The American Jewish Committee has posted answers to President Obama’s and Mitt Romney’s responses to a questionnaire from the organization.
The first question is about Iran.
The remaining questions and the responses from the two candidates will be posted daily over the next 10 days. Stay tuned.
Question 1: As the Iranian regime continues its pursuit of nuclear weapons capability – defying a growing international consensus, threatening Israel and other U.S. allies, and in violation of its treaty obligations – what specific steps would you take to avert the peril of a nuclear Iran? As the U.S. and its international partners act to isolate Iran, how do you suggest dealing with governments that have resisted efforts to exert economic pressure on the Iranian regime? What position should the United States take if Iran develops its nuclear capability to the point that diplomacy and sanctions cannot be expected to restrain its development and deployment of weapons that would jeopardize U.S. interests and global security?
Response from President Barack Obama
When I came into office, Iran’s leadership was united and on the rise in the region, while the international community was divided about how to confront Tehran’s nuclear weapons ambitions. Today, because of concrete steps that I and my Administration have taken, Iran is under greater pressure and more isolated than ever. We have led the international community in putting in place the toughest and most comprehensive sanctions in history on Iran. We secured the support of Russia and China for these sanctions, making them even more effective and biting, and have since built a broad international coalition that has targeted the Iranian banking, petroleum, and petro-chemical sectors. Our diplomacy has succeeded in getting every major importer of Iranian oil to significantly reduce their purchases — including a total European Union oil embargo; however, we consistently review our sanctions, and will not hesitate to impose consequences on those actors who do not comply with our sanctions regime.
I’ve been absolutely clear that containment is not my policy, and that all options are on the table to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. I am prepared to use all elements of American power to do so, including a political effort to further isolate Iran, a diplomatic effort to sustain our coalition, an economic effort that has imposed crippling sanctions, and a military effort to be prepared for any contingency.
I believe we have a responsibility to use the time and space that exists now — when both we and the Israelis judge the Iranians do not yet have a nuclear weapon – to try to get a diplomatic solution to this situation. Indeed, history shows that diplomacy is the surest way to permanently change a nation’s calculus with respect to pursuing nuclear weapons. But even as seek a diplomatic solution, we will continue to heighten the pressure on the Iranian government with every available tool. While it is true that, as president, I have a deeply held preference for peace over war, I have also made clear time and again that I will not hesitate to use force when it is necessary to defend the United States and its interests.
It’s in both our and Israel’s national security interests to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran. Together, along with our global partners, we will continue to apply maximum pressure to achieve that end.
Response from Governor Mitt Romney
It is unacceptable for Iran to possess a nuclear weapons capability and as president I will never accept such a development. I will take every measure to keep Iran from acquiring the most terrible weapons known to man. I will press for ever tightening sanctions on the regime, acting multilaterally where we can and unilaterally where we must, and leave no doubt in the mind of the regime’s leaders that the military option remains on the table. Toward that end, I will restore the regular presence of aircraft carrier task forces in both the Eastern Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf region, increase military assistance to Israel, expand military coordination with our Arab allies, and conduct more naval exercises as a demonstration of strength and resolve. I will support democratic alternatives to the repressive regime in Tehran and work to improve the flow of information to the Iranian population about its own government’s repressive activities. I will commit and push for the on-time completion of a fully capable missile defense system in Eastern Europe to create a protective umbrella against Iranian nuclear weapons.