U.S. President Barack Obama on Sunday directly responded to Republican rival Mitt Romney’s charges that he has been weak on national defense and foreign policy, following attacks on U.S. diplomatic missions two weeks ago and his handling of Israel's struggles with the possibility of a nuclear-armed Iran.
Citing accomplishments such as ending the war in Iraq, killing al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden and scattering his terrorist network, Obama said he has made good on his foreign policy program.
“I’ve executed on my foreign policy, and it’s one that the American people largely agree with,” Obama said in a “60 Minute” interview. “So if Gov. Romney is suggesting that we start another war he should say so.”
Following the violent attack on U.S. diplomatic missions in Benghazi, Libya, which killed four people – including the U.S. ambassador to Libya -- Romney attacked Obama’s administration and accused it of failing to lead when met with the violence, which has now spread to other parts of the Middle East.
Obama called the deadly attacks “senseless violence” but stayed clear of any political mudslinging with his rival.
‘Wait For What? Wait Until When?’
In a separate interview on “60 Minutes,” which also aired Sunday, the GOP presidential nominee criticized Obama for failing to schedule a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a U.N. General Assembly meeting this week.
Romney said he thinks Obama’s decision is a big mistake, as Israel is America’s closest ally.
Israel has talked about using military force against Iran if the country doesn’t give up its nuclear ambitions, which Tehran says are peaceful but Israel fears will lead to nuclear weapons. The U.S. has repeatedly said it is not taking the military option off the table but is betting on more sanctions on Iran to get the country to renounce its nuclear plans.
An impatient Netanyahu has asked for more clarity from the U.S., including the definition of "red lines” that must not be crossed by Iran so as to prevent a war.
“The world tells Israel, ‘Wait. There’s still time,’” Netanyahu has said. “And I say, ‘Wait for what? Wait until when?’ Those in the international community who refuse to put red lines before Iran don’t have a moral right to place a red light before Israel.”
Obama said in the “60 Minutes” interview that he understands and shares the prime minister’s insistence that Iran should not have nuclear weapons. Obama said such weapons in the hands of the Iranians would not only threaten the U.S. but Israel and the world, kicking off a nuclear arms race.
“When it comes to our national security decisions, any pressure that I feel is simply to do what’s right for the American people,” he said. “I am going to block out any noise that’s out there.”
The president said he feels an obligation, but not pressure, to ensure close consultation with the Israelis on these issues.
“They are one of our closest allies in the region, and we’ve got an Iranian regime that has said horrible things that directly threaten Israel’s existence,” Obama said.
But that wasn’t enough for the Romney camp, which responded to Obama’s “60 Minutes” comments saying, “This is just the latest evidence of his chronic disregard for the security of our closest ally in the Middle East. Governor Romney’s views stand in sharp contrast to the president’s. Governor Romney strongly believes that Israel is our most important ally in the Middle East and that support for Israel is essential to extending freedom, peace and democracy throughout the region. As president, Governor Romney will restore and protect the close alliance between our nation and the state of Israel.”
Watch CBS' "60 Minutes" below: