Secretary of State John Kerry decisively shut down Sen. Marco Rubio’s (R-FL) theory that the United States purposely lacks a comprehensive strategy to defeat ISIS because it fears antagonizing the ongoing nuclear negotiations with Iran.
During a tense exchange with Kerry at a Senate Foreign Relations committee on Wednesday, Rubio confronted the former Massachusetts senator. “I believe that much of our strategy with regards to ISIS is being driven by a desire not to upset Iran so they don’t walk away from the negotiating table on the deal that you’re working on,” the potential GOP presidential candidate declared. “Tell me why I’m wrong.”
Kerry responded forcefully. “Because the facts completely contradict that,” he said, before offering to discuss more details in classified session with Rubio. But the likely GOP presidential contender didn’t take up the offer and pressed on with the line of questioning, claiming that the United States is going easy on terrorism because Iran does not support America’s campaign against ISIS.
“They would welcome our bombing of ISIS, actually, they want us to destroy ISIS, ISIS is a threat to them, it’s a threat to the region and I think you’re misreading it if you think there is a mutual interest with respect to Daesh [the Arabic name for ISIS] from every country in the region,” Kerry responded.
Watch the exchange here.
Kerry added that the nuclear talks have not impacted America’s strategy in Iraq and Syria. “There is no grand bargain being discussed here in the context of this negotiation. This is about a nuclear weapon potential, that’s it.” Rubio floated his theory again, this time suggesting that America’s coalition in its fight against ISIS also believes that the nuclear talks are undermining the goal of defeating terrorists.
“Senator, that actually is flat wrong also, flat wrong,” Kerry said. “I just came back from the meeting in the Gulf in Riyadh. I met with King Solmon who completely supported what we’re doing. I met with all of the GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council] members, they all sat around the table and they all articulated their support for what we’re doing and they believe we are better off trying to prevent them from getting a bomb diplomatically.”
Earlier in the hearing, Martin Dempsey, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, reiterated that Iran’s efforts to defeat ISIS in Iraq is a “positive” development. Secretary of Defense Ashton Cater agreed, saying, “I can’t imagine our bombing ISISL is unwelcome to them.”
Indeed, Iran has worked to ensure that Iraq does not pose a military threat to its influence in the region. Tehran has launched military strikes against ISIS militants. It has tried to prop up the Iraqi government, sent General Qassem Suleimani, commander of the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, to coordinate the defense of Baghdad and has worked with the country’s Shiite militias to stop the militants’ advance. Last month, more than 2,000 Iranian troops traveled to Iraq to tackle the insurgency and publicly Iranian officials urged the world to fight. Iran is also currently advising Iraqi forces in the battle to re-take Tikrit from ISIS.