A top US Republican lawmaker on Tuesday made a sweeping election-year attack on President Barack Obama's foreign policy, blasting a landmark nuclear cuts treaty with Russia and efforts to engage Iran.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton addresses the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) conference at United Nations headquarters, Monday, May 3, 2010
With six months before November mid-term elections, Representative Eric Cantor urged US voters to back Republicans at "a pivotal time for America to restore its credibility by pursuing peace through strength."
"That's why conservatives must win in 2010. And when we retake Congress we will stand with defense-minded Democrats to stop the hemorrhaging of America's defenses," said Cantor, the number two House of Representatives Republican.
Cantor delivered the broadside in remarks prepared for delivery to the conservative Heritage Foundation think thank in Washington. AFP obtained excerpts of the speech.
The Virginia lawmaker vowed that "a Republican Congress will turn back harmful treaties like START," which Obama signed in April and now faces a ratification test in the sharply divided US Senate.
Cantor praised Obama for not seeking an immediate withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan and for "behind the scenes" victories against Al-Qaeda, notably through strikes by unmanned drones in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
But he sharply assailed Obama's efforts to polish the US image in the Muslim world, tarnished under predecessor George W. Bush by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan amid a lack of progress in talks to end the Arab-Israeli conflict.
The lawmaker, the only Jewish Republican in the US Congress, said Obama should not "pick fights" with Israel -- a reference to spats over new settlement construction in Jerusalem -- and condemned outreach to Iran.
"What has engagement with Iran brought us?" he asked. "US calls for dialogue with the regime only strengthened Tehran's hand. It's no wonder Iran blithely continues to export terrorism and oppress its people with impunity."
Cantor, who said a similar approach with Syria had also failed, attacked Obama's June 2009 speech in Cairo to reset Washington's relationship with the Muslim world, saying: "What does America have to be sorry for?"
The lawmaker also assailed Obama's handling of terrorism, citing growing complacency amid "warning signs" in the failed attacks against a US-bound airliner on Christmas Day and in Times Square over the weekend.
Cantor complained that the public "goes on heightened alert" after such incidents for "hours and days rather than permanently" and that Obama aides "tend to give these warnings due attention only in limited spurts."
"As a result, America is at risk of slipping into the type of false sense of security which prevailed before that September morning," he said, referring to the September 11, 2001 attacks.