The Guardian reports: Republican presidential candidates made a prolonged pitch for the pro-Israel vote on Wednesday with calls for regime change in Iran and even hints at military action.
Newt Gingrich, the leading Republican contender who holds a double digit lead in three of the first four states to hold nomination contests, backed his hawkish position by announcing that if he wins the election he wants his secretary of state to be John Bolton, the abrasive neoconservative and former ambassador to the UN who has derided Palestinian claims to a state as a “ploy”.
Gingrich was speaking to the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) in Washington along with other presidential candidates, except Ron Paul who was barred for his views on Israel. Mitt Romney, Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann joined Gingrich in stinging attacks on Barack Obama’s Middle East policy, accusing him of weakness in the face of the Jewish state’s enemies and failing to be sufficiently supportive of Israel.
They also sided with Israel in demanding a much tougher stand against Iran over its nuclear programme.
Gingrich said his aim would be to “overtly sabotage (Iran) every day”.
“The only rational long-time policy is regime replacement,” he said.
Romney demanded “crippling sanctions” against Tehran and suggested the US could resort to force against the nuclear programme.
“Ultimately regime change is necessary. We should make it very clear we are developing and have developed military options,” he said.
The calls were met enthusiastically by the Jewish coalition’s audience but were also aimed at a wider consumption of strongly pro-Israel voters.
The Republican Jewish Coalition has barred Ron Paul, one of the party’s leading presidential contenders, from its forum for the candidates on Wednesday because of his “misguided and extreme views” on Israel.
Paul, who consistently ranks among the favourites in polls of Republican primary voters despite strong libertarian views that have alienated many in his own party, has rankled Israel’s supporters by advocating an end to US aid to the Jewish state. He is also strongly opposed to military action against Iran’s nuclear programme and has drawn attention to Israel’s own atomic weapons which it does not officially acknowledge.
The RJC director, Matt Brooks, said Paul was excluded for those and other views.
“He’s just so far outside of the mainstream of the Republican party and this organisation,” he told CBS.