Republican debate - Reuters - 15.12.2011
The Republican Party presidential candidates debate in Sioux City, Iowa, December 15, 2011. Photo by Reuters
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U.S. Republican presidential hopefuls criticized incumbent President Barack Obama over Iran's recent downing of a top-secret American surveillance drone on Thursday, saying the president was basing his foreign policy on "pretty please."

On Monday, Obama indicated that the United States had officially requested that Iran return the secret RQ-170 Sentinel drone, after Iranian TV displayed the craft in what they considered to be a great victory.

"We have asked for it back. We'll see how the Iranians respond," Obama said.

Addressing what they considered as the U.S. president's mishandling of the affair, republican frontrunners Mitt Romney and Texas Governor Rick Perry used the final debate before the all-important Iowa caucuses to lash out at Obama's Iran policies.

"Does timidity and weakness invite aggression on the part of other people? Absolutely", Romney said adding that a "strong America is the best ally peace has ever known."

"This is a president - with the spy drone being brought down, he says pretty please? A foreign policy based on pretty please? You got to be kidding," Romney said, adding that Obama "fundamentally believes that this next century is the post-American century."

"He's wrong," Romney said, adding: "It has to be the American century. America has to lead the free world. And the free world has to lead the entire world. It is time for us to recognize once again a strong military does not create war. A strong America prevents people from trying to test us around the world."

Also using the nationally-televised debate to attack Obama, Rick Perry said that Obama "should have done was one of two things: We either destroy it, or we retrieve it. He took a third route, which was the worst and the weakest, and that is to do nothing."

A recent upsurge in poll numbers put focus on veteran Rep. Ron Paul, who had an more unorthodox approach to the drone affair.

"What is the whole world about the drone being in Iran? And we're begging and pleading and how are we going to start a war to get this drone back. Why were we flying the drone over Iran? Why do we have to bomb so many countries? Why we have 900 bases in 130 countries and we're totally bankrupt? How are you going to rebuild a military when we have no money? How are we going to take care of the people?" Paul asked.

Earlier, Paul addressed the prospect of a nuclear Iran, saying that for one "to say that there's some scientific evidence and some people arguing that maybe in a year they might have a weapon, there's a lot more saying they don't have it."

"There's no UN evidence of that happening. There is no evidence that they have it. You know what I really fear about what's happening here? It's another Iraq coming," he said, adding that reports of Iran's program were "war propaganda."
"To me the greatest danger is that we will have a president that will overreact, that we will soon bomb Iran. And the sentiment is very mixed. It's very mixed even in Israel. We ought to really sit back and think, and not jump the gun and believe that we are going to be attacked. That's how we got into that useless war in Iraq and lost so much in Iraq," Paul added.