Yesterday, commenting on an op-ed piece by Bill Keller, I generally agreed with the Times‘s former executive editor regarding the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran and expressed satisfaction that the Israeli government seemed to be getting the U.S. message regarding a possible military strike. Barely was the digital ink figuratively drying on those words when Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu sharply rebuked President Obama for refusing to establish a clear “red line” beyond which Iran could not go without suffering military action. Netanyahu was responding to a statement U.S. Secretary of State Clinton made over the weekend, saying the United States was setting no deadlines for military action. Netanyahu’s remarks resulted in a testy hour-long telephone conversation between him and Obama, and then some efforts on both sides to calm the troubled waters.
Netanyahu obviously has indeed got the message that the United States does not support a military strike, but just as obviously he is still not accepting that message and has not given up on efforts to sway the U.S. electorate in favor of his position, in the run-up to the U.S. presidential election. Candidate Romney, however, continues at this writing to resist the temptation to fully embrace the Israelii position. As the Wall Street Journal reports today, “Mr. Romney was silent on the [Iran nuclear] issue Tuesday. He spoke to the National Guard Association in Reno, Nev., but declined to sharply criticize the president on the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.”
At the same time, as the Journal continues, “Mr. Romney has assailed Mr. Obama both for pursuing diplomacy on Iran and for what Republicans say is inadequate support for Israel,” and his position on Iran could still sharpen or even take a nasty turn. Today, reacting to the murder of the U.S. ambassador to Libya, Romney said, “It’s disgraceful that the Obama administration’s first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks.”
Note: It appears now that Romney’s statement criticizing the Obama administration was made in a response to a statement by U.S. diplomats in Egypt before the murder of the three U.S. diplomats in Libya and not in response to those murders, contrary to what a number of newspaper reports seemed to suggest initially. Romney clarified the matter this morning and expressed solidarity with the Obama administration in grieving for the diplomats but stood by his criticism of what he called the administration’s mixed signals.