In an opinion piece Sunday that offered a scathing critique of the Obama administration’s Middle East policy, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney slammed the US president for his lack of strategy in dealing with the Arab Spring and his deliberate policy of putting “daylight” between the US and Israel.
The op-ed, titled “A new course for the Middle East,” called for a “coherent policy” of supporting America’s allies in the region and setting clear limits for Iran.
Romney’s op-ed came out on the same day as an Associated Press analysis which estimated that Barack Obama is within reach of the 270 electoral votes he needs to win the presidency.
According to Romney, the Arab Spring presented an opportunity for the US to lead millions of people “from oppression to freedom.” But he implied that the opportunity was squandered “by a president who thinks that weakness will win favor with our adversaries.”
“We needed a strategy for success, but the president offered none. And now he seeks to downplay the significance of the calamities of the past few weeks,” he wrote, likely referring to a recent wave of anti-US protests throughout the world. Many of those protests have turned violent and dozens of people have been killed, including the US ambassador to Libya. The White House’s reluctance to describe the assault on the US Consulate in Benghazi as terrorism had drawn criticism from the Romney camp in late September.
“The same incomprehension afflicts the president’s policy toward Israel,” he wrote, adding that Obama began his presidency “with the explicit policy of creating ‘daylight’ between our two countries.”
Romney blamed the US president for downgrading American-Israeli relations, and for dismissing as “noise” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s calls for red lines on Iran’s nuclear program. On Thursday, in a speech to the United Nations complete with a visual aid cartoon bomb, Netanyahu again called for a red line to be set for Iran’s uranium enrichment process.
The US must restore its credibility with the Islamic Republic, the Republican contender wrote on Sunday. “When we say an Iranian nuclear-weapons capability — and the regional instability that comes with it — is unacceptable, the ayatollahs must be made to believe us.”
In charting out his plans for a policy shift, Romney stressed the need to strengthen current Israel-US relations, and to encourage “liberty and opportunity” for the people of the Middle East.