Joe Biden, Mitt Romney Campaign Spar on Iran, Syria

Sides swap criticism over handling of foreign policy.

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Vice President Joe Biden and campaign advisers for Mitt Romney went tit-for-tat on foreign policy positions on Thursday.

Biden, who served for years on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, delivered a speech at New York University aimed at touting President Obama's military and foreign policy successes and knocking the presumptive Republican presidential nominee's critiques.

"On this fundamental issue, the contrast between President Obama's record and Governor Romney's rhetoric could not be greater," said Biden in excerpts of the address sent to reporters. "If you are looking for a bumper sticker to sum up how President Obama has handled what we inherited, it's pretty simple--Osama bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive. Gov. Romney's national security policy would return us to the past we have worked so hard to move beyond."

[Read: Obama rolls out re-election campaign.]

But in a conference call with reporters on Thursday morning, Romney's team of foreign policy experts said Obama has failed to slow down Iran's quest for nuclear weapons and is acting too cautiously in intervening in Syria.

"We're very supportive of non-military tracks, but we believe that this Iranian leadership will only feel compelled to respond to them in a meaningful way if they believe the alternative is worse and the administration has gone out of its way to convey that the military option is not serious," said Dan Senor, a Romney foreign policy adviser.

Alex Wong, the campaign's foreign policy director, also went after the Obama administration for its role--or lack thereof--in the ongoing Syrian conflict.

[Check out U.S. News Weekly: an insider's guide to politics and policy.]

"On Syria, what we have seen is the Obama administration has been shamefully absent from this crisis. The situation is we have some 9,000 civilians who have been killed in Syria, this has been going on for a year," he said. "It's almost as if the Obama administration doesn't understand both the humanitarian cost as well as the strategic blow this would be to Iran, because Syria is Iran's Arab ally."

Biden argued that Romney's foreign policy proposals harken back to those of President George W. Bush's administration.

He said Romney would take the United States "back to a foreign policy that would have America go it alone, shout to the world you're either with us or against us, lash out first and ask the hard questions later, if at all, isolate America instead of our enemies, waste hundreds of billions of dollars and risk thousands of American lives on an unnecessary war and see the world through a Cold War prism that is totally out of touch with our times."

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Foreign policy will most certainly be a subject voters weigh when deciding which candidate to support in November, though polls show them much more focused on the economy. And though traditionally Republicans have been more trusted on the topic, Romney, who has no foreign policy experience, will have his work cut out for him convincing voters Obama is vulnerable on the issue.

Most Americans approve of the job Obama has done drawing down troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, wars he inherited, and give him credit for ordering the dangerous mission that killed bin Laden. The administration's support of a "lead from behind" strategy in Libya that resulted in the successful overthrow of a violent dictator without any American troops on the ground is also touted as a victory by many.

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  • Rebekah Metzler is a political writer for U.S. News & World Report. You can contact her at or follow her on Twitter.