Did Mitt Romney really rule out Muslims in his cabinet?

Mark Wilson/Getty Images A lot of blogs have posted on this Christian Science Monitor column, in which Pakistani-American businessman Mansoor Ijaz writes of an encounter he had with Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney: I asked Mr. Romney whether he would consider including qualified Americans of the Islamic faith in his cabinet as advisers on national ...

597931_rsz_3127408_05.jpg
597931_rsz_3127408_05.jpg
WASHINGTON - MARCH 24: Richard Clarke, former National Coordinator for Counterterrorism and National Security, is sworn in before the bipartisan September 11 commission, formally known as the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon The U.S., on Capitol Hill March 24, 2004 in Washington, DC. Top former and current government officials are slated to appear before the commission. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Mark Wilson/Getty Images

A lot of blogs have posted on this Christian Science Monitor column, in which Pakistani-American businessman Mansoor Ijaz writes of an encounter he had with Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney:

I asked Mr. Romney whether he would consider including qualified Americans of the Islamic faith in his cabinet as advisers on national security matters, given his position that "jihadism" is the principal foreign policy threat facing America today. He answered, "…based on the numbers of American Muslims [as a percentage] in our population, I cannot see that a cabinet position would be justified. But of course, I would imagine that Muslims could serve at lower levels of my administration."

Mark Wilson/Getty Images

A lot of blogs have posted on this Christian Science Monitor column, in which Pakistani-American businessman Mansoor Ijaz writes of an encounter he had with Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney:

I asked Mr. Romney whether he would consider including qualified Americans of the Islamic faith in his cabinet as advisers on national security matters, given his position that “jihadism” is the principal foreign policy threat facing America today. He answered, “…based on the numbers of American Muslims [as a percentage] in our population, I cannot see that a cabinet position would be justified. But of course, I would imagine that Muslims could serve at lower levels of my administration.”

Romney has denied making the remark in exactly this way, though he has a history of making sweeping, controversial comments about Muslims.

Others have noted that if Romney’s alleged comments are taken at face value, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Zalmay Khalilzad, a Sunni Muslim of Afghan descent, would not have a place in his cabinet. But as Josh Marshall put it, it’s basically a “he said, he said” situation, so we don’t know whose account of the conversation to trust.

But we do know something about Mansour Ijaz. Interestingly, he pops up in a footnote on page 480 of the 9/11 Commission report as a messenger to the Clinton administration from the Sudanese government, which asked him to convey a 1997 offer to cooperate on Osama Bin Laden. But Clinton’s national security council saw Sudan as “all talk and little action,” and didn’t move on the letter. Ijaz maintains the offer was sincere, and that extradition was on the table. But Clinton-era officials such as Richard Clarke, whom Ijaz accuses of lying about his record, have disputed that account, and more or less dismiss Ijaz as a fabricator. In his sworn testimony (pdf) to the 9/11 Commission, Clarke said of Bin Laden, “Sudan at no time detained him, nor was there ever a credible offer by Sudan to arrest and render him.” Moreover, the 9/11 report doesn’t mention “extradition” specifically—just a vague offer of cooperation. Presumably, if there were some there there, the Commission would not have buried Sudan’s offer in a footnote.

More from Foreign Policy

An illustration shows George Kennan, the father of Cold War containment strategy.
An illustration shows George Kennan, the father of Cold War containment strategy.

Is Cold War Inevitable?

A new biography of George Kennan, the father of containment, raises questions about whether the old Cold War—and the emerging one with China—could have been avoided.

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks on the DISCLOSE Act.
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks on the DISCLOSE Act.

So You Want to Buy an Ambassadorship

The United States is the only Western government that routinely rewards mega-donors with top diplomatic posts.

Chinese President Xi jinping  toasts the guests during a banquet marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on September 30, 2019 in Beijing, China.
Chinese President Xi jinping toasts the guests during a banquet marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on September 30, 2019 in Beijing, China.

Can China Pull Off Its Charm Offensive?

Why Beijing’s foreign-policy reset will—or won’t—work out.

Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar chairs a meeting in Ankara, Turkey on Nov. 21, 2022.
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar chairs a meeting in Ankara, Turkey on Nov. 21, 2022.

Turkey’s Problem Isn’t Sweden. It’s the United States.

Erdogan has focused on Stockholm’s stance toward Kurdish exile groups, but Ankara’s real demand is the end of U.S. support for Kurds in Syria.