Candidates Squabble, But Fail to Differentiate Iran Policy

Biden and Ryan have the same policy: impose harsh sanctions as punishment for a weapons program that doesn't exist

by John Glaser, October 11, 2012

Vice President Joe Biden and Congressman Paul Ryan squabbled over Iran policy in the vice presidential debates on Thursday, but Ryan failed to articulate a policy different from the Obama administration’s approach.

Desperate to differentiate him and his running mate, Mitt Romney, from the hawkish Obama administration on Iran policy, Ryan argued the administration failed to pressure Iran away from nuclear enrichment early enough.

“When Barack Obama was elected, [Iran] had enough fissile material – nuclear material to make one bomb,” Ryan said. “Now they have enough for five. They’re racing toward a nuclear weapon.”

“It’s because this administration watered down sanctions, delayed sanctions, tried to stop us for putting the tough sanctions in place,” Ryan added.

The truth is that the Obama administration has imposed the harshest set of international sanctions Iran has ever faced, and it has begun to have dreadful effects on the Iranian economy, if not any effect on nuclear policy.

Biden was quick to point this out, bragging as a leader of the Democratic Party that his administration has heaped brutal economic warfare on the Iranian people, in a cruel form of collective punishment. “These are the most crippling sanctions in the history of sanctions, period,” he bragged emphatically.

Biden then pointed out that Romney-Ryan have not articulated a specific policy on Iran that differs from the Obama administration’s approach in substance.

“When Governor Romney’s asked about it,” Biden recalled, “he said, ‘We gotta keep these sanctions.’ When he said, ‘Well, you’re talking about doing more,’ what are you ….you’re going to go to war? Is that what you want to do?”

Ryan mostly smiled in response, unable to counter the Vice President’s charge that him and his running mate have articulated the exact same policy toward Iran as the Obama administration, and admitted it.

Contrary to Ryan’s attempt to paint an Iranian nuclear weapon as imminent, Biden corrected him, recalling the consensus in the intelligence community that, “There is no weapon that the Iranians have at this point.”

“We’ll know if they start the process of building a weapon,” Biden added. After Ryan initially claimed that Iran was “racing towards a nuclear weapon,” he admitted, when pressed, on the timeline for an Iranian bomb. “I agree that it’s probably longer,” he said.

The two candidates have been part of campaigns that are trying to differentiate the parties as two distinct choices with different plans. On Iran though, both candidates agreed that there is currently no Iranian nuclear weapon and that harsh, crippling economic sanctions are the right policy at present.

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