The GOP candidates will take to the stage tonight at 8pm EST to debate national security issues, and we expect Iran policy will once again be a major point of discussion. Given that many of the candidates have had a chance to offer their talking points on Iran, here are some questions the moderators can ask to dig a little deeper beyond the standard rhetoric.
Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta recently joined military and civilian officials and experts in stating that a military strike on Iran could only set its nuclear program back two or three years and would have many “unintended consequences.” Experts say such strikes would convince Iran to make a full sprint towards a nuclear weapon.
You have suggested that a Romney Administration would be inclined to use military force to stop an Iranian nuclear weapon and have criticized President Obama’s stated willingness to engage Iran. At the last debate you said, “If we re-elect Barack Obama, Iran will have a nuclear weapon. If you elect me as president, Iran will not have a nuclear weapon.”
-Would a Romney administration be more willing to go to war with Iran than the current administration? Given that military strikes short of a full-scale invasion of Iran would only delay–not end–the country’s nuclear program, does the “military option” mean you would be willing to send ground troops into Iran?
-Would a Romney Administration be willing to pursue a diplomatic resolution regarding Iran’s nuclear program and negotiate directly with Iran, or is diplomacy off the table?
In the last debate you advocated the U.S. using “covert operations” against Iran and “taking out” Iranian nuclear scientists.
-Are you concerned that publicly condoning “covert operations” reduces the “plausible deniability” of such activities should you become president?
-How would you square a policy of killing Iranian scientists on Iranian soil with the U.S.’s own condemnation of the recent alleged Iranian assassination plot on U.S. soil? Do you see it as contradictory to advocate assassinating Iranian officials while condemning Iran on similar grounds?
In the last debate you criticized the Obama Administration for not sanctioning the Central Bank of Iran. But many experts say such sanctions would raise gas prices in the U.S., kill jobs, and threaten to send the global economy into recession. And a top Treasury official recently warned that, instead of convincing Tehran to acquiesce, such measures could actually be a “boon” to Iran by increasing their oil profits.
-How much would you be willing to raise gas prices in the U.S and how many jobs would you be willing to sacrifice in order to impose sanctions on Iran’s central bank?
-Are you concerned about the humanitarian impact that central bank sanctions would have inside of Iran?
And though he will not be on stage tonight, candidate Obama gets a question too:
On the campaign trail in 2007 and 2008, you promised to definitively break from the Bush Administration’s foreign policy, in particular its refusal to engage diplomatically with our enemies. You stated that an Obama Administration would utilize diplomatic engagement, and cited Iran as an example.
But four years later, some critics say your Iran policy is largely the same as your predecessor’s. Your administration has only participated in two direct negotiations with Iran and, like the Bush Administration, appears focused almost exclusively on sanctions and pressure.
-Has the Obama Administration lived up to the promises you made on the campaign trail four years ago regarding diplomatic engagement with Iran?
-Has the United States, under your watch, changed course from the Iran policy of George W. Bush?