At a town hall in Ohio (Politico) Wednesday, GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney said that it was important to support dissident voices in Iran to try to prevent the country from acquiring a nuclear weapon, but also called for more aggressive actions. “We have to put in place crippling sanctions. We also need to make sure that we have military options we are prepared to execute, and if we do those things, I think we have prospects of dissuading them,” he said. “At the same time, we have to be ready to take military action.”
The possibility of a nuclear Iran has come up repeatedly on the campaign trail, with Romney, Newt Gingrich, and Rick Santorum in agreement at the GOP debate in Arizona last week that the country poses a serious nuclear threat. Ron Paul, who said there was no evidence that Iran has nuclear weapons and that the United States should instead worry about leftover nuclear weapons from the Soviet Union, was the notable exception. President Obama has not taken military action off the table, but says such action would have a major destabilizing affect on the United States and prefers a diplomatic solution.
The public also views Iran with deep wariness; in a Gallup poll released February 20, Iran was rated as the country’s greatest enemy by 32 percent of voters, and it also had an 87 percent unfavorable rating.
To see more about the candidates’ positions, check out CFR’s Issue Tracker on Iran.
Suggested Other Reading:
CFR’s Richard N. Haass and Michael A. Levi write that the United States and other countries should counter Iran’s offer to restart talks over its nuclear program with a firm proposal of their own. Sanctions and clandestine efforts will not succeed in stopping Iran’s nuclear advance and the two principal alternatives to diplomacy–war or living with an Iran that has nuclear weapons or is on the verge of possessing them–promise to be costly and risky, they find.
This CFR Analysis Brief looks at Iran’s expressed willingness to negotiate on its contentious nuclear program, as well as the questions that abound over Tehran’s domestic politics and what confidence-building measures the West and Iran can agree upon.
CFR’s Ray Takeh writes in this Washington Post op-ed that Iran’s current rulers see nuclear arms as central to their national ambitions.
—Liriel Higa, Contributing Editor