Photo: AFP
Biden and Ryan
Photo: AFP

VP debate: Nuclear Iran worse than Mideast war

Vice presidential debate delves into Iranian issue: Democrat, Republican candidates agree Tehran's nuclear ambitions must be curbed but lock horns over effectiveness of sanctions, possible strike

WASHINGTON – All eyes were on Danville, Kentucky, Thursday, as Vice President Joe Biden and Paul Ryan – Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's running mate, faced off in one of the most anticipated vice presidential debates in years.


The debate focused on foreign and domestic policy, and was divided into nine time segments of approximately 10 minutes each.


Related stories:


The two's moderator was ABC News' chief foreign correspondent Martha Raddatz. 


Debating the Iranian threat


Both candidates were soon presented with a question about Iran.


Both the Democrats and the Republicans have vowed to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons, but the candidates locked horns over the effectiveness of the sanctions and the possibility of a strike on Iran's nuclear facilities.


"These are the most crippling sanctions in the history of sanctions," Biden said, adding that if there comes a time when the US must take military action, "We feel confident we could deal a serious blow to the Iranians.


"The Israel and US intelligence communities are in the same place on how close the Iranians are to getting a nuclear weapon – and they are a long way away," the VP stressed.


  • For full coverage of the US elections click here


"Iran does not have a nuclear weapon at this point. The Israelis and us, we'll know if they start building a weapon. We will not let them acquire a nuclear weapon, period. If we ever have to take action, we will have the world behind us – and that matters," he said.


Biden stressed the close ties and cooperation between Israel and the US in regards to Iran, saying that both he and Obama are in regular contact with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.


"Let's all calm down – Iran is totally isolated," Biden said, adding that the sanctions are crippling the Iranian economy and its regime.


Head to head. Biden and Ryan (Photo: AP)


Ryan agreed that the United States "cannot allow Iran to get nuclear weapon capability," but leveled criticism at the Obama administration for "sending mixed signals" to Iran and "watering down the sanctions."


Ryan accused the Obama administration of projecting an image of American weakness to the world.


"Iran is brazen… they are now four years closer to nuclear capability because the administration has watered down the sanctions," he said.


'Big nations don't bluff'

Statements by Washington officials warning against a strike only serve to inspire the Iranians, Ryan said: "The ayatollahs sees the administration trying to water down sanctions… they hear such statements and they are encouraged by the daylight placed between Israel and US."


Asked what is worse – war in the Middle East or a nuclear Iran, Ryan warned that a nuclear Iran would spiral the Middle East into a nuclear arms race. "War should always be the last resort," Biden agreed. "The sanctions are working – big nations don't bluff and this president doesn't bluff."


Moderator Martha Raddatz asked, naturally, about the attack in Libya, which left US Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other US diplomats dead; asking whether it was not the result of a "massive intelligence failure."


Biden defended Obama's reaction to the attack saying that the president had made it clear that the US will track the perpetrators down and make sure justice is done.


"If you do harm to America we will track you to the gates of hell… but the last thing we need now is another war," he said.


"I can make absolutely two commitments to you and all of the American people tonight: One, we will find and bring to justice the men who did this; and secondly, we will get to the bottom of it, and whatever – wherever the facts lead us, wherever they lead us, we will make clear to the American public, because whatever mistakes were made will not be made again."


Arguing over Libya and Terrorism


Ryan immediately slammed the Obama administration’s initial unwillingness to call the attack an act of terror, instead pointing to protests over an anti-Muslim film that was made in the United States.


"Look, if we are hit by terrorists, we're going to call it for what it is, a terrorist attack,” Ryan said. The Democrats, he said, "First blamed the YouTube video; now they're trying to blame the Romney-Ryan ticket for making this an issue."


'Syria, Libya not the same'

Raddatz then asked why the situation in Syria has yet to warrant US intervention.


"The last thing America needs is to get into another ground war in the Middle East," Biden said firmly. He warned the situation in Syria was highly volatile and that if it was ill-managed the entire Middle East could ignite.


"The US is working hand-in-glove with allies in the region to ensure there's a legitimate government when Bashar Assad goes – and he will go," he said.


Ryan stressed that "Nobody is proposing to send American troops to Syria." However, the Republicans  wouldn’t refer to Assad as a reformer when he’s slaughtered tens of thousands of his own people. A Romney administration wouldn’t be outsourcing foreign policy to the UN," he stated.


Last week's presidential debate – the first of three – was the game-changer the Republicans were hoping for. US President Barack Obama's performance was widely criticized as insipid, giving Republican challenger Romney his first lead in the polls since the presidential race began. 


Given the upset in the polls, both the Democrats and the Republicans saw the presidential debate as a high-stakes game, as the Democrats needed Biden to perform damage control for Obama; while the Republicans expected Ryan to maximize the leverage achieved by Romney in Colorado. 


Obama and Romney will duke it out again on October 16, in Hempstead, New York, for their second presidential debate; and again, for the third time, on October 22, in Boca Raton, Florida.



  • Receive Ynetnews updates directly to your desktop


פרסום ראשון: 10.12.12, 02:12
 new comment
This will delete your current comment