Gingrich Likeliest to Attack Iran Among Republicans

The former House speaker is tougher on Iran than his fellow presidential contenders.

Former Republican House speaker Newt Gingrich addresses the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce, Tennessee, November 2, 2009
Former Republican House speaker Newt Gingrich addresses the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce, Tennessee, November 2, 2009 (Harry Butler)

The current frontrunner for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination may be most likely to take the United States to war against Iran.

Newt Gingrich informed CNN two weeks ago that “Iran is not going to get a nuclear weapon. All the world can decide is whether they help us peacefully stop it or they force us to use violence,” he warned, “but Iran is not going to get a nuclear weapon.”

Other Republican presidential hopefuls have similarly insisted that they would not allow Iran to go nuclear.

Notably Mitt Romney, who is generally perceived as the most electable candidate in a race against Barack Obama, said during a foreign policy debate hosted by CBS News in South Carolina last month that “Iran will have a nuclear weapon” if Americans reelected the president. “If we elect Mitt Romney, they will not have a nuclear weapon,” he promised.

During the same debate, Gingrich also said he was prepared to risk war against Iran but stressed that the United States should consider “taking out their scientists” and “breaking up their systems, all of it covertly, all of it deniable” before weighing military options.

In New Hampshire last week, the former House speaker recognized the impossibility of obliterating Iran’s nuclear program in one sweeping strike. “They have huge underground facilities,” he said. “The idea that you’re going to wage a bombing campaign that accurately takes out all the Iranian nuclear program I think is a fantasy. It would be a gigantic mess, with enormous collateral civilian casualties.”

It is why Gingrich advocates military intervention “only as a step toward replacing the regime.” That, he believes, is the only way to keep Iran free of nuclear weapons in the long term. As long as the ayatollahs are in charge, they’ll continue their quest for a nuclear weapons capability.

So of course the president missed a “huge opportunity” when the green revolution swept the Islamic country in 2009 even though President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s main challenger, Mir-Hossein Mousavi, was no less ardent a proponent of Iran’s nuclear program than the powers that be.

What makes Gingrich’s promise to prevent Iran from attaining a nuclear weapon more troubling than those of his fellow contenders is his simultaneous push for a “comprehensive strategy” to battle radical Islamism.

Repeatedly, recently in New Hampshire, Gingrich has lamented the fact that Americans “underestimate” the threat of militant Islam. He told the Republican Jewish Coalition last week that Judeo-Christian civilization has morally disarmed itself in the face of the Islamic specter and predicted a “long war” with Muslim fanatics.

Then consider that Gingrich has seen a role for himself in the imminent clash of civilizations for almost two decades. In 1994, he told a reporter that, “People like me are what stand between us and Auschwitz.” He says Iran is plotting a second Holocaust, pointing out that less than a handful of Iranian nuclear devices would suffice to wipe Israel off the map.

Even if Iran builds a bomb, it might not have the ballistic missile capacity to menace the Jewish state but certainly it will destabilize the region and pose a threat to the West’s Persian Gulf oil supply. All the Republican Party’s serious presidential contenders recognize the danger and are prepared to consider military options to either stop Iran’s nuclear program or contain it.

Gingrich seems willing to go much further. He is prepared to frame an Iranian nuclear crisis as the consequential international event of his time. If he truly regards himself as the savior of civilization, President Gingrich would not only go to war with the Iranians but crush them.

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