Hoping to build on positive momentum gained from his presidential debate performance, Republican nominee Mitt Romney is set to deliver what is being billed by the campaign as a "major" foreign policy speech in Virginia on Monday.
Romney's remarks, excerpts of which were distributed to the media, will focus mostly on the Middle East—particularly the Obama administration's mishandling of the deadly attack in Libya.
"The attacks on America last month should not be seen as random acts," Romney will say, according to the prepared remarks. "They are expressions of a larger struggle that is playing out across the broader Middle East, a region that is now in the midst of the most profound upheaval in a century. I know the president hopes for a safer, freer, and a more prosperous Middle East allied with the United States. I share this hope, but hope is not a strategy."
Romney will also vow to "tighten" sanctions currently levied against Iran and "not hesitate" to impose new sanctions in order to prevent the country from developing nuclear weapons.
"For the sake of peace, we must make clear to Iran through actions—not just words—that their nuclear pursuit will not be tolerated," he will say.
Though Romney has consistently talked tough throughout his presidential campaign when it comes to Iran, the excerpted remarks are a bit softer in tone than he's taken in the past. During the Republican primary, Romney frequently stated that military options would be on the table in order to prevent a nuclear Iran.
Highlighting political tumult in Egypt, Syria, and Libya, Romney will say it is incumbent upon the United States to support burgeoning democracies and signal his willingness to attach conditions to foreign aid in Egypt and help arm rebels in Libya.
"I will support friends across the Middle East who share our values, but need help defending them and their sovereignty against our common enemies," he will say.
And his speech is also expected to reveal a more detailed description of how a Romney administration would approach the war in Afghanistan——though even his prepared remarks reveal how politically fraught the situation is. Romney will continue to assert that his decisions about a forward path will be based on reports from commanders on the ground. But he also says he will follow the path outlined by President Barack Obama to withdraw U.S. combat forces in 2014.
"I will pursue a real and successful transition to Afghan security forces by the end of 2014," Romney will say. But he also is expected to add, "The route to more war – and to potential attacks here at home – is a politically timed retreat that abandons the Afghan people to the same extremists who ravaged their country and used it to launch the attacks of 9/11."
The former Massachusetts governor was widely criticized for not mentioning the war in Afghanistan during his Republican National Convention speech in August.
Romney will also make the case for a "democratic, prosperous" Palestinian state, alongside a peaceful and secure Israel.
"On this vital issue, the president has failed, and what should be a negotiation process has devolved into a series of heated disputes at the United Nations," Romney will say. "In this old conflict, as in every challenge we face in the Middle East, only a new President will bring the chance to begin anew."
The Obama campaign, in a response distributed ahead of Romney's speech, said they welcome a foreign policy debate with Romney.
"President Obama has decimated al-Qaeda's leadership, responsibly ended the war in Iraq, is bringing our troops home from Afghanistan, and is standing up to China's cheating," said Lis Smith, an Obama campaign spokeswoman in a statement. "To date, all Mitt Romney has offered is bluster and platitudes."
Smith also criticizes Romney for "insulting our allies and partners around the world on the campaign trail and calling Russia our number-one geopolitical foe."
"If that's where Mitt Romney thinks the mainstream is, he needs to find a better compass," she said. "It's clear that on every measure, Mitt Romney fails the commander-in-chief test."
Polls have consistently shown voters trust Obama more than Romney when it comes to foreign issues, but the administration's evolving explanation of the recent Benghazi attack that killed four diplomats has left an opening for Romney.
Obama and Romney will square off on October 22 to discuss foreign policy in the last of three presidential debates.
Rebekah Metzler is a political writer for U.S. News & World Report. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter.