Florida Sen. Marco Rubio linked the White House’s diplomatic efforts in Iran to its warming of relations with Cuba, arguing in a speech to a hawkish think tank on Friday that President Obama’s outreach to the two countries were examples of “weakness and concession.”
The twin efforts, a nuclear deal in Iran and normalized relations with Cuba, “represent the convergence of nearly every flawed strategic, moral, and economic notion that has driven President Obama’s foreign policy," Rubio said in a speech to the Foreign Policy Initiative in New York.
“The fact of the matter is Hillary Clinton will not overturn these deals as president,” Rubio said. “I will.”
The two arguments seemed to step on each other at moments. Rubio insisted that unilateral economic sanctions against Cuba needed additional time to unseat the ruling communist regime — despite having been put in place more than five decades ago. In addition, he argued new unilateral sanctions against Iran would convince the theocratic regime to not only dismantle their entire nuclear program, but also recognize Israel, drop their support for regional terrorist groups, and end human rights abuses against their people.
“Some will say there would ... be no room for negotiations, but history proves otherwise,” Rubio said. “Iran may not return to the table immediately, but it will return when its national interests require it to do so.”
He added that his stance on Iran would be backed with a “credible threat of military force” aided by a new defense buildup in the Middle East.
Regarding Cuba, Rubio said that by opening a U.S. embassy in Havana, Obama had “ensured the regime will receive international legitimacy and a substantial economic boost.”
“He has made the argument that if the embargo hasn’t worked for 50 years, we should try something new,” Rubio said. “My question is: Why hasn’t he made a similar argument to the Castro regime? For over 50 years, they have tried tyranny and Communism and it hasn’t worked either.”
Rubio accused Obama of being “quick to deal with the oppressors, but slow to deal with the oppressed” by negotiating with repressive governments without demanding changes to how they treat their own citizens.
“I will make this pledge here and now: As president, as a symbol of solidarity between my administration and those who strive for freedom around the world, I will invite Cuban dissidents, Iranian dissidents, Chinese dissidents, and freedom fighters from around the world to be honored guests at my inauguration,” Rubio said.