Fact Check: Iran’s ‘route to the sea’

Mitt Romney repeated his contention that Syria is Iran's route to the sea. This is a puzzling claim, considering that Syria shares no border with Iran — Iraq and Turkey are in the way — and that Iran has about 1,500 miles of coastline along the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman, leading to the Arabian Sea. The Fact Checker column has looked into this before.

 This is the explanation provided by the Romney campaign:  “It is generally recognized that Syria offers Iran strategic basing/staging access to the Mediterranean as well as to terrorist proxies in the Levant.  This is a large reason why Iran invests so much in Syria.”

The campaign also noted that the Boston Globe had looked into this statement at the time of the Arizona debate. The Globe noted that “given that Iran borders the sea, it seems to be an odd claim that Syria is Iran’s route to the sea.” The newspaper noted that Iran is able to reach the Mediterranean through the Suez Canal. But it said that “Romney’s comments are more accurate than they first seem,” citing a news report that Iran was building an army base in Syria and quoting an expert on the importance of Syria to Iran.

We also checked with other experts, many of whom confessed to being puzzled by Romney’s comments. Tehran certainly uses Syria to supply the militant groups Hezbollah and Hamas, but that has little to do with the water. The relationship with Syria could also effectively allow Iran to project its power to the Mediterranean and the border with Israel.

Glenn Kessler has reported on domestic and foreign policy for more than three decades. He would like your help in keeping an eye on public figures. Send him statements to fact check by emailing him, tweeting at him, or sending him a message on Facebook.
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