Romney Slams Obama over Middle East, Calls for New Course

(Reuters) - Mitt Romney launched a fresh attack on President Barack Obama's Middle East policy on Monday, saying the United States is moving dangerously closer to being pulled into the region's chaos and that puts "our security at risk."

In a Wall Street Journal opinion piece, the U.S. Republican presidential nominee pointed to recent developments in Syria, Libya and Egypt as well as uncertainty over Israel and Iran and called for "a new strategy toward the Middle East," although he offered no new details about his proposed plans.

Romney's critique comes amid a new wave of violence in the region and as U.S. officials acknowledged that the storming of a U.S. consulate in Libya was a deliberate attack by militants linked to al-Qaeda.

It also precedes the first presidential debate on Wednesday that is largely expected to focus on domestic policy issues such as economic recovery, jobs and healthcare.

Still, Romney's criticism aims to capitalize on the instability of the Middle East after the Arab Spring revolts, which threatens to overshadow Obama's foreign policy and national security success since the killing of top al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden last year.

In his editorial, Romney reiterated his argument that the United States under Obama "seems to be at the mercy of events rather than shaping them."

He laid out few details about his proposed changes but did say a new course would mean "restoring our credibility with Iran."

"When we say an Iranian nuclear weapons capability — and the regional instability that comes with it — is unacceptable, the ayatollahs must be made to believe us," wrote Romney, who has accused Obama of being too tough on Israel, a close U.S. ally, and weak on Iran.

He also said the Obama administration's policy toward Israel was incomprehensible and vowed to have 'no daylight' between the two countries. On Friday, Obama spoke by telephone with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and they offered a united front on preventing a nuclear-armed Iran.

Romney's new strategy would also include "using the full spectrum of our soft power to encourage liberty and opportunity for those who have for too long known only corruption and oppression," the former Massachusetts governor added.

Romney, a former business executive, also cited the same prescription he has offered to revive the U.S. economy: jobs.

"The dignity of work and the ability to steer the course of their lives are the best alternatives to extremism," he wrote.

(Reporting By Susan Heavey)


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