Key Republican Senator Talks Syria, Israel, Iran
April 25, 2012 1 Comment
By Ari Bildner, Staff Writer
Washington, April 25 – The downfall of embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad would strengthen Israel and improve the prospects for peace, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio said Wednesday.
“The security of our ally, the strongest and most enduring democracy in the region, Israel, with whom we are bound by the strongest ties of mutual interest and shared values and affection would improve as well. And so would the prospects for peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors improve,” Rubio said.
The Republican senator has been touted as a top vice-presidential pick for presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney despite his repeated denials of interest. During the speech at the Brookings Institution, he waded into the foreign policy realm as speculation in Washington grows about the possibility of a Romney-Rubio ticket come November.
Syria has been embroiled in 13-months of violence, after demonstrators were attacked by regime forces last March. The death toll, much of it from Assad forces killing civilians, is estimated to have reached 11,000 by mid-April. A cease-fire is now technically in place, although international monitors have said the regime has not adhered to it.
Rubio used much of his speech to call for a more robust American foreign policy, and broke with much of the Republican base by calling for a larger foreign aid budget. He said that Assad’s demise also would hurt Iran’s quest for regional dominance.
“The fall of Assad would be a significant blow to Iran’s ambitions,” Rubio said. “Iran would lose its ally and see its influence and ability to cause trouble in the region correspondingly reduced.”
The Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah, Rubio predicted, would also lose a major benefactor with the end of the Syrian regime.
Yet while taking questions after his speech, Rubio deferred answering about an Israeli preemptive strike on Iran, which has been under rounds of punishing international sanctions for its suspected nuclear weapons program.
“I’m not in a position to sit here and dictate to Israel’s leaders” how to deal with Iran,” he said.