Marco Rubio blasts Iran deal on HARDtalk

  • 5 December 2013
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Media captionRepublican Senator Marco Rubio says he fears an international agreement recently signed with Iran will allow it to keep pursuing nuclear weapons.

Republican Senator Marco Rubio has become one of the most outspoken critics of the recent interim agreement on Iran's nuclear programme, a point he emphasised in an interview with BBC's HARDtalk on Thursday.

"Iran continues to be an active state sponsor of terrorism," he said. "They use terrorism as a tool of statecraft." He said Iran continues to build long-range missiles and develop its nuclear capabilities, even under the recent agreement.

"I believe that Iran is following the same model that North Korea followed," he said, "and that is they use negotiations to try to alleviate sanctions and buy time but never agree to irreversible concessions that one day they cannot simply break out [and develop nuclear weapons] if they want to."

Mr Rubio's interview with HARDtalk came during a London trip that included tweeted pictures in front of Big Ben, meetings with various government officials and a high-profile policy speech hosted by the think tanks Chatham House and the Legatum Institute. He seems to be following conventional wisdom that a British getaway is a low-risk way for presidential hopefuls to beef up their foreign policy credentials and play the role of statesman (unless you're Mitt Romney, of course).

Over the past few weeks, in speeches both in the US and the UK, Mr Rubio has tried to flesh out his foreign policy vision - attempting to bridge the gap between isolationist and interventionist wings of the Republican Party.

"I think our foreign policy should be strategic, not tactical," he told HARDtalk. "I think too much foreign policy today around the world, not just the US, is determined simply on tactics."

Rubio said that the strategic vision of the US should be to "act in defence of our security and our safety", promote "our values around the world" (such as "the freedom of liberty to live as one chooses") and "look for ways to use the power of the United States to convene like-minded nations like the UK to work with us to achieve this in every corner of the world".

During his trip, Mr Rubio hasn't hesitated to directly criticise President Obama's foreign policy both toward Iran and Syria, which has raised some eyebrows in the US.

"It is customary for U.S. politicians to avoid criticising the president while speaking overseas," notes Philip Rucker in the Washington Post. "During the 2012 campaign, GOP nominee Mitt Romney painstakingly avoided direct criticism of Obama during a trip abroad."

Coming out strongly against the Iranian agreement certainly doesn't qualify as a bold political position among Republicans, but it could be part of Mr Rubio's strategy to repair a rift between him and grassroots conservatives who objected to his backing of comprehensive immigration reform earlier in the year.

As a recent Pew poll shows, however, most Americans these days seem interested in foreign policy primarily in regards to how it affects the US economy. Would being able to say "I told you so" on the Iranian deal in the coming months be enough to set Mr Rubio apart from the Republican presidential field?

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