Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney would respect an Israeli decision to use military force to stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, a senior aide said on Sunday.
Romney met in Jerusalem with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, on the second leg of a foreign trip aimed at bolstering his foreign policy credentials in his race to unseat Obama in the Nov. 6 presidential election.
Shortly before those talks, Romney’s senior national security aide, Dan Senor, told reporters travelling with the candidate:
“If Israel has to take action on its own, in order to stop Iran from developing that capability, the governor would respect that decision.”
The comment seemed to put Romney at odds with Obama’s efforts to press Israel to avoid any preemptive strike before tough Western economic sanctions against Iran run their course.
Senor later expanded his remarks, saying that Romney felt “we should employ any and all measures to dissuade the Iranian regime from its nuclear course.”
It was Romney’s “fervent hope that diplomatic and economic measures will do so,” and “no option should be excluded,” said Senor, who added that “Romney recognizes Israel’s right to defend itself, and that it is right for America to stand with it.”
Standing beside Netanyahu at the Israeli leader’s office, Romney said only that Iran’s effort to become a nuclear power “is one which I take with great seriousness.”
The failure of talks between Iran and six world powers to secure a breakthrough in curbing what the West fears is a drive to develop nuclear weapons has raised international concern that Israel may opt for a go-it-alone military strike. Iran says its programme is solely for peaceful purposes.
Netanyahu issued his customary call for stronger measures behind the sanctions to curb Iran’s programme, which Israel sees as a threat to its existence. Iran says its project is for peaceful purposes.