Romney to ‘Listen and Learn’ During Visit to Key Allies (CNS) CYBERCAST NEWS SERVICE) By Patrick Goodenough 07/23/12)
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(CNSNews.com) – Amid a myriad of pressing domestic issues, foreign
policy will elbow its way onto the campaign agenda in the coming days
as Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney travels to three of
America’s most important allies, a visit likely to be dominated by
the turmoil in the Middle East.
Before he gets to the turbulent region next week, however, Romney
will visit a Britain caught up in the excitement – and security
concerns – of London 2012. His presence at the opening ceremony on
Friday will serve as a reminder, his campaign hopes, of his role in
rescuing an initially troubled winter Olympics in Salt Lake City a
Apart from the Olympics and two fundraisers on Thursday, the more
substantive portion of his itinerary includes meetings with the
leaders of the three major political parties – Conservative Prime
Minister David Cameron, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg of the
Liberal Democrats, and opposition Labor leader Ed Miliband – as well
as former Labor Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Britain invariably tops lists of U.S. allies, although the
traditional Conservative-Republican, Labor-Democrat political ties
have frayed somewhat – a shift seen most clearly in Blair’s firm
support for, and vocal Tory opposition to, President Bush’s war in
Iraq. (In 2004, then-Conservative leader Michael Howard was publicly
disinvited from a visit to the White House after he criticized
Blair’s support for the war.)
The strains outlived Bush and Blair. Some senior British
Conservatives openly supported the Democratic presidential candidate
in 2008, and Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron’s tribute to
President Obama during a White House state dinner last March – when
he said Obama had “pressed the reset button on the moral authority of
the entire free world” – raised eyebrows and prompted some derision
on both sides of the Atlantic.
Romney will trod this territory carefully, focusing on historical
links and shared interests that outweigh political policy differences.
Briefing reporters on the trip, Romney campaign foreign policy chief
Alex Wong cited global economic difficulties, Mideast instability and
the Iranian nuclear issue, and said the candidate’s London visit will
highlight the understanding that the U.S.-British relationship
remains “as important as ever.”
From the U.K., Romney is due to visit Israel where, according to his
campaign, he will “build on relationships” he already has with Prime
Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres, as well as
with Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad – but not,
apparently, with P.A. Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.
Although campaign staffers stressed that Romney would use the trip
to “listen and learn” rather than deliver policy pronouncements, his
visit to Jerusalem will inevitably drawn attention to the at-times
frosty relationship between Obama and Netanyahu.
Like other candidates in the Republican campaign at the time, Romney
chastised Obama in May 2011 for endorsing future Israeli and
Palestinian states with borders based on the “1967 lines” as a
starting point, accusing the president of throwing Israel “under the
Romney repeated the criticism last January, saying during a CNN
presidential debate the president had “time and time again shown
distance from Israel and that has created in my view a greater sense
of aggression on the part of the Palestinians.”
On television talk shows Sunday, Netanyahu declined interviewers’
attempts to draw him into U.S. politics.
“I will say that I will receive Mitt Romney with the same openness
that I received another presidential candidate, then Senator Barack
Obama, when he came almost four years ago, almost the same time in
the campaign, to Israel,” he said on Fox News Sunday.
On CBS’s Face the Nation, Netanyahu said he would tell Romney what he
told candidate Obama: “I’ll tell him about Israel’s desire for peace
and also about Israel’s concern with the arming of Iran with nuclear
weapons – unfortunately it’s still with us four years later.”
Obama ‘abdicated leadership’
Romney has visited Israel three times before, according to the
campaign – early last year, in January 2007 – shortly before he
formally announced his candidacy for the 2008 GOP presidential
nomination – and on a family visit in the late 1990s.
Apart from the ongoing Iranian nuclear standoff, this trip comes at a
time of great uncertainty about the regional implications of the
escalating conflict in Syria and developments in post-Mubarak Egypt.
In his foreign policy platform, released last October, Romney pledged
in his first 100 days to place all diplomatic and assistance efforts
in the greater Middle East under a single regional director – “[o]ne
official with responsibility and accountability will set regional
priorities and train our soft power on ensuring the Arab Spring
realizes its promise.”
Regarding Egypt and other states in transition, Romney warned
of “destabilizing jihadist forces and Iranian backed elements” and
said his administration would “support those individuals and groups
that are seeking to instill lasting democratic values and build
sturdy democratic institutions.”
His platform called Syrian President Bashar Assad “a vicious
dictator, a killer, and a proxy for Iran” and said the U.S. should
isolate and pressurize his regime “to increase likelihood of a
peaceful transition to a legitimate government.”
Last Thursday, after Russia and China exercised their third joint
veto to kill a Western-led U.N. Security Council resolution on Syria,
Romney reprised earlier accusations that Obama had “abdicated
leadership and subcontracted U.S. policy” to the United Nations and
its Syria envoy, Kofi Annan.
The Romney platform’s declared support for Israel “as a Jewish
state,” commitment to helping it maintain its strategic military
edge, and rejection of any attempt by the P.A. to settle issues
unilaterally are similar to Obama’s stance.
Where it does differ is the Republican candidate’s pledge to “reduce
assistance to the Palestinians if they continue to pursue United
Nations recognition or form a unity government that includes Hamas, a
terrorist group dedicated to Israel’s destruction.”
While Obama defunded the U.N.’s cultural agency for granting
admission to “Palestine” last fall – as he was mandated to do by U.S.
law – he has not tied the P.A.’s attempts to join U.N. bodies to
ongoing U.S. funding.
From Israel, Romney travels to Poland where he will meet in Gdansk
with former president and anti-communist Solidarity trade union
leader, Lech Walesa, and with current Polish leaders.
The former Warsaw Pact country, which joined NATO in 1999, has proven
a committed U.S. ally, strongly supportive of the military missions
in Iraq and Afghanistan and prepared to risk Russian anger over its
agreement to host U.S. missile defense facilities as a shield against
Iran. A missile interceptor site is scheduled to be established in
Poland in 2018.
Ahead of Romney’s trip he is due to deliver a speech Tuesday to the
national convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, an opportunity
to expand on foreign policy positions laid out earlier in the
campaign. Obama will also address the convention, in Reno, Nevada, on
Monday. (copyright 1998-2012 Cybercast News Service 07/23/12)
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