- By Uri Friedman
Uri Friedman is deputy managing editor at Foreign Policy. Before joining FP, he reported for the Christian Science Monitor, worked on corporate strategy for Atlantic Media, helped launch the Atlantic Wire, and covered international affairs for the site. A proud native of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, he studied European history at the University of Pennsylvania and has lived in Barcelona, Spain and Geneva, Switzerland.
In conjunction with Mitt Romney’s foreign-policy address address in Virginia this week, in which he vowed to prevent Iran from “acquiring nuclear weapons capability,” the Romney campaign has updated the Iran section of its website to reflect that pledge:
Here’s what the section looked like late last month, when I wrote about Romney’s shifting “red line” for Iran’s nuclear program. Notice the language below is virtually identical to the wording above, save for the references to capability:
It’s not surprising that the campaign would update its site to reflect a revised or refined policy. But the change does challenge the explanation Romney’s foreign-policy advisors gave in September when the Republican candidate told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos (twice) that he had the same red line as Obama — Iran “may not have a nuclear weapon” — even though his surrogates had said the candidate wouldn’t tolerate Iran obtaining the capability to develop a nuclear weapon, a lower bar for preemptive military action.
At the time, Romney campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul told the New York Times that Romney had not meant to suggest in the ABC interview that his red line was the same as Obama’s. She pointed to the candidate’s remark that Iran shouldn’t have the “capacity to terrorize the world” and argued that Stephanopoulos had mischaracterized Romney’s position. “Gov. Romney’s red line is Iran having a nuclear weapons capacity,” Saul maintained.
Yes, the Iran debate involves extremely subtle linguistic distinctions. But it seems more likely that, amid Benjamin Netanyahu’s calls for the United States to articulate red lines, Romney has decided in the election’s final weeks to clearly distinguish his position from the president’s, and to adopt the Israeli prime minister’s more aggressive stance. As he told CNN on Tuesday, “My own test is that Iran should not have the capability of producing a nuclear weapon. I think that’s the same test that Benjamin Netanyahu would also apply.”