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Rubio Questions Secretary Austin on Iran’s Attacks Against U.S. Troops

Oct 31, 2023 | Press Releases

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) questioned U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin during a hearing before the Senate Committee on Appropriations about the Biden Administration’s plans to protect U.S. troops from attacks by the Iranian regime and its proxies. 

Click here for video and read a transcript below:

Witness: 

  • Lloyd Austin, U.S. Secretary of Defense

RUBIO: These attacks from, we continue to call them proxies, they’re basically agents of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and the Iranians. They would not be occurring without the Iranians, not just permitting them, but frankly facilitating them. The Iranians would not facilitate or permit them, because, in fact, there was a pause in those attacks for some period of time. They would not facilitate or permit them unless they calculated that these attacks do not cross some threshold in their mind, that if they cross that threshold, they would trigger a price, a response that’s a price they don’t want to pay, a response they don’t want to see. At this moment, I do not believe that we can argue that we have a deterrence in place with these attacks. And this is more of a comment than it is a question, although you’re obviously free to comment, and I think we’re very interested to hear what your response will be.

But it is my deep belief that I hope is shared by the Department, that I don’t want a broader war with Iran. I’m not one of those people that have out there been talking about airstrikes and starting a war with Iran. This is a tinder box to begin with. But if we do not have a credible, not just a deterrence, but a credible deterrence with the Iranians, these attacks are going to escalate. They’re going to come faster. They’re going to spread beyond Syria and Iraq, and they will involve weaponry of increasing sophistication and lethality. And that is my biggest fear, that if we do not soon establish a credible deterrent, they will begin to cross lines that will require not just a defensive posture on our front, but imposing a cost on them. Obviously, I share all the comments that have been made here about the horrifying incident involving Hamas and everything they’ve done in the past and moving forward, the need to stand with our allies. But the one that has the threat to quickly spiral out of control is that these groups escalate these attacks to include more places at a faster clip, with more lethality and sophistication, if we do not establish a credible deterrent quickly.

AUSTIN: Senator, I agree with you that if they’re not convinced that we will do what’s necessary to protect our troops, then they will continue on as they are. But I’ve been clear. President Biden has been clear that’s something that we won’t tolerate. And we will do what’s necessary to protect our troops. You saw me move another carrier battle group. Actually, it’s in the Mediterranean now. It’s headed to the Gulf region. That gives us more strike capability. We have additional aircrafts in the region. Now we have the punch that’s necessary to protect our interests and we’re going to do what’s necessary to do that.

RUBIO: Well, I have no question that we have the assets positioned in the region to impose a cost on Iran that they do not want to pay. I hope we never have to do it. The fundamental question really becomes: do they believe we would actually do it? I understand the complexity of the situation where something could trigger and suddenly this thing begins to move in a direction that spirals out of control. What I have real concerns about is their perception that what we are willing to do may not match up with what we’re actually willing to do. Hence, at this moment, we do not have a credible deterrent. And I sense from your answer that you share that concern. Sometimes even when we say things, they may not believe us, even if we have the capability to do it. So it’s one of those situations where we don’t want there to be a shooting war, certainly, and to see this thing escalate. But one of the things that guarantees escalation is the lack of a credible deterrent. It’s a complex and serious matter and one that I hope it sounds like you share my concern about it quickly spiraling here, primarily because of Iranian perceptions of our willingness, not our capability, but our willingness to take an action.