Romney and Gingrich willing to attack Iran to prevent them from getting nukes

Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain, left, Mitt Romney, center, and Newt Gingrich, answer questions at the CBS News/National Journal foreign policy debate at the Benjamin Johnson Arena, Saturday, Nov. 12, 2011 in Spartanburg, S.C. Republican presidential hopefuls sharply criticized President Barack Obama's efforts to thwart Iran's nuclear ambitions Saturday night as too weak but disagreed in campaign debate whether the United States would be justified in a pre-emptive military strike.
AP Photo/Richard Shiro

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich both said it is worth using the United States military to attack Iran in order to prevent the oil rich nation from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

"If all else fails, if after all of the work we have done (through crippling sanctions and supporting insurgents to encourage regime change) there is nothing else besides take military action, then of course you take military action," Romney said in a debate sponsored by CBS News and National Journal.

"It is unacceptable for Iran to have a nuclear weapon," Romney said.

Moments later, Gingrich was also asked if it would be worth using the military to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.

Georgia said the United States should first considering "taking out their scientists," and "breaking up their systems, all of it covertly, all of it deniable."

"I agree entirely with Governor Romney. If in the end, despite all of those things, the dictatorship persists, you have to take whatever steps are necessary to break its capacity to have a nuclear weapon," Gingrich said.

Georgia businessman Herman Cain and Texas Rep. Ron Paul both said it would not be worth sending troops to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.

Ben Rhodes, White House deputy national security advisor, responded to the debaters critique of President Obama's handling of the Iran situation. "This president has never hesitated with action," Rhodes told CBS News, adding that problems aren't solves through "rhetoric alone" and all options are open.

Transcript of the debate
Full video

Full coverage: The CBS News/National Journal debate


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Post-debate analysis with CBS News political director John Dickerson

  • Corbett Daly On Twitter» Deputy Politics Editor Corbett B. Daly is based in Washington. He has worked at Reuters, Thomson Financial News and CBS MarketWatch.