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Claims concerning Syria, Libya, Iraq are scrutinized

6:25 AM, Oct 23, 2012   |    comments
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During the third and final presidential debate Monday night, President Obama and Mitt Romney disputed an array of statements on foreign policy. Here are a few worth a deeper look:

Syria

Claim: Obama said that Romney said he would provide heavy arms to Syrian rebels.

The facts: Romney did say he would provide heavy weaponry to rebels in Syria. In an Oct. 8 speech in Lexington, Va., Romney said he "will work with our partners to identify and organize those members of the opposition who share our values and ensure they obtain the arms they need to defeat (President Bashar) Assad's tanks, helicopters and fighter jets."

Mali

Claim: Romney, citing a litany of Middle East hotspots, said northern Mali "has been taken over by al-Qaeda-type individuals."

The facts: Mali, an African nation of 14 million people in the western Sahara desert, has been embroiled in conflict this year as insurgent groups have fought for independence. The Economic Community of West African States has identified at least three of the groups as having links with al-Qaeda. Intelligence officials say the groups may also have connections to insurgent groups in Algeria and Libya.

The Obama administration's response has been low-key, but on Monday, a French defense official told the Associated Press that it was discussing drone strikes with the United States. German Chancellor Angela Merkel also sounded the alarm Monday, telling a German military conference near Berlin that "Free democratic states cannot accept international terrorism gaining a safe refuge in the north of the country."

Libya

Claim: Obama said Romney suggested that getting rid of Moammar Gadhafi in Libya was "mission creep."

The facts: "What we are watching in real time is another example of mission creep and mission muddle," Romney wrote in the National Review on April 21, in the midst of the Libya operation. In that piece, Romney said he supported the "specific, limited mission" of a no-fly zone to protect Libyan civilians from the Gadhafi regime, but he said Obama owed Americans a better explanation of why he had changed his position to call for the Libyan dictator's ouster.

After Gadhafi was killed by NATO forces, Romney said, "The world is a better place with Gadhafi gone."

Iraq

Claim: Obama said Romney wanted to leave troops in Iraq after Dec. 31, 2011, a claim Romney denied.

The facts: When the U.S. government was trying to secure a status of forces agreement last year with the Iraqi government that would have allowed some U.S. troops to remain in the country, Romney said more U.S. troops should remain than Obama was proposing.

Romney repeated that sentiment in a video leaked to Mother Jones from a May fundraiser. Romney said "This president's failure to put in place a status of forces agreement allowing ten to 20,000 troops to stay in Iraq: unthinkable." But there is no record that Romney made the claim as recently as "a few weeks ago."

Global Influence

Claim: Romney said nowhere in the world is the United States' role greater than it was four years ago.

The facts: Global attitudes about the United States have declined slightly over the past four years, according to the Pew Research Center. In 2008, 84% to 14% positive-negative view of the United States and 14% unfavorable. In 2012, that favorability figure had fallen to 80%-14%.

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Tim Mullaney, Gregory Korte, Tom Vanden Brook, Paul Davidson and Alan Gomez, USA TODAY

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