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(Adds comments on plans to send troops to Africa beginning in eighth paragraph.)
Oct. 16 (Bloomberg) -- Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a Republican presidential candidate, said President Barack Obama is “absolutely clueless” in his dealings with the Iranian government.
“Our goal should be the replacement of the Iranian dictatorship,” Gingrich said on CNN’s “State of the Union” program. “We have done nothing of consequence to systematically undermine the regime.”
Senator John McCain, the Arizona Republican who lost the 2008 presidential election to Democrat Obama, also criticized the administration’s handling of what McCain called “a rogue nation.”
The administration’s “engagement with Iran has clearly been a failure,” McCain said on CNN.
The U.S. has accused Iran of sponsoring a plot to murder Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the Washington, Adel Al-Jubeir. Two men were charged with conspiracy to kill the diplomat in a plot that U. S. Attorney General Eric Holder said was “directed and approved by elements of the Iranian government.”
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad rejected the claims in a Tehran meeting today. “Each day they try to campaign against Iran,” Ahmadinejad said, according to the official Islamic Republic News Agency.
Both Gingrich and McCain said Obama should have done more when students protested on the streets of Tehran in 2009. McCain called for “severe sanctions” and said the U.S. should engage in “covert activity” to undermine the current Iranian government.
Gingrich also criticized the president’s plan to send 100 troops to central Africa to help fight against Uganda’s renegade Lord’s Resistance Army. The troops are to “provide assistance to regional forces” and are not to directly engage with the forces unless necessary for self-defense.
Gingrich called the strategy “nonsensical” and said the administration needs “a grand strategy and a set of priorities.”
“If you can’t control the American border, why do you disperse our troops?” Gingrich said.
The White House was responding to 2010 legislation pushed by a group of lawmakers and human rights organizations that supported a comprehensive U.S. effort short of active military involvement to mitigate or eliminate the Lord’s Resistance Army threat.
The Lord’s Resistance Army is “one of the most horrible groups to inhabit the earth,” McCain said. Still, he said, “we’ve got to be very careful in how we engage.”
He also said Obama should have done more to notify Congress of his intentions.
--With assistance from Tony Capaccio in Washington. Editors: Ann Hughey, Kevin Costelloe
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