U.S. Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney and his wife Ann arrive in Tel Aviv, Israel, July 28, 2012. REUTERS photo
U.S. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney would back Israel if it were to decide it had to use military force to stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, a senior aide said on Sunday.
"If Israel has to take action on its own, in order to stop Iran from developing that capability, the governor would respect that decision," Romney's senior national security aide Dan Senor told reporters travelling with the candidate.
The comment made ahead of Romney's planned meetings in Jerusalem with Israeli leaders seemed to differ with attempts by President Barack Obama to convince Israel to avoid any preemptive attack and let a regimen of international sanctions squeeze Iran's economy until it agrees to nuclear concessions.
Romney arrived late on Saturday on the second-leg of a foreign trip aimed at bolstering his foreign policy credentials in his race to unseat Obama in the Nov. 6 presidential election.
The trip has had difficulties from the start, when he angered the British by questioning whether London was ready for the Olympics, a statement he was forced to walk back after a rebuke from Prime Minister David Cameron. Romney hoped for a smoother trip in Israel even though the region's politics are fraught with peril. Senor told reporters that Romney believed the threat from Iran was approaching on a path involving two timelines. The first was Iran's drive - denied by Tehran - to develop a nuclear weapons capability, and the second was having the ability to penetrate Iran's defences before they were hardened in such a way to protect against a strike, Senor said.
In excepts of a speech Romney was to deliver on Monday evening, the former Massachusetts governor planned to say that an aggressive approach to Tehran was needed to protect against a threat to the very existence of Israel, the closest U.S. ally in the turbulent Middle East.
"When Iran's leaders deny the Holocaust or speak of wiping this nation off the map, only the naïve - or worse - will dismiss it as an excess of rhetoric," he would say.
"Make no mistake: the ayatollahs in Tehran are testing our moral defences. They want to know who will object, and who will look the other way."