Republican contenders attacked President Barack Obama on Iran’s steps toward a nuclear weapon, calling in a national security debate for aggressive action from supporting an Israeli attack to imposing crushing sanctions that risk higher oil prices.
Businessman Herman Cain said that he would support Israel in an attack on Iran if there was a “credible” plan.
“I would support Israel if it was clear what the mission was,” Cain said during a candidates’ debate in Washington. His support he said would also be conditioned on the “definition of success” of such an attack.
Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, leading candidate in the latest polls, said that “no bombing campaign in Iran that leaves the regime in place would be useful.”
“Replacing the regime before they get a nuclear weapon without a war beats replacing the regime with war, which beats allowing them to have a nuclear weapon,” said Gingrich, who has supported increased covert action.
Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney said sanctions on Iran, which were stepped up this week by Obama, should be still tougher even if it crippled Iran’s oil industry.
“I know it’s going to make gasoline more expensive,” he said. “There’s no price that is worth an Iranian nuclear weapon.”
The eight Republican hopefuls debated national security at Washington’s DAR Constitution Hall, a short walk from the White House, hosted by CNN and two non-profit policy groups, the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute.
Cain, Romney, Gingrich, Texas Governor Rick Perry, Minnesota Representative Michele Bachmann, Texas Representative Ron Paul, former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman and former Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania participated.
Paul criticized Cain’s willingness to assist Israel with an attack on Israel.
“If they want to bomb something, it’s their business and they should face their consequences,” Paul said. “Israel is quite capable of taking care of themselves.”
Romney vowed to take his first foreign trip as president to Israel “to show that we support them.”
The Obama administration yesterday expanded measures aimed at thwarting Iran’s nuclear program, targeting its the banking system and oil industry with actions intended to cut the regime off from international financial transactions.
The measures, coordinated with sanctions by the U.K. and Canada, are in response to a Nov. 8 report by the United Nations nuclear watchdog agency which cited evidence pointing to clandestine nuclear weapons development activities by Iran.
Lifetime of Danger
On the subject of terrorism, Gingrich said that the U.S. must strengthen tools to detect and prevent threats because “all of us will be in danger for the rest of our lives.”
Those steps include extending the USA Patriot Act, which provides U.S. law enforcement with extra powers, he said.
“You want to use every tool you can possibly use to gather intelligence,” Gingrich said. “The dangers are literally that great.”
Paul immediately tangled with Gingrich, warning against giving up liberty in exchange for security. “You can still provide security without sacrificing our Bill of Rights,”he said.
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