The Candidates and The World

Transition 2012

A guide to foreign policy and the 2012 U.S. presidential transition.

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What They’re Saying: Romney’s Speech and the Iran Debate

by Newsteam Staff
October 10, 2012

GOP nominee Romney delivers his foreign policy speech at the Virginia Military Institute October 8, 2012. (Shannon Stapleton/Courtesy Reuters) GOP nominee Romney delivers his foreign policy speech at the Virginia Military Institute October 8, 2012. (Shannon Stapleton/Courtesy Reuters)
On Mitt Romney’s Foreign Policy Speech:

A New York Times editorial criticized a number of points that Romney outlined is his speech Monday, faulting the lack of specifics and stance on the Middle East.

[A]s much as Mr. Romney wishes voters would believe otherwise, it was President George W. Bush’s unnecessary war in Iraq that gave Iran more room to maneuver and fueled anti-Americanism. The situation has become more complicated since the Arab Spring revolutions that brought Muslim countries more freedoms — and more turmoil and more ways for extremists to create trouble.

But it is not, as Mr. Romney seems to think, one big monolithic struggle against those who are seeking to wage “perpetual war on the West.” There are different strains of Islam and many kinds of Muslims with different political agendas. To create smart policy, American presidents have to see the nuances, not just the slogans, and be willing to work with many different kinds of leaders.

A Washington Times editorial says that while the most important difference between President Obama and Mitt Romney is “not in the details of their policy briefs but in their leadership styles,” there are also several significant policy differences.

Mr. Romney would stop the raid on the military budget that threatens U.S. military pre-eminence. He’d build up American missile defense regardless of Mr. Obama’s backroom promises to Russian leaders to degrade it. He’d take credible steps to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. He’d offer robust support to Iran’s dissident movement and back reformers in the Middle East rather than cheer Islamist extremists. He’d adopt regional strategies that show an understanding of the root causes of the enduring terrorist threat. He’d stand by America’s allies, whether in Europe, Asia, Africa or the Middle East. In particular, he’d reaffirm the lack of daylight between the United States and Israel on matters of national security. Mr. Romney can also be counted on to actually visit the Jewish State, something Mr. Obama has failed to do.

Read what the candidates are proposing for a number of major foreign policy topics in these CFR Issue Trackers.

On Iran:

Newsweek conducted an Iran war game scenario with the aim of figuring out what would happen if Israel strikes Iran before the November election. The conclusion:

Obama is in the final lap of a tight race against Mitt Romney, and though his poll numbers have risen in recent weeks the precariousness of a war or a major foreign crisis could cut his lead overnight. The immediate knockoff effects on the economy (a spike in oil prices, a tremor in world markets) would do further damage. When I asked presidential historians about other commanders in chief who faced wars or major security crises late in their terms, they pointed to three: Harry Truman (the Korean War), Jimmy Carter (the Iran hostage crisis), and George W. Bush (the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan). All three left office with the lowest approval ratings of any president in the modern era (Truman at 32 percent, Carter and Bush at 34 percent).

Joe Klein writes in TIME that President Obama’s policy toward Iran seems to be moving toward success:

The international sanctions that [President Obama] so laboriously put together are having a devastating effect on Iran’s economy. The currency is collapsing. And now, the bazaaris–Iran’s mythic and powerful middle-class business community–are on strike and marching   in the streets. A few weeks ago in New York, the Iranian delegation to the UN General Assembly were hinting that a nuclear deal might be possible after the election.

This CFR Issue Tracker looks at both candidates’ stances on U.S.-Iran Policy.

–Contributing Editor Kirsti Itameri

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