Republican Presidential Candidates Beating Drums of War Against Iran

Mitt Romney speaking by teleconference at AIPAC

This morning I woke up at 6AM, which is pretty early for me these days. I tuned my satellite radio to MSNBC. A little later I got sleepy again and dozed off with the radio on. I woke up to the frightening sound of Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum addressing AIPAC.

I admit that I don’t really understand the politics of the U.S.-Israel relationship very well, and and usually don’t follow it very closely. I was frankly stunned by the bloodthirstiness of the speeches from these two candidates. Newt Gingrich also addressed the conference, but I thankfully I didn’t hear his speech.

I don’t want to start any emotional arguments with this post. I just want to highlight what the Republican candidates have said about war with Iran, because I think both the content tone of their speeches is beyond irresponsible. I’m just going to highlight some of their statements and leave it to you to interpret them.

Mitt Romney

Romney fired his opening shot with an op-ed in the Washington Post, which I also linked in the morning reads. In the essay, Romney claims that Iran has a nuclear weapons program, despite all the recent evidence to the contrary. Romney:

Beginning Nov. 4, 1979 , dozens of U.S. diplomats were held hostage by Iranian Islamic revolutionaries for 444 days while America’s feckless president, Jimmy Carter, fretted in the White House. Running for the presidency against Carter the next year, Ronald Reagan made it crystal clear that the Iranians would pay a very stiff price for continuing their criminal behavior. On Jan. 20, 1981, in the hour that Reagan was sworn into office, Iran released the hostages. The Iranians well understood that Reagan was serious about turning words into action in a way that Jimmy Carter never was.

America and the world face a strikingly similar situation today; only even more is at stake. The same Islamic fanatics who took our diplomats hostage are racing to build a nuclear bomb. Barack Obama, America’s most feckless president since Carter, has declared such an outcome unacceptable, but his rhetoric has not been matched by an effective policy. While Obama frets in the White House, the Iranians are making rapid progress toward obtaining the most destructive weapons in the history of the world.

Romney has no factual basis for these statements. As Ben Armbruster writes at Think Progress:

The International Atomic Energy Agency, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper have all recently said that while they believe Iran may be moving toward a nuclear weapons capability, the regime has not made a decision to build a bomb. President Obama said just today that “ultimately the Iranians’ regime has to make a decision to move in that direction, a decision that they have not made thus far.”

In his speech to AIPAC this morning Romney said of Iran:

“I’ve also studied the writings and speeches of the jihadists,” Romney told the crowd. “They argue for a one-state solution. One all-dominating, radical Islamists state, that is. Their objective is not freedom, it’s not prosperity, it’s not a Palestinian state, it is the destruction is Israel that they seek. … I recognize in the Ayatollahs of Iran the zealot refrain of dominion.”

….

“Yet, the current administration has promoted a policy of engagement with Iran,” he continued. “The president not only dawdled in opposing sanctions, he’s opposed them. Hope is not a foreign policy. The only thing respected by thugs and tyrants is our resolve, backed by our power and our readiness to use it.”

Raw Story also reports that Romney recently said the following to an 11-year-old Georgia boy:

“If Barack Obama gets re-elected, Iran will have a nuclear weapon and the world will change if that’s the case,” he said.

During a CNN debate last month, the candidate went one step further, stating that nuclear weapons would definitely be used if Obama wins in November.

“We must not allow Iran to use a nuclear weapon. If they do, the world changes and someday nuclear weaponry will be used. If I’m president, that will not happen. If we re-elect Barack Obama it will,” he insisted.

I’ve heard Romney make that claim before, and I find it shocking. It’s the most irresponsible claim I’ve heard made since LBJ’s 1964 daisy ad about Barry Goldwater, which was never used by the Johnson campaign.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Romney said of the Obama administration:

“The current administration has distanced itself from Israel and visibly warmed to the Palestinian cause. It has emboldened the Palestinians,” Mr. Romney told a convention of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. “As president, I will treat our allies and friends like friends and allies.”

In recent days, Mr. Romney said, administration statements have emphasized the need for Israel to exercise caution when considering military action against Iran rather than the unacceptability of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons.

“I do not believe that we should be issuing public warnings that create distance between the United States and Israel,” Mr. Romney said. “Israel does not need public lectures about how to weigh decisions of war and peace. It needs our support.”

Rick Santorum

Rick Santorum appeared in person at AIPAC and gave a bombastic 10-minute speech in which he viciously attacked President Obama. Here are some highlights:

“As I’ve sat and watched this play out on the world stage, I have seen a president who has been reticent,” the former Pennsylvania senator said.

“He says he has Israel’s back; from everything I’ve seen from the conduct of this administration, he has turned his back on the people of Israel,” he added to applause.

….I wanted to come off the campaign trail to come here because one of the reasons I decided to run for president is because of the grave concern I have about the security of our country and the leadership of our country in the face of a[n] existential threat to not just the state of Israel,” Santorum said. “But an existential threat to freedom loving people throughout the world, which is what Iran is.”

In November, Santorum called for a “premptive strike” on Iran. Today he suggested:

“These are essentially irrational actors. We need to put that ultimatum in place, and we need to be prepared, if that ultimatum is not met to engage Prime Minister [Benjamin]Netanyahu and the people of Israel in an effort to make sure that if they do not tear down those facilities, we will tear down them.”

Like Romney, Santorum claimed that administration reports about about Iran’s nuclear capabilities are lies.

“The fact that we have the chairman of the joint chiefs saying we’re not sure yet that Iran is really going to pursue or has made the decision to develop a nuclear weapon just shows again the disconnect that they know we have, that the insincerity of our leaders in telling the truth to the American public about what is actually going on in the American public today,”

Newt Gingrich

CBS News reports that Gingrich said he would “replace” the current Iranian regime.

“[I will] undermine and replace the Iranian dictatorship by every available method short of war,” Gingrich said via satellite to the pro-Israel lobby.

In addition to pledging regime change in Iran, he said he would do everything in his power to bolster the Israeli’s ability to counter and halt a nuclear Iran, which includes providing “all available intelligence to the Israeli government.”

Gingrich also threatened war with Iran and tossed aside any possibility of using diplomacy, claiming that Iran is already developing nuclear weapons.

“We will not keep talking while the Iranians keep building,” Gingrich said, hitting President Obama for continuing to back a diplomatic path to a nuclear-free Iran.

Gingrich made his comments as the international community continues its attempts to diminish the Iranian’s ability to obtain a nuclear weapon. The five members of the United Nations Security Council announced Tuesday that it will enter into discussions with Tehran over its nuclear program, and Iran said nuclear inspectors will be allowed to enter its secret military compound where nuclear work is expected.

…Gingrich dismissed diplomatic talks and said Iran has reached a crucial point in its weapons program.

“The red line is now because the Iranians are now deepening their commitment to nuclear weapons,” Gingrich said.

As I said, I don’t want to start an argument about the Israel-Palestine situation. I just wanted to highlight the warmongering speeches of the Republican candidates. Please keep your comments civil.