US Presidential Election 2012

Romney blames President Obama for making Americans less safe

President's dithering has left the risk of conflict in the Middle East higher now than when he took office, adds Republican candidate

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 09 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 09 October, 2012, 4:03am

US President Barack Obama has "failed to lead in Syria" and the strains between his administration and chief regional ally Israel are emboldening Iran, White House hopeful Mitt Romney warned yesterday.

He argued that the United States and the Middle East were less safe now than they were at the start of Obama's term and claimed the president's dithering had increased the threat of instability in a region clamouring for US leadership.

"The president has failed to lead in Syria, where more than 30,000 men, women and children have been massacred by the Assad regime over the past 20 months," Romney said.

Speaking at the Virginia Military Institute, he added they had been left without the necessary weapons to battle President Bashar al-Assad's troops.

"Our ally Turkey has been attacked. And the conflict threatens stability in the region," the Republican nominee said.

Laying out his foreign policy platform less than a month before the November 6 election, Romney acknowledged that Obama had taken some key steps, notably the elimination of chief terror suspect Osama bin Laden last year.

"But when we look at the Middle East today - with Iran closer than ever to nuclear weapons capability, with the conflict in Syria threatening to destabilize the region, with violent extremists on the march, and with an American ambassador and three others dead likely at the hands of Al-Qaeda affiliates - it is clear that the risk of conflict in the region is higher now than when the president took office," he said.

Romney warned that Obama's poor handling of Syria was emblematic of a president that opts to "lead from behind" instead of asserting US influence on the region. "In Syria, I will work with our partners to identify and organise those members of the opposition who share our values and ensure they obtain the arms they need to defeat Assad's tanks, helicopters, and fighter jets," Romney said.

Romney added that the American gains in Iraq, won during the war began by president George W. Bush, had been eroded. "America's ability to influence events for the better in Iraq has been undermined by the abrupt withdrawal of our entire troop presence," he said.

His address on Monday highlighted the work of "patriots of both parties" and looked to cast the Republican nominee as a statesman and part of a long and bipartisan tradition of American leadership in the world.

"America has a proud history of strong, confident, principled global leadership - a history that has been written by patriots of both parties," Romney said. "Unfortunately, this president's policies have not been equal to our best examples of world leadership."

Yet the speech also promoted the hawkish US stance associated with Bush, including a call for a more forceful approach.

The speech saw Romney walking a delicate political line as he reaches out to swing voters, some of whom might be put off by memories of Bush's foreign policy and are tired of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Additional reporting by Bloomberg