Republican Party presidential contender Mitt Romney vowed on Saturday that he would prevent Iran from attaining a nuclear weapons capacity if he were elected. “If all else fails,” he said, the United States should be prepared to wage war against Iran to stop its nuclear weapons program.
“If we reelect Barack Obama, Iran will have a nuclear weapon,” Romney said during a foreign policy debate broadcast by CBS News from South Carolina. “If we elect Mitt Romney, they will not have a nuclear weapon.”
The candidate, who is perceived as a moderate and struggling to gain traction with socially conservative voters, also urged the incumbent administration to help Turkey and Saudi Arabia put pressure on the Ba’athist regime of President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus to undermine Iran’s only Arab ally.
Former House speaker Newt Gingrich would also risk war to stop Iran’s nuclear program although he believed the United States should consider “taking out their scientists” and “breaking up their systems, all of it covertly, all of it deniable” first.
Articulate and withering in his criticism of President Barack Obama, Gingrich won repeated applause from the Republican crowd in South Carolina. He had emerged as a viable contender in weeks before the debate and appears to be profiting from Rick Perry’s and Herman Cain’s dropping poll numbers. The Texas governor stumbled in the previous debate, unable to remember a department of government he had proposed to cut, while former businessman Cain is embroiled in a sexual harassment scandal that could undermine his candidacy.
The only candidates cautioning against military adventurism were libertarian congressman Ron Paul, who insisted that the next president should seek approval from the legislature before risking another war, and former ambassador to China Jon Huntsman who advocated a withdrawal from Afghanistan to enable the United States to focus on the Asia-Pacific region where it had to compete with a rising China.