WASHINGTON (AP) — Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney is proposing the U.S. take a more assertive role in Syria, put conditions on aid to Egypt and tighten sanctions on Iran as he looks to use a planned foreign policy address to paint President Barack Obama as a weak leader who has limited America's influence on global affairs.
Declaring that "it's time to change course in the Middle East" and accusing Obama of "passivity," Romney plans to call Monday for the U.S. to work with other countries to arm rebels in Syria with weapons that can defeat the "tanks, helicopters and fighter jets" that make up President Bashar Assad's army.
Romney also plans to call for tougher sanctions on Iran than those already in place, and plans to say he will condition aid to Egypt on continued support for its peace treaty with neighboring Israel. He will emphasize his commitment to a two-state solution for peace between Israelis and Palestinians, a process he dismissed during a secretly videotaped fundraiser in May.
Romney plans to make the comments at a major foreign policy speech at Virginia Military Institute. His campaign released excerpts of his prepared speech in advance. Aides previewing the speech in a conference call with reporters emphasized that the Republican, who took a hawkish tone throughout the GOP primary, would outline a "mainstream" foreign policy vision.
"Hope is not a strategy. We cannot support our friends and defeat our enemies in the Middle East when our words are not backed up by deeds," Romney plans to say in the address, adding that the U.S. should use its influence "wisely, with solemnity and without false pride, but also firmly and actively."
Romney's attempt to outline his approach as commander in chief comes amid turmoil in the Middle East and North Africa. Iran is believed to be pursuing a nuclear weapon, Syria is locked in a civil war, peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians are moribund, and anti-American protests have erupted in several countries. Attackers linked to al-Qaida killed four Americans in Benghazi, Libya, last month, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens.