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“I’m uncomfortable if we’re doing anything to escalate violence,” he said.
Rubio said the problem in Syria is not so much the opposition’s access to weapons as it is the fact that “the best-armed [rebels] are the most radical ones, the most anti-American ones.” To help level the rebel playing field, one step would be to provide “responsible groups” not with weapons, but with the ammunition they need for the weapons they have, he said.
On Iran, Rubio said he would like to see a “breakthrough” in the negotiations the US and other world powers have under way with Tehran on its nuclear program. But he doesn’t hold out much hope, saying he believes that “the negotiations are nothing but a ploy to buy time” for the Iranian regime to make progress toward building a nuclear weapon.
And Rubio said he is convinced Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s goal is to build a bomb. Iran’s supreme leader has absorbed the lesson of other leaders: Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi had a weapons program but gave it up and ultimately lost power, while North Korea brandishes a minor nuclear-weapons capability to fend off international pressure.
“The Iranians have concluded, ‘We don’t want to be Qaddafi, we want to be North Korea, we want that level of security,’ ” Rubio said.
Yet while he did not fault the Obama administration for at least attempting to find a diplomatic solution with Iran, Rubio did single out as a “mistake” what he said was Obama’s failure to support Iran’s green movement during elections in 2009.
Noting that Iran will hold presidential elections in June, Rubio said, “I hope we don’t repeat that mistake.” Globally, the US needs to be “louder” on human rights issues, he said.