Transcript of final 2012 presidential debate, part 2
SCHIEFFER: All right.
OBAMA: And, you know, we visited the website quite a bit and it still doesn't work.
SCHIEFFER: A lot to cover. I'd like -- I'd like to move to the next segment: red lines, Israel and Iran.
Would either of you -- and you'll have two minutes -- and, President Obama, you have the first go at this one -- would either of you be willing to declare that an attack on Israel is an attack on the United States, which, of course, is the same promise that we give to our close allies like Japan.
And if you made such a declaration, would not that deter Iran? It's certainly deterred the Soviet Union for a long, long time when we made that -- we made -- we made that promise to our allies.
OBAMA: First of all, Israel is a true friend. It is our greatest ally in the region. And if Israel is attacked, America will stand with Israel. I've made that clear throughout my presidency. And...
SCHIEFFER: So you're -- you're saying we've already made that declaration.
OBAMA: I will stand with Israel if they are attacked. And this is the reason why, working with Israel, we have created the strongest military and intelligence cooperation between our two countries in history.
In fact, this week we'll be carrying out the largest military exercise with Israel in history, this very week. But to the issue of Iran, as long as I'm president of the United States Iran will not get a nuclear weapon. I made that clear when I came into office.
OBAMA: We then organized the strongest coalition and the strongest sanctions against Iran in history, and it is crippling their economy. Their currency has dropped 80 percent. Their oil production has plunged to the lowest level since they were fighting a war with Iraq 20 years ago. So their economy is in a shambles.
And the reason we did this is because a nuclear Iran is a threat to our national security, and it is a threat to Israel's national security. We cannot afford to have a nuclear arms race in the most volatile region of the world.
Iran is a state sponsor of terrorism. And for them to be able to provide nuclear technology to non-state actors, that's unacceptable. And they have said that they want to see Israel wiped off the map.
So the work that we've done with respect to sanctions now offers Iran a choice. They can take the diplomatic route and end their nuclear program or they will have to face a united world and a United States president, me, who said we're not going to take any options off the table.
The disagreement I have with Governor Romney is that, during the course of this campaign, he's often talked as if we should take premature military action. I think that would be a mistake, because when I've sent young men and women into harm's way, I always understand that that is the last resort, not the first resort.
SCHIEFFER: Two minutes.
ROMNEY: Well, first of all, I want to underscore the same point the president mad,e which is that if I'm President of the United States, when I'm President of the United States, we will stand with Israel.
And if Israel is attacked, we have their back, not just diplomatically, not just culturally, but militarily. That's number one.
Number two, with regards to Iran and the threat of Iran, there's no question but that a nuclear Iran, a nuclear-capable Iran is unacceptable to America. It presents a threat not only to our friends but ultimately a threat to us to have Iran have nuclear material, nuclear weapons that could be used against us or used to be threatening to us.
It is also essential for us to understand what our mission is in Iran, and that is to dissuade Iran from having a nuclear weapon through peaceful and diplomatic means. And crippling sanctions are something I called for five years ago, when I was in Israel, speaking at the Herzliya Conference. I laid out seven steps, crippling sanctions were number one. And they do work. You're seeing it right now in the economy. It's absolutely the right thing to do, to have crippling sanctions. I would have put them in place earlier. But it's good that we have them.
Number two, something I would add today is I would tighten those sanctions. I would say that ships that carry Iranian oil, can't come into our ports. I imagine the E.U. would agree with us as well. Not only ships couldn't, but I'd say companies that are moving their oil can't, people who are trading in their oil can't. I would tighten those sanctions further. Secondly, I'd take on diplomatic isolation efforts. I'd make sure that Ahmadinejad is indicted under the Genocide Convention. His words amount to genocide incitation. I would indict him for it. I would also make sure that their diplomats are treated like the pariah they are around the world. The same way we treated the apartheid diplomats of South Africa.
We need to increase pressure time, and time again on Iran because anything other than a -- a -- a solution to this, which says -- which stops this -- this nuclear folly of theirs, is unacceptable to America. And of course, a military action is the last resort. It is something one would only - only consider if all of the other avenues had been -- had been tried to their full extent.
SCHIEFFER: Let me ask both of you, there -- as you know, there are reports that Iran and the United States a part of an international group, have agreed in principle to talks about Iran's nuclear program. What is the deal, if there are such talks? What is the deal that you would accept, Mr. President?
OBAMA: Well, first of all those are reports in the newspaper. They are not true. But our goal is to get Iran to recognize it needs to give up its nuclear program and abide by the U.N. resolutions that have been in place. Because they have the opportunity to reenter the community of nations, and we would welcome that.
There -- there are people in Iran who have the same aspirations as people all around the world for a better life. And we hope that their leadership takes the right decision, but the deal we'll accept is they end their nuclear program. It's very straightforward. And I'm glad that Governor Romney agrees with the steps that we're taking. You know, there have been times, Governor, frankly, during the course of this campaign, where it sounded like you thought that you'd do the same things we did, but you'd say them louder and somehow that -- that would make a difference.
And it turns out that the work involved in setting up these crippling sanctions is painstaking. It's meticulous. We started from the day we got into office. And the reason is was so important -- and this is a testament to how we've restored American credibility and strength around the world -- is we had to make sure that all the countries participated, even countries like Russia and China. Because if it's just us that are imposing sanctions -- we've had sanctions in place a long time. It's because we got everybody to agree that Iran is seeing so much pressure. And we've got to maintain that pressure.
There is a deal to be had, and that is that they abide by the rules that have already been established. They convince the international community they are not pursuing a nuclear program. There are inspections that are very intrusive. But over time, what they can do is regain credibility. In the meantime, though, we're not going to let up the pressure until we have clear evidence that that takes place.
And one last thing -- just -- just to make this point. The clock is ticking. We're not going to allow Iran to perpetually engage in negotiations that lead nowhere. And I've been very clear to them. You know, because of the intelligence coordination that we do with a range of countries, including Israel, we have a sense of when they would get breakout capacity, which means that we would not be able to intervene in time to stop their nuclear program.
And that clock is ticking. And we're going to make sure that if they do not meet the demands of the international community, then we are going to take all options necessary to make sure they don't have a nuclear weapon.
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