President Obama repeated the canard that President Ahmadinejad said he wants to see Israel “wiped off the map,” giving him a rationale to “maintain the pressure” (of sanctions) on Iran. “As long as I’m president of the United States, Iran will not get a nuclear weapon,” Obama said.
And his Republican challenger Mitt Romney reiterated his threat that if Iran attacks Israel while he is in the White House, the US will protect Israel “not just diplomatically…but militarily. That’s number one.”
In his bid to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, (which Iran denies to be seeking and nuclear inspectors cannot find) Obama said that when he took office, he organized “the strongest coalition and the strongest sanctions against Iran in history, and it is crippling their economy.”
“Their currency has dropped 80 percent. Their oil production has plunged to the lowest level since they were fighting a war with Iraq 20 years ago. So their economy is in shambles,” Obama said. He later added that “it turns out that the work involved in setting up these crippling sanctions is painstaking: it’s meticulous. We started from the day we got into office.”
Not to be seen as less hostile to Iran, Romney rejoined that “crippling sanctions are something I’d called for five years ago when I was in Israel…” He added that he would “tighten sanctions” so that “ships that carry Iranian oil can’t come into our ports” and that would apply to firms that do business with Iran and their personnel.
What’s more, Romney added, he’d “make sure that Ahmadinejad is indicted under the Genocide Convention” as “his words amount to genocide” and that Iran diplomats “are treated like the pariah they are around the world, the same way we treated the apartheid diplomats of South Africa.”
Besides distorting what Ahmadinejad actually said, Governor Romney overlooked the fact that the white South African government was persecuting its black population while Iran has not persecuted any Israelis.
President Obama conceded that “there are inspections (of Iran’s nuclear facilities) that are very intrusive” but that Iran has not convinced “the international community they are not pursuing a nuclear program” (bomb).”
Thus, Obama raised the question of why the US has taken a hard line towards Iran when inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency have not found what one IAEA Director called even “a shred of evidence” that Iran is developing a bomb (Iran states its nuclear program is for peaceful uses only and that it has the same right to pursue that as any other nation).
Obama attacked Romney by pointing out that while he (Obama) had “put in the toughest, most crippling sanctions ever…you were still invested in a Chinese state oil company that was doing business with the Iranian oil sector.”
He went on to say that, he, too, “will stand with Israel if they are attacked,” adding that this is the reason “we have created the strongest military and intelligence cooperation between our two countries in history. In fact, this week we’ll be carrying out the largest military exercise with Israel in history, this very week.”
Both candidates pledged to keep their country the world’s foremost military power, which, given America’s many foreign wars in the last half century, casts a shadow over Iran, the Middle East, and China as well. “America is a Pacific power,” Obama said, “we are going to have a presence there.”
Repeatedly in the course of the 90-minute discussion, Obama flattened his Republican opponent by reiterating his “accomplishments,” including how he has hiked Pentagon spending. When Romney called for strengthening the military, “Keep in mind,” Obama replied, “that our military spending has gone up every single year that I’ve been in office. We spend more on our military than the next 10 countries combined—China, Russia, France, the United Kingdom, you name it.”
And when Romney complained that the US navy “only” has 285 ships, fewer than in 1917, Obama retorted that “we also have fewer horses and bayonets because the nature of our military’s changed,” drawing laughter from the audience.
Historians may look back on the debate as characterized by a high level of grandiosity on the part of the contestants. Governor Romney said his policy in the Middle East would be for America “to help these nations create civil societies,” as if his own “civil society” did not have 2.3-million prisoners overflowing its jails. Romney also said he wanted to “help the Middle East reject the kind of terrorism we’re seeing and the rising tide of tumult and confusion.”
Neither he nor President Obama, of course, included among terror devices the Pentagon’s use of drone weapons that are spreading terror in Pakistan and elsewhere.
“We want people to be able to enjoy their lives and know they’re going to have a bright and prosperous future and not be at war,” Romney said. “And the mantle of leadership for promoting the principles of peace has fallen to America. We didn’t ask for it, but it’s an honor that we have it.”
The “mantle of leadership” crack may remind future historians as nothing so much as the 19th Century shibboleth about America’s “manifest destiny” when it first began to turn its covetous eyes on the rest of the world, including its neighbor, Mexico, and afterwards upon the Spanish Empire.
President Obama hardly was less self-deluding. Speaking of the Middle East, he said, “We’ve created partnerships throughout the region to deal with extremism—in Somalia, in Yemen, in Pakistan. And what we’ve also done is engaging these governments in the kind of reforms that are actually going to make a difference in people’s lives day to day, to make sure that their governments aren’t corrupt, to make sure that they are treating women with the kind of respect and dignity that every nation that succeeds has shown, and to make sure that they’ve got a free market system that works.”
As for the blessings, America has brought to the Middle East one wonders how Mr. Obama failed to include Iraq in his list of countries? As for his “partnership” with Pakistan, one wonders why the president doesn’t listen to his “partner’s” pleas to stop his bloody drone attacks?
I wish there was better news coming out of last night’s debate. But as long as the Middle East contains the largest oil deposits in the world, it is in imminent danger of US aggression, and Iran looks very much to be the next target.