Romney’s interference on Iran

U.S. Navy photo by Cmdr. Jane Campbell

Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee John Kerry has an op-ed in today’s Washington Post entitled Romney’s wrong-headed assertions about Iran. The piece is so… Amazing, one hardly knows where to begin.

Let’s start with the premise: Romney is “interfering.” Lest Senator Kerry forget, let us remind him that any citizen of the United States has the right to “interfere” as Romney has, on any question, be it Iran, Iraq, or the fecklessness of the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

From there, let’s move in order of Kerry’s arguments. He is cross that Romney did not support the New START treaty, which apparently separated the GOP frontrunner from—insert list of Republican members of the establishment here—and “a third of Senate Republicans.” So let’s get this straight: two thirds of the elected Senate Republicans agreed with Romney and disagreed with speech-giving, conference-going, establishmentarian one-percenters like Henry Kissinger and George H.W. Bush. Wow, shocking.

On to Iran. Apparently, “wise Republicans” are totally down with the president’s failed policy of engagement and sanctions. Suffice it to say that John Kerry’s acumen on the question of who is “wise” and who isn’t failed to persuade the American people to choose him over George W. Bush back in 2004, and he isn’t a heck of a lot more persuasive now.

Kerry adds that he “joins this debate now” because so much is at stake, oil prices are rising, and talk of war only helps Iran. First, let’s welcome Kerry to the debate. Because as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, dealing with arguably one of the greatest threats of recent years, where the stakes are, as he says, “deadly serious,” he’s been totally AWOL. Legislation on Iran? Thank Senators Mark Kirk and Bob Menendez. Vigilance in the face of the threat? Thank Senators McCain and Lieberman. Dogged commitment to the missile defense that could protect us and our allies? Thank Senator Jon Kyl. Kerry has been one of the least influential chairmen of the SFRC in many years; he’s angling for SecState, and even his efforts on that front have been, shall we say, lackluster.

Kerry derides Romney for calling for tighter sanctions, asking “what does he think we’ve been doing?” Well, I don’t know what the “we” in Kerry’s formulation has been doing; if it’s his committee, the answer is “squat.” If it’s Barack Obama, the answer is, ratcheting up sanctions more slowly than the Europeans, failing to implement Menendez-Kirk legislation that sanctions partners of the Central Bank of Iran, and in his first two years, wasting precious time hoping the Supreme Leader would take his calls and that Iran’s opposition Green Movement wouldn’t derail his engagement efforts.

Kerry is most troubled by Romney’s uppity efforts to insert himself into the Iran debate “because every word on this subject is scrutinized by our allies and our enemies.” Really, Senator? The same allies and enemies who read Obama’s SecDef Leon Panetta’s logorrheic interview with David Ignatius that predicted an Israel attack in “March, April or May?” The same ones who then heard Obama’s Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Dempsey describe Iran as a “rational actor” who has “not decided that they will embark on the [...] effort to weaponize their nuclear capability.” The same ones who heard Barack Obama himself announce he has “Israel’s back” only to refute himself two days later? He can’t be serious.

Apparently, Kerry wants Obama’s rivals for the presidency to act “like statesmen,” not candidates. Americans deserve it. Where the heck was that John Kerry over the eight years of the Bush administration? Pompous? Check. Interfering? Check. Undermining our soldiers and our commander in chief? Check.

Could Obama have picked a lousier shill to take on Mitt Romney than John Kerry? Could Kerry have marshaled a crappier set of arguments? No and no. Romney should write Kerry a thank you note for reminding the American people of their close shave in ’04, and what they should expect from the wannabe SecState in a second Obama term, should he get one. Sheesh.

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About the Author



  • As a long-time Senate Committee on Foreign Relation senior professional staff member for the Near East and South Asia, Danielle Pletka was the point person on Middle East, Pakistan, India and Afghanistan issues. As the vice president for foreign and defense policy studies at AEI, Pletka writes on national security matters with a focus on Iran and weapons proliferation, the Middle East, Syria, Israel and the Arab Spring. She also studies and writes about South Asia: Pakistan, India and Afghanistan.

    Pletka is the co-editor of “Dissent and Reform in the Arab World: Empowering Democrats” (AEI Press, 2008) and the co-author of “Containing and Deterring a Nuclear Iran” (AEI Press, 2011) and “Iranian influence in the Levant, Egypt, Iraq, and Afghanistan” (AEI Press, 2012). Her most recent study, “America vs. Iran: The competition for the future of the Middle East,” was published in January 2014.


    Follow Danielle Pletka on Twitter.

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