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Friday, September 14, 2012

Romney Statement on Iran at Odds With His Foreign Policy Advisers\'


As the turmoil in the Middle East thrust foreign policy to the forefront of the presidential campaign, Mitt Romney found himself at odds with his own foreign policy advisers. While two of his advisers in interviews said that Mr. Romney had a different “red line” on Iran from President Obama, Mr. Romney told ABC News that his red line is the same as that of the president.

“My red line is Iran may not have a nuclear weapon,” Mr. Romney said, in an interview that was broadcast on Friday with George Stephanopoulos on “Good Morning America.” “It is inappropriate for them to have the capacity to terrorize the world.”

Though Mr. Romney has repeatedly said that he would have put in place “crippling sanctions” with Iran far before Mr. Obama did, the president has now also implemented sanctions, and Mr. Obama similarly draws his administration's red line at preventing Iran from gaining a nuclear weapon.

When Mr. Stephanopoulos pointed out that Mr. Romney's red line was the same as the president's, Mr. Romney replied, “Yeah, and I laid out what I would do to keep Iran from reaching that red line.”

Meanwhile, however, two of Mr. Romney's most senior foreign policy advisers, Eliot Cohen and Richard Williamson, were offering a far more muscular stance on Iran. Asked specifically how Mr. Romney's foreign policy differs from that of the Obama administration, Mr. Romney's advisers said that he would have already told Iran that he would not allow it to come close to building a bomb.

Mr. Romney, said Mr. Cohen, “would not be content with an Iran one screwdriver's turn away from a nuclear weapon.” Though h e did not say exactly where, in the development of nuclear capacity, Mr. Romney would draw his own red line, Mr. Cohen said that it would be far before Mr. Obama's own line - at the point of actual weaponization - and that it could be in a different place that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel draws it.

“Once they get a weapon, or on the verge of getting it, it's too late,” Mr. Cohen said.

The Romney campaign did not offer an on-the-record response for the apparent discrepancy in message and position between Mr. Romney and his top foreign policy advisers. But they privately maintain there is no change in policy and point to the portion of the ABC News interview where he says that Iran should not have “the capacity to terrorize the world.”

The campaign also claims that Mr. Stephanopoulous inadvertently mischaracterized Mr. Obama's position, saying it was the same as Mr. Romney's stance; that, they maintain, is the only reason Mr. Romney agr eed that he had the same red line as the president. However, Mr. Stephanopoulos twice confirmed with Mr. Romney that he had the same red line as Mr. Obama, and twice Mr. Romney agreed.

“But your red line going forward is the same?” Mr. Stephanopoulos asked, a second time.

“Yes,” came Mr. Romney's reply.