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Top 10 Things Mitt Romney Gets Dead Wrong about U.S. Policy in the Middle East

Mitt Romney completely misunderstands the history of the U.S. role in the region, which causes him to misunderstand its present dilemmas.

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7. The US intelligence establishment said in National Intelligence Estimates in 2007 and 2010 that Iran has no military weapons program, and there is no evidence for weaponization of its nuclear enrichment. Our Pentagon officers have repeatedly said that even if Iran did have weapons ambitions, the only practical way to stop them would be to invade and occupy the country (which they advise against). Since Romney keeps saying he’d forward military policy to his generals, wouldn’t his hands be tied on Iran just as much as Obama’s are? Romney advocates deeper sanctions against Iran, but Obama’s sanctions are now so severe as to constitute a sort of intangible blockade (via banks, trade pressures) and already risk pulling the US willy nilly into a war. How in the world could Romney do more short of going to war? And if he does intend to go to war with Iran, a country 3 times as populous and much bigger than Iraq, he should tell us now.

8. US embassies in the Middle East were mostly not ‘stormed,’ but demonstrations were held outside them and a few were attacked. The Salafi hard liners responsible for these actions are a small group. What would Romney do about random Salafis in Tunisian villages? Drone them to death? Embassy security is *very* good at most embassies, and short of making them useless as embassies by fortifying them further, it is hard to see what Romney would do differently. Moreover, the trouble was caused in part by American Muslim-hatred and concerted attacks on Islam by a faction in the Republican Party. How eould Romney make his evangelicals happy while repairing relations with Muslims. Or does he intend just to invade and occupy the Muslims the way Bush did?

9. While it is true that a small terrorist cell attacked the US consulate in Benghazi and set a fire that killed the US ambassador to Libya, it is also true that tens of thousands of Libyans demonstrated in favor of America and the ambassador, and that the elected president of the Libyan parliament just called for a secular, democratic state in that country. None of the good news, about the progress of democracy or general pro-American sentiment, would have been possible had the Republican Party had its way and prevented the US from supporting the UN Security Council resolution calling for all necessary measures to be taken to protect the Libyan people from their murderous government. As for the terrorist cell, some of its members were likely encouraged by the US to have fought the Soviets in Afghanistan, where they became radicalized — a karma Romney doesn’t want to face. Others probably fought the US occupation of Iraq, a war Romney has been on both sides of. Others were upset at the US for backing Qaddafi under Bush. The militants didn’t arise in a vacuum, and the Republicans now saying the US should have been more watchful about Libyan Muslim militants would be better off apologizing for having helped create them in the first place.

10. Romney is not allowed to bring up the civil war/ revolution in Syria unless he is willing to say what he’d do different about it. He doesn’t say so in this op-ed. He has talked about invading if Syria uses chemical weapons, but are there any other red lines? Just complaining is not policy-making, Mr. Romney. What would you *do* about Syria?

Romney’s understanding of the challenges for the US in the Middle East is backwards, and so are his vague prescriptions. Military might, which you trumpet as the solution, is useless in the face of popular movements, Mr. Romney, and the US army could have done nothing to keep Mubarak in power or to keep the Muslim Brotherhood from winning elections. An even more fawning policy toward the Israeli Right Wing is not going to solve any of our problems in the Middle East, but rather will exacerbate them as Apartheid becomes more severe. And we’re already on a war footing with Iran, and any increase in tensions is very dangerous unless it has a clear and achievable policy objective (dissuading Iran from nuclear enrichment is not achievable).

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