Rick Santorum Views on the Middle East

By Ali Younes

In town hall meeting during campaign stop in Greenville, South Carolina, last Saturday, Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum said to me, in response to my questions, that he supports attacking Iran with missiles, rockets and other weapons in order to stop it from developing nuclear weapons. On the issue of Palestinian -Israeli conflict he added that the issue is an internal Israeli matter and that Israel can do whatever it wants and no one should interfere in their internal affairs. Ostensibly, Santorum does not hide his ultra conservative views when it comes to the US foreign policy particularly over Iran and Israel. He in the same breath argued to the crowed why they should not elect a moderate, a reference to presidential candidate Mitt Romney when they vote in the primary later this week.

But the republican presidential hopeful is not the only one among the republican candidates who expressed outright support for a US military action against Iran to halt its nuclear program, or expressing extreme anti-Palestinian views that deny them any prospect of establishing their own state  as the official US policy currently hold, or as stipulated by the successive Israeli governments. The entire republican candidates field, with the exception of Ron Paul, has expressed in one way or another same views with regard to attacking Iran or expressing their opposition to the establishing a Palestinian state.

 Former speaker of US Congress Newt Gingrich went even further when he said last month that” the Palestinians are an invented people” thus denying their existence as a nation that deserves to be recognized as such. But as it turned out he was not alone among the republican candidates who harbor dark views against the Palestinians.

When I pressed Mr. Santorum further on the Palestinian Israeli subject he kept up his previous line that it’s up to Israel to decide the fate of the Palestinians people. Senator Santorum, it’s worth mentioning, never once mentioned the Palestinians people by name during my conversation with him, and in fact he told me that “these people are there in the state of Israel and it’s up to Israel to decide.”  I said to him however that according to his argument, the American people would be called British now if it was not for the war of Independence from Britain that eventually gave birth to a new nation called the United States of America. Mr. Santorum brushed that aside and reiterated his previous line that “these people [the Palestinians] are in the Israel.”

His hawkish views on Iran, moreover, go along with the current environment within the conservative and republican circles that consider Iran’s nuclear program as a direct existential threat to Israel and to the United States. A New York Times editorial published last week titled “dangerous tension with Iran” talked about the Iranian threats of closing the Strait of Hormuz and the Obama administration warning that if Iran would to act o its threat it would provoke a US response. Although the editorial said that “No one should want to see Iran, with its contempt for international law, acquire a nuclear weapon. But a military strike on the nuclear facilities would be a disaster.”

For Senator Santorum and other republicans, preventing Iran from going nuclear is not only good for Israel and the United States, but also for Iran Arab neighbors. “If Iran acquires nuclear weapons, it will be dangerous first to its Sunni Muslim neighbors first then to Americans here in Greenville.” Said Senator Santorum to the crowd gathered in Greenville, South Carolina.

The dangerous tension with Iran the New York Times editorial described is not just coming from the Obama administration.  Last week a mainly republican congressional delegation visited Saudi Arabia, Qatar, UAE, France and Turkey in order to increase pressure on Iran over its nuclear program.

A statement by Ileana Ross-Lehtinen the Republican Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs committee who headed the trip with House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, said that the trip is aimed to coordinate with the US allies on the shared  threat Iran is posing to them , to Israel and to the US.

Representatives Ross-Lehtinen and Cantor  who are key supporters of Israel in the US congress stated in an official statement during this trip that they intend to urge the Arab Gulf states to “ Stand by Israel, support its right to defend itself and press the Palestinian leadership so that a true lasting peace may be achieved.”

 Palestinian –American syndicate columnist and Radio talk show host Ray Hanania described Santorum’s anti-Palestinian rhetoric and the congressional visit to the region as an insult to the Arab world.

“Santorum’s anti-Palestinian statements and the visit by the pro-Israeli members of congress to the Arab states are insulting and humiliating to the entire Arab World. Said Hanania.  “By exploiting the issue of Iran in demanding Arab countries to support Israel against the Palestinians is akin to acting like thief in the night, instead of coming through the front door to address the solutions to the Middle East conflicts, they come through the window.” He said.  “Arab States, on the other hand should use their leverage to press Cantor and others to hold Israel more accountable for their actions in the region.” He added.

– Ali Younes is a writer and political analyst based in Washington D.C. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Contact him at: aliyounes98@gmail.com.

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