Jeffrey Goldberg, a national correspondent for the Atlantic, advises Romney to seize the opportunity to hammer Obama on his foreign policy record and Biden’s recent remarks on Iran, in order to score a win in the 3rd and final presidential debate, which will focus entirely on foreign policy issues. While foreign policy is not Romney’s strongest suit, Obama’s record provides Romney a grand opportunity to go on offense against the President, as he did so effectively in the first 2 debates. He Wrties:
On the Middle East peace process, Obama’s missteps have alienated both the Israeli and Palestinian leaders, which is no mean feat. American allies in the Persian Gulf have made clear that they don’t trust Obama to stand up to Iran, which threatens them as much as it threatens Israel.
The revolutions of the Arab Spring have resulted in the empowerment of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, and the rise of Salafism, a more extreme brand of political Islam, across the Muslim world. Arab liberals, who drove the revolutions, feel abandoned by the U.S. Pakistan, a putative ally in the war on terrorism, continues to pursue policies that lead directly to the deaths of American soldiers. It is fairly clear to anyone watching Afghanistan that the Taliban may one day rule the country again. And the drone war against terrorist targets, for which Obama gets credit, could eventually lead to devastating blowback, especially if more civilians are killed.
On Syria, Obama’s passivity borders on the inexplicable. He intervened in Libya, for humanitarian reasons. But Syria is a far more serious humanitarian emergency — an estimated 30,000 people have been killed so far — and it presents an acute national-security challenge that Libya didn’t. Playing the role of bystander, as Obama is doing, means the U.S. is completely disengaged from the effort to shape the next Syrian government, which could be dominated by Salafists. This would have terrible consequences for Israel, as well as Jordan, the best friend the U.S. has in the Arab world. A total collapse of Syria would be disastrous for the whole region.
Romney was handed an additional gift last week by Vice President Joe Biden by downplaying the importance of confronting Iran. Biden said that when Ryan “talks about fissile material, they have to take this highly enriched uranium, get it from 20 percent up. Then they have to be able to have something to put it in. There is no weapon that the Iranians have at this point. Both the Israelis and we know — we’ll know if they start the process of building a weapon. So all this bluster I keep hearing, all this loose talk — what are they talking about?”
A Dramatic Deviation
Biden’s statement represents a mostly unnoticed, but dramatic, deviation from the administration’s line on Iran. It was also technically inaccurate.
A country must do three things to have a deliverable nuclear weapon: Enrich uranium; design and make a warhead; and build a delivery system. The Iranians are already enriching uranium, and are moving their centrifuges underground. They already have ballistic missiles. They could design and manufacture a warhead in as little as six months.
Obama’s record in the greater Middle East had already provided Romney with ample opportunities in the next debate on Oct. 22. Biden just gave him another.