Romney, Obama part ways on foreign policy

Sept. 24, 2012 at 2:49 AM
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WASHINGTON, Sept. 24 (UPI) -- Republican challenger Mitt Romney attacked Democratic President Barack Obama on his foreign policy Sunday night, but Obama stood by his record.

Romney said Obama's been too soft on nations that don't march in step with the United States and hasn't been a strong enough friend to Israel. In an interview that aired on CBS' "60 Minutes," Romney said he would tell nations like Egypt "what the rules are."

"That to remain an ally of the United States, to receive foreign aid from the United States, to receive foreign investment from ourselves and from our friends, I believe, around the world, that they must honor their peace agreement with Israel," Romney said. "That they must also show respect and provide civil rights for minorities in their country. And they also have to protect our embassies."

He said he would also stand by Israel and thinks it is "a mistake" that Obama isn't meeting with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu when he is in the United States for a United Nations session.

Obama, asked in a separate interview if he's getting pressure from Netanyahu to lean harder on Iran to back off its nuclear ambitions, said he talks with the prime minister "all the time."

"And I understand and share Prime Minister Netanyahu's insistence that Iran should not obtain a nuclear weapon because it would threaten us, it would threaten Israel and it would threaten the world and kick off a nuclear arms race," Obama said.

"When it comes to our national security decisions, any pressure that I feel is simply to do what's right for the American people. And I am going to block out any noise that's out there. Now I feel an obligation, not pressure but obligation, to make sure that we're in close consultation with the Israelis on these issues because it affects them deeply. They're one of our closest allies in the region. And we've got an Iranian regime that has said horrible things that directly threaten Israel's existence."

The Romney campaign later issued a statement chiding Obama for referring to Israeli concerns about Iran as "noise" and for calling Israel "one of our closest allies" instead of the closest.

"This is just the latest evidence of his chronic disregard for the security of our closest ally in the Middle East," Romney campaign spokeswoman Sunday Andrea Saul said. "Governor Romney's views stand in sharp contrast to the president's. Governor Romney strongly believes that Israel is our most important ally in the Middle East and that support for Israel is essential to extending freedom, peace and democracy throughout the region."

Asked if the Arab Spring and recent developments in the Middle East, have caused him to have second thoughts about supporting the changes in the region, Obama said he has said all along it is going to be "a rocky path."

"The question presumes that somehow we could have stopped this wave of change," he said. "I think it was absolutely the right thing for us to do to align ourselves with democracy, universal rights, a notion that people have to be able to participate in their own governance.

"But I was pretty certain and continue to be pretty certain that there are going to be bumps in the road because, you know, in a lot of these places, the one organizing principle has been Islam. The one part of society that hasn't been controlled completely by the government. There are strains of extremism, and anti-Americanism, and anti-Western sentiment.

"There will probably be some times where we bump up against some of these countries and have strong disagreements, but I do think that over the long term we are more likely to get a Middle East and North Africa that is more peaceful, more prosperous and more aligned with our interests."

Obama defended his foreign policy, citing the end to the war in Iraq and the weakening of al-Qaida and the elimination of Osama bin Laden.

"So I've executed on my foreign policy. And it's one that the American people largely agree with," Obama said. "So if Governor Romney is suggesting that we should start another war, he should say so."

Asked what his criteria would be for taking the United States into a war, Romney said "it would be a very high hurdle."

"No. 1, a very substantial American interest at stake. No. 2, a clear definition of our mission. No. 3, a clear definition of how we'll know when our mission is complete. No. 4, providing the resources to make sure that we can carry out that mission effectively, overwhelming resources. And finally, a clear understanding of what will be left after we leave," Romney said. "All of those would have to be in place before I were to decide to deploy American military might in any foreign place."

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