Rubio's latest Iran claptrap: The next president can back out of a nuclear deal, and it will be just fine!

Marco Rubio oddly seems to think that the U.S. would retain global authority after breaking a multilateral accord

Published March 19, 2015 3:58PM (EDT)

  (AP/J. Scott Applewhite)
(AP/J. Scott Applewhite)

Marco Rubio is a first-term senator who plans to run for president on a platform of foreign policy experience. The sad thing about this is that, relative to the various governors and fellow first-term senators he'll be running against, he really does have as much if not more foreign policy experience than his competitors.

Experience shouldn't be the be-all, end-all of campaigns. What's more important is knowledge. It doesn't matter what your background is; if you can get on the trail and explain foreign policy issues with some basic element of understanding, then voters will respond to that. There's no hard threshold of congressional subcommittee hearings that one needs to sit through in order to win certification for conducting foreign policy.

The problem for Rubio is he doesn't demonstrate a whole lot of knowledge on foreign policy, either. He has been running around making the politically convenient but logically incoherent argument that President Obama is going easy on ISIS because he doesn't want to upset Iran, and that what his administration should do instead is bomb ISIS a lot while urging regional armies to pick up the slack on the ground. This elides a couple of critical facts: that Iran wants ISIS destroyed just as much as the United States does, and that Rubio's suggested strategy is the precise one that the Obama administration is pursuing.

Now Rubio, per the AP, is trying to explain how a President Rubio could back out of a "bad deal" with Iran without upsetting our European allies alongside whom we're negotiating. (Not to mention Russia and China, but pissing them off is fun as an end in and of itself in hawks' eyes.)

In an interview with The Associated Press, Rubio said the next U.S. president "should not be bound" by a potential Obama administration agreement, even if European negotiating partners stand behind the deal.

"The United States, although it's less than ideal, could unilaterally re-impose more crushing and additional sanctions," Rubio said. He said he would also "use the standing of the United States on the global stage to try to encourage other nations to do so."

Could the U.S. really "unilaterally re-impose more crushing and additional sanctions"? The key words here are "unilaterally" and "crushing," and they're mutually exclusive. If the U.S. breaks out of a deal and re-imposes sanctions "unilaterally," they cannot be "crushing," because what makes sanctions "crushing" is their multilateralism. The multilateral buy-in is what has Iran at the negotiating table right now. If Europe, Russia, and China didn't buy in, the sanctions wouldn't be so crushing.

Rubio then suggests that he would "use the standing of the United States on the global stage" to get the other nations to join in on the new sanctions. I'm curious as to what "standing... on the global stage" he supposes the United States would have after a new president came in and backed out of an international diplomatic agreement. My guess is that the United States would have no standing to compel these nations to work with it on this issue, or any number of other issues, for a long, long time. Why would you ever trust the United States again?

Even our closest ally of the bunch, Britain, wouldn't want anything to do with us. They are sick of how the "Special Relationship" has turned into them being strung along into every exotic American military adventure. Remember a couple of years ago, when the Obama administration briefly flirted with bombing the Assad regime in Syria -- this was before we changed our minds and decided to bomb the other side of the civil war -- and the British Parliament rejected it. They can't be taken for granted. But perhaps President Marco Rubio would sanction Britain, too, if they disobeyed us, and that would get the job done. Peace through strength!

It's laughable for a GOP presidential candidate to suggest that he could back out of an international diplomatic agreement like this and then somehow compel all the actors to come back together and strike up a "better deal," by which he means one where Iran agrees to cede 100% of its national interests. And yet Rubio is probably setting the bar in nonsense, here, for all the other candidates to meet.

By Jim Newell

Jim Newell covers politics and media for Salon.

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