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GOP2012: Republican debate, December 15th, 2011
The Reality
Fact Check

Romney Would Let His Lawyers Tell Him What To Do On Iran

February 22, 2012 at 10:11 p.m. ET


Despite his tough talk tonight, Mitt Romney has taken many different positions on Iran in recent years. From saying he would consult his lawyers who would “tell you what you have to do” on Iran, to now saying that he would take such action, Romney simply doesn’t understand that you only get one chance to get things right on foreign policy.

Contrary to Romney’s attacks, President Obama has made it clear he will not allow a nuclear Iran, and put in place the most severe sanctions Iran has ever faced.


Romney Said He Would Talk To His Lawyers Before Deciding Whether To Use Military Force.  Asked whether congressional authorization would be necessary to launch a strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities, Romney declined to answer definitively, instead deferring to lawyers’ opinions.  “You sit down with your attorneys and tell you what you have to do, but obviously the president of the United States has to do what’s in the best interest of the United States,” Romney told moderator Chris Matthews. On whether President Bush needed authorization to invade Iraq, Romney again deferred to legal experts, saying, “You know, we’re going to let the lawyers sort out what he needed to do and what he didn’t need to do.” [CNBC/WSJ GOP Debate, 10/9/07]

Romney Suggested You Sit Down With Your Attorneys Before You Deal With Iran. “Romney was the first to answer a question about whether a president would need authorization from Congress to take military action against Iran’s nuclear facilities. ‘You sit down with your attorneys’ for advice, he said, but ‘the president of the United States has to do what’s in the best interest of the United States.” [USA Today, 10/10/07]

  • Wall Street Journal Editorial: “Deferring To Lawyers To Tell A President When He Can And Cannot Use Force To Defend The Country Is Not A Proper Understanding Of The Executive Power Under The Constitution, And It Is Dangerous If It Is The First Instinct Of A Commander In Chief.” The Wall Street Journal editorial page wrote, “Egad. Call in the attorneys? Perhaps it is Mr. Romney’s experience in business that taught him to want lawyers at his elbow, given that no CEO can survive without them these days. Or perhaps it is our hyper-legalized politics, with Mr. Bush accused daily of "breaking the law" over mere policy disagreements. But deferring to lawyers to tell a President when he can and cannot use force to defend the country is not the proper understanding of executive power under the Constitution, and it is dangerous if it is the first instinct of a Commander in Chief. Mr. Romney should have said that a President’s first duty is to do whatever it takes to protect the United States, and that he’d have the Constitutional authority to use military force to do so -- as Presidents from Washington to Teddy Roosevelt to Reagan have done -- but that of course he would want to consult with Congress and win its support as time and circumstances allowed. Mr. Romney doesn’t need a lawyer; he needs to reread the Federalist Papers.” [Editorial, Wall Street Journal, 10/11/07]
  • Admiral Robert J. Natter Criticized Romney Saying “Lawyers Should Not Debate While Our National Security Is On The Line.” Admiral Robert J. Natter said of Romney’s remark that he would consult attorney’s before using military action against Iran, "Going to war is the most serious decision a president can make. Lawyers should not debate while our national security is on the line. In these momentous decisions, we need leadership, not litigation.” [MSNBC, Firstread, 10/10/07]


President Obama Has Repeatedly Affirmed That The United States Is Determined To Prevent Iran From Acquiring Nuclear Weapons. “Calling the latest round of sanctions the toughest and most comprehensive Iran has ever faced, President Obama said they sent ‘an unmistakable message’ about the international community's commitment to stop nuclear proliferation.”  [MSNBC, 6/9/10]

President Obama Said “There Should Be No Doubt—The United States And The International Community Are Determined To Prevent Iran From Acquiring Nuclear Weapons.” “We’re showing the Iranian government that its actions have consequences.  And if it persists, the pressure will continue to mount, and its isolation will continue to deepen.  There should be no doubt —- the United States and the international community are determined to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.”  [Remarks by the President, 7/1/10]

President Obama Accelerated The Deployment Of Ships And Antimissile Systems To The Persian Gulf To Defend Against Possible Iranian Missile Strikes. “The Obama administration is accelerating the deployment of new defenses against possible Iranian missile attacks in the Persian Gulf, placing special ships off the Iranian coast and antimissile systems in at least four Arab countries, according to administration and military officials... The news that the United States is deploying antimissile defenses — including a rare public discussion of them by Gen. David H. Petraeus — appears to be part of a coordinated administration strategy to increase pressure on Iran.” [New York Times, 1/30/10]

Secretary Of Defense Panetta Reiterated That The United States Will Take “Whatever Steps Necessary” To Stop Iran From Developing An Nuclear Weapons.  “If [The Iranians] proceed and we get intelligence that they are proceeding with developing a nuclear weapon then we will take whatever steps necessary to stop it… There are no options off the table.” [CBS, 12/19/11]

General Dempsey Said He Is Responsible For Encouraging The Planning Of A Military Option And That “Those Activities Are Going On.” “But I will say that-- our-- my responsibility is to encourage the right degree of planning, to understand the risks associated with any kind of military option-- in some cases to position assets, to provide those options on-- in a timely fashion. And all those activities are going on.” [General Dempsey, 01/08/12]

Dennis Ross: Iran “Should Never Think There’s a Reluctance To Use The Force” To Stop Their Nuclear Program. “No one should doubt that President Barack Obama is prepared to use military force to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon if sanctions and diplomacy fail, the president’s former special assistant on Iran said. Obama has “made it very clear” that he regards a nuclear- armed Iran as so great a threat to international security that “the Iranians should never think that there’s a reluctance to use the force” to stop them, Dennis Ross, who served two years on Obama’s National Security Council and a year as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s special adviser on Iran, said in an interview yesterday.” [Bloomberg, 01/10/12]


Prime Minister Netanyahu Praised President Obama For His Efforts To Prevent Iranian Nuclearization And For Defending Israel's Right To Protect Itself Against Iranian Proxies. "President Obama has said that the United States is determined to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. The president successfully led the Security Council at the UN to adopt sanctions against Iran." [Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s Address to Congress, 5/24/11]

The Obama Administration Has Reinstituted Sanctions Against Iran-Allied Syria And Strongly Condemned Syria’s Transfer Of Scud Missiles And Other Arms To Hezbollah, Iran’s Proxy In Lebanon. “In a strongly worded statement issued after the meeting, the State Department said it condemned the delivery of any arms to Hizbollah, including Scud missiles, ‘in the strongest terms’ .’The transfer of these arms can only have a destabilizing effect on the region, and would pose an immediate threat to both the security of Israel and the sovereignty of Lebanon,’ it added.” [New York Times, 5/19/11;The Telegraph, 4/20/10]


With President Obama’s Leadership, The United States Gained The Support Of Russia, China And Other Nations To Pass United Nations Security Council Resolution 1929, Creating The Most Comprehensive And Biting International Sanctions Regime The Iranian Government Has Ever Faced. “That’s why the international community was compelled to impose these serious consequences.  These are the most comprehensive sanctions that the Iranian government has faced.  They will impose restrictions on Iran’s nuclear activities, its ballistic missile program, and, for the first time, its conventional military.  They will put a new framework in place to stop Iranian smuggling, and crack down on Iranian banks and financial transactions.  They target individuals, entities, and institutions -– including those associated with the Revolutionary Guard –- that have supported Iran’s nuclear program and prospered from illicit activities at the expense of the Iranian people. “ [President Obama, 06/09/10] [UN News Centre, 6/9/10]

  • Citing Sanctions, Russia Banned All Exports Of Major Weapons Systems To Iran. “Russia interprets the latest round of United Nations sanctions against Iran as prohibiting all exports of major weapons systems to that country, President Dmitri A. Medvedev announced Wednesday, ending some Russian equivocation on whether an advanced air defense system would fall under theban.” [NYT, 09/22/10]

Close To $60 Billion In Energy-Related Projects In Iran Have Already Been Put On Hold Or Discontinued As Of The End Of 2010. “’According to reliable estimates, Iran may be losing as much as $50 billion to $60 billion overall in potential energy investments, along with the critical technology and know-how that comes with them,’ Burns said at a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing. Iran is under sanctions designed to keep the country from developing nuclear weapons. Iran says it is enriching uranium for peaceful purposes. The United Nations Security Council in June adopted a resolution calling for trade and financial penalties. The U.S., European Union and nations including Japan and South Korea followed with their own sanctions.” [Bloomberg, 12/1/10]

  • President Ahmadinejad Has Been Forced To Admit The Serious Impact Of Sanctions Placed On Government By The Obama Administration. “President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad acknowledged Tuesday that U.S.-designed financial sanctions are causing serious problems for Iran’s banking sector, as he appealed to lawmakers to keep his government together despite a massive embezzlement scandal. ‘Our banks cannot make international transactions anymore,’ the embattled president said in a speech before parliament to defend his minister of economic affairs and finance against impeachment charges related to the scandal.”  [Washington Post, 11/1/11]
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