Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum said Sunday that he would bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities if the country failed to open them up to inspectors.

Speaking in an interview on NBC’s Meet the Press, the former senator said that he would send a clear message to the Iranians: “You either open up those facilities, you begin to dismantle them and make them available to inspectors, or we will degrade those facilities through air strikes.”

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Santorum has been riding a late surge in GOP presidential nomination polls, with recent data placing him third among candidates in Iowa for the first time. His recent increase in popularity comes just two days before Republican primary elections open in Iowa.

In response to the interviewer’s statement that there is no good option against Iran’s nuclear program, Santorum said he wants to “make sure Iran knows that when we say ‘Iran is not getting a nuclear weapon,’ we will actually effectuate policies that make that happen.”

“I would say to every foreign scientist that’s going into Iran to help them with their [nuclear] program, you will be treated as an enemy combatant, like an al-Qaida member,” he said. “Iran will not get a nuclear weapon under my watch.”

The republican presidential hopeful emphasized his record on Iran, while criticizing US President Barack Obama’s.

Santorum cited the Iran Freedom-Support Act, which he sponsored in 2005. The act, which passed in Congress with bipartisan support, appropriated $10 million to supporting groups opposed to the Iranian regime.

“The Iran Freedom-Support Act, which I authored, imposed tough sanctions on the Iranian nuclear program and provided funding for the pro-democracy movement,” he said.

“When Obama came into office, he cut that funding,” Santorum said in a condemnation of what he viewed as Obama’s lack of support for the Green Movement pro-democracy protesters of 2009. “The people in the streets were rioting, saying ‘please support us, President Obama’... We want to turn this theocracy that has been at war with the United States, that’s developing a nuclear weapon, that’s killing [US] troops in Afghanistan and Iraq with IEDs. And the president of the United States turned his back on them.”

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Iranian threat

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