US Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has criticized his Democratic rival President Barack Obama's "weak foreign policy," accusing him of seeking to distance the United States from Israel and saying he would do everything to facilitate military aid to Syrian rebels.
He sought to clarify for voters how he would conduct US foreign policy as president, in a speech in Lexington at the Virginia Military Institute, in the southeastern state of Virginia, which was mostly focused on the Middle East.
The former Massachusetts Governor said that, as president, he would support friends who share America's values and set "clear conditions" for U.S. foreign aid.
He criticized President Obama on the issue of Iran’s nuclear program and on U.S. relations with Israel. He accused Obama of seeking to distance the United States from Israel.
The Republican candidate vowed to make clear to Iran that its pursuit of a nuclear weapon "will not be tolerated."
Romney said Obama “missed an historic opportunity” to provide leadership during his term, a time of great upheaval in the Middle East.
As president, Romney said, he’d work with U.S. partners to arm rebels in Syria, make aid to Egypt conditional on the development of democratic institutions – as well as peace with Israel – and advocate an independent Palestinian state coexisting with Israel.
"I will work with our partners to identify and organize those members of the opposition who share our values, and then ensure that they obtain the arms they need to defeat Assad’s tanks, helicopters and fighter jets," he said on Syria.
The White House and Obama’s campaign swiftly responded to Romney’s speech by saying that public opinion surveys show Obama leading Romney on leadership in national security, among other things, because of the responsible ending of the Iraq war, and the decimation of al-Qaida and the killing of Osama bin Laden.
Analysts say it is unclear whether Romney's foreign policy address will boost his public opinion ratings in a campaign where the U.S. economy is dominant issue.
Romney has benefited from President Obama's weak performance in last week's presidential debate. Surveys show him narrowing Obama's lead nationally and in key political swing states.