Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain said Monday he would attack Iran to prevent it from acquiring nuclear weapons or to respond to aggression against Israel.
Asked if he agreed with former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton's contention that the "only realistic alternative … is to use force preemptively against Iran's nuclear weapons program" since diplomacy has failed, Mr. Cain said he did, with one caveat.
"There would be some other pieces of information I would need before I gave that order, but I'm saying that would be Option B," Mr. Cain said during an interview with editors and reporters at The Washington Times.
"Option A is, 'Folks, we are not going to allow you to attack Israel' … If they call my bluff, they already know — they will know — what Option B is."
Mr. Cain said that, as commander-in-chief, he would "make it crystal clear [that] if you mess with Israel, you're messing with the United States of America," but stressed that his "Cain Doctrine" would not be a "blank check" for Israeli military action.
"There will be a set of conditions and circumstances that I will work with Israel on for them to understand that they cannot abuse that doctrine," said Mr. Cain, a former CEO of Godfather's Pizza.
However, if Israel is ever attacked first by Iran, he said he is "not going to sit back and get a vote from the United Nations as to what we ought to do."
"If they [Iran] start lobbing rockets and stuff over at Israel, then we're going to shoot back with Israel," he said.
Mr. Cain dismissed the notion that an attack on Iran is unrealistic: "First of all, we have the most capable military power in the world," he said. "Air, ground — although we won't have to use ground for this — submarines, ships, that would be strategically placed in that part of the world."
Mr. Cain has questioned President Obama's commitment to the Jewish state, saying during his candidacy announcement that Mr. Obama had thrown "Israel under the bus" by calling for negotiations with the Palestinians to be based on Israel's borders before the 1967 war.
"The problem we have today is that, I believe, that [Iran] would test this president's intention to help protect Israel," he said.
Mr. Cain was interviewed at The Times after he had met Monday morning with Israel's ambassador to U.S., Michael Oren
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Ben Birnbaum is a reporter covering foreign affairs for The Washington Times. Prior to joining The Times, Birnbaum worked as a reporter-researcher at the New Republic. A Boston-area native, he graduated magna cum laude from Cornell University with a degree in government and psychology. He won multiple collegiate journalism awards for his articles and columns in the Cornell Daily Sun.
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