Gingrich: 'Eliminate' Iran's govt over oil route

March 5, 2012 - 9:46 PM
Gingrich 2012

Republican presidential candidate, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich speaks during a campaign stop at Food City on Monday, March 5, 2012 in Knoxville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) — Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich called Monday for eliminating the government of Iran if it blocks passage through a key oil route in the Middle East.

Campaigning in Tennessee ahead of Tuesday's primary, the former House speaker said the U.S. should declare war if Iran attempts to close the Straits of Hormuz, through which 20 percent of the world's oil exports pass.

"We should indicate calmly and decisively that any threat to close the Straits of Hormuz would be considered an act of war and we will eliminate the government of Iran," Gingrich said in Alcoa, Tenn.

President Barack Obama, appearing Monday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said "no option was off the table" to stop Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. But he also said that premature talk of war with Iran plays into the nation's hands.

Netanyahu stressed in meetings with Obama that Israel has a right to strike Iran pre-emptively.

Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell said the United States should use overwhelming military force against Iran if U.S. intelligence shows that Tehran has decided to build a nuclear weapon, or it has started to enrich uranium for military purposes.

Gingrich, who spoke to a rally in Alcoa during a three-city tour of Tennessee, described the Obama foreign policy in the region as "children's hour."

"What they should be debating in Washington is a fundamental rethinking of our entire strategy in the Middle East, which should start with the simple fact that the Iranians are practicing closing the straits of Hormuz," he said.