July 29th, 2012
01:35 PM ET
9 years ago

Romney talks tough on Iran

Jerusalem (CNN) - Warning that a nuclear-capable Iran would lead to war, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney on Sunday pledged to support “any and all measures” to keep Iran from developing a nuclear bomb.

During what his campaign billed as a major foreign policy speech in Jerusalem, Romney said he hoped economic and diplomatic steps would deter the Islamic republic from pursuing the ability to develop nuclear weapons - but “no option should be excluded.”

- Follow the Ticker on Twitter: @PoliticalTicker

“It is sometimes said that those who are the most committed to stopping the Iranian regime from securing nuclear weapons are reckless and provocative and inviting war,” he said. “The opposite is true. We are the true peacemakers. History teaches with force and clarity that when the world's most despotic regimes secure the world's most destructive weapons, peace often gives way to oppression, to violence, or to devastating war.”

Standing with the Tower of David in the Old City of Jerusalem as a backdrop, Romney said the Iranian clerical leadership is “testing our moral defenses.” But he added, “We recognize Israel's right to defend itself, and that it is right for America to stand with you.”

"My message to the people of Israel and the leaders of Iran is one and the same: We will not look away, and nor will my country ever look away from our passion and commitment to Israel," he said on a day that included meetings with Israeli leaders expressing concern about Iran.

Romney also referred to Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, a matter on which the United States has long kept its policy intentionally vague.

"It's a deeply moving experience to be in Jerusalem, the capital of Israel," Romney said, drawing a standing ovation from the crowd.

Jerusalem is among the “final status” issues left to be negotiated between Israel and the Palestinians, who claim the eastern part of the city as the capital of a future independent state. A U.S. law passed in 1995 designates Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and stipulates the American embassy should move to the city from Tel Aviv. The past three presidents, however, have signed waivers suspending the law, citing security and diplomatic concerns.

The muscular speech comes after a bruising week for Romney, who irked British leaders when he appeared to question London's readiness to host the Olympic Games. Romney aides have barely touched on the diplomatic controversy since leaving London.

Among those attending the speech included wealthy casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, who donated $10 million to a pro-Romney super PAC, despite backing former House Speaker Newt Gingrich in the GOP primaries. Asked what he thought of the speech, Adelson gave a thumbs-up.

Without explicitly criticizing President Barack Obama on foreign soil, Romney also attempted to draw contrasts with Obama's foreign policy.

"With much of Middle East in tumult, with Iran bent on nuclear arms, America's vocal and demonstrated commitment to the defense of Israel is even more critical. Whenever security of Israel most in doubt - America's commitment to Israel must be most secure," he said.

In a briefing with reporters Sunday morning, Dan Senor, Romney's foreign policy spokesman, said Romney is not advocating war with Iran, only making clear what the options are should diplomacy fail.

"The governor believes that at this point, the only thing that could focus and force the minds of the Iranian leadership on ending their nuclear weapons, their path to a nuclear weapons capability, is the belief that the alternative is far worse," Senor said.

In a sign the White House is keeping close tabs on Romney's overseas trip, an Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, is reporting the Obama administration has informed Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu of a "contingency plan" to attack Iran should the nation develop nuclear weapons.

The Iran threat, along with the all-but-dead Middle East peace process, and the growing instability in Syria are among the expected topics Romney will address in closed-door meetings with Netanyahu and other Israeli and Palestinian leaders.

During a brief photo opportunity, Netanyahu seconded Romney's tough talk on the Iranian regime.

"Mitt, I couldn't agree with you more," Netanyahu said.

"We have to be honest and say that all the sanctions and diplomacy so far have not set back the Iranian program by one iota. And that's why I believe that we need a strong and credible military threat coupled with the sanctions to have a chance to change that situation," he added.

The Israeli prime minister also acknowledged his decades-long friendship with Romney that dates back to when the two young men worked for a Boston consulting firm in the 1970's. "We were so young then. And for some reason, you still look young," Netanyahu remarked.

"We do have a friendship which spans the years," Romney added.

The exchange of pleasantries stood as a stark contrast with the cool relationship between Netanyahu and Obama.

Later Sunday, Romney also discussed the situation in front of reporters with Israeli President Shimon Peres, who warned against Iran becoming a nuclear power and argued the country "wants to dominate the Middle East."

While he agreed with the U.S. decision to impose harsh economic sanctions against Iran, Peres said "in order to make it serious," it needs to be clear "that all other options are on the table."

In addition to Peres and Netanyahu, Romney met with Kadima Party Leader Shaul Mofaz and Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.

Before his speech, Romney also sat down for a series of interviews with U.S. broadcast and cable networks, including CNN.

In the morning briefing with reporters, Senor explained Romney supports a "two-state solution" for both Israelis and Palestinians in securing a path to peace in the Middle East.

But Senor added Palestinians and other Arab nations would have to understand such a resolution "represents the end of the conflict."

"There should be no right of return," Senor said.

"This is not a platform for new Palestinian refugees down the road to return to Israel. If there is a Palestinian state, that should be the home for Palestinians wanting to return to this region."

Filed under: 2012 • Benjamin Netanyahu • Israel • Mitt Romney
soundoff (76 Responses)
  1. some guy in New Hampshire

    The "respect" statement is irresponsible. Anyone who says things like this heightens tensions in the region. And if you want to US and world economies to tank, keep rattling your saber about Iran. A responsible US leader would have said something like "The US will work with its partners in the region and around the world to ensure that the situation in Iran never comes to that" or something similar. A potential president giving Israel tacit permission to bomb Iran is just nuts. Romney proves once again that he's not ready for the world stage.

    July 29, 2012 07:14 am at 7:14 am |
  2. sick of SC

    So Romney = war. Get ready America, cause you vote GOP, you vote for more war, more lives of soldiers and more debt. But just think, at least he'll lower taxes so his rich friends won't have to pay for it.

    This guy is embarassing and GWB with more money, that's all.

    July 29, 2012 07:18 am at 7:18 am |
  3. degazmatic

    Israel has an illegitimate claim to the and are violating and spreading war talks everyday. I wont be surprised if they start world war3. We know russia and china wont be allies. Its left to see if the uk would join in. Israel is an invented country. Started mainly because of nazi bs. They try to bully others because they think america has their backs. Check out israel's economy and the amount of us funding they receive annually. Shocking right?

    July 29, 2012 07:18 am at 7:18 am |
  4. acentristdemocracy

    When you telegraph your intentions, you allow your adversary to the opportunity to create a stronger defense against any intended action. My advise to Romney's adviser and thus Romney....SHUT UP! All these fools are doing is giving Iran the opportunity to develop and build a strong defensive ability. For Romney to express what he would do at this time appears to be for the sole purpose of political gain.

    July 29, 2012 07:22 am at 7:22 am |
  5. acentristdemocracy

    When you telegraph your intentions, you allow your adversary to the opportunity to create a stronger defense against any intended action. My advise to Romney's adviser and thus Romney....SHUT UP! All these fools are doing is giving Iran the opportunity to develop and build a strong defensive ability. For Romney to express what he would do at this time appears to be for the sole purpose of political gain.

    July 29, 2012 07:22 am at 7:22 am |
  6. HenryB

    This guy is not ready for the world stage. Gone are the days when you can blindly lick the boots of Israel. We are tired of this nonsense. If you want to nuance your position the second time around, then why don't you do it the first time around. This sabre rattling is not helpful at all. Typical war mongering Republican.

    July 29, 2012 07:27 am at 7:27 am |
  7. AusiSceptic1

    is this the confidence that wearing secret underwear brings?

    July 29, 2012 07:27 am at 7:27 am |
  8. Steve C

    No freedom of speech here I see as they deleted my comment. So again I will ask "Just who the hell does Romney think he is to issue a warning to anyone"?????????

    July 29, 2012 07:30 am at 7:30 am |
  9. Steve C

    OK, so now they put it back up after I complain!!!

    July 29, 2012 07:31 am at 7:31 am |
  10. maximusvad

    Of course he talks tough...his children will never have boots on the ground.

    July 29, 2012 07:31 am at 7:31 am |
  11. Bill

    Israel just loves our elections for president, it is like Christmas with lots of presents under the tree delivered from the U.S.

    July 29, 2012 07:32 am at 7:32 am |
  12. Purnell Meagre

    Not ready for prime time ROmney. GUy can not be trusted to keep his powder dry. ANother REpublican to lead us into another unwinnnable military conflict.

    July 29, 2012 07:42 am at 7:42 am |
  13. King

    nothing here folks just another budget busting, warmungering repibs. it's ironic how mitten loves to showcase our country's budget deficits ticking away at his speaches, yet he wants to double and tripple down on the bush policies of tax breaks for the rich and fighting wars, there are facts showing these 2 bush era policies are the drivers by far of our budget deficits. these people who wants to elect romney are crazy, seeing that no time in our history, that low taxes helped our economy. lesson folks, hire taxes take money from the outsourcing rich folks, and keep it in our economy, before the rich takes it and send it to other countries to make their pockets fatter, leaving our country starving.

    July 29, 2012 07:43 am at 7:43 am |
  14. Jason Glugla

    Just think folks, if you elect Romney, you can get another war going in no time. It will also be a free war because he can keep it off the books until the next Democrat President is elected. Now, all you Tea Party folks get out and work real hard against your own interests.

    July 29, 2012 07:47 am at 7:47 am |
  15. ibsode

    So far there is nothing new that Romney announces that differ from the Obama administration: all other options are on the table including the military one.
    This Romney is a Joke: « I will not search Earth and Heaven to capture one guy neither spend millions to do so» this Romney referring to Ben Laden.
    Romney was not tough when it comes to Ben Laden, now he is giving tough speeches: He is a jerk !!!!!

    July 29, 2012 07:49 am at 7:49 am |
  16. keith

    The stage is set , the audience is seated, just a little while longer and the new leading man will emerge from his dressing room ....sit back and enjoy the show folks.... We are marching to War once again...bank on it!!

    July 29, 2012 07:51 am at 7:51 am |
  17. EffortPA

    Yeah, now that Obama got us out of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, we are ready to start a new one. To pay for it we can simply cut Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security benefits. Vote Republican in 2012 if you want more wars and less benefits for our seniors.

    July 29, 2012 07:53 am at 7:53 am |
  18. kraven morass

    just another fool to spend billions on another war

    July 29, 2012 07:54 am at 7:54 am |
  19. FreeLove

    Great. Yet another right wing chickenhawk saber rattling to show what a man he is. Where do the GOP find these war mongering cowards?

    July 29, 2012 07:55 am at 7:55 am |
  20. ExPAVIC


    Don't cause anymore problems with our foreign friends. If you are looking for something to do go gather up your tax returns for the last ten years. Just what are you HIDING?

    July 29, 2012 07:58 am at 7:58 am |
  21. 1nd3p3nd3nt

    i'm sure carefully thought out comments like these are going to persuade iran from pursuing nuclear weapons.

    i mean, aren't most countries with nuclear weapons afraid of someone invading them? oh wait, that's why they have nuclear weapons in the first place, the great deterrent.

    makes romney look like a tool, suggesting war is inevitable with a nuclear iran.

    July 29, 2012 08:00 am at 8:00 am |
  22. ya right!

    Only shows Romney is following in line with the GoP that he must make war so he can get reelected if he wins. Funny how him and his kids aren't in the military? Serving his country by sending all that is left of our weakend troups to another one so Hal Bruton can get another no bid contract. That was the real message he sends out, lets make war and not love. So much for him being a man of God.

    July 29, 2012 08:06 am at 8:06 am |
  23. JustWho

    What a piece of junk trying to get US in a war to please the Israeli Jew.

    July 29, 2012 08:06 am at 8:06 am |
  24. Purnell Meagre

    Obama is doing a masterful job leading the country and the world through perilous times. Mittt can't play in that league.

    July 29, 2012 08:07 am at 8:07 am |
  25. Joshua Ludd

    Oh, so he would "respect" Israel starting world war 3? Good to know.

    July 29, 2012 08:07 am at 8:07 am |
1 2 3 4