Pawlenty Blasts Obama on Iran

Former governor says we need to send ‘a different message’ to rogue state

Tim Pawlenty (AP)
August 29, 2012

"It’s time to begin to send a different message to" Iran regarding its disputed nuclear program, according to former Minnesota Governor and Romney campaign co-chair Tim Pawlenty.

This would include figuring out how to strike at Iran’s disbursed, protected, and well-hidden nuclear enrichment sites, Pawlenty said during a discussion sponsored by the Foreign Policy Initiative Wednesday evening.

"Obama was slow to make the ultimate commitment that they could never get a nuke weapon," Pawlenty said, explaining that the current administration has expressed "uncertainties that have given the world questions" about America’s commitment to ending Iran’s nuclear program.

Iranian officials do not take President Obama’s threat to use military force seriously, Pawlenty said, noting that serious public discussions of a U.S. strike could prove to the regime that America means business.

"I believe it would be in our best interest to do everything we can to make sure the Iranians believe we are not bluffing, that all of the options are credible options and under serious consideration," Pawlenty said. "Do the Iranian really believe [Obama] will use force against them?"

Repeated negotiations with Iran have failed because the Obama administration has no leverage, said Pawlenty. The former governor is rumored to be in line for a high-level position in a Romney administration, possibly even secretary of state.

"If you’re going to have a successful negotiation you better have some leverage," he said. "It does not appear to me they are taking the negotiations seriously and it doesn’t appear they are going well."

A Romney administration would decisively act to pressure Iran on its nuclear program within the first 30 to 90 days, Pawlenty said.

"As a starting point it’s important for all of us to recognize that there is evil in the world and ignoring it doesn’t make it go away," he explained. "It encourages it."

Obama has not credibly expressed his distaste with Iran’s threatening rhetoric towards Israel, Pawlenty added.

"When you hear evil and see evil it needs to be called out and addressed," he said. "What we do know is that we’ve had a president who had a moment in time" to support Iranian opposition force, but who "chose to remain silent and he remained silent in part to gain favor with the mullahs in Iran."

Pawlenty also slammed the White House for unfairly forcing Israel’s hand on negotiations with the Palestinians.

The declaration that Israel should revert to its 1967 borders as a basis for peace talks was a critical error, Pawlenty said.

"To say we’re going to have negotiations" based primarily on the 1967 borders is "a rhetorical break" with longstanding U.S. policy, Pawlenty said.

A Romney White House would not "make pronouncement in advance of the negotiations what Israel’s position should be," he said.

Obama’s policies have made Israeli leaders justifiably nervous, Pawlenty added.

"There is an uncertainty, a tension" among the Israeli public and its leaders, Pawlenty said, adding this feeling was "justified."

"We should be shoulder to shoulder with Israel," he added. "There should be no daylight."

On the broader foreign policy front, America has lost its standing in an increasingly dangerous world that craves a bold U.S. presence, Pawlenty said.

Many citizens across the globe "want the U.S. to lead and in many corners they’re disappointed in what they see as a lack of American leadership in many situations around the world," he explained. "They’re openly wondering" why the U.S. is not standing front and center.

American officials in attendance at the event gave Pawlenty high marks.

"Gov. Pawlenty was erudite, well-sourced, and inspiriting," said one senior GOP foreign policy adviser who attended the event. "It’s been a long time since I’ve been impressed by politicians on foreign policy but Tim Pawlenty knocked my socks off. He gets it and he would make an outstanding Secretary of State."