Mitt Romney claimed on Wednesday night during the Republican presidential debate in Arizona that President Obama did not install stringent sanctions against Iran in an effort to derail its nuclear program, but top U.S. intelligence and defense officials disagree.
Obama “should have placed crippling sanctions against Iran. He did not,” Romney said during the CNN debate.
The Obama administration has already put in place the toughest sanctions ever imposed on the Iranian government, including new measures targeting, for the first time, Iran’s entire financial system. Obama on New Year's Eve also signed into law a raft of tough new sanctions that would penalize any foreign financial institution that does business with the Central Bank of Iran. As part of broader U.S.-led efforts to exert pressure on Iran, the European Union has agreed to ban new contracts to buy, transport or import Iranian crude oil.
Sanctions have been "biting much, much more literally in recent weeks than they have until this time," CIA Director David Petraeus recently told the Senate Intelligence Committee, noting that the Iranian rial has lost “considerable value.” The new sanctions, said Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, will have a deeper impact when they take full effect because the central bank handles the revenue for roughly 70 percent of oil sold by the National Iranian Oil Company.
Romney also said Obama has made it clear he opposes military action and "should have instead communicated to Iran that we are prepared, that we are considering military options. They're not just on the table."
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey warned that a military conflict with Iran could be destabilizing for the region and have potentially severe economic ramifications for the U.S. "It's premature to be deciding that the economic and diplomatic approach is inadequate," Dempsey told National Journal. Even so, Dempsey stressed that he and the military supported the administration's determination to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon by any means necessary. He said the U.S. was increasing the pressure on Iran while making preparations — if there was no other option — for a possible military incursion into the country.