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Rubio on Senate Floor: Keep Heat On Iran On Nuclear Talks

Oct 15, 2013 | Blog

Keep Heat On Iran On Nuclear Talks
Senator Marco Rubio
U.S. Senate Floor Speech
October 15, 2013

Senator Marco Rubio: Clearly the issue we’re facing here with regards to the budget, ObamaCare, the debt ceiling, this is a very important issue. In the hours and days to come, I’ll have a lot more to say about it. I’ve waited over the last few days, because of the urgency of the issue that confronts us domestically, to reserve my comments on the issue of Iran. But I felt at this point, reaching today, I could no longer wait to speak out on it. And so if my colleagues here would indulge me for a few moments, I wanted to talk about it. Because as serious as the domestic challenges we face may be — with regards to our budget, the debt limit, our spending, ObamaCare — we have another crisis brewing. One that goes to our national security interests. One that quite frankly, for the most part, unites us across the aisle. And that’s the issue and the threat that Iran’s nuclear ambitions pose to the world.

The reason why I felt I could no longer wait to address this is because I believe, as many of you do, that the world is entering a crucial time in the international efforts to stop Iran’s nuclear program. On September 24th of this year I, along with a group of other senators, wrote to the President. We expressed our concerns about reports that the administration was contemplating making a fresh new offer, a fresh new series of offers to Iran. In that letter, we said that Iran must not be allowed to develop a nuclear weapon; and that, if God forbid it becomes necessary, we would support the use of military force to prevent an Iranian bomb; that Iran must not be allowed to maintain any indigenous enrichment capability; and that now is not the time to suspend sanctions, but to increase them on the Iranian regime.

You see all of us would like to wake up tomorrow to the news that the Ayatollah has decided to abandon his nuclear weapons ambitions. But it’s especially imperative on matters of national security that we not be guided simply by our hopes. We must be guided by reality. I think this is true in life in general. But it is especially true and important, on issues of national security, that we be guided by reality. And that reality is: That no matter how much Iran’s political leaders say that they do not have plans for a nuclear weapon, their actions say something else.

They have dramatically increased their ability to enrich uranium. And they continue to spend millions of dollars to expand their nuclear program. And to develop long-range missiles, which threaten not just Israel and Europe but eventually the United States. The only reason why you put so much money and time into developing long-range missiles is to put a nuclear weapon on them. And that’s what they’ve been doing. They’ve been developing this missile capability.

Now, recently we’ve heard all this new talk about how there’s a new President in Iran and he might be a reformer. We hope so, but this is also the same person who in the past has bragged about how he has fooled the world before and bought time for Iran’s enrichment capacity to increase. And in the end by the way, even if he is a reformer, he is not the ultimate decision maker. Nor is the Foreign Minister, or any of these other civilians in their government. The ultimate decision maker is Iran’s so-called Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. And so far, no one has accused him of being a reformer.

Iran’s leaders are making noises about negotiating with the world now because over the last few years the United States and the European Union have imposed very significant sanctions on Iran. These sanctions are starting to hurt the Iranian regime. It’s hurting, though it hasn’t stopped, their ability to export terrorism around the world. It’s hurting, though it hasn’t stopped, their ability to buy parts for their nuclear program and for their missile program. And so you want to understand why they’re doing all this now? What their plan is? It’s not that hard to understand. What they’re trying to do is: They’re trying to get us and the world to agree to weaken the sanctions, without them having to agree to any concessions that are irreversible. To any concessions that irreversibly block their ability to one day build that weapon. This ambition of theirs, this plan they have is clear as day. They are trying to figure out if they can get these sanctions suspended or lifted without giving up too much. And then at some point in the future, when the world has moved on, when we’re focused on other things, they can then make their move to build their bomb.

By the way, this is the model that North Korea employed over a decade ago. They used a combination of belligerence and pretend negotiations to buy the time and the space. And now they are a nuclear power. And they continue to develop their rocket technology — which doesn’t just threaten South Korea and Japan, but the West Coast of the United States and potentially one day the entire country, our entire country.

So this is why, as these talks between the so called P5+1 group of nations and Iran have restarted, that we are at a critical juncture. Yes, we should talk to Iran. We should see if they are serious. But we cannot, under any circumstances, put at risk the hard-earned leverage that took so long to put in place and assemble.

First, we need to remember who we are dealing with here. We are talking about a regime that has earned the distrust of the entire world through its secret nuclear program. A regime that admits foul play only when they’re caught red-handed. A regime that supports terrorism, that has for decades been responsible for the killing of Americans, and has had an active hand in fueling conflicts that destabilize its neighbors. This is a regime that brutalizes its own people and it denies them their basic freedoms. This is the regime, by the way, that plotted to assassinate the Saudi Ambassador in this city, in Washington, D.C.

Given this record, the erosion of trust in Tehran is simply too great. And so the United States must look long and hard at what Iranian actions could qualify as, what the administration likes to call, credible confidence-building measures. And I say this, because of who we are dealing with here, sanctions on Iran should not be lifted or suspended until they agree to completely abandon any capability for enrichment or reprocessing.

Iran has a right to a peaceful civilian nuclear energy program. But they do not have the right to enrich or reprocess. Holding this line is especially important in light of Iran’s repeated and blatant disregard for international obligations in the past and even to this day. Even a limited enrichment program and possession of sensitive reprocessing technologies, that’s unacceptable too because the risk that such a program would once again be abused by Iran in the future for nefarious and dangerous purposes.

Suspending sanctions before Iran doesn’t just suspend but abandon enrichment, would give them, the Iranian regime, exactly what they want — an eventual path to a nuclear weapon.  And sanctions relief at this time would allow them to make advances on their broader strategic objectives in their region like propping up the Assad regime in Syria, like continuing to destabilize Iraq, like supporting terrorists groups like Hezbollah in Lebanon. We cannot allow the number one exporter of terrorism in the world this opportunity.

Until Iran agrees to abandon enrichment and reprocessing, not only should we keep the current sanctions, but the Congress should move to implement a new round of additional sanctions without delay. And I would say that at some point, Congress should consider making it very clear that if it becomes necessary, the President of the United States should reserve the right to take military action to prevent Iran from continuing to advance its nuclear weapons program.

The United States and the international community have succeeded in bringing Iran to the negotiating table through firm action, not through half-measures. Now I hope, I personally hope as do all of my colleagues, that there is a diplomatic solution to this problem. But Iran does not have forever to prove that they are serious. We cannot allow them to use these talks to continue to buy time and space as they have for the last decade, as North Korea did before them, to buy time and space so they can continue to develop their nuclear weapons capability. And we cannot allow them to use these talks to continue to spread terror, to undermine their neighbors, and to threaten our country or our allies in Israel and around the world.

We cannot fall into their trap. Yes, we should be willing to talk. But talks alone should not slow down our actions. Until they act, we should continue to increase pressure and speak forcefully about what these people sitting across the table from us have done internationally and to their own people. Otherwise, I truly believe that at some point in the future, we are going to wake up to the news that Iran has tested a nuclear weapon. And we may find ourselves stuck with the reality that they have the ability to put that weapon on a missile that can reach the United States. And if that day should ever come, God help us all.