Speaking to reporters in Jerusalem, a top foreign policy advier to Mitt Romney said the GOP presidential nominee would support an Israeli decision to attack Iran’s nuclear program. The right-wing adviser Dan Senor said Iran should not be able to attain a nuclear “capability” — a significant break in language from state U.S. policy.
Senor told reporters:
If Israel has to take action on its own, in order to stop Iran from developing the capability, the governor would respect that decision.
In a follow-up statement, Senor said, “We should employ any and all measures to dissuade the Iranian regime from its nuclear course, and it is his fervent hope that diplomatic and economic measures will do so,” but that an American attack should remain an option.
While Obama has said an Iranian nuclear weapon is “unacceptable,” declaring a nuclear “capability” an American “red line” that would trigger war sets a lower threshold for U.S. military involvement. The CIA has laid out a specific definition, but the “nuclear capability” language is a complex issue. The word “capability” has a special meaning in the non-proliferation context, but it’s not always clear exactly what. Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), one of the Senate’s most vociferous Iran hawks, said this year, “I guess everybody will determine for themselves what that means.” Hawks in Congress pushed a bill this year to shift the official U.S. “red line” to a nuclear “capability.”
During an appearance with Romney in Jerusalem, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netnayahu said he agreed with Romney’s approach, falsely claiming that “all the sanctions and diplomacy so far have not set back the Iranian program by one iota.” U.N. sanctions have delayed Iran’s nuclear progress. A U.N. ban on selling Iran weapons technologies appears to have set back their ballistic missile programs as well.
President Obama considers a potential Iranian nuclear weapon a threat to both the security of the U.S. and its allies in the region, as well as the nuclear non-proliferation regime. And he’s vowed again and again to keep all options on the table to deal wtih it. U.S., U.N. and Israeli intelligence estimates give the West time to pursue a dual-track approach of building international pressure and using diplomacy to resolve the crisis. Questions about the efficacy and potential consequences of a strike have led U.S. officials to declare that diplomacy is the “best and most permanent way” to resolve the crisis. Obama has also reaffirmed Israel’s “sovereign right to make its own decisions about what is required to meet its security needs.”
Romney has long supported military involvement in the Middle East and still defends President Bush’s preventative invasion in Iraq. In an interview with CNN on Thursday, Romney said, “President Bush took action which he believed, based upon the information that was available to him, both from British intelligence and intelligence in our country and around the world, that Saddam Hussein presented a very serious threat to the world, including the potential of weapons of mass destruction.”
The New York Times has a more full transcript of Senor’s comments, emphasizing the shift to “capability” as a U.S. “red line”:
It is not enough just to stop Iran from developing a nuclear program. The capability, even if that capability is short of weaponization, is a pathway to weaponization, and the capability gives Iran the power it needs to wreak havoc in the region and around the world.