Iran – 27 mentions. By far, more than any other country in the world. “You want to talk about the most pressing issue that we’re dealing with today? It’s Iran”, said Rick Santorum in the first of two New Hampshire weekend debates.
One should not be overly impressed by the tough tone on Iran espoused by all candidates (save Paul). They were tough, but short on specifics. They said they’d do better than President Obama, but didn’t quite explain how better. Here’s Romney: “We have a nation, which is intent on becoming nuclear. Iran has pursued their – their ambition without having crippling sanctions against them. The president was silent when over a million voices took to the streets in Iran. Voices he should have stood up for and said, ‘we’re supporting you.’ And he’s – and he’s failed to put together a plan to show Iran that we have the capacity to remove them militarily from their plans to have nuclear weaponry.”
So Romney says the President should have been more supportive of the Iranian protesters. That Monday morning quarterbacking. It tells us what a candidate Romney think that the President should have done yesterday, but tells nothing exactly about the way a President Romney will act tomorrow.
Newt Gingrich: “Here’s the key thing to remember. If you’re – if you’re worried about the Iranians in Iraq, develop a strategy to replace the Iranian dictatorship and Iraq will be fine.” When Gingrich says “develop a strategy”, it means he doesn’t yet have such a strategy. And if he doesn’t yet have such a strategy, there’s a possibility that such a strategy doesn’t exist; that it isn’t a viable option.
Santorum said in the debate that “The Iranian people love America because we stand up for the truth and say – and call evil, which is what Ahmadinejad and the mullahs are, we call evil what it is. That’s why they admire us, because we tell the truth.” I’m sure he has the numbers to back these claims, but am still searching for such evidence. The world public opinion organization reported two years ago that “Just as views of President Obama are quite negative, so views of the US government are even a bit worse. Seventy-seven percent of Iranians say that they have an unfavorable view of the US government, with a remarkable 69% saying that they have a very unfavorable view. Seventeen percent have favorable views (3% very).” Iranians also have “high levels of suspicion about US goals. Large majorities think it is a goal of the United States “to weaken and divide the Islamic world” (81%) and “maintain control over the oil resources of the Middle East” (78%) – numbers that have not changed significantly from 2008. Also, three in four say that the US has the goal to “impose American culture on Muslim society.”
As devastating as this might sound, such numbers strengthen Ron Paul’s position more than Santorum’s.
What was the “mistake” of which the Obama administration is blamed regarding Egypt? “He has been making mistakes at every turn in Iran, in Egypt, I would argue, Libya, Syria, Israel. All of these places, he has made mistakes on the ground that have shown the people in that region that we are the weak horse,” Santorum said. But what were these mistakes? Don’t look for any answer in the debate.
And a note to Jewish organizations – quick to denounce Santorum for his Jesus remark: Both Gingrich and Romney – not the best of friends these days – agree that “there’s a lot more anti-Christian bigotry today than there is concerning the other side”.