When he was with Mitt Romney in Jerusalem last month, top campaign foreign policy adviser Dan Senor made a splash by saying that a Romney administration would greenlight an Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities. Senor quickly clarified in a statement that it was Romney’s “fervent hope that diplomatic and economic measures” will curb Iran’s program. Today, Senor implied those measures weren’t having the right effects on Iran.
Speaking on right-wing radio host’s Bill Bennet’s show, Senor falsely claimed that the international sanctions regime against Iran wasn’t slowing its nuclear progress. He said:
The question is: Are [sanctions] having enough effect to actually slow down the path towards a nuclear weapons capability? And there’s no evidence that it is actually slowing them down.
Listen to a clip:
Senor claim echoes one made by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu when he appeared with Romney last month in Jerusalem. Netanyahu said, “[A]ll the sanctions and diplomacy so far have not set back the Iranian program by one iota.” Those statements are directly contradicted by the United Nations. A U.N. panel last year reported that the U.N. Security Council sanctions spearheaded by the Obama administration were “constraining Iran’s procurement of items related to prohibited nuclear and ballistic missile activity and thus slowing development of these programs.” A recent Pentagon report seemed to bolster this conclusion with regard to Iran’s missile capabilities. While it’s true that the pressure has not yet caused Iran to buckle, it’s simply not accurate to say the sanctions have not slowed Iran’s program.
As neoconservative analyst Patrick Clawson noted today, “[F]or the most part, Democrats and Republicans no longer show much difference when it comes to Iran policy.” That’s true — to an extent. The main difference is that the Romney camp uses a more belligerent tone, attempts to suppress public discourse about the possible consequences of a strike, and has a lower threshold for war. Senor expanded on the latter point on Bennet’s show, saying that a nuclear “capability” is “just as big a threat” as Iran developing a weapon. But that’s absurd: no one would fear a dismantled gun as much as an assembled one. What’s more, it’s not exactly clear what “capability” means. Robert Wright noted that one could “define the term so broadly that Iran already has a ‘capability’,” leaving Americans guessing as to exactly when a Romney administration would opt to start a war with Iran.
President Obama considers a potential Iranian nuclear weapon a threat to both the security of the U.S. and its allies in the region, as well as the nuclear non-proliferation regime. And he’s vowed again and again to keep all options on the table to deal wtih it. U.S., U.N. and Israeli intelligence estimates give the West time to pursue a dual-track approach of building international pressure and using diplomacy to resolve the crisis. Questions about the efficacy and potential consequences of a strike have led U.S. officials to declare that diplomacy is the “best and most permanent way” to resolve the crisis.