Open Zion

09.14.12

Romney Straddles The Red Line

There's some news apropos of our discussion of how the "red lines" Benjamin Netanyahu wants to impose on Iran's nuclear program line up with the Romney campaign's. Mitt Romney, the candidate himself, has stepped in and done what he does best: equivocated, flip-flopped, whatever you want to call it. Whichever way you slice it, there seems to be some confusion. Here it is from the New York Times:

“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.”...

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.”

That doesn't jibe with what Romney adviser Dan Senor explicitly said in Jerusalem in July, when he established a lower threshold for war with Iran by saying that Iranian "capability"—rather than actual weapons production—was the "red line." Nor does it jibe with what Romney himself said in Jerusalem. From his July speech:

We must lead the effort to prevent Iran from building and possessing nuclear weapons capability. We should employ any and all measures to dissuade the Iranian regime from its nuclear course.

The Times adds that the statement put Romney out of step with recent remarks—echoing Senor's stance—from some of his top foreign policy advisers. One of them, Eliot Cohen, even went to the trouble of noting that Obama has a different red line than Netanyahu:

Mr. Romney, said Mr. Cohen, “would not be content with an Iran one screwdriver’s turn away from a nuclear weapon.” Though he 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.

Romney advisers told the Grey Lady on background that Romney's confusion on ABC was sewed by Stephanopoulos misleading him, though Stephanopolous asked twice and Romney replied in the affirmative on both occasions.