Obama Vulnerable on Iran

Biden gaffe could be costly

AP Images
• October 19, 2012 9:51 am


The Obama administration’s policy toward Iran could present a good opportunity for Republican candidate Mitt Romney to score political points at next week’s foreign policy debate, Bloomberg’s Jeffrey Goldberg writes.

During his recent debate with Paul Ryan, Vice President Joe Biden "downplayed the importance of confronting Iran" over its nuclear ambitions, Goldberg writes. In doing so, he gave Romney an opening.

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?’

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. …

Biden said the U.S. would know if the Iranians had begun to manufacture a warhead. But the U.S. didn’t know its ambassador in Libya would be assassinated. It didn’t know that the World Trade Center would be attacked. American intelligence doesn’t know a lot of things. Such is the nature of intelligence. Biden’s sanguine approach to weaponization suggests either that he strayed far from Obama administration policy, or that the White House is more relaxed and confident about stopping Iran than it should be.