In U.S., Obama's remark on 'noise' surrounding Iran issue draws Republican ire
House Republicans, Romney supporters say U.S. president fails to recognize the nuclear threat; White House: Obama's objective is to enhance Israel's security.
Heading to New York to attend the United Nations General Assembly, President Barack Obama will attempt to "block out any noise" aimed to influence his decisions concerning Iran. However, with only six weeks to the U.S. presidential elections, Republicans will try and remind him this quote.
In an interview on Sunday to CBS' 60 minutes, Obama yet again rejected Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's demand that the U.S. would draw "red lines," if crossed would bring about an American strike on Iran's nuclear facilities. "When it comes to our national security decisions," Obama said, "any pressure that I feel is simply to do what's right for the American people. And I am going to block out any noise that's out there."
Jewish Republicans were quick to slam the president over his remarks. Comparing Obama with the Republican candidate, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor described Mitt Romney as "a man who recognizes the importance of our alliance with Israel and the danger a nuclear Iran poses," while, he said, President Obama downplayed Israel's concern over Iran as "noise."
Continuing his attack, Cantor said "Obama's own State Department recognizes Iran as the world's most active state-sponsor of terrorism," adding that Iran's nuclear program not only poses a threat to Israel, but also to the U.S.
In a news conference set up by Mitt Romney's campaign, Cantor referred to Obama's interview as "continued pattern of throwing Israel under the bus."
"The president last night made some comments that were very concerning as for our position on Middle East. We all look at unfolding news coming out of the region. The president indicated Israel was somehow one of our closest allies - that took me off guard because most Americans undoubtedly see Israel as our best ally in the region. It struck me as very very concerning about President's attitude to Israel given his past remarks on Israel. There is a continued pattern of throwing Israel under the bus," Cantor said.
Obama "has fallen short" of "standing with our most loyal democratic ally," said House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. Republican Jewish Coalition Executive Director Matt Brooks stated that Israel's "urgent and well-founded concerns" over Iran's nuclear program "are not 'noise.' Brooks added that by dismissing those concerns as mere noise, "President Obama yet again displays his Jimmy Carter-like naiveté when it comes to U.S. foreign policy."
Another remark that caught the attention of Obama critics was when the president referred to Israel as "one of our closest allies in the region," what was soon interpreted as downgrading the relations between the two states.
Engaging with damage control, White House Spokesman Jay Carney stated that "the President was making clear that his commitment and this country's commitment to Israel and Israel's security is as strong as ever, and unbreakable in nature."
"There's obviously a lot of noise around this issue," Carney answered the critics, "His point was clearly that his objective is to take every step possible to enhance Israel's security as part of our strong relationship with Israel." Describing the relations between the two countries, Carney spoke of an "unprecedented level of cooperation" on matters of defense and security. "That's a fact testified to not just by the president and representatives of his," he said, "but by the defense minister of Israel, Ehud Barak, and others in the Israeli government."
Repeating the president's stance on Iran, Carney said that although running out, there is still time to seek a diplomatic solution before threatening Tehran with military action.
"President Ahmadinejad says foolish, offensive and sometimes unintelligible things with great regularity," Carney referred to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's interview to CNN on Monday. "What he should focus on is the failure of his government, of Iran, to abide by its international obligations, to abide by United Nations Security Council resolutions."
"And let me be very clear, as the president has been, Carney stated, "every option available, and that includes the military option, remains on the table when it comes to keeping the president's commitment to Iran not acquiring a nuclear weapon."