OKLAHOMA CITY -- Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum on Thursday accused President Barack Obama of actively seeking ways to allow Iran to gain a nuclear weapon and suggested that the administration had betrayed Israel by publicly disclosing what may be a plan to attack the Muslim nation.
Santorum drew connections between the administration's opposition to the Keystone pipeline project, which would bring oil from Canada to U.S. refineries, and American dependency on foreign oil and U.S.-Israel relations.
"We're throwing Israel under the bus because we know we're going to be dependent upon OPEC," Santorum said during a speech in Oklahoma City. "We're going to say, `Oh, Iran, we don't want you to get a nuclear weapon -- wink, wink, nod, nod -- go ahead, just give us your oil.' Folks, the president of the United States is selling the economic security of the United States down the river right now."
The U.S. doesn't purchase oil from Iran but its allies do. Pulling Iranian oil from the world market would wreak havoc on oil prices in the U.S. and elsewhere.
Choosing Iran over Israel
Santorum later told CNN that Obama's actions support the view that the president was choosing Iran over Israel. He accused Defense Secretary Leon Panetta of divulging sensitive information about Israel's plans to strike Iran and then invited scorn upon the Jewish state from the rest of the world.
Panetta is not on the record saying the U.S. has concluded that Israel plans to strike Iran. The Washington Post published a column last week saying that Panetta has concluded that an Israeli strike is likely before summer, but Panetta has declined to comment on that assertion.
Santorum told CNN: "The president fought tooth and nail against putting sanctions on Iran and only capitulated at the end. This is a president who is not standing by our allies, is trying to appease, trying to find a way to allow -- clearly to allow Iran to get this nuclear weapon. He's doing absolutely nothing in a consequential way to make sure that they do not get this weapon."
Iran has maintained that it is not seeking to build a nuclear weapon but refuses to capitulate to demands that it abandon controversial elements of its nuclear program. It argues that sanctions are a form of aggression.
Sanctions, Diplomacy: Cautious, Effective
The Obama administration has rejected Republican charges that it has been weak in its response to Iran and points to sanctions and diplomacy as a cautious but effective way of dealing with a situation that could upend oil markets and the world economy.
The Obama campaign responded to Santorum's remarks by reiterating its position that more pressure than ever has been placed on Iran and that the president has led the international effort to sanction Iran.
Obama said this week that Israel had not decided whether to launch a strike against Iran and that he hoped the nuclear standoff could be resolved through diplomacy. However, the president also said the U.S. has planned a range of options and was prepared to exercise them if necessary.
Economic coercion by the U.S. and its allies appears more likely than a military strike. Besides new U.S. sanctions on Iran's central bank, Europe has approved its first embargo against Iranian oil.
Santorum Addresses Earmarks
While campaigning in strongly conservative Oklahoma, Santorum defended himself against criticism from rival Mitt Romney over of his backing of home-state projects during his career in Congress, saying that some so-called earmarks were necessary for defense or health programs.
Romney has been challenging Santorum's commitment to fiscal discipline by pointing out that Santorum sought funding for home-state projects when he represented Pennsylvania in Congress. The former Massachusetts governor has stepped up his criticism of Santorum since the former senator's three-state sweep in Tuesday's nomination elections.
The taint of earmarks, or spending that lawmakers direct to favorite projects, still dogs candidates courting the fiscally conservative tea party movement. Santorum argued that earmarks were a legislative check on the executive branch.
"There are good earmarks and bad earmarks," he told reporters after a speech.
Santorum specifically defended targeted spending for the V-22 Osprey helicopter and a human tissue medical program in Pittsburgh. He declined to identify any earmarks he regretted.
Spent, Borrowed, Earmarked too Much
On Wednesday, Romney said Santorum and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich belong to a category of Republicans who "spent too much money, borrowed too much money, earmarked too much."
Santorum said Thursday that he fought to end earmarks amid concerns that lawmakers were abusing the practice. He tried to turn the issue back on Romney, who is having trouble winning over the conservative voters that Santorum, himself a conservative, is appealing to.
Santorum said Massachusetts benefited from earmarked money from Washington when Romney was governor.
"Gov. Romney's campaign has been about serially tearing down but not offering any kind of vision about what he wants to do for this country," Santorum said. "He's not going out and talking about his record as governor of Massachusetts. He hides from that record."
Romney, who had no public appearances Thursday, issued a statement urging Congress to ban earmarks permanently.
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