13 Apr 2024
Wednesday 24 October 2012 - 14:37
Story Code : 8621

Romney ignores gulf in Iran geography gaffe

Romney ignores gulf in Iran geography gaffe
By Ria Novosti

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has promised to bring a coherent Middle East policy to the White House should he win next months election.

He may want to bone up on the geography of the region first.

During his presidential debate Monday evening with Democratic incumbent Barack Obama, Romney described Syria as Irans route to the sea, giving short shrift to Irans southern coastline, which runs more than 1,500 miles (2,400 kilometers) along the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Omanlonger than the Pacific coast of the continental United States.

Furthermore, Irans western border lies some 500 miles away from Syrias only coastline: 112 miles (180 kilometers) of shoreline along the Mediterranean Sea. To get there, Iranians must cross the territory of NATO member Turkey or neighboring Iraqor pass through the Suez Canal.

I dont think [Romney] paid much attention during geography class or history class, said John Limbert, a former US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Iran under the Obama administration who resigned in 2010 over lack of progress on rapprochement with Tehran.

The Romney campaign issued a clarification of Romneys comment to The Washington Post following Mondays debate, which was focused on foreign policy and featured discussions of Irans nuclear ambitions and the raging civil war in Syria.

It is generally recognized that Syria offers Iran strategic basing/staging access to the Mediterranean as well as to terrorist proxies in the Levant, the Romney campaign told the newspaper, referring to a geographical area along the Eastern Mediterranean. This is a large reason why Iran invests so much in Syria.

It was not the first time that Romney described Syria as Irans route to the sea. He made the same claim during a Republican primary debate in Arizona last February.

Syrias ports at Latakia and Tartous on the Mediterranean give Tehran reach it might not otherwise have, but Irans navy is almost exclusively focused right in its front yard in the Persian Gulf, said Christopher Swift, an adjunct professor of National Security Studies atGeorgetown University.

The idea that these are staging areas for significant Iranian maritime power is exaggeration bordering on error, said Swift, a fellow at the University of Virginia Law SchoolsCenter for National Security Law.

Michael Rubin, a former staff advisor on Iraq and Iran with the office of the US Secretary of Defense, downplayed the significance of the gaffe, saying it paled in comparison to US President Gerald Fords statement in at 1976 debate that there was no Soviet dominance of Eastern Europe.

Someone in the campaign should have their wrists slapped because of it, but this is not the type of thing that debates turn on, said Rubin, a resident scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute.

Romneys overall point was correct, Rubin added.

Syria is an Iranian ally, and if Iran lost its grasp on Syria, that would be a good thing from an American standpoint, he said.


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