Walter Pincus’ Iran Questions for the Foreign Policy Debate

Washington Post columnist Walter Pincus continues to provides incisive analysis to the debate over Iran’s controversial nuclear program. Following are a few of his suggested questions for the presidential candidates’ foreign policy debate on Monday.

What are the candidates willing to do to ensure their “red lines” on Iran’s nuclear program aren’t violated and how much will Israeli concerns affect the ultimate outcome?

The president has said he would prevent Iran from “having a nuclear weapon” and has offered assurances that U.S. intelligence would be able to determine when building one had begun.

In his June “Face the Nation” appearance, Romney said he would be willing to use military force, but he did not define what that meant. Recently, he has said he would prevent Iran from having “a nuclear weapons capability,” but what does that mean?

Though the current policy of the United States and its allies rests on a U.N. Security Council resolution that calls for Iran to suspend its activities related to reprocessing uranium, Iran has produced uranium enriched to 20 percent. Enrichment up to 90 percent is considered weapons grade. Most of the enrichment has been up to 6 percent, usable as fuel in electric power reactors.

What solution is required by each candidate for this situation? Do they believe any deal with Tehran requires Israeli approval?

Does Romney or Obama believe they could attack Iran’s nuclear program without congressional authorization — as was the case with Libya — and without agreement from the United Nations or support from NATO or a group of other allies, including some countries in the region?

On March 21, 2011, Obama sent Congress a two-page letter saying that as commander in chief he had constitutional authority to authorize the military operations to prevent a humanitarian disaster. He said it would be limited in duration and noted that the U.N. Security Council had authorized a no-fly zone over Libya, and that the undertaking was done with British, French and Persian Gulf allies. Nineteen days after the strikes began, NATO took over command of the air operations from the U.S. Africa Command.

How do the candidates envision a military operation against Iran?

Does Obama or Romney believe that any military action against Iran would be as limited as the one in Libya? Does either believe that U.S. ground forces could be drawn into battle should Iran or its allies respond with attacks against Israel or other countries?


Jasmin Ramsey

Jasmin Ramsey is a journalist based in Washington, DC.