In an op-ed article in The Wall Street Journal, Romney called for the United States to chart a new course in the region using its economic and military strength directed by American values.
Citing "disturbing developments," such as the civil war in Syria, the Muslim Brotherhood's rise to power in Egypt, the slaying of the U.S. ambassador in Libya, violent protests in several countries and Iran's push for nuclear-weapons capability that threatens Israel, Romney blamed President Obama for the "atrophy" of U.S. leadership.
Romney said the United States "seems to be at the mercy of events rather than shaping them."
"We're not moving them in a direction that protects our people or our allies. And that's dangerous," he wrote. "If the Middle East descends into chaos, if Iran moves toward nuclear breakout, or if Israel's security is compromised, America could be pulled into the maelstrom.
"We still have time to address these threats, but it will require a new strategy toward the Middle East."
He said Obama has failed to maintain the elements of U.S. influence -- promoting human rights, free markets and the rule of law while maintaining its military power and allying itself with like-minded countries -- and that has "heightened the prospect of conflict and instability.'
Romney faulted Obama for "creating 'daylight'" between the United States and Israel.
"He recently downgraded Israel from being our 'closest ally' in the Middle East to being only 'one of our closest allies,'" Romney said. "It's a diplomatic message that will be received clearly by Israel and its adversaries alike.
"In this period of uncertainty, we need to apply a coherent strategy of supporting our partners in the Middle East -- that is, both governments and individuals who share our values."
Regarding Iran, Romney said "the ayatollahs must be made to believe us" when the United States says the Islamic republic must not achieve a nuclear military capability
"It means placing no daylight between the United States and Israel," he said. "And it means using the full spectrum of our soft power to encourage liberty and opportunity for those who have for too long known only corruption and oppression. The dignity of work and the ability to steer the course of their lives are the best alternatives to extremism.
"But this Middle East policy will be undermined unless we restore the three sinews of our influence: our economic strength, our military strength and the strength of our values. That will require a very different set of policies from those President Obama is pursuing."
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