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Santorum targets Obama, Dempsey in AIPAC speech

Republican presidential candidate, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum speaks befoe the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), in Washington, March 6, 2012.
AP Photo/Charles Dharapak
(CBS News) - Rick Santorum railed on Tuesday against the actions of both President Obama and his top military advisers in handling the rising threat of a nuclear Iran as he addressed the powerful American Israel Public Affairs Committee in Washington.

The former Pennsylvania senator, who has a long history of working on Middle East issues from his days in Congress, decried what he sees as a "clear and unfortunate tragic disconnect" between the leaders of the U.S. and Israel on the urgency of the Iranian threat. The two countries have balanced the desire to destroy Iran's efforts to create a weapon and prevent a nuclear war in recent weeks.

Santorum pledged his administration would present an ultimatum to Iran to stop nuclear production and open its facilities up to U.S. and other inspectors, or else he would take action.

"These are irrational actors," he said of the Iranian leaders. "We need to put that ultimatum in place and we need to be prepared, if that ultimatum is not met, to engage Prime Minister [Binyamin] Netanyahu and the people of Israel in an effort to make sure that if they do not tear down those facilities we will tear down them," he sad, to applause from the audience.

In addition to accusing Obama of having "turned his back on the people of Israel," a frequent criticism on the campaign trail, Santorum suggested that the president and his advisers, including Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey, were not being honest with the American people about the nature of the threat.

"The fact that we have the chairman of the Joint Chiefs saying we're not sure yet that Iran is really going to pursue or has made the decision to develop a nuclear weapon just shows again the disconnect that they know we have, that the insincerity of our leaders in telling the truth to the American public about what is actually going on in the American public today," he said.

Drawing on a portion of his stump speech that demands increased domestic energy production, Santorum said the U.S. needs to open up additional supplies of oil and gas to reduce dependency on the Middle East - and that environmental activists stand in the way of that goal.

"I would encourage everyone here to begin to work with us to make sure that the radical environmental movement in this country does not stop the production of oil and gas in this country and pipelines that need to be built so we can become energy independent and not rely on the Middle East and bad actors for the supply of oil and gas for the world," he said.

(Watch Romney and Santorum use the same phrase at AIPAC.)

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    Rebecca Kaplan covers the 2012 presidential campaign for CBS News and National Journal.