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(photo credit: REUTERS)
NASHUA, New Hampshire – Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum said
Monday the US should use surgical strikes like those employed by Israel against
Syrian and Iraqi nuclear facilities to keep Iran from obtaining a nuclear
Santorum told more than 100 New Hampshire voters gathered in a
Salem Elks Lodge on the last day before the nation’s first-in-the-nation GOP
primary Tuesday that as president he would first implement more sanctions,
covert operations and assistance for pro-democracy forces.
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continued, if that doesn’t work, “then we set a deadline and we say if you don’t
meet that deadline and open up this facility and begin to dismantle it, we’re
going to take it out for you. Declare war? No. But take out [this facility] with
tactical strikes...Just like the Israelis did with the Syrians. Just
like the Israelis did to the Iraqis.”
He declared, “We can’t let Iran get
a nuclear weapon, because Iran is different than any other country in the
history of the world world that’s gotten a nuclear weapon.”
that Tehran is ruled by theocrats and charged that its leaders want “to fulfill
the dream that Shi’ite Islam should rule the world.”
Santorum lost the
first vote for the Republican party nomination by just eight votes at the Iowa
caucuses last week.
His strong second-place finish, which capped a rapid
ascent in the polls in the waning days of the Hawkeye State race, has propelled
him into the top tier of candidates and made him the leading choice among
His near-win gave him only a slight bump in the
polls in New Hampshire – where residents tend to be less focused on social
issues – but he hopes to surge in South Carolina, where the second primary will
be held next week, and become the central competitor to perceived front-runner
However, if he beats out others vying for the evangelical
vote Tuesday, including Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry, he could help consolidate
his position as the top challenger to Romney. Romney, for his part, is hoping to
beat not only the social conservatives in the race here, but libertarian Ron
Paul and more middleof- the-road Republican Jon Hunstman.
given Mitt Romney a wide lead, but one that has narrowed from upwards of 40
percent of voters as recently as last week, leaving room for an upset by another
A Suffolk University poll of the last two days showed Romney
at 33%, with Paul at 20%, Hunstman at 13%, Santorum at 10%, Gingrich at 9.5% and
Perry at 1%.
In New Hampshire on Monday, Santorum focused on the economic
and foreign policy issues that could resonate more with Granite State voters
than social issues. His strong words on Iran, about the most hawkish of any
candidate, were accompanied by strong words of support for Israel.
are our most important ally in the region,” he said. “We try to support them and
if we have differences we talk about them privately and we try to work together
privately. We don’t go out and openly side with folks and interests that
are against the basic security needs of our ally.”
He accused President
Barack Obama of having “repeatedly sold them down the river.”
candidates have also stressed their support for Israel and criticized Obama for
not doing enough on Iran.
Romney has repeatedly emphasized that theme, as
In a public appearance Monday in Nashua, Gingrich noted the
recent threat by Tehran to block the Straits of Hormuz, and used it to argue for
the need for a new American energy policy.
“We are very foolish not to
have a national American energy policy,” he said, which should include
maximizing production from US sources.
“It will allow us to be free in
the Middle East, to not worry about [oil from] the Straits of
Several voters at the Gingrich event said they were deciding
between him and Santorum, a sentiment echoed by many at Santorum’s event as
well. Though Gingrich has launched a strong assault on Romney, he has been more
conciliatory toward Santorum though it appears they are going after the same
“I couldn’t possibly vote for someone who didn’t consider Israel
to be a friend,” said retired teacher Lyn Marino as she walked out of the
Gingrich event. She said she was leaning towards him, in part because he seemed
stronger on Israel than Santorum.
Santorum, for his part, elicited
applause with his remarks on Iran, and several voters said they liked what they
Yvette Mailly, also a retiree, said that she like most Americans
wasn’t eager to see the US involved in another military conflict in the Middle
East, but concluded that a looming nuclear Iran would mean, “There comes a point
when you have to take action.”
And 33-year-old mother of two Shelly Sousa
said she appreciated Santorum’s proactive stance on Iran.
“I really liked
that he didn’t want to wait until they get a nuclear weapon but to address it
beforehand,” she said.
But not everyone in the crowd was pleased by his
Chris Klein, a Democrat who traveled from neighboring
Massachusetts to check out the GOP candidates, said Santorum’s talk on Iran
underscored his discomfort with his candidacy.
“I think we’ve seen the
consequences of getting involved in Iraq,” he said, arguing that the possibility
of US military intervention in Iran could lead to a similar
“That scares me.”