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The Many False Assumptions of Iran Hawks

Dave Weigel reports on Rubio’s determination to make a fool of himself over the Corker-Cardin bill:

But speaking Friday morning at National Review’s semi-annual Ideas summit, Florida Senator Marco Rubio strongly defended his amendment that would require the Islamic republic to recognize Israel as part of any arms deal.

“The criticism of that is that there are a bunch of countries in the Middle East that don’t recognize Israel’s right to exist,” Rubio said. “Which is true. But none of them are trying to build a nuclear weapon. And none of them have billions of dollars of sanctions, and if we lift those sanctions, we are handing over billions of dollars to the Iranian regime.”

Rubio doesn’t even get the objections to his amendment right. One of the main problems with the amendment requiring such recognition from Iran is that it is entirely irrelevant to the nuclear negotiations and concerns a state that isn’t even a party to the negotiations. Imagine how incredulous members of Congress would be if Iran demanded that the U.S. remove Hizbullah from its list of terrorist organizations or insisted that Israel recognize Palestinian independence. It’s a non-starter and could be used as an excuse to walk away from the talks all together, which is evidently what Rubio wants. Even if there were a chance that Iran would agree to a condition like this (there isn’t), it would be a stupid, unnecessary condition to include as part of a non-proliferation agreement with Iran. Since there is no chance that Iran would agree to such a condition, pushing for it to be included just confirms Rubio’s hostility to reaching any deal.

Contrary to what Rubio says, Iran isn’t currently trying to build a nuclear weapon, and according to U.S. intelligence the Iranian leadership hasn’t even made the decision to try to do so. The purpose of a deal is to significantly reduce Iran’s ability to build such a weapon in the event that it ever decided to try and to make it easier for other governments to detect it if the attempt were made. One would think that this would a very desirable outcome for Israel, which shows that just how truly redundant and useless Rubio’s amendment is. It should be mentioned here that Rubio’s thinking on Iran and its nuclear program is badly distorted by his acceptance of the absurd “martyr-state” myth and associated false assumptions about the apocalyptic views of Iran’s leaders. He thinks that Israel’s existence is threatened by Iran’s non-existent nuclear weapons, and he thinks this because he buys into the crazy theory that Iran’s leaders would commit national suicide in order to destroy Israel.

The reality is that international support for sanctions will weaken fairly quickly in the absence of a deal. Iran will soon start benefiting economically from its business with many other countries in Asia and Europe whose governments have been willing to curtail their dealings with Iran up till now. Iranian revenues will start increasing with or without a deal, so it makes no sense to object to a deal on the grounds that it will “reward” Iran with sanctions relief. A deal with Iran this summer is the best opportunity to restrict Iran’s nuclear program before international support for sanctions evaporates, and Rubio and many of his hawkish colleagues are doing all they can to wreck the deal. The good news is that it appears that they won’t be able to succeed, but it should be made very clear that this is what they keep trying to do.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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