Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign studiously avoids calls for war with the Islamic Republic. While some advisers have been hawkish on Iran in the past, only John Bolton has called for an attack since the campaign got underway. Instead, on a recent press call, Romney adviser Dan Senor went out of his way to twice state that he was “not suggesting the military option should be used” (even as he admonished the Obama administration for openly discussing potential consequences of an attack).
In an interview with journalist Barbara Slavin published yesterday on Al-Monitor, another top Romney adviser made abundantly clear that there are very few differences between Romney’s Iran policy and President Obama’s.
Ambassador Richard Williamson told Slavin that “President Romney will seek a negotiated settlement,” which incidentally the Obama administration also considers the “best and most permanent way” to end the crisis over Iran’s nuclear program. Williamson even commented on the possible costs and consequences of attacking Iran, noting, as myriad others have, that an attack would only delay — not stop — a potential Iranian nuclear weapon:
SLAVIN: You’ve talked about a credible threat of military force yet much, if not all, of Israel’s intelligence and defense establishment oppose a strike, saying that would push Iran to develop nuclear weapons.
WILLIAMSON: You can degrade their quest for nuclear breakout. It would be expensive, it would be costly; it’s something we should avoid if possible but it’s not something we should take off the table. If you do, then you will have no chance to get a negotiated settlement.
Because he views a potential Iranian nuclear weapon as a threat to the security of the U.S., its allies in the region and the nuclear non-proliferation regime, Obama’s vowed again and again to keep all options “on the table.”
That leaves Williamson’s endorsement of a “zero enrichment” policy — lining up with hawkish Member of Congress declaring that Iran cannot be allowed to maintain any domestic uranium enrichment — as the main difference. Officially, that’s U.S. policy under the Obama administration, though officials have hinted a compromise might be possible to strike a deal. Perhaps that’s because domestic enrichment, as reiterated yesterday, is the firmest of Iranian demands in negotiations.
The hardest of the hard-line neoconservatives ramped up a campaign for war with Iran today, putting them at odds with not just Obama but Romney as well. Perhaps that’s why Romney tends to avoid focusing on foreign policy issues. As Vice President Joe Biden recently said, “Governor Romney has called for what he calls a ‘very different policy’ on Iran. But for the life of me it’s hard to understand what the governor means by a very different policy.”