July 30th, 2012
04:00 PM ET
10 years ago

Romney to Blitzer: Nuclear Iran is 'number one national security threat'

(CNN) – Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney clarified his March remark that Russia is the nation's top foe, saying in an interview to air Monday on CNN's "The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer" that Iran potentially poses the greatest national security threat to the U.S.

"The number one national security threat, of course, to our nation is a nuclear Iran," he told CNN's Wolf Blitzer, speaking in Jerusalem about the nearby nation.

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Asked about Israel's borders, the broader Israeli-Palestinian conflict, withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, the London Olympics, and campaign finance, Romney offered little new policy or criticism of President Barack Obama.

"I'm on foreign soil, and because it's long been a policy of both political parties to leave politics at the water's edge, I'm not going to go through specific foreign policy prescription," he said in response to one question, echoing a similar caveat he affixed to other answers.

But Romney did clarify his comment last spring that Russia "is without question our number one geopolitical foe."

"I'm talking about most of the United Nations and actions of a geopolitical nature, Russia is the number one adversary in that regard," he said. "That doesn't make them an enemy. It doesn't make them a combatant. They don't represent the number one national security threat."

The candidate specifically cited Russia's role in Syria and in international sanctions, saying it "has been slow to move to the kinds of sanctions that have been called for in Iran.

"Russia is a geopolitical adversary but is not an enemy with a - you know, with… missiles being fired at one another and things of that nature," he said.

The GOP candidate stood by his position that the U.S. should "keep a military option available" to handle Iran, should diplomatic efforts and sanctions not "dissuade them from becoming a nuclear capability nation."

"I certainly hope that our military, under the direction of the president, has, in fact, prepared a whole series of contingency plans, not only to previous Iran from becoming nuclear but to respond were Iran to become more belligerent in its - in its efforts," Romney said.

The sanctions currently in place "could be, I'm sure, even more punitive."

Obama pointed to those efforts – including new sanctions aimed at the nation's banking and financial systems imposed this year – in a speech last week at the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention.

"We're leading the fight against nuclear dangers," Obama said. "We've applied the strongest sanctions ever on Iran and North Korea - nations that cannot be allowed to threaten the world with nuclear weapons."

The Obama administration has also stated that all options remain on the table when dealing with a potentially nuclear Iran.

Also in his interview, Romney said the capital of Israel is Jerusalem - a city at the center of the dispute between the Israelis and Palestinians.

Romney declined to answer questions about what position he holds regarding borders in the search for peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Asked if he saw the starting point as the borders which existed prior to the 1967 Six Day War, Romney demurred.

"I'm not being that specific. I'm saying that there will be borders that have to be negotiated and what the starting point is something which will be decided by the parties involved," he said. "What the ending point is will be decided by the parties involved."

The issue of Israeli settlements – which the U.S. has criticized – "is something that should be discussed in private by the American president and our allies," Romney said.

"When we show a diplomatic distance between ourselves and our ally, I think we encourage people who oppose that relationship to seek other means to achieve their ends," he added.

Romney and Blitzer sat for the interview at the historic King David Hotel in Jerusalem on Sunday while the candidate was in the country on his foreign tour. He landed on Monday in Poland and was in London last week.

Watch The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer weekdays at 4pm to 6pm ET and Saturdays at 6pm ET. For the latest from The Situation Room click here.

Filed under: 2012 • Mitt Romney • TV-The Situation Room
soundoff (68 Responses)
  1. Thomas

    Iran is an inside job that can only be done by the Iranians. It's just a matter of time after Syria goes down for the Iranians to say hey , what about us , we want our freedom.

    If Iran ever, ever used a nuclear divice , or threatened too . THEY WOULD BE TOAST !

    The last thing we want is some self seeking promoter like a Iranian version of Ahmed Abdel Hadi Chalabi (Arabic: أحمد الجلبي‎) guiding us into another wasteful war.

    July 30, 2012 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  2. Sniffit

    ""I'm on foreign soil, and because it's long been a policy of both political parties to leave politics at the water's edge, I'm not going to go through specific foreign policy prescription,""

    Yes, apparently Mittens feels most comfortable when both his money AND his person are outside of the USA.

    July 30, 2012 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  3. G Foster

    First it was Russia. Now Iran. Next it will be Alabama.

    July 30, 2012 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |

    @rrd – And when did Obama serve?
    Most of the last four years by my math, but then you wouldn't consider being POTUS and Commander-in-Chief serving your country – as long as that person is Obama. If it was Dubya then you would consider him as serving, despite the questionable Guard deferments.

    July 30, 2012 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  5. ejktexas

    I couldn't disagree more. The #1 national security threat is our foreign policy of policing the world and pre-emptively striking nations.

    July 30, 2012 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  6. Four and The Door

    "I do not agree that Iran is our No. 1 threat to national security. Our $16 trillion and growing national debt with no plan to stop it or turn it around is our No. 1 threat to national security. At least with Iran we are capable of fighting back."

    That's because Iran is an outside threat. The solutions to the debt and deficit issues are pretty simple, straightforward and well known, but the plutocrats who won't allow us to implement them are an inside threat. It's much harder to show that their world-class self-serving use of money to buy our policies in their favor is an existential threat to the nation and our society...
    So you can raise taxes ( your answer ) and smother our economy into depression, or you can lower government spending ( but that's too tough for Community Organizers and not nearly as fun as throwing $billions at every problem ) and lower taxes so the American economy can start growing at a decent pace again and the government revenues go up on the increased economic activity. Let's leave it up to the voters. I like their answer in 2010. Cut government spending and give the economy a fighting chance to grow again. Romney 2012.

    July 30, 2012 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  7. rrd

    Most of the last four years by my math, but then you wouldn't consider being POTUS and Commander-in-Chief serving your country – as long as that person is Obama. If it was Dubya then you would consider him as serving, despite the questionable Guard deferments.

    yes he has served the last 4 years, but I don't think that's what the OP was talking about

    July 30, 2012 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  8. Orwell sees it, again & again

    Bishop Romney you have been on Kolob too long.

    Our #1 threat to national security,and it scales to world security, is bad decisions, sometimes called miscalculations.

    Before Iran, there was the USSR, a far bigger threat. It probably made the newspapers in Kolob. If Iran attacks Israel with nukes they are going to kill millions of Muslims and the third most holy Muslim shrine.

    So get back on your horse and go back to Kolob.

    July 30, 2012 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  9. John

    Romney went to Israel to raise money for his campaign and let the Israeli government that he can be bought. A chicken hawk is someone who wants the poor of our country to fight a war that will make the rich richer. We hear a lot about how Obama didn't fight in Viet Nam but the idiots writing this will neglect to tell you that he was 13 years old when that war was finished. Romney was selling his gimcrack religion to the French to avoid the draft. I don't understand how the Republicans who aren't wealthy can buy this crap lock, stock, and barrel. Romney was all for gun control when he was govenor but then the NRA offered him money to change his tune.

    July 30, 2012 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  10. Sniffit

    "lower taxes so the American economy can start growing at a decent pace again and the government revenues go up on the increased economic activity."

    I'm sorry...lower taxes = higher gov't revenue? And when has it EVER worked like that? HINT: NEVER...THE HISTORICAL RECORD IS MORE THAN CLEAR. Do you believe in the tooth fairy and santa claus too? Put down the "bath salts" and step away from the magi-thinking ideology. As for your oversimplified reduction of the complicated, but long-viewed, recommendations that have been made by top economists, well, I suppose you needed something you could argue against and reduction to overly simple terms probably helped with that, eh?

    July 30, 2012 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  11. Four and The Door

    apple pie

    A wimp who dodged military service has no business rattling sabers.
    And when did Obama serve?
    The only time Obama served was when he was playing tennis. He's into golf now. It's the only chance he gets to drive.

    July 30, 2012 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  12. Sniffit

    "Question is, why is he trying to pick a fight?"

    Because that's how the GOP/Teatrolls/righties believe you prove your "foreign policy chops." Abrasive, incendiary, conflict-oriented cowboy rhetoric and the perennial search for the next big boogey-man...that's how they roll. The muslims are coming, the muslims are coming....

    July 30, 2012 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  13. tammyk tammy

    Here a tune for Mitt and Ann's newest horse WARMONGER to dance to: We see your true colors shining thru / You show your true colors believing no one's above you / So just be afraid, don't let your tax returns show / and hide your true colors behind an anti-gay rainbow. /// America sees you true colors shining thru / Please show your true colors so that few will be for you / So don't be afraid to lead the GOP clown show / Show us your true colors as the Adelson/Koch Brothers ho. /// The world sees your true colors shining thru. / You showed your true colors so the Brits could deride you / We are very afraid you'll start another war show / Cause your true colors could bring the world down in woe.

    July 30, 2012 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  14. SugarKube

    At least one person is telling the truth about Iran.

    July 30, 2012 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  15. kayla

    this coming from the biggest rich coward who hid behind his religion to not go to war for his country that he loves so much. THE BIGGEST HYPOCRITE EVER.

    July 30, 2012 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  16. Wake up people

    Show us your taxes Willard, you cheating rat!

    July 30, 2012 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  17. Jules

    Mitt does another flip flop – remember a couple of months ago – it was Russia. Most everyone had figured out that the state that was the most threat was Iran but still iit is Al Quida we need to watch every moment of every day.

    July 30, 2012 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  18. lars

    If mitt truely believes in what he said as regard not criticizing a sitting u.s president while in a foreign soil due to the fact that it has long been a tradition or policy btw the two parties. Ask mitt, what about the tradition or policy of of making his tax returns of ten yrs or more available, which was actually spear-headed by his father.......

    July 30, 2012 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
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