EDITORIAL: Iranian nukes and Jerusalem

Attack plans will deter the mullahs more than sanctions

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Despite recent tough talk coming from the White House regarding Iran, the Obama administration and the mullahs agree on one thing: Jerusalem is not the capital of Israel.

On Monday, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Mitt Romney’s statement that Jerusalem is the Jewish state’s capital was “a different position than this administration holds. It’s the view of this administration that the capital should be determined in final status negotiations between parties.” Though President Obama now fundamentally disagrees with Mr. Romney on the Jerusalem question, this was not always the case. When running for president in 2008, Mr. Obama declared, “Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided.” He quickly wimped out on that bold stand. Now the Obama administration will barely acknowledge Jerusalem exists and only uses the word “capital” in the context of dividing the city to give half to the Palestinians. Sometime between the campaign trail and the Oval Office, Mr. Obama’s position “evolved.”

On Tuesday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad responded to Mr. Romney’s comments regarding Jerusalem and the U.S. relationship with Israel. Without naming the presumptive Republican nominee, he declaimed those who would “kiss the foot” of Israel and make “concessions to get some pennies for [his] campaign.” Mr. Ahmadinejad also denounced the new round of economic sanctions Congress is considering as “ridiculous” and “political warfare.” House and Senate negotiators agree on language for the Iran Threat Reduction Act, which expands sanctions on Iran’s oil and financial sectors and extends penalties to third parties who assist Iran in evading punitive actions. A vote on the bill is expected as soon as Wednesday. Trying to get ahead of the sanctions curve, Mr. Obama signed a new executive order on Tuesday taking additional steps against Iran’s energy sector.

Speaking in Tunisia on Monday, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta acknowledged that economic sanctions have yet to dissuade Iran from its nuclear ambitions. He said the “results are not obvious at the moment,” but expressed hope that negotiations would lead Iran to “ultimately do what’s right in joining the international family.” The secretary reiterated that should negotiations fail, all options were on the table — and on Tuesday in Cairo, he rejected the idea that he was “discussing potential attack plans” during his Mideast sojourn. Instead, he said he was discussing “various contingencies and how we could respond.” That’s six of one, half a dozen of the other.

Mr. Romney has adopted a tougher line on Iran, or at least a blunter one. Critics pounced on his statements regarding Jerusalem and Iran as “gaffes,” but they were not mistakes, just different priorities. While the White House has sought to separate the two issues, Mr. Romney understands that they are necessarily linked because that is how Tehran views the world. The United States loses credibility with Iran on the nuclear issue when it caves to pressure on the peace process. Without facing a credible threat, Iran will not abandon its nuclear program. Whether Tehran will blink in the face of “various contingencies” remains to be seen, but presenting the mullahs with attack plans would get faster results.

The Washington Times

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