Tim Pawlenty Rails on Obama’s Middle East Policy

Category: Politics / Jun 28, 2011 2:24PM EDT
Republican presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty questioned U.S. President Barack Obama's handling of the Middle East peace process on Tuesday in a speech in New York on foreign policy. He also stated his standpoint on Syria and Iran, calling the governments of both countries enemies of the United States. Speaking at the Council of Foreign Relations, Pawlenty said that the regimes support each other, and in order to isolate Iran the United States must place more forceful sanctions against Syria. We also need to work with Turkey and the Arab nations, the Europeans to further isolate the regime (Syria) and we need to encourage opponents of the regime by making our position very clear, right now, Pawlenty said. Bashir al-Assad must go. When he does the mullahs of Iran will find themselves isolated and vulnerable. Syria is Iran's only Arab ally. If we peel that away I believe it will hasten the fall of the mullahs. And that is the ultimate goal that we must pursue, he continued. Pawlenty went on to blast the Obama administration's handling of the Middle East peace process. Obama said in a speech on May 20 that long-stalled peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians should start on the basis of Israel's 1967 borders, an assertion that infuriated Israeli leaders, exposed a rift between the two allies and raised further doubts about peace prospects. In a speech to Jewish donors last week, the President stressed close ties between the United States and the Jewish state, but also emphasizing that change in the Middle East will require a fresh look at the region. It breaks my heart that the president of this country, treats Israel, our great friend as a problem rather than as an ally. The President seems to genuinely believe the Israeli-Palestinian conflict lies at the heart of every problem in the Middle East. He said it in Cairo in 2009, and again this year. President Obama couldn't be more wrong, Pawlenty said. He thinks Israel is the problem and he thinks the answer is always more pressure on Israel. I reject that anti-Israel attitude I reject it because Israel is a close and reliable Democratic ally, and I reject it because I know the people of Israel want peace, he added. Pawlenty is battling to break out of the pack of Republican contenders for the party's 2012 presidential nomination, but was struck a blow this week when a Des Moines Register poll found he only had 6 percent support among Iowa Republicans. This was far behind rivals Mitt Romney and Michele Bachmann, who had 23 percent and 22 percent respectively.