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July 30th, 2012
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How a Romney administration would handle Iran – Romney Campaign Foreign Policy Advisor Amb. Richard Williamson explains

Romney Campaign Foreign Policy Advisor Amb. Richard Williamson on how Mitt Romney would handle Iran if he were president.

Transcript available after the jump.


O'BRIEN: Thank you - Mitt Romney to get, to learn in Poland today on this trip?

WILLIAMSON: Well, foreign policy is important. This election will be about the failure of the president on the economy. But Governor Romney now seven days gave a major speech at the VFW and now, his visit to England, Israel, Poland, he wants to reaffirm that one of the pillars of our foreign policy has to be working closely with our friends, supporting and coordinating diplomacy.

In Poland, which feels the rug was pulled out on them on the missile defense, he will reaffirm his commitment to missile defense. He'll also reaffirm the importance of working closely with our allies. And he will discuss the need to support the freedom agenda and human rights.

O'BRIEN: So when it comes to his strategy overall, is he really playing for a home audience? I mean, when you talk to Michael O'Hanlon, which they did at - "The National Journal" has an interview with him and he says that he looks at Governor Romney's trip as a, quote, "odd itinerary" and that he sort of playing, quote, "naked electoral politics courting ethnic, Catholic and Jewish voters back home is really the strategy of the trip."

WILLIAMSON: No, I think the strategy of this trip, as it was in his VFW speech, was to lay out the governor's vision of foreign policy which begins first with a recognition and embracing of American exceptionalism.

Two, that we have to be aggressive and show American leadership. We should lead from the front not behind. That's better for the United States and the world.

Three, that we work closely with our allies.

And, finally, that peace through strength. Governor Romney is of the tradition of President Harry Truman, John Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, where President Obama is in a different view and closer to Jimmy Carter. So, that contrast is important for the American people to understand even as their first priority is to get the economy moving, something that President Obama has failed at.

O'BRIEN: As I'm sure you are aware, Robert Gibbs, the Obama campaign senior adviser, said that the trip so far - he was really speaking specifically about the London portion of it - had been embarrassing for our country. That's a quote.

Here is what he said. Let's play a little bit.


ROBERT GIBBS, OBAMA CAMPAIGN SENIOR ADVISER: I think it's clear that voters in this country wonder allowed whether Mitt Romney's ready for the world, and I think the world is not yet ready for Mitt Romney. I think there's literally to go overseas, in the country of our strongest ally, in the Olympics that they have been preparing years for, and question whether or not they are ready does make you wonder whether or not he is ready to be commander-in-chief.


O'BRIEN: Do you think the London portion of this has been at the very least from a P.R. perspective, a bit of a mess? Maybe at the most, a disaster and full of gaffes?

WILLIAMSON: No, look, Governor Romney saved the Olympics in Utah that was troubled by scandal, organization, et cetera. He came in and saved that Olympics. It was a great success.

He has been deeply involved in the Olympic movement. He wanted to be in London for the opening ceremony. I think the American people share Governor Romney's commitment to the Olympic spirit. They appreciate his leadership with the Olympics.

And he answered that question more as a former Olympic organizer.

What was important, however, substantively and I understand Mr. Gibbs wants to divert and distract, but what was important in London is that Governor Romney had substantive important meetings for the Prime Minister Cameron, with Foreign Minister Haig and others. And he had the chance to reaffirm the importance of working with our allies and coordinating diplomacy, et cetera.

And in Israel, of course, he had to talk about Iran where President Obama's failed. Whatever his strategy's been, no one contests that for three and a half years we're not closer to nuclear breakout in Iran which threatens our friends in the region, Israel and others, and threatens the United States.

And Governor Romney had an opportunity to show his contrasting vision and approach which would be confronting Iran, looking for stronger sanctions, et cetera.

O'BRIEN: Well, what would he do differently? I mean, already, you see the Obama administration has put sanctions in place and has increased some of those sanctions. They both have said that they will be aggressive. Everything is on the table.

We know that the Obama campaign - the Obama administration has tipped off, we are told from a national security adviser, informed Israel that there is a contingency plan to attack Iran should diplomacy fail.

What would a President Romney do with Iran?

WILLIAMSON: Look, let's look after the last 3 1/2 years. President Obama's policies have failed. That's irrefutable.

Iran is much closer to nuclear breakout. They have more centrifuges moving. Their ballistic missiles are better.

And whatever has been followed by President Obama has not worked. That's something that Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu noted yesterday.

Why? They sought engagement as opposed to drawing red lines against suspending all enrichment.

O'BRIEN: So what would Governor Romney do if he were president?

WILLIAMSON: Let's look - excuse me, Soledad, but he - they talk about their sanctions. They wrap themselves around the sanctions as being so strong. The fact is that the sanctions they now credit for, they oppose when Senator Kirk and Senator Menendez pushed them in the U.S. Senate.

O'BRIEN: So, what would a President Romney?


WILLIAMSON: What he would have crushing, strong sanctions. Two, he would draw the red line on any suspension, total suspension of enrichment, and he would make clear as he did yesterday that the military option is on the table.

No one in the region, whether Tehran, Jerusalem, or elsewhere, has confidence that the Obama administration is willing ultimately to use force to stop the mullahs in Iran, the ones that have said they want to wipe Israel off the face of the earth from getting a nuclear weapon. It's just the facts.

O'BRIEN: So, you are saying that Governor Romney would be willing to bomb Iran if, in fact, they crossed that red line?

WILLIAMSON: What he has said is we should have a credible military force. Soledad, Bismarck said over a century ago that diplomacy without force is like music without instruments. It just doesn't work.

And so far, the Obama policies have not worked. We coordinate more closely with our allies including Israel and we would support efforts for tougher sanctions.

This administration gave a waiver for China. So on oil they don't help keep more pressure on Iran and they now have more Chinese workers in Iran trying to get more oil out of the ground that helps the regime stay in power.

O'BRIEN: But both the Obama administration -


WILLIAMSON: - much more resolute.

O'BRIEN: Forgive me for interrupting you there. But the Obama administration has talked about sanctions. Many people talk about sanctions, right?

And it sounds to me like you are saying the military option has to be a believable threat, right? I mean, if it's not believable, then nobody really works toward what they are expected to do because they don't believe that the military option is going to come to fruition.

So, are you telling me that Governor Romney would be willing to bomb Iran it looks like they're getting nuclear weapons? That they would whether it's with or without Israel, bomb Iran to end that - they cross the red line, bomb Iran?

WILLIAMSON: I'm saying two things. First, on the sanctions, it's not just talking abstractly about sanctions. This administration has allowed Moscow and Beijing to determine what sanctions we can put in force. Governor Romney has made clear he's going to put tough sanctions in force for the coalition and not play "Mother, may I" with the U.N. Security Council.

Second, that Tehran should know that Governor Romney is committed to work everything possible diplomatically to avoid having to use force. But if it gets to nuclear breakout, military options are on the table and have to be seriously considered.

O'BRIEN: All right. Seriously considered I guess is as far as we're going to go on that.

Ambassador Richard Williamson joining us, he's Romney campaign foreign policy advisor - nice to see you, sir. We appreciate your time this morning.

Filed under: 2012 Race • Iran • Politics
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