Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney was set to deliver a scathing attack on President Barack Obama’s Middle East record in a speech Monday morning in the battleground state of Virginia, the Romney campaign said.

Under the likely headline, “Hope is not a strategy” – a dig at Obama’s 2008 election slogan “Hope and Change” – Romney will argue that Obama has been too passive in handling the many unfolding crises and upheavals taking place in the Middle East, and misrepresented the terrorist nature of the attack last month on the American consulate in Benghazi that killed the US Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens.

“I know the president hopes for a safer, freer, and a more prosperous Middle East allied with the United States,” Romney will say. “I share this hope. But hope is not a strategy.”

The presidential race is expected to tighten in the wake of a strong debate performance last Wednesday by the Republican challenger, though better-than-expected unemployment figures and a fundraising windfall for the president suggest Romney will have a hard time unseating the incumbent Obama from his lead position in polls.

Romney’s Monday speech is likely an attempt to narrow the margin by which Americans favor Obama on foreign policy, a margin that currently stands at 49 percent (of registered voters who trust Obama more) to 44% for Romney, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll. The gap is narrower than previous polling on the subject, and the Romney campaign believes the Benghazi attack and continuing humanitarian and political crises in Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East offer an opportunity to criticize the administration’s handling of foreign policy.

The Obama White House, Romney will suggest on Monday, has not been at the forefront of events, instead adopting a posture of response as crisis after crisis unfolds.

“I believe that if America does not lead, others will – others who do not share our interests and our values – and the world will grow darker, for our friends and for us. America’s security and the cause of freedom cannot afford four more years like the last four years,” Romney will argue, according to the pre-released text.

Romney plans to “recommit America to the goal of a democratic, prosperous Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with the Jewish state of Israel,” according to excerpts published ahead of time by the campaign.

Speaking of the peace process, Romney will say that “what should be a negotiation process has devolved into a series of heated disputes at the United Nations. In this old conflict, as in every challenge we face in the Middle East, only a new president will bring the chance to begin anew.”

Romney will call for a significant upgrade in American support for the rebels fighting a bloody Syrian insurgency that has seen over 30,000 killed, mostly by government forces loyal to dictator Bashar Assad.

“In Syria, I will work with our partners to identify and organize those members of the opposition who share our values and ensure they obtain the arms they need to defeat Assad’s tanks, helicopters, and fighter jets,” Romney is expected to say.

On the question of Iran’s nuclear program, Romney will say that, as president, he “will not hesitate to impose new sanctions on Iran, and will tighten the sanctions we currently have. I will restore the permanent presence of aircraft carrier task forces in both the Eastern Mediterranean and the Gulf region – and work with Israel to increase our military assistance and coordination.”

He will offer a scathing rebuke of Obama’s handling of the Libya attack.

“The attack on our Consulate in Benghazi on September 11th, 2012 was likely the work of the same forces that attacked our homeland on September 11th, 2001. This latest assault cannot be blamed on a reprehensible video insulting Islam, despite the administration’s attempts to convince us of that for so long. No, as the administration has finally conceded, these attacks were the deliberate work of terrorists who use violence to impose their dark ideology on others, especially women and girls; who are fighting to control much of the Middle East today; and who seek to wage perpetual war on the West.”