At least 3 GOP candidates say war with Iran is an option


WASHINGTON (JTA) — Three Republican candidates for president said they would go to war if Iran obtained a nuclear weapon.

Mitt Romney, one of the front-runners, said Saturday night during a debate of GOP contenders that a "credible threat" of war was necessary to contain Iran, as did Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, and Rick Santorum, a former Pennsylvania U.S. senator.

The policy under Presidents Obama and George W. Bush was to say that "nothing is off the table" without specifying a military option.

"The president should have built a credible threat of military action," said Romney, referring to Obama, in the debate at Wofford College in Spartanburg, S.C.

"If we re-elect Barack Obama, Iran will have a nuclear weapon. And if you elect Mitt Romney, Iran will not have a nuclear weapon," he said.

Gingrich and Santorum agreed that there should be a "credible threat" of military action.

Herman Cain, a businessman who also is a front-runner, said he would support insurgents in Iran and deploy anti-missile ships in the region, but stopped short of military action.

"I would not entertain military opposition," he said.

U.S. Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas.) also was opposed.

Not asked were Texas Gov. Rick Perry, U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman. 

Bachmann later accused Obama of "not standing with Israel" at a time that "the table is being set for worldwide nuclear war with Israel."

Perry said he backed sanctions that would cut off Iran’s Central Bank from the U.S. economy — a plan that is under consideration in Congress.

Perry also said he backed a complete halt to foreign assistance and having nations make their case for assistance. Asked if that included Israel, he said "absolutely," although he predicted that Israel would make a strong case and would receive substantial aid.

His campaign e-mailed a "clarification" to reporters immediately following the debate repeating Perry’s debate remarks that "Israel is a special ally, and my bet is that we would be funding them at some substantial level." The e-mail added that "Gov. Perry recognizes Israel as a unique and vital political and economic partner for the United States in the Middle East."

The debate, co-sponsored by CBS and the National Journal, took place in a key early primary state for Republicans.

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