(NEW YORK) — Mitt Romney said Tuesday night he was prepared to work with Saudi Arabia and Turkey to facilitate the delivery of weapons to “moderate voices” within the Syrian resistance as a means of combating Iran’s “major role” in supporting Bashar al-Assad’s government forces.
Turkey has already exchanged artillery fire with the Syrians. Romney told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer the U.S. “must also be playing a role to help shape what’s happening there.”
This is the second time in less than 48 hours the Republican presidential nominee has called for a more direct intervention in Syria’s civil war.
On Monday at the Virginia Military Institute, Romney warned of ”the rising influence of Iran” in the region and suggested the U.S. should act more openly to arm rebels “who share our values” to help in their fight against Syrian “tanks, helicopters, and fighter jets.”
“We should be working no less vigorously with our international partners to support the many Syrians who would deliver that defeat to Iran — rather than sitting on the sidelines,” he said.
Romney also doubled-down on a seemingly subtle bit of language that could push up the timeline for confrontation with Iran over its nuclear program.
As during his address at the Virginia Military Institute, Romney on Tuesday asserted that Tehran must be deterred from acquiring the “capability” to build nuclear weapons.
“Preventing Iranian nuclear weapons capability rather than assembled weapons means the Romney position is tougher, requiring stopping the slide toward those aims by Iran from continuing,” former U.S. ambassador Mark Lagon, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, said after Monday’s speech. “Romney is clearly less disturbed by the prospect of any Israeli strike on Iran than [President Obama.]”
As recently as Sept. 14, during an interview with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos, Romney said his “red line is Iran may not have a nuclear weapon.”
On Tuesday night, the candidate did offer a more conciliatory tone, asking viewers to “recognize that we have a long way to go before military action may be necessary. And hopefully it’s never necessary.”
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