial system were the most severe sanctions Iran has ever faced.

“Iranian leaders have had to publicly acknowledge that these sanctions have severely weakened their economy,” the document read.

The Democratic National Committee anticipated Romney’s claim to the pro-Israel lobby and prepared an online video that included clips of Obama telling AIPAC on Sunday that he, like Romney, would try to prevent Iran from going nuclear.

The Romney campaign challenged Obama’s account on sanctions, pointing to the administration’s opposition to legislation that eventually passed and sanctioned Iran’s bank and oil industries.

Santorum accused Obama of misleading the public on how serious a nuclear-armed Iran would be. He cited “the insincerity of our leaders in telling the truth to the American public about what is actually going on in the American public today.”

"If Iran doesn’t get rid of nuclear facilities, we will tear  them down ourselves,” Santorum said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Romney Accuses Obama of Dawdling with Iran Sanctions

Joe Raedle/Getty Images(COLUMBUS, Ohio) -- Addressing the American Israel Public Affairs Committee on Tuesday, Mitt Romney said the current administration had “dawdled” with sanctions, and that its “policy of procrastination toward Iran” would end if he defeats President Obama in November.

“Iran has long engaged in terrorism around the world,” Romney said, addressing the conference via satellite from Ohio, which is one of the 10 Super Tuesday states voting on Tuesday.  “The current administration has promoted a policy of engagement with Iran.  The president even offered to sit down with [Iranian President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad during his first year in office without preconditions."

“He was silent as Iranian dissidents took to the streets of Tehran, not wanting to disrupt the potential opportunity for dialogue with Iran’s tyrants,” said Romney, who frequently criticizes Obama’s handling of relationships with Iran on the campaign trail.  “This president not only dawdled in imposing crippling sanctions, he’s opposed them."

“Nuclear ambition is pursued by Iran to dominate, to subjugate, to obliterate.  A nuclear Iran is not only a problem for Israel, it’s a problem for America, and it’s a problem for the world,” said Romney.  “I will bring the current policy of procrastination toward Iran to an end. I will not delay imposing further crippling sanctions, I will not hesitate to fully implement the ones we already have.  I will make sure Iran knows of the very real peril that awaits if it becomes nuclear."

“As president, I will be ready to engage in diplomacy.  But I will be just as ready to engage our military might.  Israel will know that America stands at its side, in all conditions and in all consequence,” Romney continued.

“In a Romney administration, the world will know that the bond between Israel and America is unbreakable -- that our opposition to a nuclear Iran is absolute.  We must not allow Iran to have the bomb or the capacity to make a bomb.  Our enemies should never doubt our resolve, and our allies should never doubt our commitment,” he said.

The Obama re-election campaign circulated an “AIPAC Watch Guide”  just as Romney finished speaking, refuting several of Romney’s claims about Obama’s foreign policy.

In response to Romney’s main criticism -- that President Obama has not done enough to impose crippling sanctions on Iran -- the Obama campaign “truth team” wrote: "The truth is that President Obama has put in place the most severe sanctions Iran has ever faced, targeting Iran’s entire financial system.”

“With President Obama’s leadership, the U.S. gained the support of Russia, China and other nations to pass U.N. Security Council Resolution 1929, creating the most comprehensive international sanctions the Iranian regime has ever faced-and they’re working,” reads the guide.  “President Obama also worked with Congress to pass unilateral sanctions that make it harder for Iran to buy refined petroleum.  And in December 2011, he signed into law new sanctions targeting Iran’s Central Bank and its oil revenues.  Iranian leaders have had to publicly acknowledge that these sanctions have severely weakened their economy.”

The Obama campaign also said that the president did not sit “silent” during the period of upheaval in the streets of Tehran, as Romney suggested he did, but that “the truth is that President Obama 'strongly condemned' the 'unjust actions' of the Iranian government and said he was 'appalled and outraged by the threats, beatings, and imprisonments.'”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Give Diplomacy a Chance to Work in Iran, Obama Tells Israel

JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Speaking before the annual conference of the influential American Israel Public Affairs Committee on Sunday, President Obama rebuffed calls from the Israeli government and its supporters to more starkly warn Iran against building a nuclear weapon, instead urging them to allow time for diplomatic pressures to work.

The president also assailed “loose talk of war,” which he said only helped Iran.

“I firmly believe that an opportunity remains for diplomacy -- backed by pressure -- to succeed,” Obama said, adding that “the international community has a responsibility to use the time and space that exists.”

Detailing the various ways the sanctions programs have been effective in squeezing the Iranian regime, the president insisted that “the only way to truly solve this problem is for the Iranian government to make a decision to forsake nuclear weapons.  That’s what history tells us.”

Obama asked the audience to “remember the weightiness of these issues; the stakes involved for Israel, for America, and for the world.  Already, there is too much loose talk of war,” which he said only helped the Iranian government by driving up petroleum prices.

“Now is not the time for bluster,” he said.  “Now is the time to heed that timeless advice from Teddy Roosevelt: Speak softly, but carry a big stick.”

In a message more tailored for his domestic audience than the leaders of Israel sitting before him -- especially Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netahyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak -- Obama, who won the presidency promising to end the war in Iraq, noted his “deeply-held preference for peace over war.”

Referring to wounded U.S. troops back from Iraq and Afghanistan, he said it was “part of my solemn obligation to the American people, I only use force when the time and circumstances demand it.”

After asking for breathing room, Obama made remarks more along the lines of what Netanyahu may have hoped, noting that “Iran’s leaders should have no doubt about the resolve of the United States. … I have said that when it comes to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, I will take no options off the table, and I mean what I say.”

That includes all ways American power could be leveraged, he said: political, diplomatic, and economic efforts, “and, yes, a military effort to be prepared for any contingency.”

Speaking to a more international audience, Obama said, “Iran’s leaders should know that I do not have a policy of containment; I have a policy to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.”

The president pledged that he would “not hesitate to use force when it is necessary to defend the United States and its interests.”

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio