Authors: Christine Hsu
(JERUSALEM) -- Mitt Romney would "respect" an Israeli decision to use military action if necessary to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, a senior aide said Sunday.
In a briefing to preview Romney's speech slated for Sunday evening overlooking the Old City in Jerusalem that will focus on the U.S.-Israel relationship, foreign policy adviser Dan Senor said that Romney believes preventing Iran from nuclear capabilities is the "highest national security priority."
"If Israel has to take action on its own, in order to stop Iran from developing that capability the governor would respect that decision," said Senor.
Senor said that Romney hopes that diplomacy and sanctions will succeed in halting Iran's nuclear ambitions, but added, "Gov. Romney recognizes Israel's right to defend itself, and that it is right for America to stand with it."
According to excerpts from his speech to be given, Romney will tell Israel, "My message to the people of Israel and the leaders of Iran is one and the same: I will not look away; and neither will my country."
"Make no mistake: The ayatollahs in Tehran are testing our moral defenses. They want to know who will object, and who will look the other way," Romney will say.
Romney met on Sunday morning with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Israeli leader told the candidate that he "couldn't agree more" with his remarks regarding Iran.
"We have to be honest and say that all the sanctions and diplomacy so far have not set back the Iranian program by one iota," said Netanyahu. "And that's why I believe that we need a strong and credible military threat coupled with the sanctions to have a chance to change that situation."
President Obama has not ruled out a military strike, saying he has left "all options on the table," but has worked to enforce stronger sanctions in the region.
Senor added that Romney is "highly skeptical" of Iran's requests for nuclear capability for civilian use only, but said that the "military option should be avoided if possible."
Senor said that Romney believes in a zero enrichment policy in Iran and that Tehran must believe "the alternative to zero enrichment is severe, and that's why the threat of military force has to be critical."
"And he just thinks it's unrealistic to just sort of hope away the threat of an Iranian nuclear weapons capability in terms of the impact it would have on Israel, the impact it would have on the region, the impact it would have on the United States," said Senor.
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