Republican contenders attacked President Barack Obama over Iran’s work toward a nuclear weapon, calling in a national security debate for aggressive actions from imposing crushing sanctions that risk higher oil prices to supporting an Israeli attack.
Businessman Herman Cain said he would support Israel in an attack on Iran if there if it was “clear what the mission was.” His support would also be conditioned on the “definition of success” of such an attack, he said in the debate, which showed Republican divisions on immigration and defense funding.
Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, leading candidate in the latest polls, said that “no bombing campaign in Iran that leaves the regime in place would be useful.”
“Replacing the regime before they get a nuclear weapon without a war beats replacing the regime with war, which beats allowing them to have a nuclear weapon,” said Gingrich, who has supported increased covert action.
Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney said sanctions on Iran, which were stepped up this week by Obama, should be still tougher even if it crippled Iran’s oil industry.
“I know it’s going to make gasoline more expensive,” he said. “There’s no price that is worth an Iranian nuclear weapon.”
The eight Republican hopefuls debated national security at Washington’s DAR Constitution Hall, a short walk from the White House, hosted by CNN and two non-profit policy groups, the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute.
Sparring on Immigration
On immigration, Gingrich called for a system that would allow illegal immigrants who have been in the U.S. for 25 years to stay in the the country.
“I don’t see how the party that says it’s the party of the family is going to adopt an immigration policy which destroys families that have been here for a quarter century,” Gingrich said. “And I’m prepared to take the heat for saying, ‘Let’s be humane,’” short of offering citizenship.
“Look, amnesty is a magnet,” Romney responded. “If people who come here illegally are going to get to stay,” that is going to encourage more people to come illegally.
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