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Romney Campaign Muddles Iran Stance

A tough statement, and a nuanced clarification. The difference between “respect” and “support.”

JASON REED / Reuters

Dan Senor

JERUSALEM — An adviser’s vague remark to reporters here left the press scrambling for nearly three hours this morning to determine whether Romney had promised to commit American forces or other support to a hypothetical Israel strike on Iran.

In fact, Romney appears to be stopping a step short of such commitment, promising only to respect — but not necessarily support or agree with — an Israeli move.

Romney foreign policy advisor Dan Senor briefed the press on Sunday morning, saying, “if Israel has to take action on its own, in order to stop Iran from developing the capability, the governor would respect that decision.”

The headline that hit news outlets across the globe by the Associated Press was: “Adviser: Romney would back strike against Iran,” implying, perhaps, that the U.S. could contribute forces to such a strike.

Reuters ran with: “Romney backs Israel if needs to strike Iran: aide says.” Bloomberg’s headline: “Romney Says He’d Back Unilateral Israeli Strike on Iran.”

That news remained on the wires for nearly three hours, as local and international press struggled with the meaning of Senor’s remark.

The Romney campaign, meanwhile, went dark, with much of his top staff asleep in Boston or in meetings with Israeli leaders, as an international firestorm built over how Senor’s comments were being interpreted.

About three hours later, however, aides distributed a comment by Senor clarifying his remarks.

“Gov. Romney believes we should employ any and all measures to dissuade the Iranian regime from its nuclear course, and it is his fervent hope that diplomatic and economic measures will do so,” Senor said in the new statement. “In the final analysis, of course, no option should be excluded. Gov. Romney recognizes Israel’s right to defend itself, and that it is right for America to stand with it.”

This post has been update.

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