Romney’s geography

I missed this last night:

Syria is Iran’s only ally in the Arab world. It’s their route to the sea.

Apparently, it was no mere slip of the tongue: Romney has said it repeatedly before, and been called on it. It is, of course, utter gibberish: Iran has plenty of coastline and no border with Syria.

Commenter Warren Terra wins the night:

Syria is Romnesia’s route to the sea.

Really and truly: how pig-ignorant can you be and still have the Village Idiots treat you as a serious candidate for President of the United States?

Bonus One of NRO’s hacks goes for a Nobel Prize in Hackery by defending Romney on this; even the NRO commenters laugh at him.

Comments

  1. dave schutz says

    It’s better for your blood pressure if you regard all statements by the candidates as a special kind of poetry, not bound by usual constraints of, well, truth…

    • Herschel says

      I’ll do it for him! If you were to set out from Tehran on a journey to Latakia on the Mediterranean Sea, you would have to traverse a bunch of Iran and about 350 kilometers of Iraq, but then your route would be through Syria! It’s the route to the sea!

  2. Brett Bellmore says

    Nah, he wasn’t any more correct about it, than Obama was about there being 57 states or Hawaii being in Asia. Mind you, we do expect normally expect Americans to be more familiar with basic American geography, than the geography of the middle east… But it was still a mistake. Some time in the Map room at the White house will be in order, come January.

    • Cranky Observer says

      = = = Nah, he wasn’t any more correct about it, than Obama was about there being 57 states or Hawaii being in Asia. Mind you, we do expect normally expect Americans to be more familiar with basic American geography, than the geography of the middle east… But it was still a mistake. = = =

      Problem of course is that Romney is on tape with the “Syria is Iran’s route to the sea” business dozens of times during the 2012 campaign. It wasn’t a one-time “mistake”; it is something that Romney thinks is worth repeating.

      Cranky

      • Cranky Observer says

        Our liberal media:

        = = = http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/in-the-loop/post/romney-wont-give-on-iran-syria-route-to-the-sea/2012/10/23/690639c0-1d1d-11e2-ba31-3083ca97c314_blog.html “Iran, as most anyone knows, has direct access to waterways, we pointed out back then, with about 1,100 miles of coastline along the Gulf of Oman and the entire northern coastline of the Persian Gulf. (Remember how Iran’s always threatening to close the vital Strait of Hormuz?)

        But worse yet, Iran doesn’t even share a border with Syria, so this “route to the sea” actually means going overland through Iraq and then Syria to get to the Mediterranean. The journey from Tehran to Damascus is about 1,000 miles.

        And once the Iranians get there, they’ll find Syria has only a measly 111 miles of coastline.

        In March, after Romney had said the “route to the sea” stuff five more times, Washington Post Fact Checker Glenn Kessler weighed in but didn’t think it “worthy of a Pinocchio rating — unless we create a category for weird language.”

        Well, we did our best.” = = =

        Not so liberal, I guess. “Not worthy of a Pinocchio rating”; of course not. IOKIYAR.

        Cranky

    • Byomtov says

      Equating a one-time slip of the tongue with repeated stated geographic ignorance are you, Brett?

      Going to tell us about the 1916 Navy next?

      • Brett Bellmore says

        You obsess about the other guy’s mistakes, and blow of your guy’s mistakes. Big deal, human nature. If he has to hire somebody to whisper in his ear, “Iran has a sea coast” from time to time, that’s no biggy, so long as he’s not convinced he can borrow the nation into prosperity by paying people to build electric cars in Finland.

        • Cranky Observer says

          A “mistake” that Romney has been making since February when the Washington Post (a somewhat important institution in US politics) asked his staff about it multiple times? Methinks not.

          Cranky

          • Brett Bellmore says

            Well, Obama’s “Make huge loans to doomed green energy companies, who then go under taking the money with them” mistake seems somewhat repetitive, too. So it’s not like your guy never makes the same mistake twice. He just makes bigger ones, at other people’s expense.

          • Byomtov says

            So where are you on the Iran-Syria point, Brett?

            To your credit, unlike NRO you’re not trying to defend it, and you seem to have wisely given up the “slip of the tongue” defense, and gone off on another tangent entirely.

            Should we take that as a concession that Romney said, and believes, something pretty stupid?

          • Cranky Observer says

            Shorter Brett Bellmore: crickets.wav

            Cranky

            Quote from the link, 13 May 2012: “it’s not that brett’s opinions are contrary to mine that i suggested that he be banned, it’s that brett’s comments are often contrary to his own logic. if one strand of thought doesn’t work out for him he is perfectly willing to go off in another direction without ever explaining why the previous strand was deficient or defective. even the 6th graders i teach can recognize when the logic of their arguments collapse and can admit it. it is brett’s patent inability to admit that he might have gotten it wrong, that he might be mistaken, or that he might not have gotten enough of the facts before he started commenting that make me feel that he is trolling. even when he has reached the point where all of his arguments have either been refuted or answered he will not admit it but will instead just stop commenting.”

          • Brett Bellmore says

            I think Romney has settled on an infelicitous phrase to denote something which he may or may not be wrong about, and is unlikely to be given any opportunity to explain to the general public. (Which is part of what makes it infelicitous; When your chief way of reaching the public is through hostile media outlets, you can’t afford to be saying things this easy to portray as stupid.) I don’t think for a moment Romney is invincibly ignorant of the fact that Iran has a seacoast.

            Any more than I think Obama believes Colorado is located in China. Or that there are 57 states, or that Hawaii is in Asia, or any of the other stupid things he says when he’s not using a teleprompter. (The stupid things he says when he is using one are more subtle…) Which I don’t much hold against him; Nobody sounds good in the first draft.

            I doubt you will accept this, though, because you’d rather think your messiah is being fought to a standstill by a moron, for some reason or other.

          • navarro says

            fox news is hardly a hostile outlet and is one to which romney has access any time he wants it and for as long as he wants to talk to the folks there.

            still, this is as close to an unqualified admission that romney’s oft-repeated statement about syria being iran’s route to the sea is erroneous as we are likely to get from the tenacious mr. bellmore and i am satisfied to accept it as such.

            and cranky, i recognize my words but i will say in brett’s defense here that he has not been nearly so trollish on this comment thread as he was on the one to which you point. brett is kind of like bhut jolokia, very spicy and useful under certain circumstances but a little can go a long way.

          • Cranky Observer says

            I’ll defer to you on this one navarro, although this classic Brett-ism has me rolling in laughter: “I think Romney has settled on an infelicitous phrase to denote something which he may or may not be wrong about,”.

            Cranky

  3. Kelly Kleiman says

    Would it be too pedantic to point out that Iran isn’t in “the Arab world,” as Persians are not Arabs?

    • Benjamin says

      Nobody implied it was. (Unlike Iran’s purported border with Syria or Iran’s purported landlocked status, which were amply implied.)

  4. says

    As a practical matter, Mitt Romney is correct because even though Iran does not have share a formal border with Syria, it does have a de facto one thanks to George W Bush. This was a presumably unintentional result of destroying Iran’s archenemy Saddam Hussein and replacing him a regime that is very sympathetic to Iran and, indeed, is increasing an Iranian puppet. Consequently, not only was Romney correct in saying that Iran “borders” Syria (because in a sense it now does), it would also be fair to say that Iran now also has an indirect border with Israel itself. Yet another reason why the Iraq War was probably the greatest strategic and foreign policy disaster in this country’s history.

    • Cranky Observer says

      Iran certainly has more influence in Iraq that it did during the days of the Ultimate Evil(tm) Saddam Hussein, but I haven’t seen anything that indicates that the government of Iraq or the average Iraqi is exactly friendly towards Iran. And the government(s) of Iran isn’t in full control of its own factions; believing it could cut a deal with the dozens in Iraq for any sort of troop movement would be a big risk. Not to mention the Kurds.

      Cranky

  5. says

    The Straits of Hormuz thing is a very big deal, and why a war with Iran would be unbelievably reckless. Remember the Millennium Challenge war game in 2002, in which retired Marine general Paul Van Riper, playing Saddam Hussein, crushed a large USN task force using low-tech missiles fired from small gunboats? Iran might not be able to do that – the US carriers would sty out in the Indian Ocean -, but it could certainly interdict the Gulf to all tanker traffic.
    If you don’t know this and haven’t thought it through, you have no business banging the war drums as you audition for the Presidency.

  6. says

    The Straits of Hormuz thing is a very big deal, and why a war with Iran would be unbelievably reckless. Remember the Millennium Challenge war game in 2002, in which retired Marine general Paul Van Riper, playing Saddam Hussein, crushed a large USN task force using low-tech missiles fired from small gunboats? Iran might not be able to do that – the US carriers would stay out in the Indian Ocean -, but it could certainly interdict the Gulf to all tanker traffic.
    If you don’t know this and haven’t thought it through, you have no business banging the war drums as you audition for the Presidency.

    • Anomalous says

      Banging the war drums was last week. Now it’s peace, love and groovy vibes for Mitts. You gotta keep up now.

  7. Anomalous says

    I’m trying to imagine just what kind of boats the Iranian navy would drag across 500 miles or so of desert. But maybe they are just going for a day at the beach so then inflatable plastic rafts will do.

    • Mitch Guthman says

      I think that the people who told him say this are his neocon advisors who tend not to think things through as George Bush’s foreign policy record amply demonstrates. My guess is that they were trying to analogize to Russia’s eternal quest for better access to the Baltic and easy, direct access to the Atlantic. Presumably, then, Romney was trying to say that if Iran “wins” in Syria it will gain access to the Mediterranean by building naval bases in Syria thereby giving them access to the Mediterranean in the same way that the US is said to have access to that sea. Naturally,this overlooks the fact that Syria has been an Iranian client state for probably decades without the Iranians ever building a naval base there or even expressing an interest in doing so.

      The confusion we are all experiencing is due to the fact that Republicans existing in their own reality and it is therefore difficult for other people to reconcile their reality with that of everybody else.

  8. knecht ruprecht says

    Dear me, the NRO hack defense is, if anything, worse than the original error. Syria is important because Iran’s maritime access is “what you might call ‘blocked’ by the U.S. military”? Riiiight. Because the U.S. has no capability to project power in the Eastern Mediterranean.

  9. says

    Well, this might make some sense if one redefined “the sea” to be “The Sea,” that is the Mediterranean Sea. But that matters if, and only if, one’s concerns are with Europe, the Fertile Crescent, and northern Africa… and seeing as how the Roman Empire (in all of its variations) has been gone for at least six hundred years…

    Oh, ok, this doesn’t really help much, does it?

  10. says

    You are very smart, but Romney was speaking in the context of the debate topic on foreign policy and the sanctions restricting the finances and trade of Iran. Although Iran is indeed located on the seacoast of the Indian Ocean and the Persian Gulf, the international trade sanctions have restricted and impeded its ability to transport armaments and other goods through its own seaports. To defeat these trade sanctions, Iran has resorted to using its air transportation to transport goods through an air corridor in Iraqi airspace into Syria and its seaports, such as Latakia.

    So in short, Syria is Iran’s route for the projection into the Mediterranean Sea (and from there, the Atlantic Ocean) of conventional naval power, and, perhaps soon, of nuclear weaponry.

    I’m surprised someone of your remarkable intelligence didn’t know these facts and had so little knowledge about Syria and Iran’s tight relationship. Maybe instead of just being snarky and witty and pithy you should in the future do a little bit of research on the issues before posting?

    • newsouthzach says

      You still haven’t explained how Iran can effectively project naval power via an airlift through Syria. If airplanes sufficed, why do they need Syria at all?

    • Mitch Guthman says

      Even using your analysis, Mitt Romney would have been wrong to say that the outcome of the civil water in Syria would either create or deny Iran a “route to the sea.” The sources you cite refer only to Iranian smuggling activities and say nothing about the projection of power into the Mediterranean (which was the obvious interpretation of Romney’s remarks). Moreover, Syria has not been an important participant in Iranian smuggling activities. It is well known that the United Arab Emirates, for example, has a very close relationship with Iran and has been the principal transit point for materials needed to support Iran’s nuclear program. In the past, both the UAE and Dubai have been the most helpful to Iran in defeating banking and trade sanctions. A single example of a ship with cargo bound for Iran having offloaded cargo in Syria hardly qualifies as a “route to the sea.”

      Moreover, as I noted in an earlier comment, Iran has had a strong relationship with Syria for many years but has never expressed an interest in having a naval base there such as the Russians have at Tartus. This is probably because Iran seems to have very little interest in projecting power into the Mediterranean and even less capability for doing so than the Russians. The Iranian navy is very small and not very powerful. It does not seem capable of operating outside the Gulf (where it mainly deploys speed boats and patrol craft, not powerful naval vessels).

      Consequently, it is clear that using the most obvious interpretation of his “path to the sea” statements, Romney is shown to be ignorant as to both geographic and geopolitical realities since it is clear that there is no outcome of the Syrian civil war which would either create or remove a necessary “path to the sea” for Iran. Similarly, the new, highly attenuated analysis of Syria as the vital gateway for transiting goods and nuclear materials into Iran is obviously gibberish since all of the evidence suggests that Syria is not now, has never been and cannot ever be a particularly important transit point—unlike our supposed “allies” in the UAE and Dubai who have facilitated vastly more circumvention of economic and nuclear sanction than Syria.

      • Byomtov says

        The Iranian navy is very small and not very powerful.

        How does it compare to the 1916 version?

    • Mitch Guthman says

      Also, to mention something rather obvious, if the way that the goods are being moved from Syrian ports is by air then it would seem to me that any country with both a port and an airfield is equally as good a gateway as Syria and a great many countries would be even better for the Iranians since they have direct land or sea routes with Iran. This probably accounts for the fact that desperate Romney supporters are having such a difficult time finding more than a handful of instances in which something has been moved through a Syrian port to Iran (and even then by air).

    • Warren Terra says

      Does anyone believe that Iran is interested in or capable of projecting naval power in the Mediterranean (aka NATO’s pond)? Iran’s naval capabilities are quite impressive, but they consist entirely of a strong strategic geographical position: Iran can threaten the Straits of Hormuz, highway for enormous amounts of the world’s oil, with shore-launched missiles and with small boats. Maybe some submarines. They’re hardly going to reenact Jutland or Midway off of Cyprus.

      And as for the notion that air freight to Syria is letting Iran evade sanctions: with 40% inflation last month, how well do you think that’s working out for them? Given the obvious smuggling opportunities through Iraq, Kurdish Turkey, Afghanistan, and on the Caspian, we should be so lucky as for Iran to do all their smuggling by expensive, capacity-limited airfreight to Syria.

  11. Ralph Hitchens says

    It’s supposed that this comment invokes the use of Syrian ports for importing stuff that would be blocked from shipment to Iranian ports by sanctions, stuff that can then be transshipped by air across Iraq to Iran. Is there much truth to this? It’s the only possible reason I can see for Romney to make such a statement. He or someone in his posse must be aware of geography.