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Third Debate: Obama And Romney Don't Differ Much On Iran

Christian Patterson |
October 23, 2012 | 7:40 p.m. PDT


(A. Davey, Creative Commons)
(A. Davey, Creative Commons)
The often-quotable Winston Churchill once described Russia as a “riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.” I think that most members of the U.S. foreign policy establishment would feel comfortable applying that description to Iran as well.

The United States has encountered trouble dealing with Iran since its people overthrew U.S.-backed Mohammed Reza Palavi and put in place a theocratic regime in the 1970s. We wrestled Iran diplomatically through the Iran-hostage crisis when they stormed our embassy and held American citizens captive for 444 days. We backed Saddam Hussein during his decade long conflict with Iran, and now we’re using every resource we have to prevent Iran from building a nuclear weapon. Our history with this incarnation of the Iranian government has obviously been a rocky one, marked by ineffective policies. It is no wonder why Americans place such a large spotlight on our dealings with the Islamic Republic.

Monday night’s presidential debate made clear that no matter who inhabits the Oval Office next January, our policy direction will probably not change much. Obama and Romney seem to be in general agreement about our policies toward Iran. They both believe in strict economic sanctions. They both see Iranian nuclearization as an unacceptable option, and they both stand by our ally Israel in viewing any Iranian aggression toward the Jewish state as an act of war against the United States.

Neither candidate seems willing to embrace a new course of action. Romney has finally toned down his bellicose rhetoric about bombing Iranian nuclear facilities. Obama has backed away from opening up new negotiations (probably for fear of being called “weak” by Republicans). And, at this point, there doesn’t really seem to be a difference in policy between the two challengers for the Oval Office.

Republicans are quick to delineate between the tone of a potential Romney administration and the current one. Romney reiterated a common attack on the President’s foreign policy on Monday night, accusing him of going on an “apology tour” soon after taking office, and charging that Obama has shown the world we aren’t committed to Israel (a key consideration in the U.S.-Iranian standoff over nuclear weapons). These arguments clearly fall flat, though, just as they did last night. As Obama pointed out, his first foreign trip as a presidential candidate was to visit our troops, and on the same trip he visited Israel’s Holocaust Museum to remind himself of the “nature of evil and why our bond with Israel will be unbreakable.”

As for the claims of “apologizing” for U.S. might, I think killing Osama Bin Laden, quadrupling the number of drone strikes carried out by President Bush and carrying out a surge in Afghanistan shows enough of a commitment to U.S. foreign policy goals to counter any softening in Obama's tone.

After watching Monday night’s foreign policy debate, it’s pretty clear that whichever leader we have next year, will stay the course when dealing with Iran. Only time will tell whether that’s a good thing or not.


Read more of Neon Tommy's coverage of the 2012 Presidential Debate here.

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