2008 Presidential Candidates’ Views on the Middle East
Romney told the audience they needed to challenge the Democrats by asking, “Will you act to stop a nuclear Iran?....Let me assure you of one thing: I will. It’s time to take [Iranian President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad at his genocidal word.” (Jerusalem Post, October 18, 2007)
Romney said as president, he would have had Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad indicted for inciting genocide when he spoke last month at the United Nations General Assembly. “I do not believe we are not able to deal with Iran militarily,” he said, adding that he would not use ground forces to attack Iran but would take advantage of “blockade, bombardment and surgical military strikes.” (Republican Jewish Coalition forum of GOP presidential candidates, JTA, October 16, 2007)
When asked whether he would get authorization from Congress before taking military action against Iran’s nuclear facilities, Romney said he would talk to attorneys, but “obviously the president of the United States has to do what's in the best interest of the United States to protect us against a potential threat.”
“As president I would not shrink from the use of military force when grave threats confront America. At the same time, when time and circumstances permit, I would indeed seek the involvement of Congress as required by law and the Constitution.”
Romney is also running a new ad that concludes: “We can and will stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.” (Jerusalem Post, October 14, 2007)
“You’re dealing with a nation that talks about genocide, that talks about Israel being a one-bomb state. It is unacceptable to the world for us to have a nuclear Iran and there’s no price of oil which would justify that outcome.” (September 6, 2007)
“It is time for the United Nations Security Council and all those who seek peace in the Middle East to unite to confront the dangerous regime in Iran. Iran is an intolerant, repressive regime that is developing nuclear weapons, supports terrorism and is located in a region that is vital to our national interests. I believe that radical Islamic jihadists and the spread of weapons of mass destruction represent the greatest threat to the world since the fall of the Soviet Union and, before that, Nazi Germany. That threat would take on an entirely new dimension if Iran were allowed to develop nuclear weapons.
In January, I called for action against the threat of Iran at the Herzliya Conference in Israel. Since then, Iran has done little to change its dangerous course. It has continued to operate its nuclear program in defiance of the United Nations Security Council. It has issued a new banknote that features a red nuclear symbol superimposed on the map of Iran.
On April 9th, Iran marked a new national holiday - “Nuclear Day.” Recently, the press reported Iranian President Ahmadinejad's statement that the countdown to Israel’s destruction had begun. Clearly, this is a regime that is unrelenting in its pursuit of nuclear weapons.
To aggressively combat Iran’s nuclear ambitions and exploit the regime’s vulnerabilities, I have outlined a five-pronged strategy:
First, we should tighten economic sanctions. Denying Iran access to the international banking system is crucial. The U.S. and Europe should ensure that Iran finds it very difficult to obtain credit and make purchases in foreign currencies. In addition, I have called for strategic divestment among state pension funds from companies that support the Iranian regime's dangerous actions.
Second, we should isolate Iran diplomatically. Of course, we keep communication channels open. Yet, we should work to unite our allies against Iran’s actions and America should take no actions that legitimize Iran's defiance of the world. As part of this effort, Iran's President Ahmadinejad should be indicted under the terms of the Genocide Convention for incitement to genocide. As Governor, when former Iranian President Mohammed Khatami was invited to speak at Harvard University, I denied him state police security for his visit. It is wrong to welcome a person with open arms who has preached the destruction of Israel, developed nuclear technology, jailed dissident students in his country and has praised Hezbollah.
Third, Arab states must join this effort to prevent a nuclear Iran. These states should support Iraq's government; turn down the temperature of the Arab-Israeli conflict; stop the financial and weapons flows to Hamas and Hezbollah; and tell the Palestinians to drop their terror campaign and recognize Israel’s right to exist.
Fourth, we must make it clear to the Iranian people that while nuclear capabilities may be a source of pride, it can also be a source of peril. The military option must remain on the table. The regime should know that if nuclear material from their nation falls into the hands of terrorists and is used, it would provoke a devastating response from the civilized world.
Fifth, our strategy must be integrated into a broader approach to the Muslim world. We must work with moderate Muslim communities and leaders to build a lasting Partnership for Prosperity and Progress - a global effort which would support progressive Muslim communities and leaders in every nation where radical Islam is battling modernity and moderation. This Partnership for Prosperity and Progress should help provide the tools and funding necessary for moderates to win the debate in their own societies. In the final analysis, only Muslims will be able to permanently defeat radical Islam. But we can and should support this effort.” (Statement to The Israel Project, July 19, 2007)
“While Iraq naturally commands a great deal of our nation's attention and resources, we must comprehend that the United States is engaged in a broader conflict with radical Islam that stretches beyond Iraq's borders. Radical Islam’s goal is to replace all moderate Islamic states with a worldwide caliphate and destroy the United States and Israel.
Whether or not the current “surge” in troop levels in Iraq succeeds, the United States and our allies need to be prepared to deal with a new generation of challenges that go far beyond any single nation or conflict. Among the gravest of these challenges is Iran’s relentless pursuit of nuclear weapons capabilities while spouting genocidal threats against Israel.
Only a strong America with a strong military can effectively confront such challenges. For this reason, I have proposed increasing our investment in national defense. The next president should commit to spending a minimum of four percent of GDP to keeping America strong.
Additionally, we need to strengthen old partnerships and alliances and inaugurate new ones to meet twenty-first-century challenges. The United States' strength is amplified when it is combined with the strength of other nations. Whether diplomatically, militarily, or economically, the United States is stronger when its friends stand alongside it. Together, a reinvigorated defense and revitalized alliances will ensure that the United States has the necessary capabilities to confront these challenges.
To aggressively combat Iran’s nuclear ambitions and exploit the regime's vulnerabilities, I have outlined a comprehensive strategy. Whatever the situation in Iraq may be, we should take these steps to confront Iran's nuclear ambitions.
The new generation of challenges we face may seem daunting. Yet confronting challenges has always made the United States stronger.
We are a unique nation, and there is no substitute for our leadership. The difficulties we face in Iraq should neither cause us to lose faith in the United States’ strength and role in the world nor blind us to the new challenges we face. Our future depends on our resolve to unite America and our allies to confront a new generation of global challenges.” (Jerusalem Post, June 21, 2007)
“In January, I had the good fortune of traveling to Israel, a beautiful, historic and diverse country with a people I respect and admire. America’s friendship with Israel is based on our common interests and common values.
Israel's democracy has flourished and its economy has prospered in spite of multiple wars it has had to fight and the diplomatic and economic isolation by most of its neighbors. Israel is a trusted friend and ally in an increasingly hostile region.
Israel stands on the front lines of the struggle against radical Islam's jihad, whose goals are not confined to the Middle East. Indeed, Jihadism’s goal of destroying Israel is coupled with its desire to overthrow modern Muslim nations and replace them with a caliphate, and to assault our security and our way of life on a global scale.
Among the many existential threats that Israel faces today, Iran poses the most serious. Iran's leaders are determined to destroy Israel, dominate the region, and spread the poison of fear and intolerance far beyond their borders.
I believe the United States, Europe and others can and should do more to exploit the vulnerabilities of Iran's regime. To this end, I have outlined a strategy consisting of economic sanctions, greater cooperation with modern Muslim states, a stronger military, and support for progressive Muslim communities and leaders.”
As President, I would put this strategy to work in defense of US interests, in defense of Israel and for the sake of peace and stability in the Middle East and beyond.
My administration would also remain focused on stopping the financial and weapons flows to Hamas and Hizbullah, insist that the Palestinians abandon terror and recognize Israel's right to exist, and actively work towards a two-state solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict where Israelis and Palestinians can each live in security and dignity.
As we approach the 40th anniversary of the Six Day War, these threats remind us once again that we must never take Israel's security for granted and that the price of freedom is perpetual vigilance.
As President, I will continue America's efforts to realize fully the vision articulated in the aftermath of Israel's victory in 1967 by that great solider and statesman, Yitzhak Rabin, for the right of the people of Israel to live in its own State free, independent, in peace and tranquility.” (Jerusalem Post, May 24, 2007)
“Khatami oversaw the torture and murder of Iranian students, journalists, and others who spoke out for freedom and democracy.” (September 9, 2006)
“My hope is that the United States will find and work with real voices of moderation inside Iran. But we will never make progress in the region if we deal with wolves in sheep's clothing.” (September 6, 2006)
Peace with the Palestinians:
Regarding the scheduled peace conference at Annapolis between Israelis and Palestinians. “How could you possibly have a peace conference at this stage?” he asked. “Who would you talk to?” (Republican Jewish Coalition forum of GOP presidential candidates, JTA, October 16, 2007)
“The real problem is that jihadists want to conquer the world.” (Republican Jewish Coalition forum of GOP presidential candidates, JTA, October 16, 2007)
The United States-Israel Relationship:
“State taxpayers should not be providing special treatment to an individual who supports violent jihad and the destruction of Israel.” (On Khatami's visit to the U.S., September 2006)
Foreign Policy Advisers:
In addition to each candidate’s personal views, another important aspect in evaluating candidates and their foreign policy agendas is to take a look at each candidate’s team of foreign policy and national security advisers. Below is a list of Governor Romney ’s foreign policy team:
David Aufhauser, former Treasury Department general counsel and now general counsel of USB investment bank, counter-terrorism policy advisory group
Jorge L. Arrizurieta, lobbyist and major Republican donor, Latin American policy advisory group
Former Rep. Cass Ballenger, R-N.C., onetime chairman of House International Relations Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, Latin American policy advisory group
J. (Joseph) Cofer Black, former CIA and State Department counterterrorism official and now vice chairman Blackwater USA, senior adviser on counterterrorism and national security
Ted Brennan, former aide to then-Reps. Cass Ballenger, R-N.C. and Henry Hyde, R-Ill., Latin American policy advisory group
Lt. Gen. John H. (“Soup”) Campbell, former vice director of Pentagon information systems and now a lobbyist for satellite communications, counter-terrorism policy advisory group
Alberto R. Cardenas, lobbyist and former chairman of the Florida Republican Party, Latin American policy advisory group
Robert Charles, former assistant secretary of state for international narcotics and law enforcement, Latin American policy advisory group
Samuel Cole, COO of BlueMountain Capital Management, counter-terrorism policy advisory group
Mark Falcoff, American Enterprise Institute Latin America scholar emeritus and onetime consultant to President Reagan’s Commission on Central America, Latin American policy advisory group
Rep. Pete Hoekstra, R-Mich., ranking Republican on House Intelligence Committee, intelligence adviser
Kent Lucken, foreign service veteran now an international private banker with Citigroup, counter-terrorism policy advisory group
John McClurg, formerly of the FBI computer investigations and critical infrastructure threat assessment center and now vice president Honeywell Global Security, counter-terrorism policy advisory group
Larry Mefford, former FBI agent and counterterrorism official, counter-terrorism policy advisory group
Amb. Tibor Nagy, Jr., career foreign service officer with ambassadorial tours in Ethiopia and Guinea, counter-terrorism policy advisory group
Amb. Roger Francisco Noriega, former assistant secretary for Western hemisphere affairs under George W. Bush and now a lobbyist, Latin American policy advisory group
Mitchell B. Reiss, former state department policy planning director, foreign policy adviser
V. Manuel Rocha, career foreign service officer and former ambassador to Bolivia, Latin American policy advisory group
Steven Schrage, former State Department international law specialist, foreign policy and trade director
Dan Senor, former Iraq Coalition Provisional Authority spokesman and now a lobbyist and Fox News contributor, sometimes foreign policy adviser
Jose S. Sorzano, Latin America aide to President Reagan and chairman of corporate consultant Austin Group, Latin American policy advisory group
Larry Storrs, former Latin America specialist at the Congressional Research Service, Latin American policy advisory group
Caleb (“Cal”) Temple, formerly with the Defense Intelligence Agency and now executive vice president of Total Intelligence Solutions, counter-terrorism policy advisory group
Former Rep. Vin Weber, R-Minn., lobbyist and chairman of the National Endowment for Democracy, policy chairman
Ed Worthington, FBI veteran, counter-terrorism policy advisory group
(List published in the Washington Post, October 2, 2007)
Source: Haaretz, The Jerusalem Post, JTA, The Washington Post