WASHINGTON -- U.S. President Barack Obama and his Republican Party challenger Mitt Romney have both vowed to defend Israel and prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.
The pledges were made on October 22 as the candidates clashed over foreign-policy issues in their third and final debate ahead of the U.S. election in two weeks.
During the 90-minute encounter in Boca Raton, Florida, Obama sought to portray Romney as not ready to be commander in chief, while Romney said Obama’s leadership had made America weaker on the world stage.
Both candidates agreed the 2014 pullout of foreign forces from Afghanistan must proceed as scheduled, and both acknowledged that America has a troubled relationship with Pakistan.
The debate comes with most opinion polls showing the two candidates tied, with about 47 percent support each.
Early on in the debate, Obama attacked Romney for not having a clear foreign policy, saying the businessman and former Massachusetts state governor was “all over the map,” or had not held consistent positions, on issues ranging from Syria, Iran, Russia, and China.
Obama said intensified international sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program were having an impact on the Iranian economy, and vowed that Iran will never be able to obtain a nuclear weapon during his presidency.
"As long as I'm president of the United States, Iran will not get a nuclear weapon. I made that clear when I came into office. We then organized the strongest coalition and the strongest sanctions against Iran in history, and it is crippling their economy," Obama said.
"Their currency has dropped 80 percent. Their oil production has plunged to the lowest level since they were fighting a war with Iraq 20 years ago. So their economy is in a shambles. And the reason we did this is because a nuclear Iran is a threat to our national security, and it is a threat to Israel's national security."
Asked about Pakistan, Romney acknowledged a difficult relationship, but said there should be no “divorce” between Washington and Islamabad because a Pakistan that “falls apart” would be an “extraordinary danger.”
"Pakistan is important to the region, to the world and to us, because Pakistan has 100 nuclear warheads and they're rushing to build a lot more. They'll have more than Great Britain sometime in the relatively near future," Romney said.
"They also have the Haqqani network and the Taliban existent within their country. And so a Pakistan that falls apart, becomes a failed state, would be of extraordinary danger to Afghanistan and to us. And so we're going to have to remain helpful in encouraging Pakistan to move towards a more stable government."
Obama and Romney disagreed over the biggest threat facing America, with Obama saying it was terrorism, and Romney saying it was Iran's nuclear program.
Analyst Stephanie Sanok, deputy director of the International Security Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, told RFE/RL that both Obama and Romney spent a significant amount of time talking not about foreign policy, but about domestic issues.
"What was striking to me was that this was a great opportunity for both candidates to talk about the broader vision for U.S. leadership, and I didn’t get that, so it was a draw. I don’t think either man walked away with a clear cut victory,” Sanok said.
With contributions from RFE/RL correspondent Heather Maher in Washington