Rubio’s Iran Tantrum and the Hawkish Loathing of Diplomacy
Marco Rubio’s response 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, 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 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 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, but would have remained in Iran’s control and would have continued to expand. A year ago, Rubio was certain 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. Despite his best efforts to tack on irrelevant amendments 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.