Front-runner Mitt Romney said that he supported both covert and overt activities to push Tehran to abandon its weapons program.
“Ultimately, regime change is what’s going to be necessary,” said Romney, also garnering a standing ovation from the audience. “I will travel to Israel on my first foreign trip. I will reaffirm as a vital national interest Israel’s existence as a Jewish state. I want the world to know that the bonds between Israel and the United States are unshakable,” he added.
Weakness begets adventurism, and the president has shown weakness by extending his hand for a summit in his first year of office with Ahmadinejad only to have it slapped down. By being silent as protesters took to the streets in Iran, by not establishing crippling sanctions against Iran for their nuclear program, and by not mouthing a credible military threat to their ongoing nuclear program. The right course is for the president to declare that a nuclear Iran is unacceptable to America, and to punctuate that commitment. I have called for us to deploy two aircraft carrier task forces, one to the gulf, one to the Mediterranean to communicate our resolve in that regard
On Iran’s nuclear weapons program, both Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney support trying to halt it with sanctions and negotiations but say military action is an option. It is unclear if Mr. Romney, as president, might structure sanctions differently and how committed he is to negotiations.
Already, one of his advisers is contending that Mr. Obama’s strategies have “failed.” On Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel seemed to agree. Meanwhile, Mr. Romney ruled out any outcome that would contain rather than eliminate Iran’s nuclear program, and he strongly defended Israel’s right to strike Iran in self-defense. Mr. Obama also recognizes this right, but he has urged Israel to hold back, at least while negotiations are under way.
HUME: Would you go to war with Iran if they developed nuclear weapons & threatened Israel?
ROMNEY: Well, clearly your hypothetical suggests that everything we've done, up until this point and beyond, didn't work. And there's a lot we can do to keep that scenario from occurring.
But assuming that has not worked and we've been unsuccessful and your hypothetical is real and it is all too possible, you're dealing with a nation that talks about genocide; that talks about Israel being a one-bomb state. And it is unacceptable for a nation that talks about genocide and contemplates using nuclear weaponry to have nuclear weapons.
Governor Romney, that raises the question, if you were president of the United States, would you need to go to Congress to get authorization to take military action against Iran's nuclear facilities?
Romney: You know, we're going to let the lawyers sort out what he needed to do and what he didn't need to do, but certainly what you want to do is to have the agreement of all the people in leadership of our government, as well as our friends around the world where those circumstances are available.
But the key thing here is to make sure that we don't have to use military action against Iran. That's what you hope to be able to do. And that's why we're going to (have to ?) put a lot tougher sanctions on Iran, economic sanctions, credit sanctions. We're also going to have to get serious about treating Ahmadinejad like the rogue and the buffoon that he is.
Romney: And it was outrageous for the United Nations to invite him to come to this country. It was outrageous for Columbia to invite him to speak at their university. This is a person -- denied the Holocaust, a person who has spoken about genocide, is seeking the means to carry out. And it is unacceptable to this country to allow that individual to have the control of launching a nuclear weapon.
Romney, Gingrich and Paul on A Nuclear Iran - CBS News & National Journal GOP Debate
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One controversy came when Mohammad Khatami, president of Iran from 1997 to 2005, was booked to speak at Harvard University. The topic, "Ethics of Tolerance in the Age of Violence," was outrageous. During Khatami's regime, he had shown little tolerance. [Mitt Romney] said state funds could not be used to protect Khatami during his visit and that all requests from Harvard for police escorts or VIP courtesies would be denied.