Experts see few differences between Romney, Obama on foreign policy


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While President Obama and GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney continue to spar over whose foreign policy will best relieve tensions between the United States and the Iranian regime, experts say the candidates’ policies are actually quite similar.

A report from the International Atomic Energy Agency said Iran had declared to the agency it had16 nuclear facilities and nine locations outside facilities where nuclear material is customarily used. In September 2011, Iran reported 15 nuclear facilities to the agency.

The Obama administration has imposed sanctions on Iran that have — in the president’s words — crippled that nation’s economy. Such sanctions, according to the White House, are part of Obama’s plan to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

“America wants to resolve this issue through diplomacy, and we believe that there is still time and space to do so. But that time is not unlimited,” Obama told the U.N. General Assembly on Sept. 25.

Romney believes a military option is a credible strategy in working to resolve tensions with Iran. He has said he will impose new sanctions on Iran and tighten current sanctions, according to his campaign site.

Christopher Preble, the vice president for defense and foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute, said the candidates’ strategies are similar but differ in their mentions of a military option.

“I do think they’re similar — more similar than they want you to believe,” Preble said. “The military option is implied when President Obama says we would do anything it takes. Gov. Romney is more explicit in evoking the military threat.”

One University of Iowa foreign policy expert also drew similarities between the candidates’ policies.

“Both want crippling sanctions, both talk about keeping the use of military force available,” said Brian Lai, a UI associate professor of political science.

However, local Democratic and Republican leaders disagreed, maintaining the policies of the two candidates are indeed different.

Terry Dahms, the head of the Johnson County Democrats, said he’s pleased with Obama’s foreign policy.

“Obama said he would get us out of Iraq, and he did. He said he’d get Osama bin Laden, and he did,” Dahms said. “Obama is doing what he said he’d do. Obama says what he means.”

Bob Anderson, the head of the Johnson County Republicans, believes Romney’s strategy would better resolve tensions.

“The Republican Party and its platform believes in peace through strength — to have the strongest possible military with the aim of using it the least,” he said.

One Iranian-American said neither candidate has laid out a successful plan for resolving tensions with Iran.

“They both say that all options are on the table,” said Yashar Vasef, former UI student and the executive director of the nonpartisan Iowa United Nations Association in Iowa City. “My concern is that even the rhetoric is too harsh for Romney or President Obama. I’d like to see them dial that down and pursue diplomatic channels.”

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