Jewish World Review Nov 16, 2011 / 19 Mar-Cheshvan, 5772
Romney talks Texas-tough on Iran
By Martin Schram
http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Massachusetts' Mitt Romney, ever adaptable and politically malleable, has adopted a Texas-style swagger in trying to out-tough-guy the GOP pack by promising there will never be a nuclear Iran during his presidency.
The Ivy Leaguish presidential co-frontrunner shifted into a Lone Star lingo of militaristic threats -- the stuff we are used to hearing from George W. Bush and Rick Perry -- in Saturday night's international policy debate in South Carolina. Complete with saying he'd order unilateral U.S. military action, if necessary, to make sure Iran never gets a nuclear bomb.
It turns out to be one of those strong-sounding, made-for-TV campaign moves that really don't stay strong for long. But it worked just fine for Romney in Saturday's debate which was the first devoted to foreign policy and national security issues -- because the two questioners, CBS News' Scott Pelley and National Journal's Major Garrett, missed a vital opportunity to delve deeper once the prospect of a new war effort surfaced.
It was a week in which the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency had just issued a report citing new evidence that Iran is indeed pursuing a nuclear weapon. And so Garrett asked businessman Herman Cain what he would do that the Obama administration is not doing "to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon." Cain talked only about things that are already being done -- and ruled out a military option.
Romney got to answer next. "This is, of course, President Obama's greatest failing, from a foreign policy standpoint," Romney began, "...and he did not do what was necessary to get Iran to be dissuaded from their nuclear folly." Romney said Obama "should have put in place crippling sanctions against Iran."
Actually, nonpartisan international policy experts say Obama's administration has clamped tough sanctions on Iran. At the Atlantic Council, the studiously nonpartisan organization that fosters transatlantic cooperation, senior fellow Barbara Slavin wrote in a recent article for Politico.com: "The sanctions have put so much pressure on the Iranian treasury that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad -- not known for admitting internal problems -- recently told Iranian parliament members, 'Our banks cannot make international transactions'."
Back at the debate, meanwhile, Romney ratcheted up his rhetoric and policy response: "Finally, the president should have built [a] credible threat of military action, and made it very clear that the United States of America is willing ... to take military action to keep Iran from having a nuclear weapon." Next came his Texas-style boast:
"Look, one thing you can know -- and that is if we re-elect Barack Obama, Iran will have a nuclear weapon. And if we elect Mitt Romney, if you'd like me as the next president, they will not have a nuclear weapon."
Unfortunately, the debate moderators, trapped in time-keeper mode, didn't ask Romney or any of the other candidates any of the crucial questions as to just what kind of military action could knock out Iran's nuclear capability.
And, importantly, they didn't follow up by asking about potential negative consequences that might be triggered by a U.S. or Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear efforts -- including a potential new era of Arab hostility against Israel.
Experts consider it far more difficult to end Iran's nuclear program today, where much work is scattered in various sites, some of them in deep underground hardened facilities, than it was in 1981 when Israel attacked one Iraqi nuclear reactor. Israel's retired Mossad intelligence agency chief Meir Dagan termed suggestions of an Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear sites "the stupidest thing I have ever heard of."
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich weighed in with a new tough-sounding pitch. He urged "maximum covert operations to block and disrupt the Iranian program -- including taking out their scientists, including breaking up their systems. All of it covertly, all of it deniable."
Actually, events such as that have occurred during the Obama years -- attributed to the CIA or Israelis, but of course never confirmed. A computer worm (called Stuxnet) greatly hampered Iran's nuclear efforts. And, as The Washington Post's excellent veteran correspondent Walter Pincus noted, a number of Iranian nuclear scientists have recently been killed or disappeared.
Political boasts about war threats in the nuclear age cannot be brushed aside as politics as usual. We must demand better -- from our candidates and those who cover them.
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