Sen. Marco Rubio, R- Fla., predicted today that nuclear talks with Iran ultimately will fail and said he would sanction a military strike before tolerating a nuclear Iran, warning that the United States should begin to prepare the country for that situation.
“This is nothing but a stall tactic and I wish I was wrong, to the depths of my heart I wish that I was wrong,” Rubio said of the talks during an appearance at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York City. “You would have to be blind not to see what’s happening here. This is nothing but a delay tactic and a stall tactic, and they now openly brag about their ability to move the red lines.”
“Sadly, I believe everything else probably will fail, certainly the negotiation component,” Rubio said. “Then we have to ask ourselves are we prepared to live with a nuclear Iran and what that means for the region and for the world. And I think, universally, not just in the United States but almost any society in the world the answer to that question is ‘no.’ Then at that point there’s only one country in the world that can do anything about it, and that’s us.”
A round of talks between Iran and a six-nation group, including the United States, ended in Baghdad last week with an agreement to continue negotiations in Moscow from June 18-19.
Rubio stressed that the United States should not sugar coat the situation with Iran and be upfront with the country about the potential for failed negotiations and what actions the United States may have to pursue in response.
“I think we need to begin to prepare the people of the country and the people of the world to the reality that negotiations are probably not going to work and ultimately sanctions may not work,” Rubio said. “I don’t want to come across as some saber-rattling person because I am not, but I think I am in line with what the administration has said, which is ultimately military option may be necessary if everything else fails. And by the way, everything else should fail before we get to that stage.”
Rubio, 41, said he could not envision what a strike would embody but argued that the decision would be left to the commander-in-chief and military planners.
“Well, I’m not a military planner and I certainly wouldn’t pretend to be one so I can’t tell you logistically what a military strike would look like,” Rubio said. “I’m not rooting for that. I am hoping that sanctions would embolden, that there’s somebody in that government that’s saying, ‘Guys, we don’t have to do this, there’s a different way for us to be influential in the region and the world and having a weapon doesn’t necessarily have to be the outcome.
“I don’t want the headlines from here to be you know ‘Rubio says, ‘Let’s hit them no.” Because that’s not necessarily what I’m saying,” Rubio reiterated.
In regard to Syria, Rubio said the loss of President Bashar al-Assad would be “devastating” to the regional ambitions of Iran and argued that the United States must be more aggressive in its efforts to remove him.
“I think there’s no doubt that he can no longer be there, and now the question is ‘What is America’s role in hastening that and making that happen?’” Rubio said. “I do believe that there are things we should have done in the past that weren’t done that would have perhaps accelerated the downfall of Assad. But I’m also understanding that there’s no point in looking back. I mean it’s time to act now.”
Rubio expanded the conversation beyond just the Middle East. The Florida senator said the United States plays a role in speaking out on behalf of liberty and defending human rights in countries like China, but also advised that despite differing on these issues, the United States will have to work with China in the future in order to maintain peace in the world.
“There is no doubt that in this 21st century the United States and China will have to cooperate on a host of issues if the world is to improve and remain peaceful. It’s just the geopolitical reality that we’re going to have to confront,” Rubio said.
Rubio repeatedly categorized foreign policy as a “bipartisan” issue and said it is not a topic that is “always neatly Republican and Democrat, conservative and liberal.”
Rubio, who sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has tried to elevate his foreign policy gravitas in recent months. He traveled to Colombia last month for the Summit of the Americas, which was also attended by President Obama, and delivered a red-meat foreign policy speech to the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. Earlier this week, he toured the U.S. Naval Station in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, his first ever trip to the island from which his parents emigrated in 1956.
While he maintains one of the heaviest schedules of any VP contender, fueling speculation about his ambitions, Rubio has refused to answer recent questions about whether he would like to join Mitt Romney on the GOP ticket this year. Rubio skirted around the question when it arose this afternoon.
“How does Vice President Rubio sound to you?” Time managing editor Richard Stengel, who moderated the event, asked.
“It doesn’t,” Rubio responded.
“It has kind of a ring to it,” Stengel said.
“No, and I appreciate you trying to work that in there,” Rubio said.