Romney reaffirms tough position on Iran, promises to keep Israel in the loop

In effort to distinguish himself from Obama, GOP candidate says he’s willing to try diplomacy with Tehran but is adamant that it shutter all nuclear facilities

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney is greeted by President Barack Obama before the start of the third presidential debate, Monday, Oct. 22, 2012. (photo credit: AP/David Goldman)
Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney is greeted by President Barack Obama before the start of the third presidential debate, Monday, Oct. 22, 2012. (photo credit: AP/David Goldman)

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said he is committed to ending Iran’s nuclear program come what may, and drew differences between his approach and that of President Barack Obama, despite his apparent broad agreement with Obama on the issue in their foreign policy TV debate last week.

In an email exchange with Bloomberg reporter and commentator Jeffrey Goldberg that was published on Monday, Romney clarified that if elected, he would bring an end to Iran’s atomic bomb development and reaffirmed that Israel, as the US’s closest ally, would be kept in the loop.

“Our closest allies, like Israel, will not learn about our plans from The New York Times,” Romney wrote. “And I’ll be clear with the American people about where I’m heading. I won’t be secretly asking the Ayatollahs for more flexibility following some future election.”

Goldberg questioned Romney about his policies on Iran in light of statements he made during last week’s televised debate in which he appeared to promote a firmly diplomatic approach, and took pains to play down the possibility of military intervention.

“It is also essential for us to understand what our mission is in Iran, and that is to dissuade Iran from having a nuclear weapon through peaceful and diplomatic means,” Romney said during the debate. He also said, “We need to increase pressure time and time again on Iran because anything other than a solution to this which stops this nuclear folly of theirs is unacceptable to America. And of course, a military action is the last resort. It is something one would only, only consider if all of the other avenues had been tried to their full extent.”

However, in the email response to questions from Goldberg, Romney said that diplomacy is an option only as long as it produces results.

“I have always talked about the diplomatic process,” Romney wrote. “I will not rule out diplomatic options, so long as we would not be rewarding bad behavior and so long as the Iranian leadership was truly cornered and ready to change its behavior. A crumbling economy is not enough. Because even with a crumbling economy, the Iranian leadership is still racing towards a bomb right now.”

“To be clear, the objective of any strategy will be to get Iran to stop spinning centrifuges, stop enriching uranium, shut down its facilities. Full stop. Existing fissile material will have to be shipped out of the country,” he added.

Romney also criticized Obama’s approach for doing more to reassure the Iranians that a strike won’t happen than force their hand to stop the nuclear program.

“In the first year of his administration, the President said he would sit down with Ahmadinejad without pre-conditions, and President Obama deliberately remained silent during the Green Revolution, signaling to the Ayatollahs that Iran’s dissident movement would not have America’s support,” Romney wrote.

“President Obama also pursued a policy of creating ‘daylight’ — his word — between the US and Israel. And through the end of the third year of his administration, the president fought congressional efforts — bi-partisan congressional efforts — to pass crippling sanctions on Iran’s Central Bank. This all happened against the backdrop of the president’s top advisers and cabinet secretaries broadcasting the risks of the military option, therefore conveying to Iran’s leadership that the threat is simply not real. Add all of this together, one can understand why Iran’s leaders are not taking the United States very seriously these days.”

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