Bomb Iran? Where Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum stand.
The two strongest Republican candidates to emerge from the Iowa caucuses, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum, both are open to bombing Iran's nuclear weapons program.
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Why Iran? Because both former Gov. Romney and former Sen. Santorum are hard critics of the Obama administration’s handling of the country that Romney sees as America’s largest threat. Both men have said they would bomb Iran if that country developed nuclear weapons. Both believe that Obama’s efforts to negotiate with Iran sends a signal of weakness. And if one of these men emerges as the Republican candidate to go up against Obama, the Republican party will attempt to play to what it regards as its strength – security and foreign policy – and the rhetoric against Iran is only likely to grow sharper. (Editor's note: An earlier version of this story misstated that Iran had a declared nuclear weapons program.)
Obama’s approach to Iran, of course, is shaped by his campaign promise to abandon the unilateralism of the Bush administration, and to work closely with America’s allies to deal with mutual threats, using methods short of war. While the US took the lead in dealing with supposed threats in Iraq – launching the war promising to go after Saddam Hussein’s alleged “weapons of mass destruction” – Europe has taken the lead in dealing with Iran through “critical dialogue” and reminding Iran of its promises to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons.
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Most of the Republican candidates portray this carrot-and-stick approach as weakness, and call for military options.
To be sure, Texas Rep. Ron Paul's strong third place showing in Iowa showed there is some diversity of opinion among GOP voters. The Congressman argues for rolling back US military commitments around the globe and has warned about the costs of starting new conflicts, particularly with Iran. But Paul's views on Iran have prompted strong rebukes from other Republican candidates who hope to also use the issue against Obama.
Romney, who officially won the Iowa caucuses with a mere eight votes (with 30,015 votes against Santorum’s 30,007), has long been critical of Obama’s policy toward Iran, but since launching his presidential campaign, he has become a veritable hawk.
During the Iowa campaign, Romney called Obama's efforts against Iran a failure.
"I want to make sure that the people of this nation understand that he failed us not only here at home, he's failed us in dealing with the greatest threat we face, which comes from Iran.”
During his first run for the presidency, in 2007, Romney managed to make the bombing of Iran sound like a somewhat middle-of-the road option.
“I don’t anticipate that the kind of strategy we would pursue would be a ground-intensive, change-the-regime, change-the-government type of effort. I think it’s more likely that other military actions would be in the nature of blockade or a bombardment or surgical strikes of one kind or another.”
More recently, in debates, he has called on Obama “to impose crippling economic sanctions on the Iranian regime, support the Iranian dissidents, and convey through actions – not just words – that the military option is very real and very credible.”