Rubio’s audition for VP slot features full-throated support for neoconservative agenda, with Iran front and center

Middle EastUS Politics
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Rubio Photo: Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images

Senator Marco Rubio, the Cuban-American politician from Florida and a rising star in the Republican Party, garnered a lot of attention for his speech on foreign policy yesterday at the Brookings Institution. Seen by some as an “audition” of sorts for the GOP vice presidential slot–Rubio has been campaigning with Romney in recent days–the speech is an indication that the neoconservative wing of the party still commands immense influence.

Rubio’s speech made no mention of Palestine, but he did train his focus on Syria and Iran–ground zero for the current neoconservative agenda. Rubio called for a policy of US intervention in the Syrian crisis that would bring “an end to the bloodshed and the Assad tyranny in Syria.”

Rubio made his most extensive comments on Iran, which he placed front and center of his foreign policy views:

The goal of preventing a dominant Iran is so important that every regional policy we adopt should be crafted with that overriding goal in mind. The current situation in Syria is an example of such an approach. The fall of Assad would be a significant blow to Iran’s ambitions. On those grounds alone, we should be seeking to help the people of Syria bring him down.

While he expressed tepid support for negotiations with Iran, he also said that “they should not be deemed a success when they only lead to further negotiations.” But he also repeatedly raised the specter of a US or Israeli strike on Iran:

We should also be preparing our allies and the world for the uncomfortable reality that unfortunately, if all else fails, preventing a nuclear Iran may tragically require military solution…

[In response to a question asking if he would back Israel if they struck Iran] Well, look, the leaders of Israel have the same obligation as leaders of any country have, and that is to ultimately provide for the national security of their own people. So I’m not in a position to sit here and dictate to Israel’s leaders what they should or should not do.

Tellingly, Rubio said that “the prospect of a nuclear capable Iran” is unacceptable, similar to the language used in an AIPAC-pushed Senate resolution that has been denounced as a path to war with Iran. The word “capable” is key here. Many countries are “nuclear capable” without possessing a nuclear bomb. As many analysts have argued, if Rubio’s policy is to prevent a “nuclear capable” Iran, that policy has failed because Iran is already “nuclear capable.” And if Iran is “nuclear capable,” that means the US should go to war with Iran right now, by Rubio’s logic.

Juan Cole has more on Rubio’s foreign policy calls:

So Rubio is campaigning for the vice president slot in the Republican Party by promising to embroil our country in two major Middle East wars, and moreover to do so without the backing of international law. But this step is precisely the mistake George W. Bush made in Iraq, and it meant that the US was mostly on its own in fighting, dying and paying for that war. Syria is 2/3s the size of Iraq, and Iran is 3 times more populous, so Rubio is committing us not only to bear more thousands of war dead and badly wounded but also to spend trillions in distant Middle Eastern deserts.

The US now has a two-party system in which one party is systematically pledged to make the US an international outlaw, with all the immense costs that entails.

Watch the speech here:

About Alex Kane

Alex Kane is a freelance journalist who focuses on Israel/Palestine and civil liberties. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.

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7 Responses

  1. Dan Crowther
    April 26, 2012, 11:00 am

    Man, I would sure like to see “cuban american politician” replaced with “junior senator from florida” – guy was born in Miami. Or how ’bout “american politician whose parents happen to be from Cuba” — I feel like this blog does a great job of fighting the “jewish american” identity trap, I think it should be across the board. And maybe especially in this case – to me, “cuban-american politics” seems to mean: being a retrograde catholic (anti-woman, anti-gay, anti-social safety net) and a uber-capitalist/neo-liberal who’s goals are to destroy Cuba, the nation that is the origin of their identity. It’s kind of like calling the Chiang Kai Shek crowd on Taiwan “Chinese” — sorry, but y’all lost that battle. Viva La Revolucion!!

    As for his comments – again, Barry and the O’s parrot the same line. The president said it himself, these talks are the last chance for the Iranians, we’ll see what happens in (Baghdad?) Is that where the next round is?

    • Chu
      April 26, 2012, 12:26 pm

      Cuban American politician paves the way for Mexican American Politician, and then Israel American Politician, so on and so forth. And soon, we won’t need lobbies like AIPAC.

    • dalybean
      April 26, 2012, 4:01 pm

      Obama told AIPAC that he won’t allow Iran with nuclear weapons rather than that he won’t allow Iran to be nuclear-capable. So, Obama is marginally better unless he lied.

      The American people need to be told that Iraq’s cost was in excess of $3 trillion and that Iran is 3x the size of Iraq. The cost of Iraq was $30,000 per household. That makes me sick.

  2. pabelmont
    April 26, 2012, 11:32 am

    I hope Romney-Rubio are a powerful pro-war ticket. Obama should have a far easier time against that than against anything rational.

    Now, if I just at $100M to pour into the election process * * *

  3. yourstruly
    April 26, 2012, 12:01 pm

    pbs’s MI5 last night had an action drama in which the cia connives with a ficticious pakistanian chief of its armed forces in an attempt to precipitate a nuclear war between pakistan and india (and never mind the millions of pakistanis and indians slaughtered, cause, what the heck, they’d mostly be ghetto-dwellers), purportedly to wipe out the taliban, after which (according to the perpetrators of this scheme) the u.s. & great britain would easily dominate the world. for what it’s worth congressman rubio’s words echo those of a character in last night’s program named Price (head of the cia’s european operations), except rubio made no reference to the nuclear winter possibilities brought on by bombs away on syria and iran. art reproducing life or vice versa?

  4. Philip Weiss
    April 27, 2012, 10:19 am

    Great post, Alex. Extremely important moment. Thank you. Sadly revealing of our political process.

  5. Tuyzentfloot
    April 27, 2012, 11:49 am

    Flynt Leverett describes the efforts and successes of the Israel Lobby as “pushing on a door that is largely open”, because he puts them against a background of a long tradition of hegemonic thinking in US foreign policy – and he constrasts it with the realist, or primacy strain of thinking. It’s a valuable angle because on here the Chomsky hegemonic foreign policy hypothesis is often considered incompatible with pro-israel lobbying hypothesises. I think they are not all that incompatible and the discussion could be shifted a bit. For one, I disagree with the idea that “If it weren’t for the Israel lobby US foreign policy would be a lot less counterproductive and self-damaging.” (Quantify “a lot”…)
    The neoconservatives have a very hegemonic style of thinking.

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