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Fact-Checking Tuesday's GOP Debate

A look at some of the claims made by Perry, Paul

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    Rep. Ron Paul, left, and Gov. Rick Perry participate in a debate at Constitution Hall.

    Here's a look at some of the claims made in Tuesday's Republican presidential debate on national security and foreign policy and how they compare with the facts:


    MITT ROMNEY: "What they're doing is cutting a trillion dollars out of the defense budget."

    RON PAUL: "They're nibbling away at baseline budgeting. ... There's nothing cut against the military. And the people on the Hill are nearly hysterical because they're not going -- the budget isn't going up as rapidly as they want it to."

    THE FACTS: Paul was more accurate than Romney in describing what is happening with defense spending. Constraints in the military budget are much more modest than Romney suggested.

    Both Romney and rival Rick Perry have been criticizing Obama for looming defense cuts that are triggered by the failure of the deficit supercommittee to act. But the cuts would only slow the rate of growth of Pentagon spending, which has been vastly increased because of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, now winding down. According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, the planned Pentagon budget for 2021 would be some $700 billion, an increase over the current level of about $520 billion. The cuts agreed to last summer plus the automatic reductions would trim the projected 2021 budget by about $110 billion.

    Moreover, the spending cuts set in motion by the supercommittee's failure to reach an agreement are not to begin until January 2013, which gives lawmakers time to try again to produce a debt plan. That's what Obama has in mind -- using the threat of defense cuts to push lawmakers to make a deal.

    Romney's figure encompasses two sets of Pentagon spending cuts, only one of which was proposed by Obama. The president's budget called for $450 billion in savings from the defense budget; the rest is fallout from the supercommittee, a creature of Congress.


    RICK PERRY: "When you sanction the Iranian central bank, that will shut down that economy. ... This president refuses to do that, and it's another show of lack of leadership from the president of the United States."

    THE FACTS: Obama, like George W. Bush before him, hasn't issued a blanket ban on dealings with Iran's central bank. Perry could try as president, but he'd find himself with some angry allies and perhaps some economic damage for the United States.

    U.S. sanctions already severely restrict what contact American and foreign companies can have with Iranian banks. That has made the central bank the primary conduit for purchasing Iranian oil exports.

    Blacklisting the central bank entirely would put energy companies and banks from places such as Japan in a dilemma: either find new oil sources, or risk punishment in the United States. The same applies for China, Russia, Turkey and other countries with investments in Iran -- and the rush for new fuel providers could lead to a spike in gasoline prices that hampers the American economic recovery.

    In reality, however, it's unlikely the U.S. would be prepared to blacklist Japan's banks for financial transactions with Iran's central bank. So the power of the sanction would be unclear.


    PERRY: "When you put the no-fly zone above Syria, it obviously gives those dissidents and gives the military the opportunity to maybe disband."

    ROMNEY: "They have 5,000 tanks in Syria. A no-fly zone wouldn't be the right military action -- maybe a no-drive zone. ... I mean, this is a nation which is not bombing its people at this point, and the right course is not military."

    PERRY: "I think you need to leave it on the table to make sure, because this is not just about Syria. This is about Iran and those two as a partnership, and exporting terrorism around the world. And if we're going to be serious about saving Israel, we better get serious about Syria and Iran, and we better get serious right now."

    THE FACTS: As Romney suggested, a no-fly zone by itself wouldn't do much to stop Syrian tanks and bullets from killing civilians. Unlike in Libya, where Moammar Gadhafi used his air force to fire on cities, President Bashar Assad's government has by and large stuck to ground forces. There have been a few cases of helicopters allegedly used, but they are exceptions.

    Perry's follow-up argument that a no-fly zone in Syria could help deter Iranian terrorism and save Israel wasn't clear. He seemed to be referring to Iranian and Syrian support for anti-Israel groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas, neither of which has air power. Weapons smuggling also can occur by ground or sea.

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