Thursday, September 20, 2007

Republican presidential front-runner Rudolph W. Giuliani yesterday said the U.S. should take pre-emptive military action against Iran if necessary to destroy the rogue nation’s nuclear ambitions or “set them back five or 10 years.”

“I believe the United States and our allies should deliver a very clear message to Iran, very clear, very sober, very serious: They will not be allowed to become a nuclear power. It’s just not going to happen,” he said in London.

Washington should give “an absolute assurance that, if they get to the point that they are going to become a nuclear power, we will prevent them or we will set them back five or 10 years,” he added. “And that is not said as a threat. That should be said as a promise.”

“If that really sinks in, there is a better chance we will never have to use a military option in dealing with them,” he said.

As Mr. Giuliani ramped up his rhetoric on Iran, the No. 2 man in the Islamic Republic’s air force said that plans have been drawn up to bomb Israel if the Jewish state attacks Iran, as it recently did suspected nuclear facilities in Syria. The announcement came amid rising tensions in the region, with the United States calling for a new round of U.N. sanctions against Iran over its disputed nuclear program.

“We have drawn up a plan to strike back at Israel with our bombers if [Israel] makes a silly mistake,” said deputy air force chief, Gen. Mohammad Alavi.

The former New York City mayor — knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2002 — has spent the last few days in London, where yesterday he held a $1,000-a-plate campaign fundraising lunch for U.S. expatriates. He told about 100 people at the luncheon hosted by Winston Churchill’s granddaughter that Iran has dominated his discussions with British leaders past and present, including prime ministers Margaret Thatcher, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.

In a later interview with CNN, Mr. Giuliani dismissed the option of containing a nuclear-armed Iran as “too dangerous. Iran is already the biggest state sponsor of terrorism. They already are therefore handing off armaments and weapons to terrorists [and] … there would be the risk of handing nuclear materials off to people who would use dirty bombs.”

Mr. Giuliani’s remarks yesterday resemble his earlier statements on the campaign trail and in Republican debates, but they were more pointed and included the specific option of precision strikes against suspected nuclear facilities.

The remarks also came from across the ocean, where the former mayor has been burnishing his international standing by meeting with British leaders and speaking by phone with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert about Iran.

Mr. Giuliani is the first candidate to go to Britain for a fundraiser, but more candidates will certainly follow. Bill Clinton is headlining an event for his wife in October, and Michelle Obama is scheduled to collect cash for her husband. Candidates may raise money overseas legally, but only from U.S. citizens living abroad.

Fred Thompson and Mitt Romney, two other Republican candidates, have also recently come to Britain to visit Mrs. Thatcher — dubbed the “Iron Lady” during the Cold War and considered a mentor to many conservatives who fondly remember former President Ronald Reagan, her greatest ally.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama leads in cash raised overseas, with $194,000 through the first two quarters. Mr. Giuliani is second with $120,000, New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton comes in third at $51,000 and Mr. Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, fourth at $44,000.

“Given the expense of American presidential elections, every fundraising opportunity is important. You’ve got to take advantage of it,” said Mr. Giuliani, who yesterday evening delivered the inaugural Margaret Thatcher Atlantic Bridge lecture.

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