Santorum favors Iran strike if sanctions don’t work

First US primary takes place today in New Hampshire; Santorum favors "surgical strikes" if sanctions fail.

By HILARY LEILA KRIEGER, JPOST CORRESPONDENT
January 10, 2012 06:04
Republican candidate Rick Santorum

rick santorum constipated 311. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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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 weapon.

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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But, he 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.”

He explained 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.

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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 Christian conservatives.

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 Mitt Romney.

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.

Polls have 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 candidate.

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.

“They 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.”

Other GOP candidates have also stressed their support for Israel and criticized Obama for not doing enough on Iran.

Romney has repeatedly emphasized that theme, as has Gingrich.

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 Hormuz.”

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 voters.

“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 heard.

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 remarks.

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 scenario.

“That scares me.”

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