How would Republicans neutralize Iran threat? (photo credit: Richard Brian, Reuters)

Joel Rosenberg

But it is time for the GOP candidates to tell us how they will neutralize Iran

The Iranian threat to U.S. and Israeli national security is a paramount issue facing the American people. A new bipartisan poll by Democrat Pat Caddell and Republican John McLaughlin released last month shows 63% of Americans regard Iran as the most serious threat to our country, ahead of China and North Korea. What’s more, 78% of Americans believe President Obama’s policies ”will fail” when it comes to preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Yet CNN’s Anderson Cooper failed to ask a single question about the Islamic Republic at the CNN Western Republican Presidential Debate in Las Vegas on Tuesday night. Why not? It is time for the GOP candidates to tell us how they would protect America and our allies from Iran.
Clearly the Iran threat — and the mullahs’ audacity — is growing. Consider the latest headlines:
The Obama administration, however, seems unwilling or unable to develop a comprehensive and serious approach towards stopping Iran’s mullahs in their tracks before it’s too late. This is precisely why I wrote my new political thriller, The Tehran Initiative, to encourage the American people to imagine the chilling implications of the Iran threat and to imagine a world in which the U.S. and our NATO allies don’t take decisive action to neutralize Iran’s nuclear program and terror infrastructure. What could happen if the West waits too long and Iran does, in fact, get the Bomb? Would Iran attach nuclear warheads to ballistic missiles and fire them at the U.S. and Israel? Would Iran give nuclear warheads to terrorists and smuggle such bombs inside the U.S. to annihilate several American cities and decapitate our government? Or would Israel launch a preemptive military strike against Iran so as to thwart a Second Holocaust? And if so, would Washington back up Israel, our most faithful ally in the Middle East, or cut her loose?
These are critical questions. Unfortunately, they are not fictional. They are real and pressing. Yet CNN ignored all of them last night.
The good news is that several of the GOP candidates did reference the Iran threat on their own at the CNN debate in Las Vegas:
  • Governor Rick Perry: “That is the way to shut that border down, to secure that border, and really make America safe from individuals, like those Iranians that are using the drug cartels to penetrate this country.
  • Rep. Michele Bachmann: “This was an historic week when it came to American foreign policy. We saw potentially an international assassination attempt from Iran on American soil. That says something about Iran, that they disrespect the United States so much, that they would attempt some sort of heinous act like that….This is how disrespected the United States is in the world today, and it’s because of President Obama’s failed policies. He’s taken his eyes off the number one issue in the world. That’s an Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon. That makes all of us in much danger. And the president of Iran is a genocidal maniac. We need to stand up against Iran.”
  • Sen. Rick Santorum: “As Michele said and correctly said, the central threat right now is Iran. The disrespect, yes, but it’s more than that. They sent a message. The two countries that they went after was the leader of the Islamic world, Saudi Arabia, and the leader of the, quote, “secular world,” the United States. This was a call by Iran to say we are the ones who are going to be the supreme leader of the Islamic world, and we are going to be the supreme leader of the secular world. And that’s why they attacked here. And, by the way, they did it in coordination with Central and South Americans, which I have been talking about and writing about and talking about for 10 years.”
The bad news is that Mr. Cooper did not press each of the candidates on the Iran issue. This was a dereliction of duty on the part of Mr. Cooper.
Let me restate, therefore, what I’ve been saying in recent days during interviews on the Sean Hannity show, Fox News Channel, the Christian Broadcasting Network, and other interviews. Each of the Republican candidates for President need to be asked to clearly and directly answer the following questions:
  1. As President of the United States, what specific actions would you take to stop Iran from obtaining and deploying nuclear weapons?
  2. If you had intelligence that Iran was on the verge of building operational nuclear weapons, would your administration support an Israeli preemptive military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities?
  3. Would you as President seriously consider ordering a preemptive strike by U.S. military forces to neutralize the Iran nuclear threat?
I am encouraged that The Heritage Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute and CNN have just announced a debate focused on foreign policy issues on November 15th. This is a move in the right direction. Yet one minute answers and thirty second rebuttals in these debate formats alone will not suffice. Each of the candidates need to deliver major foreign policy address in the coming days focusing on the Iran issue.
Several of the candidates have made reference to Iran in recent speeches, but they have not laid out detailed thinking. Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney recently delivered a foreign policy address in South Carolina in which he asked, “Will Iran be a fully activated nuclear weapons state, threatening its neighbors, dominating the world’s oil supply with a stranglehold on the Strait of Hormuz?” Gov. Romney further stated, “In the hands of the ayatollahs, a nuclear Iran is nothing less than an existential threat toIsrael.Iran’s suicidal fanatics could blackmail the world.” He noted that he would “begin discussions with Israel to increase the level of our military assistance and coordination” and would “reiterate that Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon is unacceptable.” However, he did not specifically discuss how he would stopIran from getting the Bomb and sponsoring terrorist attacks.
Former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman went further in a recent foreign policy address in New Hampshire. Calling Iran “the transcendent challenge of the next decade,” he signaled support for a U.S.preemptive strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities, saying, “I cannot live with a nuclear-armed Iran. If you want an example of when I would use American force, it would be that.” He, too, spoke of his support of Israel, but he did not lay out any specific principles or policies to deal with Iran, even while calling for a rapid withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan,Iran’s neighbor to the East.
Businessman Herman Cain has soared into the top tier of presidential candidates with a bold pro-growth tax simplification plan, but he has spoken little of foreign policy. He has identified Iran as one of America’s most serious national security threats, and been his clear about his strong support for Israel. Drawing on his experience as a civilian contractor for the U.S. Navy working on ballistic missile projects years ago, Cain has rightly called for enhanced missile defenses to blunt an Iranian nuclear threat. “I would make it a priority to upgrade all of our Aegis surface-to-air ballistic missile defense capabilities of all of our warships, all the way around the world,” Cain told the Values Voters Summit in D.C. earlier this month. “Make that a priority, and then say to [Iranian President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad, ‘Make my Day.’” His instincts are right, but missile defenses alone, of course, are insufficient to neutralize the Iranian threat. Yet Cain has not addressed the issue with more specificity.
Few of the GOP candidates better understand the Iranian threat – and the dangerous End Times theology of the current Iranian leadership which is preparing for the coming of the so-called Shia messiah known as the Twelfth Imam — than former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum. Thus far, however, he has not made an Iran policy a major element of his campaign. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Rep. Michele Bachmann, and Governor Rick Perry have not discussed the issue in detail, though certainly they understand the dangers.
Only Rep. Ron Paul among the Republican contenders doesn’t grasp the seriousness of the twin Iranian threats of terrorism and nuclear weapons. “Many are hysterical about the imminent threat of a nuclear Iran,” Rep. Paul has written. “One can understand why they [the mullahs] might want to become nuclear capable if only to defend themselves and to be treated more respectfully…. If Iran was attempting to violate the Non-Proliferation Treaty, they could hardly be blamed, since U.S. foreign policy gives them every incentive to do so.” The Congressman opposes economic sanctions on Iran. He opposes U.S. preemptive strikes on Iran. Indeed, Paul has indicated he does not have a problem with Iran acquiring nuclear weapons because he doesn’t think the mullahs in Tehran would actually use such weapons against their enemies. What’s more, he has stated that he would not come to Israel’s defense if Iran fired nuclear weapons at the Jewish state.
Last night’s debate in Nevada was a missed opportunity to press the GOP candidates to explain more fully their approach to Iran. But it is time for the GOP candidates to step up and tell us in more detail how they would handle this most critical of foreign policy issues.

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