presidential candidate Mitt Romney meeting with former British Prime
Minister Tony Blair in London. (Photo credit: mittromney.com)
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney told an audience of
Israelis and some wealthy pro-Israel Americans that he is prepared to
employ "any and all measures" to stop Iran from gaining a nuclear
weapons "capability," a vague concept that arguably already exists.
Romney's speech in Jerusalem on Sunday was accompanied by a comment
from his top foreign policy adviser Dan Senor seeming to endorse an
Israeli unilateral strike against Iran. "If Israel has to take action on
its own," Senor said, "the governor would respect that decision."
In what was widely interpreted as an attempt by Romney to peel some
Jewish votes -- and particularly Jewish financial support -- away from
President Barack Obama, Romney insisted that he has long supported an
aggressive strategy against Iran.
"Five years ago, at the Herzliya Conference [on Israeli security], I
stated my view that Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons capability
presents an intolerable threat to Israel, to America, and to the world,"
Romney said on Sunday. "That threat has only become worse. ...
"Now as then, the conduct of Iran's leaders gives us no reason to
trust them with nuclear material. But today, the regime in Iran is five
years closer to developing nuclear weapons capability. Preventing that
outcome must be our highest national security priority. "
"We must not delude ourselves into thinking that containment is an
option. We must lead the effort to prevent Iran from building and
possessing nuclear weapons capability. We should employ any and all
measures to dissuade the Iranian regime from its nuclear course, and it
is our fervent hope that diplomatic and economic measures will do so. In
the final analysis, of course, no option should be excluded."
By elevating Iran's achievement of a nuclear weapons "capability" to
America's "highest national security priority" and vowing to "employ any
and all measures" to prevent that eventuality, Romney is essentially
threatening war against Iran under the current situation. In that, he is
going beyond the vague language used by President Obama, who himself
has sounded belligerent with his phrasing about "all options on the
table" to stop Iran if it moves to build a nuclear weapon.
However, the nuance here is significant, since U.S. intelligence
agencies -- and even their Israeli counterparts -- have concluded that
Iran has not decided to build a nuclear weapon even as it makes progress
in a nuclear program that Iranian leaders say is for peaceful purposes
only. Still, those lessons from a peaceful nuclear program arguably can
give a country a nuclear weapons "capability." [See Consortiumnews.com's
US/Israel: Iran NOT Building Nukes."]
In recent months, American neoconservatives and sympathetic journalists have slipped in the new weasel word "capability"
in the face of complaints that the earlier formulation about Iran
seeking nuclear weapons was contradicted by the U.S. intelligence
assessment. For most casual readers, the subtle change was barely noted
but the word "capability" can mean pretty much anything.
To deny Iran a nuclear "capability" would almost surely require a war
between the United States and Iran, a course that some neocons have
been quietly desiring for at least the past decade when the Iraq
invasion was seen as a first step to bringing "regime change" to Iran --
or as some neocons joked at the time, "real men go to Tehran."
Indeed, the massive U.S. Embassy in Baghdad -- which now sits
increasingly idle -- can be best understood as the intended imperial
command center for a new American dominance of the region. But those
neocon plans were spoiled by the disastrous turn of the U.S. invasion
and occupation of Iraq and ultimately America's forced military
withdrawal from the country at the end of 2011.
Romney's speech in Israel was also peppered with the usual
exaggerations about Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad making threats
about "wiping this nation off the map." Though that quote is now widely
known to be a mistranslation, U.S. leaders, including President Obama,
have continued to cite it as part of their tough-talking indictment of
Indeed, repeating the bogus quote has become almost an expected
signal of support for Israel. Romney even mocked those who note the
mistranslation as something of Ahmadinejad apologists by adding: "only
the naive -- or worse -- will dismiss it as an excess of rhetoric."
Beyond Romney's full-throated advocacy of Israeli policies in the
Middle East, his speech was also notable in that he made no reference to
Palestinian rights or the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian
conflict. Romney's references to the Palestinians were limited to his
condemnation of Hamas, the militant group that now governs Gaza.