Riding high on a surge in the polls in the first Republican primary state, Iowa, presidential hopeful and former Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) vowed on a national Sunday talk show to attack Iran if it refused to cooperate on its nuclear program.
Pressed by NBC’s Meet The Press host David Gregory, Santorum distorted President Obama’s record on Iran and vowed that if Iran did not cooperate with his requests, he would attack Iran’s nuclear facilities with airstrikes. Gregory said, “The reality is there is no good option to disarm Iran.” Santorum replied, “Yes, there is,” and expanded on what he would do:
SANTORUM: And finally, I would be working openly with the state of Israel and I would be saying to the Iranians, you either open up those facilities, you begin to dismantle them and make them available to inspectors or we will degrade those facilities through air strikes – and make it very public that we are doing that. [...]
GREGORY: So you would lay out a red line, and if they passed it, air strikes by a President Santorum?
SANTORUM: Iran will not get a nuclear weapon under my watch.
GREGORY: Well, two previous presidents have said that. You would order air strikes if it became clear that they were going to…
SANTORUM: Yes, that’s — that’s the plan.
Watch the video:
In addition to making other belligerent proclamations — like restating that any Iranian or other nuclear scientist working with Iran “will be treated as an enemy combatant, like an Al Qaida member” — Santorum also badly distorted Obama’s record on Iran. While attacking Obama as weak on sanctions (for holding concerns that recent sanctions could hurt international cooperation and the U.S. economy), Santorum failed to note that the administration put together a coalition at the U.N. Security Council that imposed the only sanctions against Iran which have been shown to slow its nuclear progress.
Santorum also restated his desire to conduct covert operations against Iran in public. Gregory said, “There’s covert activity to — to set back their program by the Israelis, by the United States.” Santorum replied that the U.S. hasn’t done covert work. “Well, we know by the Israelis,” he said. “There’s no evidence the United States is at all complicit in working at that. That’s — I would be very direct that we would, in fact, and openly talk about this.”
In reality, neither the Israelis nor Americans take credit for covert work (by definition, which has eluded Santorum before). However, reports indicate that the U.S. does covert work related to Iran, and that they often do it hand-in-hand with Israel. Last year, the New York Times reported that Israel and the U.S. worked together on a computer virus that slowed Iran’s nuclear progress:
Though American and Israeli officials refuse to talk publicly about what goes on at [an Israeli nuclear lab], the operations there, as well as related efforts in the United States, are among the newest and strongest clues suggesting that the virus was designed as an American-Israeli project to sabotage the Iranian program.
Just because Santorum says the Obama administration is not dealing with Iran’s nuclear program doesn’t make it true. But it seems Santorum does have a bold view about what he would do differently — namely attacking Iranian nuclear sites.