WASHINGTON - Foreign policy, mostly an afterthought in the presidential contest so far, is emerging as a focal point between President Obama and his Republican challengers - and no issue has more potential to be a game-changer than Iran’s development of a nuclear program, according to several specialists.
Tensions over Iran’s alleged efforts to develop a nuclear bomb are escalating, with the United States and Europe tightening sanctions on Iran’s oil exports and financial institutions and Iran, in turn, threatening to shut down the strategically vital Strait of Hormuz. Intensifying fears are reports that Israel is considering launching a preemptive strike against Iran.
“Iran is one of the biggest wild cards in this election,’’ said Bill Schneider, a senior fellow and longtime political analyst at Third Way, a nonpartisan Washington think tank.
Obama has emphasized sanctions and negotiations to deter the Iranians from developing a nuclear weapon. His main GOP opponents assert that such an approach is bound to fail and the United States must be prepared to take military action - or at least support a unilateral strike by Israel on Iranian nuclear facilities.
Mitt Romney, stepping up his attacks on Obama’s handling of the issue, has described Iran as Obama’s greatest foreign policy failure. “He did not do what was necessary to get Iran to be dissuaded from their nuclear folly,’’ Romney said.
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