Minutes Before Foreign Policy Debate, Romney Adviser Struggles To Articulate Iran Policy

Romney foreign policy adviser Dan Senor struggled to differentiate the GOP presidential candidate’s foreign policy towards Iran from President Obama’s during an appearance on CNBC’s The Kudlow Report, just an hour and a half before the final presidential debate focusing on foreign policy.

Asked directly by host Larry Kudlow about whether Romney would engage in direct one-on-one negotiations with Iran, Senor responded that the former Massachusetts governor would keep all options on the table — just as Obama has promised to do — and did not say if he’d agree to direct talks:

KUDLOW: Let me ask you, Dan Senor, for the record. If Governor Romney were president, would he take a one-on-one meeting with Iran?

SENOR: Look, here is Governor Romney’s approach to Iran: Obviously he wants a diplomatic solution to the Iranian situation. As we said, they are getting closer to closer to nuclear bombs, and we have to deploy a whole range of tools and tactics, economic pressure, diplomatic isolation. Got to make sure that the military threat, that option is credible in the eyes of the Iranians, not that we would use it but that they think it’s credible and diplomatically in terms of engagement. There are a whole range of tools and the governor has said he wouldn’t rule any of those tools out. He doesn’t want to reward bad behavior by the Iranians. Wants to know what the Iranians are sincere to make any decision.

KUDLOW: I’m not sure what the difference is. I’m not sure what the difference is. You’re two both distinguished gentlemen. I’m not sure where the difference is, at least on Iran. […]

SENOR: The problem is mixed messages. He’s sent mixed messages and lost credibility in negotiating with Iran. Governor Romney will not send mixed messages. He’ll be much tougher.

Watch it:

Since the New York Times reported that Obama has agreed in principle to participate in one-on-one negotiations with Iran, Romney’s team has repeatedly refused to say if he would engage in such talks if he’s elected president in November. The administration has also denied the Times’ claims, but has maintained its policy of being open to direct negotiations.

But judging from Senor’s answer, Romney may also struggle to differentiate his approach towards Iran from Obama’s. Indeed, the Obama administration has repeatedly declared that the military option is on the table, and has built up America’s military presence in the Persian Gulf to act as a check against Iran.

Obama has also applied “intense external pressure” on Iran, signing into law tough sanctions that Romney himself supports. The policy has curbed the country’s oil exports “by more than 1 million barrels a day” and as the New York Times reported, the sanctions “have severely depressed the value of its national currency, the rial, causing higher inflation and forcing Iranians to carry ever-fatter wads of bank notes to buy everyday items.”