Iran’s nuclear program has been at the forefront of challenges faced by four U.S. administrations. The issue has been a major talking point for both major candidates of the 2012 presidential elections. Republican candidate, Mitt Romney criticizes President Obama as being too soft. But, the Obama Administration disputes that claim and says the international sanctions imposed and enforced on Iran were led by Washington.
Former Massachusetts Governor and Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, does not believe President Obama has done enough to stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.
“I think from the very beginning, one of the challenges we’ve had with Iran is that they have looked at this administration and felt that the administration was not as strong as it needed to be. I think they saw weakness where they had expected to find American strength," he said.
During the third and last debate, President Obama defended his performance.
“As long as I am the President of the United States, Iran will not get a nuclear weapon. I made that clear when I came into office. We then 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," he said.
Obama’s challenger believes there is more the U.S. should do.
“I’d take on diplomatic isolation efforts. I’d make sure that Ahmadinejad is indicted under the genocide convention. His words amount to genocide in citation. I would indict him for it. I would also make sure that their diplomats are treated like the pariah they are around the world," said Romney.
Governor Romney is referring to the remarks of Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has called for the destruction of Israel.
Both candidates believe that Iran’s nuclear program is a threat to U.S. national interests. Ari Ratner, a Principal at the Truman Project on National Security, says, by nature, American foreign policy is bipartisan, and preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons is a clear example.
“American National interests don’t change so much from one administration to another. A lot of this (Romney's critique of Obama) is bluster, desire to look tough," he said.
Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes and has no military component. But Yukiya Amano, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, United Nation’s nuclear watchdog, says the agency needs clarifications in 12 areas before it can confirm Iran’s claim.
While the American candidates spar over how to deal with Iran’s nuclear ambitions, Israel Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, is losing patience with Washington’s approach.
“These sanctions are hitting the Iran economy hard, they haven’t yet rolled back the Iranian ((nuclear)) program. We’ll know that they are achieving their goal when the centrifuges stop spinning and when the Iranian nuclear program is rolled back," he said.
The United States and its allies have rejected Netanyahu’s demand to set a red line for Iran’s nuclear program. But, at the UN General Assembly, Netanyahu did just that and has said his next course of action will be military strike against Iranian nuclear sites and facilities.
Iran has threatened to retaliate against any country’s attack. Mitt Romney is critical of the Obama administration for not clearly saying that Washington would back Israel if it was attacked.
But President Obama has made it clear that the U.S. will not abandon its long-time ally. "I will stand with Israel if they are attacked. And this is the reason why, working with Israel, we have created the strongest military and intelligence cooperation between our two countries in history," he said.
Speaking to the General Assembly last month, Obama told the world’s leaders that he remains committed to diplomatic, economic and political tools, but would explore what he called the full range of options if Tehran does not bend.