Santorum Calls Iranian Nuclear Scientists ‘Enemy Combatants,’ Would Target Them For Assassination

Posted on  

"Santorum Calls Iranian Nuclear Scientists ‘Enemy Combatants,’ Would Target Them For Assassination"

GOP presidential hopeful Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) has set himself apart in the GOP by staking out wildly conflicting positions on Iran. Last month, Santorum defended Ronald Reagan’s decision to negotiate with Iran but contradicted himself a day later by asserting that the Iranian government “cannot be negotiated with.” But in comments made on Friday at a campaign stop in Iowa, Santorum took a more extreme position than any other candidate, claiming Iranian nuclear scientists are “enemy combatants” and could be targeted for assassination:

QUESTIONER: Do you support some kind of airstrike against Iran? What is the extent of support you’re willing to give? [crosstalk]

SANTORUM: […] I talked about sanctions. I talked about supporting groups to overthrow the government. I talked about covert activity including computer viruses and sending out a very clear message to nuclear scientists who work on that program that they are enemy combatants similar to the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

QUESTIONER: Your policy is to assassinate members of the Iranian government?

SANTORUM: No, I said nuclear scientists who work on this program, particularly if they come from foreign countries into that, they will be seen as enemy combatants. They will be people who are threats to the United States just like your garden variety terrorist. And then finally, I’d be working with Israel and being very clear with Iran that we are preparing a military strike, an airstrike, on those facilities…

Watch it:

Santorum’s outright endorsement of targeting Iranian nuclear scientists as “enemy combatants” is troubling at a number of levels. For starters, the IAEA did not definitively conclude that Iran resumed a nuclear weapons program. Santorum, it would seem, is willing to assassinate nuclear scientists who might not even be working on a weapons program.

Second, Santorum’s legally questionable policy proposal of publicly targeting nuclear scientists for assassination and “being very clear with Iran that we are preparing a military strike” would leave very little space for negotiations, improved communications or a deescalation of tensions.

While the GOP field and Iran hawks are slow to acknowledge the success of sanctions, the Obama administration’s multilateral sanctions regime has slowed the Iranian nuclear program. Furthermore, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Michael Mullen argues for improved communications with Iran to prevent an accidental flare up. Santorum’s latest, uber-hawkish, Iran policy positions manage to ignore both the success of sanctions and the military’s calls for improved communication with Tehran.

« »

By clicking and submitting a comment I acknowledge the ThinkProgress Privacy Policy and agree to the ThinkProgress Terms of Use. I understand that my comments are also being governed by Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, or Hotmail’s Terms of Use and Privacy Policies as applicable, which can be found here.