Do Republicans and Obama Actually Have the Same Policy On Iran?

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All the Republican candidates have gone after Barack Obama for his handling of the Iranian problem, but if one of them gets elected president, would they really handle things any differently? Writing in The New York Times today, reporter Helene Cooper makes the argument that the answer is 'no.'

For example, Mitt Romney in particular has loudly criticized the president for has called for his Iran approach, flatly stating that they will have a nuclear weapon if Obama is re-elected. So Romney has called for more sanctions and for international pressure to be turned up on Iran, and that a show of force should be made to prove our intentions — all things that have already been done by the current administration. Romney admits that the "existing sanctions have not led the ayatollahs to abandon their nuclear aspirations." So his solution is a fifth round, which would basically be an extension of the current approach.

Romney's website insists that our policy "must begin with an understanding on Iran’s part that a military option to deal with their nuclear program remains on the table," even though President Obama (as he spent most of yesterday trying to reiterate) has never officially taken it off the table. Our aircraft carriers continue to patrol the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz and our Navy commanders have insisted that they will keep the waters open to tanker traffic if they have to.

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Romney's supporters argue that the President's military threat isn't credible, because no one else thinks "the president is really ready to pull the trigger.” Yet, there's no evidence that a President Romney would be more willing or able to bomb Tehran. He hasn't made military action a promise, or explained how he might keep it if he had. Several military sources have argued that an attack by the U.S. or Israel wouldn't stop the nuclear program anyway. How would an election change that calculation?

Much like this ridiculous "fact check" of who loves Israel more, it's impossible to prove who is more serious about their vague, unspecific threats. There isn't a more popular Washington phrase right now than "a nuclear Iran is unacceptable." But the truth of the matter is that there's little the U.S. can do, short of all-out war, to ensure that never happens. Despite the saber-rattling this week, that's a pretty unattractive option and one that won't be easy one to carry out. But if that's what Romney is promising, he's going to have to try a little harder to convince people that his war would be different than Obama's.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.