Rubio: Nuclear deal threatens Israel, emboldens Iran

Presidential candidate says deal also increases the likelihood that Iran becomes even more aggressive in its proxy wars.

By REUTERS
April 14, 2015 07:07
Florida Senator Marco Rubio

Florida Senator Marco Rubio. (photo credit: REUTERS)

The framework agreement to curb Iran’s nuclear program emboldens Tehran and endangers Israel, Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida told NPR on Monday, the same day that he announced his run for the White House.

"I think this dea,l and the fact that Iran will retain nuclear infrastructure, increases the likelihood that one of their neighbors may take action against them, whether it's Israel or the Saudis or someone else,” Rubio said in an interview that will be aired on Tuesday.

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“It also increases the likelihood now, that Iran becomes even more aggressive in its proxy wars that it's conducting all over the world,” Rubio said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has similarly warned that the deal legitimizes Iran's military program, preserves its nuclear weapons capacity and provides billions more dollars for the government to spend on terrorism and aggressive behavior in the region and the world.

Rubio has a muscular foreign policy, portraying himself as the Republican most ready to handle threats to America in a chaotic world.

Advisers say a key part of Rubio’s election strategy for 2016 will be a "peace-through-strength" global view based on increased defense spending.

His support registers in single digits in opinion polls on likely Republican contenders, but aides believe Rubio, who was on 2012 nominee Mitt Romney's short list for vice president, will rise when voters take a closer look at him.

Rubio voters on Monday (April 13) to make a "generational choice" for new leadership that is not mired in the policies of the past, as the Republican announced he will enter the 2016 presidential race.

Rubio, 43, presented himself as a fresh face who could find new approaches needed for the United States to solve its challenges and compete in a global economy, and criticized Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton as a leader stuck in "yesterday."

"Before us now is the opportunity to author the most greatest chapter yet in the amazing story of America," Rubio told a cheering crowd at Miami's Freedom Tower, where thousands of Cuban exiles fleeing the Communist-run island in the 1960s were first registered by US authorities.

"But we can't do that by going back to the leaders and ideas of the past. We must change the decisions we are making by changing the people who are making them," he said.

Rubio, a son of Cuban immigrants who rode the anti-establishment Tea Party wave of 2010 to national prominence, said voters could not choose leaders who were stuck in the ideas of the past.

Without naming Clinton, who announced her candidacy on Sunday, Rubio made reference to "a leader from yesterday" who had "announced her campaign yesterday."

"But yesterday is over, and we are never going back," he said. "We Americans are proud of our history, but our country has always been about the future."

Rubio's relative youth contrasts with Clinton, who is 67 and has been on the national political scene for more than 20 years, initially as first lady and later as a US senator and then secretary of state.

Rubio's attempt to capture the campaign spotlight came as Hillary Clinton declared her candidacy on Sunday for the Democratic presidential nomination in a video announcement that grabbed worldwide media attention.

Clinton, a former secretary of state, will hit the campaign trail in Iowa on Tuesday and Wednesday. Iowa holds the kickoff contest in the parties' presidential nominating process early next year.

On domestic policy, he backs the classic Republican remedies of small government and low taxes, and an end to President Barack Obama's healthcare law.

A member of the Senate Foreign Affairs and Intelligence committees, Rubio takes some of his foreign policy advice from a group of neo-conservatives linked to the administration of former President George W. Bush. One senior aide, Jamie Fly, argued in a 2012 magazine article for "regime change" in Iran, bringing back memories of the US invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Rubio becomes the third major Republican figure to announce his candidacy, after Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, another Cuban-American, and Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky. The Republican field is expected to grow considerably, likely including former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, a one-time mentor to Rubio, who will rival him for votes and donor money in primary states.

Rubio's national security stance could attract primary voters in key conservative states such as South Carolina, one of the early voting states in the primary season. Conservatives are wary, however, of his prominent role in drafting a broad immigration bill in 2013, although he has since backed off a comprehensive reform effort.

With Clinton the early favorite to be the Democratic nominee, the eventual winner of the Republican race needs to be sharp on world affairs.

Reversing recent "sequestration" spending cuts on the US military is a main component of Rubio's foreign policy. One of Rubio's top outside advisers on defense spending, Eric Edelman, was a senior Pentagon official and aide to Vice President Dick Cheney. He says he regularly briefs the senator.

"It's mostly about defense, but I've talked to him about the authorization of military force. I've talked to him about the campaign against ISIS, about Russia and Ukraine. There's not a shortage of issues right now," Edelman said.

Rubio is critical of Obama's diplomatic opening to Cuba and strongly opposes Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's government, which he has described as made up of “thugs."

"I don't believe these changes will actually further democracy. In fact, I think they will make it harder to achieve,” Rubio told NPR.

“The goal of the Castro regime is to create the impression and the reality that their form of government is a legitimate form of government and set it in concrete,” Rubio said.

“Most of their top leaders are in their 80s. The actuarial tables tell you they don't have much longer. And they want to leave in place global recognition for this form of government so that it can continue in perpetuity,” Rubio said.

“And that means the Cuban people will never have the chance to experience what the people in the Dominican Republic and Haiti have, what the people in Mexico have, what the people in Peru have, what the people in Colombia have, which is free and fair elections. And that's all I want for the people in Cuba. And I think US policy towards Cuba is a major leverage point that we can use to help the Cuban people achieve freedom for themselves,” Rubio told NPR.

Elliott Abrams, who also has advised Rubio, said the freshman senator's Cuban background - his parents came to the United States in the 1950s - made him more sensitive to issues of freedom abroad.

"The whole question of the expansion of freedom of democracy is of greater interest to him as a foreign policy theme than it is for many other people," said Abrams, a former senior diplomat who served the George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan presidencies.


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