Rubio argued that an Obama victory now would not necessarily translate into what the White House, or the Iranians, would see as a permanent win. He was blunt about what he would do should he reach the White House: undo, in whatever way possible, the deal. He believes it is inevitable that Iran will be caught cheating on its obligations, and when it does, he would be ready to mete out punishment—including to companies that will presumably be rushing into the Iranian market once the deal is finalized.
“There are companies and banks around the world that might be considering making significant investments in Iran, and what they need to know is that if they make a significant investment in Iran and a future administration reimposes sanctions, or Iran violates the deal, or Iran conducts some outrageous act of terrorism around the world and [is] sanctioned for it, your investment could be lost,” Rubio told me. “If you go into Iran and build a pharmaceutical plant, and you invest all this money to build it, and then suddenly Iran does something, and now you’re subject to sanctions if you continue to do business with them, you’re going to lose that investment. And so I do think that it’s important for investors and others around the world who are looking to do more business with Iran to be very conscious about this, because they’re basically gambling that this regime is not violating the deal or doing something new that could impose sanctions.”
Rubio is worried, however, that the world is ready to let Iranian cheating slide by: “Unless you absolutely catch them in a Cuban missile crisis-style situation, with pictures, red-handed, the world’s not going to force it, because there’ll be too many vested interests economically in Europe and around the world arguing against it.” The job of the next president, he said, would be to ensure that the United States, at least, doesn’t allow Iran to reach the point at which it is “immune” to punishment, or even attack by the United States.
Here is our conversation, lightly edited for clarity:
Jeffrey Goldberg: Let me just go right to what is probably the most biting point you’ve made to Secretary of State Kerry: this idea that the Iran agreement might put the U.S. in the position of having to help Iran defend its nuclear facilities from cyberattack or other attacks from Israel. It seems like an outlandish notion.
Senator Marco Rubio: Well, I was just reading out of the text of the agreement, and I assure you that the Iranians interpret it the way that I alluded to, which is that if they come under cyberattack or any other effort to sabotage their program, then not just the U.S., but all the world powers, will have the obligation to assist them technically in defeating those measures. Now obviously Kerry and the administration would say that their reading of this is that we’re trying to protect them from some sort of terrorist group, for example.