Mitt Romney believes that it is unacceptable for Iran to possess a nuclear weapon. Should Iran achieve its nuclear objective, the entire geostrategic landscape of the Middle East would tilt in favor of the ayatollahs. A nuclear Iran will pose an existential threat to Israel, whose security is a vital U.S. national interest. As Iran's ballistic missile capacity improves, it will endanger Europe and eventually the continental United States. It will provoke an arms race in which the Arab nations themselves forge ahead with nuclear programs of their own. The result will be a nightmarish cascade of nuclear tensions in the worst's most volatile region. Iran's sponsorship of international terrorism would take on a new and terrifying dimension.
As president, Mitt Romney's strategy will be to end Iran's pursuit of a nuclear weapon, eliminate the threat of Iranian nuclear terrorism against the United States and our allies, and prevent nuclear proliferation across the Middle East.
A Credible Military Option
U.S. policy toward Iran must begin with an understanding on Iran's part that a military option to deal with their nuclear program remains on the table. This message should not only be delivered through words, but through actions. The United States should restore the regular presence of aircraft carrier task forces in both the Eastern Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf region simultaneously. The United States should repair relations with Israel, increase military coordination and assistance, and enhance intelligence sharing to ensure that our allied capabilities are robust and ready to deal with Iran. The United States should also increase military coordination with our Arab allies in the region and conduct more naval exercises as a demonstration of strength and resolve. Only if Iran understands that the United States is utterly determined when we say that their nuclear-weapons program is unacceptable is there a possibility that they will give up their nuclear aspirations peacefully.
Implement a Fifth Round of Tougher Sanctions
Sanctions are not ends in themselves. They are intended to persuade Iran to change course and abandon its nuclear program. President Obama deserves credit for pushing for a fourth round of international sanctions on Iran early in his term, just as before him President Bush deserved credit for the three previous rounds. But time has shown that existing sanctions have not led the ayatollahs to abandon their nuclear aspirations. We therefore need to ratchet up our pressure on Iran with a fifth round of sanctions targeted at the financial resources that underpin the Iranian regime and its Revolutionary Guard Corps, focusing on restrictions on the Central Bank of Iran, as well as other financial institutions. We should place sanctions on all business activities of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which include much of Iran's petroleum industry. To stanch the flow of the petroleum commerce that supports the Iranian regime, we should pursue sanctions on firms that transport such products to and from Iran.
Ideally, these sanctions would be implemented through the U.N. Security Council, but persuading Russia and China to go along might prove impossible. In the absence of a U.N. imprimatur, the United States should be ready to take action in conjunction with as many willing governments as possible. And if necessary, we should be prepared to act on our own. To that end, Mitt Romney will step up enforcement of existing U.S. laws that bar commerce with Iran, such as the exportation of refined petroleum products to Iran.
Mitt will also push for greater diplomatic isolation of Iran. The United States should make it plain that it is a disgrace to provide Iran's Holocaust-denying president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the trappings and respect offered to responsible heads of state. He should not be invited to foreign capitals or feted by foreign leaders. Quite the opposite. Given his calls for Israel to be wiped off the map, Ahmadinejad should be indicted for incitement to genocide under Article III of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.
Support the Iranian Opposition
In 2009, President Obama refrained from supporting the nascent Green Movement as it was facing a violent crackdown by the Iranian regime. As protestors demonstrating against a stolen election were shot down in the streets, President Obama stated he did not want to "meddle" in Iranian affairs, fearing that his unconditional outreach to the Iranian regime would be endangered if he did so. This was a disgraceful abdication of American moral authority.
Mitt Romney would make plain that the United States supports the emergence of a democratic alternative to the current repressive and reckless regime in Tehran. He would work to improve the flow of information to the Iranian population about its own government's repressive activities. He would recognize the strong national interest we have in the success of the Arab Spring in Syria and the removal of the Bashar al-Assad regime, Iran's closest ally. And Mitt will not stand silent while the Iranian regime ruthlessly terrorizes its own people.
Commit to the On-Time Completion of a Fully Capable Missile Defense System
The United States and our European and Middle Eastern allies have a vital interest in establishing a fully operational and effective missile defense system in Eastern Europe to create a protective umbrella against Iranian nuclear weapons. Under pressure from Russia, President Obama early in his term scrapped President Bush's plan to deploy ground-based interceptors in Poland and a radar system in the Czech Republic. He instead favored a plan that featured a longer development timeline based upon technologies that have not yet been developed. He has since partially reversed course to reassure our allies who were alarmed by his abrupt about-face and subsequently clarified that his new program will also feature interceptors in Poland along with interceptors in Romania and a radar system in Turkey, all to be built in stages through 2020. As president, Mitt Romney is willing to commit to deploying missile defenses in Europe along that timeline, but he will do so with the following two qualifications.
First, Mitt would reserve the option of reverting to President Bush's original plan of deploying proven interceptor technology in Poland if it becomes clear that Iran is making faster progress on developing long range missiles than the Obama plan assumes or if the new technologies on which the plan relies fail to materialize in a timely fashion. If Iran is going to deploy intercontinental missiles sooner than 2020, the United States should retain the option of defending against them.
Second, Mitt would make clear that while he is willing to cooperate with Russia on missile defense in ways that will enhance the overall effectiveness of the missile-defense system, he will not compromise the capability of the system or yield operational control of it. Russia must abandon any backdoor scheme to constrain our missile defenses. The United States should never give Russia a veto over our security and that of our allies.