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Rubio’s Iran Tantrum and the Hawkish Loathing of Diplomacy

Marco Rubio’s response [1] to the string of diplomatic successes with Iran is as foolish as one would expect:

By channeling this money to Tehran and giving the mullahs international legitimacy, the Obama administration is fueling the greatest growth in Iranian power since the Islamic Republic was established in 1979. What’s worse, for months Iran has telegraphed in word and deed how it plans to utilize this newfound power—namely, to dominate the Middle East and threaten American security.

Rubio is wrong or misleading in everything he says here. The money that has been freed up by sanctions relief are Iranian assets that had been inaccessible to them because of sanctions on their nuclear program. Now that Iran has complied with the terms of the deal, they are gaining access to their own money from which they had been cut off. As Fred Kaplan notes [2], this rewards Iran for doing what the U.S. wants it to do. The greatest growth in Iranian power in the region came when the U.S. toppled its hostile neighboring regimes in Afghanistan and Iraq. Compared to that, the so-called “windfall” from sanctions relief is a pittance, and in exchange for letting Iran have access to its own money the U.S. achieves a longstanding goal of limiting Iran’s nuclear program and making it practically impossible for Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon for decades to come. Iran’s regional position has been steadily getting worse over the last five years, and it is in no position to dominate the region, and its ability to threaten our security is no greater than it was a decade ago.

It takes special determination to be as comprehensively wrong [3] about something as Rubio has been about diplomacy with Iran over the last few years. Two years ago, Rubio was feigning interest in negotiations while insisting [4] on maximalist conditions that would have made an agreement impossible. Had the U.S. followed his recommendations, there would have been no deal and Iran’s nuclear program would not be under the significant restrictions now imposed upon it. If the U.S. had demanded “zero enrichment” as Rubio wished, Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium would not have been shipped out of the country as it has been [5], but would have remained in Iran’s control and would have continued to expand. A year ago, Rubio was certain [6] that Iran would never abide by any agreement that it made. This month, the IAEA has certified that Iran is in compliance with the agreement, just as it complied with the interim agreement that he also bitterly opposed [7]. Despite his best efforts [8] to tack on irrelevant amendments [9] to the Senate’s oversight legislation to try to sabotage the deal, the deal went forward and has already yielded significant nonproliferation benefits in just its first few months.


Like other Iran hawks, Rubio is reduced to bemoaning non-existent “appeasement” while ignoring the substantial benefits for the U.S. that diplomacy with Iran has already produced.

18 Comments (Open | Close)

18 Comments To "Rubio’s Iran Tantrum and the Hawkish Loathing of Diplomacy"

#1 Comment By EliteCommInc. On January 18, 2016 @ 7:20 am

I agree that the greatest boon to Iranian fortunes has been the action of the US in the region.

Aside from providing alive training range for US military strategy, invading Iraq, Afghanistan, disrupting Egypt, supporting revolutions in Syria and Libya have been “godsends” to Iran.

While nothing I saw last week leaves me indeared to Iran, we are better in a deal that would have eventually occurred anyway with the Europeans and Russia than out of it.

All this make nice, nice is to ensure those opposed to the deal have no footing. I am so cynical, that I am might even find the international waters incident an inside job. As I say, I am cynical about Iran.

But as you note, that deal was what gives Iran it’s great advantage.

#2 Comment By Chris Chuba On January 18, 2016 @ 10:02 am

It’s striking the extent to which Rubio and his cohorts would re-create the 2003 Iraq scenario.
1. Suspicion about a WMD program with no visibility or access into said country – Check.
2. Permanent sanctions on said country with no recourse – Check.
3. Compulsive need to act on suspicion with no facts – Check.

Even IF the Iranians start a nuclear weapons program deal down the road the agreement is a success because unlike Iraq, we have visibility into their assets for 25yrs. Unlike what the hawks say, Iran will always be susceptible to sanctions because their economy is hugely dependent on Oil and natural gas exports.

#3 Comment By JLF On January 18, 2016 @ 10:07 am

When will you people ever learn? American boots must be on the ground in the Middle East (and everywhere else, for that matter.) How else do you demonstrate the reality of The American Century? The “evil doers” must be impressed with the reality of American might and resolve. Anything less is appeasement. And any appeal to “history” is nothing more than liberal spinelessness and Hate American rhetoric. Besides, America is forward looking and writes the history; it doesn’t need to look to the past but to the future.

And the economy. Jobs. What do you do about the tens of thousands of Americans who work to replace the expensive hardware and munitions used to create the American Century? And what about American assets in the Middle East? The oil companies’ investments? And the Rooskies? Who will keep them out of Afghanistan? . . . and Iraq? . . . and Syria . . . no, wait.

Poor, pitiful, weak America, barely hanging on to a Potemkin military despite spending more on defense than the next eight nations in the world combined. No. The real enemy are the liberal socialists in the Democratic Party and the Obama administration. The peaceniks. The mewling cowardly politicians who avoided military service yet hide behind the flags on their lapels . . . no, wait.

#4 Comment By William Burns On January 18, 2016 @ 10:39 am

The people who are really taking a major risk here are the Iranians. Suppose Rubio becomes president and tears up the agreement and reimposes full sanctions. That doesn’t magically rebuild Iran’s centrifuges.

#5 Comment By Irony Abounds On January 18, 2016 @ 11:27 am

President Rubio will have problems reimposing sanctions on Iran because no other nation will go along with it and US sanctions alone are for the most part meaningless. That’s not to say that the hawks won’t find some other way to try and poison the well since bloodlust compels them to seek out someone to bomb and kill.

#6 Comment By Chris Chuba On January 18, 2016 @ 11:39 am

Willian, I’m glad that you mentioned the risks that Iran is taking.
Up front …
1. Iran disposes of 98% of their uranium.
2. Iran puts 75% of their centrifuges in one monitored location.
3. Iran agrees to a delay to a lifting of the arms embargo.
4. Iran agrees to giving the U.S. a unilateral right to reimpose sanctions until step 3 is completed.
5. The enhanced inspection protocol could become a fishing expedition for their military installations. This is why there is the maximum 24 day limit.
6. If a Hawk like Rubio is elected then Iran loses 98% of their uranium and gets sanctions reimposed immediately and the U.S. can bomb the one location that had 75% of their centrifuges. Actually, we can destroy all of their centrifuges because we know were all of them are located because of the agreement.

So yeah, I’d want the $50B signing bonus as well which is actually just their own money.

#7 Comment By Joseph R. Stromberg On January 18, 2016 @ 11:40 am

I suggest a name for this anti-diplomatic mindset: Boltonism.

#8 Comment By Ethan On January 18, 2016 @ 1:01 pm

Maybe Rubio thinks that only the Republican primary base can hear him when he speaks, but the message that he’s sending to the world is “If I’m President, you will never be able to trust the United States. We will enact harsh sanctions, insist on unconditional surrender to our demands, give nothing in return and then probably bomb and/or invade you anyway if we’re feeling salty.”

How could any country negotiate with Rubio if he were president?

#9 Comment By icarusr On January 18, 2016 @ 1:18 pm


Barbara Tuchman already gave it a name and wrote the book: “Folly”. In common parlance, it has a name too: “stupid”.’

I think I’m beginning to fully grasp Rubio. He’s never had a job that he had to work hard to get, or work hard at. He has no discipline – and this is clear both in his finances and his campaigning. He has no judgement (the immigration Bill) and is deeply insecure (both his hawkishness and his embellishments). He does, however, personify the Harding Principle in a post-Bush-Cheney-Romney Republican Party suffering from PTSD: he looks and sounds as if he might be President. And so a political party that is principally driven by Pose and Posture is riven by an Establishment going for a Harding and a rabble going for Elmer Gantry/Lonesome Rhodes.

Sadly, it’s the Republic, and not the Republican Party, that will pay for this. If Ms. Rodham implodes, we will have a President Cruz or Trump; if she does not, she will be impeached within 36 months.

#10 Comment By SF Bay On January 18, 2016 @ 7:07 pm

icarusr, Sorry, but why is Clinton impeached? You give no hint about this. Or are we going to rehash everything that has happened over the last 30 years?
That assumes a Rep majority in the Senate. Which won’t happen if she wins. What’s your point?

#11 Comment By ELiteCommInc. On January 18, 2016 @ 10:10 pm

correction: But as you note, that deal was not what gives Iran it’s great advantage.

#12 Comment By duglarri On January 19, 2016 @ 1:24 am

It’s notable that just about the very first thing the Iranians are up to, once unleashed by Obama, is buy one hundred airliners. Airliners! The very thing that crashed into the twin towers!

Next they will probably be buying cars, too, and we know where that leads, because there’s nothing in the America that kills more people than cars.

Rubio is right! No bathtubs for the Iranians! Because Americans slip and die in bathtubs!

#13 Comment By Dieter Heymann On January 19, 2016 @ 7:39 am

The agreement is signed by six states. Not one of them is likely to follow President Rubio. NATO may disintegrate.

#14 Comment By Roger Chylla On January 19, 2016 @ 11:50 am

I agree with the foreign policy analysis but I don’t know if focusing on Rubio makes sense. The problem here is that the base wants to hear this rhetoric and we all know that no one will get through the primary with a position like one articulated in this column, even though it is substantially correct. Politicians work within parameters given to them by the electorate and the primary leaves very little room for thoughtfulness… tragically.

#15 Comment By icarusr On January 19, 2016 @ 12:56 pm

SF Bay:

HRC does not have to do anything other than get elected with a D after her name. In the eyes of about 30% of the US electorate, the D itself makes her illegitimate.

#16 Comment By Balderdash On January 19, 2016 @ 3:35 pm

With the US failure to remove the primary sanctions on Iran it leaves itself in the same inimical position it has been in since the first Ayetolleh dumped the Shah.

And that is perfectly acceptable to the Iranis for most of the west is open for business. They spend their 30 billion but not in America – in fact the thought that such a sequestration is only a writ away might encourage Iran to get out of business with America completely. Watch for a large Airbus order and the Iranian Boeing fleet up for sale.

It goes without saying that Americans visiting Iranian won’t be getting a different welcome than the three recently repatriated.

#17 Comment By icarusr On January 19, 2016 @ 5:03 pm


The “Iranian Boeing fleet” is forty years old – those bits of it that have not fallen out of the sky for lack of parts. With (new) Russian airliners having no better track record in the air than old Boeings, only Airbus is left to fill the void.

And no, the Europeans will not wake up on January 21 to cancel the orders because President Rubio says so.

#18 Comment By Johnny Alamo On January 19, 2016 @ 9:08 pm

Is it truly impossible for a Republican politician to speak truth? Why does the American public have to paddle through such a morass of half-truth, un-truth, and never-ever-truths just to try to understand the position of a lone Republican? Is Hate such an integral part of the Republican lifestyle that we must look forward to their sworn lies for years to come? I know certain Dems are no better at telling the truth, especially when it comes to being a minion of Wall Street banksters, but this Republican assault on the senses will no doubt drown many who otherwise might be able to keep their head above water long enough to ferret out the truth in spite of long-term Republican lying.