Sunday 22 October 2017

I will arm Syrian rebels and defeat Iran, pledges Romney

Jon Swaine and Raf Sanchez Washington

MITT ROMNEY has called for Syrian rebels to be supplied with heavy weaponry as he condemned Barack Obama for failing to lead an international response to President Bashar al-Assad's slaughter of civilians.

The Republican presidential challenger told voters that the US must spend more, not less, on defence and effectively fight a proxy war against Iran by ensuring Syrian anti-government forces "obtain the arms they need to defeat Assad's tanks, helicopters, and fighter jets".

"Iran is sending arms to Assad because they know his downfall would be a strategic defeat for them," Mr Romney said in a speech in Virginia.

Factions

He did not specify which rebel factions should be armed, nor if the US should arm them directly or facilitate supply by allies. Diverging from prepared remarks, he said the US should work "through" its global partners, rather than "with".

Mr Romney quoted a Syrian woman's comments to a National Public Radio interview to sum up the likely response to Washington's failure to act on the killing of 30,000 civilians. "We will not forget that you forgot about us," she said.

Senator John McCain, a long-time advocate of US intervention in Syria and Mr Obama's opponent in 2008, hailed Mr Romney's speech to cadets at the Virginia Military Institute as "a blueprint for restoring America's strength in the world".

Mr Romney consistently trails Mr Obama in polls on foreign policy, reversing a typical Republican advantage.

His national post-debate "bounce" continued yesterday as he drew level with the president in daily tracking polling by Gallup and Rasmussen.

He mounted a wide-ranging assault on Mr Obama's foreign policy, telling him "hope is not a strategy". Referring to a now-infamous remark by an Obama aide, he said: "It is the responsibility of our president to use America's great power to shape history, not to lead from behind."

Mr Romney also revived his criticism of Mr Obama's response to the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi in which Chris Stevens, its ambassador to Libya, was killed. He accused the White House of misleading the public.

"This latest assault cannot be blamed on a reprehensible video insulting Islam, despite the administration's attempts to convince us of that for so long," he said. "No, as the administration has finally conceded, these attacks were the deliberate work of terrorists."

He also reiterated his promise that, like Mr Obama, he would prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons capability. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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