President Barack Obama shakes hands with then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. (AP/Carolyn Kaster) (AP/Carolyn Kaster)
Barack Obama, Leon Panetta

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Former US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta’s public reversal of confidence in President Barack Obama’s commitment to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons “reveals how good Obama has become at the art of deception, even to members of his own cabinet,” the president of a pro-Israel think tank says.

Sarah N. Stern, founder of the Washington, DC-based Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET), made her comment in reference to remarks made by Panetta in a recent controversial New York Times Magazine article profiling Obama foreign policy adviser Ben Rhodes.

When asked whether, during his time as defense secretary, he believed Obama was serious about blocking Iran’s path to becoming a nuclear power, Panetta recalled, “And you know my view, talking with the president, was: If brought to the point where we had evidence that they’re [Iran] developing an atomic weapon, I think the president is serious that he is not going to allow that to happen.”

Asked by journalist David Samuels if that was still his view, Panetta responded, “Would I make that same assessment now? Probably not.”

The New York Times Magazine article caused an uproar among Washington media and policy experts after Rhodes boasted about how he and his team manipulated the public with “misleading or false” information to garner support for last July’s nuclear deal with Iran.

“The entire story, and particularly this quote, is an eye-opener as to what level the Obama White House would stoop to in order to secure the ‘foreign policy victory’ of an Iranian nuclear deal, with absolutely no thought about the critically serious repercussions of enabling the Iranian mullahs to obtain a nuclear weapon,” Stern said.

Moreover, Panetta’s comments highlight how the “Obama administration turned their one true, democratic, ally in the region, Israel, into the threat, and the Iranian mullahs, into a friend,” Stern said. “One has to bear in mind that the Iranian government is a theocracy which feels that the destruction of the infidels will bring the coming of ‘the 12th imam,’ and where each week after Friday prayers, the Iranians routinely chant, ‘Death to America’ and ‘Death to Israel.’”

Stern slammed members of the Obama administration for viewing the Iran deal as “little more than a political game to be won.” Referring to Rhodes’ having bragged of setting up self-serving “echo chambers” among young Washington reporters, Stern said, “The sheer flippant and cavalier nature of this entire exercise astounds me. Responsible foreign policy, particularly when dealing with rogue nations such as the Islamic Republic of Iran, means one has to examine the worst-case scenarios.”

“Niccolo Machiavelli is believed to have said, ‘Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.’ This administration holds our enemies close and throws our friends under the bus,” Stern said.

By: The Algemeiner