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

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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 and graduate student at New York University's Near East Studies and Journalism programs. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.

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