Santorum defends Iranian foreign policy in IC


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Iowa caucus candidate Rick Santorum on Thursday defended his plan to stop reported Iranian nuclear-weapon activity, despite facing criticism from some Iowa City residents.

Santorum stopped by the Hamburg Inn No. 2, 214 N. Linn St., briefly Thursday as part of an eight-day visit to Iowa. Many residents asked the candidate to explain his stance on foreign policy and education reform.

The former U.S. senator's foreign-policy plan would focus on isolating Iran from other Middle Eastern countries — a plan that involves neutralizing Iran's relationships with its closest allies. Santorum said that's especially important as more indications of an Iranian nuclear-weapons program arise, he said.

"I've got a commitment to work with the state of Israel and responding to this threat of Iran developing a nuclear weapon," Santorum told The Daily Iowan.

Brian Lai, a University of Iowa political-science associate professor, said the United States has worked with other countries to isolate Iran for quite some time.


"His approach is much tougher in terms of bolstering Israel and other Middle Eastern states to isolate Iran and force them into a position where they come more to [the United States] for negotiation," Lai said.

But some who attended Santorum's visit questioned his facts.

"His ideas are extremely dangerous," said UI senior Drew Hjelm. "Iran is not developing a dangerous weapon … The consensus is that there's no nuclear-weapon program in Iran."

Hjelm, a member of UI Youth for Ron Paul, said Santorum's policy on Iran is "completely and totally wrong."

"The best alternative is to allow [Iranians] to develop peaceful applications of nuclear technology, which they're allowed to," he said.

Santorum and Hjelm's disagreement reflects an international discussion on whether Iran is trying to build a nuclear bomb. A report from the United Nations earlier this month found evidence of a nuclear-test facility, BBC reported. However, other reports show Iran's nuclear intentions are likely for energy.

Santorum argued with Hjelm during his visit to Hamburg.

"There are lots of indications now that the [nuclear] movement is becoming more energized again," Santorum said. "Iran ramps up to get this nuclear weapon … and because of that ramping up, there is a counter push, and we need to be more active in saying Iran's regime needs to go."

UI freshman and College Republicans member Danijel Pejkanovic said Santorum's plan is on the right track.

"Iran has expressed intentions to wipe Israel off the face of the Earth, and Israel is one of our greatest allies," Pejkanovic said. "We know that Iran has tried to develop nuclear technology, and it's important that America stands against it."

He said he believes Santorum will benefit from outlining his foreign policy this early in his campaign.

"Compared with some of the other candidates, he's being more concise and to the point," he said.

Though Lai said Santorum's foreign policy is feasible, he doesn't think it will help his campaign.

"It's good to have a policy, but it's not clear that foreign policy is what most voters are concerned about," he said. "Most Americans aren't really focused on foreign policy in this election. They're worried about unemployment, economy, and the budget deficit."

Santorum's foreign policy also includes reinstating fullfunding of the Iran Freedom and Support Act, a bill he sponsored in 2005, which provides funds to assist pro-democracy groups in the country.

But Lai said reinstating funds for the act would make relations with Iran more problematic.

"We'd be directly funding groups that are looking to overthrow the regime," he said. "It's hard to know how much of an effect it would have. There is a lot of resistance to the existing regime."

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