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Washington, D.C. At today’s Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing regarding the Obama Administration’s nuclear deal with Iran, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) highlighted the importance of U.S. sanctions as a viable alternative to President Obama’s deal and outlined how, if the deal is implemented, Iran will be in a much stronger position when the deal expires.
 
“When people vote on this deal in a few weeks, you’re going to live with this for the rest of your life,” Rubio said during the hearing. “In 10 years, in 12 years, when Iran has a nuclear weapon and we can’t target them, people are going to remember this vote that’s coming up and this deal as what laid the groundwork for it, and I keep hearing this notion that there is no other alternative and no other way forward, but I disagree.
 
“I believe U.S. sanctions are the most important part of all the sanctions,” Rubio continued. “I believe that these banks in Europe, German banks, whatever banks may be, if they were forced to choose between having access to the American economy and access to the Iranian economy, that’s not going to be a hard choice for them.”
 
A video of Rubio’s remarks and the full exchanges is available here.
 
A transcript of Rubio’s remarks is available below.
 
Senator Marco Rubio: “The choice right before us was two things.
 
“On the one hand was to continue with what we thought was the strategy which is international sanctions that had an impact on Iran’s economy. They continued to make progress in their enrichment capabilities and so forth, but it was a combination of international sanctions and the threat of credible military force, which no one wants to talk about, but that was on the table, and the President has said that, in fact, if it came down to it, the U.S. would do that, if it were necessary.
 
“Versus what we have now, which is a deal that basically argues, well what this will do is that if they comply with it, it will slow them down, and in 10 years if they want to break out, it buys us 10 years of time, and it avoids, assuming everybody complies with everything.
 
“Here’s my problem with that analysis. My problem with it is that in 8 to 10 years, which sounds like a long time to all of us here, it’s nothing. Ten years goes very quickly, and that’s if we’re optimistic. In 10 years, Iran will be in a much stronger position. In fact, I think in 10 years they’ll be immune from international pressure compared to where they are today, and here’s why.
 
“First of all, they are going to use this sanctions relief and the billions of dollars that it frees up, and I know everyone wants to believe they’re going to invest it in hospitals and roads and social services in order to win their next election. I promise you, they’re going to win they’re next election. I don’t think they’re worried about that as much as they are about their need for example, to get to modernize their enrichment capability into a 21st century industrial system.
 
“It actually falls right in line with the mandate that the Supreme Leader, I believe, gave to the negotiators, which is, ‘Don’t agree to anything that’s irreversible. Go as far as you need to go to get the sanctions removed, but don’t agree to anything that’s irreversible.’
 
“So they’ll have less centrifuges, but they’ll be better ones and they’ll be modernized, and they’ll retain that infrastructure, which is the hardest part of any nuclear program, is the infrastructure, the hardware that it takes to do this.
 
“But here’s what else they’re going to do, they’re going to continue to build their conventional capabilities. We don’t think about that enough, but Iran in 10 years will have conventional capabilities, maybe less, that could potentially drive us out of the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz because the price of being there will be too high, I mean they can buy Chinese asymmetrical capabilities that allow them to kill ships, add to these fast swift boats things that they’ve been able to come up with that can threaten an aircraft carrier. They’re going to continue to build long range rockets. Why are you building a long range rocket, an ICBM? Are you going to put a man on the moon? No. They’re building it for purposes of targeting the continental United States. And they look at North Korea and say, ‘Yeah the North Koreans have a long range rocket.’ We don’t know where it is going to hit yet because they aren’t very good yet at guidance, but it will hit somewhere, like the West Coast of the United States. That alone has made North Korea immune.
 
“And they’re going to continue to build up their surrogates in the region, which I would argue already, even now before the sanctions relief has given Iran tremendous leverage over U.S. policy. As an example: Iran has laid out some pretty clear red lines. They are going to hold back Shi’ite militias in Iraq from attacking American troops or going after Americans. They’ll agree to hold them back if, we don’t cross certain red lines they have made very clear.
 
“What are their red lines? For starters they don’t want to see any U.S. combat troops in Iraq, and if we make any move toward any sort of permanent presence in Iraq in the future, we are going to get attacked by Shi’ite militias at their orders. They don’t want to see us take any concrete steps to remove Assad from power. If they see us moving toward getting Assad out of power, we’re going to get hit by surrogate groups in the region, including Hezbollah and their Shi’ite militia. If we take steps to help put in place an Iraqi government that actually unifies that country and isn’t a puppet of Iran, not to mention one that might actually be hostile toward Iran’s ambitions in the region, they’re going to attack us.
 
“So they already have leverage over our policy. Now extrapolate that 8 to 10 years from now, when their conventional forces are higher, when these groups are better armed, when Hizballah in a couple of years doesn’t just have rockets, they have guided rockets, guided missiles that don’t just hit somewhere in Israel, they hit exactly what they want to hit.
 
“So imagine a world in 10 years, where Iran decides, or 8 years, or 12 years, where they just decide, ‘You know what, we’re building a nuclear weapon because we believe Israel has one or because we think someone else is going to threaten us.’
 
“What can the world do then? Well then reimposing sanctions really won’t be an option at that point because all these companies that are deeply invested in that economy just won’t let their nations or their governments do anything about it. We’ve already seen that in the case of the Europeans.
 
“But what will the price be of actually going after their systems? It’ll be worse than the price of going after North Korea now. Do we have a credible military option today to target the North Koreans’ program? We do not. We do not because we know that the price of going after the North Korean program through a credible military option, the price of that is Tokyo, the price of that is Seoul, the price of that is Hawaii, they’ll hit us back.
 
“Well imagine Iran where the price of going after the Iranian program in 10 years if they decide to break out will be Washington, D.C. or New York City, not to mention Tel Aviv and Jerusalem and any number of places in the region that are our allies.
 
“So my argument is that, in fact, what I think we’ve done here is walk right into the situation they wanted to lay out, they didn’t want a nuclear weapon next week anyway. But we have created a system where in 8 to 10 years they will be, they will have the capability to quickly become, walk into the nuclear weapons club, not sneak in, walk in to the nuclear weapons club with a world class industrial enrichment capability, a much more powerful conventional weapons force capable of actually asymmetrically driving our navy from the region or further out and quite frankly immune from any sort of credible military action because if we attack them the price is going to be a nuclear devastating strike, potentially even on the continental United States.
 
“So my point is that when people vote on this deal in a few weeks, you’re going to live with this for the rest of your life. In 10 years, in 12 years, when Iran has a nuclear weapon and we can’t target them, people are going to remember this vote that’s coming up and this deal as what laid the groundwork for it, and I keep hearing this notion that there is no other alternative and no other way forward, but I disagree.
 
“I believe U.S. sanctions are the most important part of all the sanctions. I believe that these banks in Europe, German banks, whatever banks may be, if they were forced to choose between having access to the American economy and access to the Iranian economy, that’s not going to be a hard choice for them.”