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June 27, 2017

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GOP's Romney lauds Obama foreign policy rather than burying it

WASHINGTON -- At times, it was as if Mitt Romney had come to praise Barack Obama's foreign policy rather than to bury it.

Monday night's foreign policy debate between the Republican presidential nominee and the Democratic president was striking for the frequency with which Romney aligned himself with Obama's strategies rather than distancing himself from them.

On topics from withdrawing troops from Afghanistan by 2014 to avoiding a U.S. military entanglement in Syria, Romney echoed Obama in what analysts saw as a conscious effort to appear a moderate who would not drag the United States into another war.

"His objective here was not to differentiate himself from the president but to present himself as a plausible commander in chief," said Martin Indyk, vice president of foreign policy studies at the Brookings Institution think tank in Washington.

"I'm not sure it succeeded, but it was a very interesting approach on his part to try to consolidate his image as a peacemaker, not a warmonger," he added. "I suspect that the reason is that their polling shows the same sentiment on foreign policy issues: that the American people are tired of wars ... and they won't support a candidate that wants to start another one."

Grenades And Bouquets

Romney lobbed some grenades at Obama, accusing him of presiding over a decline of U.S. influence, of failing to bring Israelis and Palestinians into peace talks, of doing too little to support Iranian protesters in 2009 or to stop Syria's bloodshed.

But he also tossed the president some bouquets.

On Afghanistan, where Romney has at times accused Obama of "a politically timed retreat," he lauded the president's "surge" of forces into the country.

Asked about his stance on drones, Romney solidly backed Obama's extensive use of the unmanned aircraft for surveillance and targeted killings without putting U.S. troops in harm's way.

"I support that entirely, and feel the president was right to up the usage of that technology," Romney said, although he added that "we can't kill our way out of this mess" and that Obama should have done more to combat "Islamic extremism."

On Iran, where Romney has at times stressed the threat of military strikes to discourage Tehran from seeking nuclear arms, he instead praised sanctions imposed by Obama, put the accent on a negotiated solution and called force a last resort.

"It is also essential for us to understand what our mission is in Iran, and that is to dissuade Iran from having a nuclear weapon through peaceful and diplomatic means," Romney said.

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