Global geography has never been a strong suit for US presidential hopefuls but the concept of land and sea is one most first graders could grasp.
Sarah Palin famously told ABC news that she had gleaned foreign policy knowlege from staring at an uninhabited Russian island but Mitt Romney took the geographical gaffs one stage further last night.
The Republican presidential candidate put Iran’s borders under the spotlight when he debated with President Obama on live TV yesterday.
The discussion focused on foreign policy and was one in a series of three screened so far in the run up to the US elections. After affirming his undying support for Israel, Romney said: “Syria is Iran’s only ally in the Arab world. It’s their route to the sea.”
Pundits everywhere scratched their heads in bemusement: perhaps he meant sea in a metaphorical sense? Was he talking about access routes in general? Who knew?
The problem for Romney  was that Iran borders the Caspian Sea in the North and both the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman on its southern border. The Republican’s campaign team was quick to backpedal, claiming that their candidate was talking about the Mediterranean Sea.
Perhaps it was a subconscious slip from a man very much concerned with the dream of a greater Israel: from the river to the sea? Must be tough to distinguish two countries with the same first letter in their name.
But he faced a further geographical conundrum: Iran and Syria do not share any land borders.  So if Iran wanted to get to the Mediterranean via Syria they would have to get through Iraq. No matter, just the question of a small(ish) country recently invaded by the US.
On the other hand, surely support from Syria would aid their travels to the water’s edge? Well, not if they went through the Suez Canal. Then Iran could pass through to the all-important Mediterranean without using Syria at all.
Of course, said right wing commentators, Romney was discussing a strategic alliance rather than the geographical specifics. However, he missed out Hezbollah’s Lebanon and the Gaza strip as Iranian friends. Perhaps a portable map would aid his campaign at the next speech.
Should Romney be blamed for his geographical slip? Or it it just pedantic to criticize him for it? Tell us what you think below.