Partial Transcript Courtesy of ABC News of Sunday’s Freedom Partners 2016 Presidential Forum with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Sen Marco Rubio (R-FL), moderated by ABC’s Jonathan Karl, on the issue of Iran sanctions
Transcript as follow (courtesy of ABC News):
JONATHAN KARL: All right, let’s– we’re– we don’t have much time left, let’s get specific on Iran because you have an issue right before the Congress right now whether or not to slap new sanctions on Iran or to give the president some time to try to wrap up these negotiations, they get a deal on the nuclear program.
SENATOR MARCO RUBIO: That’s not the issue before the Congress. That’s not exactly what it is. There’s two issues before the Congress and I think we all agree on the first one and that is whatever deal he cuts there has to be Congressional approval of it. I think we all agree on that.
And the second w– is sanctions that are put in place if the deal fails, those sanctions kick in which is what the president said he wants to do anyway. So all we’re saying is, “Fine, then let’s put it in place so it’ll happen the minute the talks–”
JONATHAN KARL: Well, the president also says that the minute you pass that the deal– the– the negotiations will collapse. Senator Paul, are you gonna support the sanctions bill?
SENATOR RAND PAUL: I think new sanctions now– has two problems. And most of all impact– all of our allies have said it may break apart the sanctions regime. We’ve had a coalition of many countries. And sanctions have worked. And I have supported sanctions because they’ve worked as a multi-lateral– organization to exert pressure on Iran. I don’t think unilateral sanctions will work. Germany, France, England have all said that they fear that that coalition breaks up. The other fear is that Iran backs away from the table and then we have two choices. They either get a nuclear weapon or we have a military option. I’m a big fan of trying to exert and– try the diplo– diplomatic option as long as we can.
If it fails I will vote to resume sanctions and I would vote to– vote to actually have new sanctions. But if you do it in the middle of the negotiations you’re ruining it. So many people on our side say, “Well, we don’t want 535 generals, the president should be in charge of war.” But now they’re saying, “We want 535 negotiators, not the president.” I don’t trust the president. I don’t believe or support him on almost anything he does. But at the same time, I do think diplomacy is better than war and we should give diplomacy a chance.
JONATHAN KARL: Give diplomacy a chance with Iran? Senator Cruz?
SENATOR TED CRUZ: Let me give a– a very different perspective. I think the threat of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons capability is the single greatest national security threat facing the United States today. I believe we are repeating the mistakes of the Clinton administration in the 1990s with respect to North Korea.
In the 1990s the Clinton administration relaxed sanctions, led the world in relaxing sanctions against North Korea. Billions of dollars floated in North Korea and they used that money to develop a nuke. The Obama administration– and this is astonishing and revealing has recruited the very same person, Wendy Sherman, who– who led the failed North Korea negations to come in and be our lead negotiator with Iran.
Now the difference is that it’s qualitatively more dangerous. Listen, Kim Jong-il, Kim Jong-un, they’re radical, extreme, unpredictable. But both father and son are fundamentally megalomaniacal narcissists (LAUGHTER) which means, as Sony Pictures discovered– (LAUGHTER) w– which means some dec– degree of rational deterrence is possible. Both father and son understood–
JONATHAN KARL: But–
SENATOR TED CRUZ: –if they ever used nukes– let– let me finish this, John, if they ever used nukes, that day their regime would end. The problem with Iran is Khamenei and the Mullahs are radical, religious, Islamic nutcases. (LAUGHTER) And that’s a technical term.
JONATHAN KARL: Okay. Okay I understand but–
SENATOR TED CRUZ: And– and– and let me flesh out a little more, look, when you have religious leaders who glorify death or suicide ordinary cost benefit doesn’t work. Cost benefit prevents a lot of people from wrapping dynari– around their chest and walking into a mall. But the problem is if Iran ever acquired nuclear weapons I think the odds are unacceptably high that it would use those nuclear weapons either in the skies of Tel Aviv or New York or Los Angeles.
JONATHAN KARL: But– but Senator Paul’s not endorsing Iran having nuclear weapons. He’s saying negotiate with them.
SENATOR TED CRUZ: Okay, but– but–
JONATHAN KARL: Senator Paul, do you wanna–
SENATOR TED CRUZ: –all right– all right, then negotiate smart ’cause we didn’t just negotiate. Billions of dollars are flowing into Iran right now. And, by the way, we are allowing Iran to continue building centrifuges and enriching uranium. They’ve been negotiating for two years. This is the worst negotiation in the history of mankind.
JONATHAN KARL: Sena– Senator Paul– let me Senator Paul– before we move on’s got–
SENATOR RAND PAUL: Had I been in charge of the negotiations I would’ve delayed any release of sanctions until we saw compliance. So I would have delayed and had a delay between the two. I do think though that many times in our fear and anger and distrust and we wanna, you know, what are we gonna do? Are you ready to send ground troops in Iran? Are you ready to bomb ’em? Are you ready to send 100,000 troops? Are you ready to send into Iraq? Do you want ’em in Syria? Do you want ’em in Libya? The place is a mess. It’s been a mess for 1,000 years. So we have to think about what really are the practical results of not negotiating? Iran’s a big threat. You know who else is?
Pakistan maybe a greater threat. We get a government toppled in Pakistan with a real nuclear capability it’s an enormous threat to the west. So yes, these are all threats.But I want you to think through and when we think about this we think about what happened with the war in Libya. Many in our party just said, “Oh we needed to send more troops in there.” They thought Obama’s only mistake was not going in with too many troops. Gaddafi gave up his nuclear weapons. We toppled him anyway. What do you think lesson that sent to Iran? So it is a real problem. Libya’s a huge disaster. Hillary’s war in Libya was a disaster. And the people on our side who wanted even more of a war than Hillary, it was a mistake. Libya’s a huge disaster and we should’ve never gone into Libya.
JONATHAN KARL: Very quickly–
SENATOR MARCO RUBIO: No, but this is important, I’m glad we’re covering this topic. On the issue of Iran versus Pakistan and these other places, the Pakistani weapon is a typical weapon in the sense they have it for purposes of leverage against India because India has a weapon. North Korea has it basically because they want regime security. It’s not even a country, it’s a criminal syndicate that runs territory. China, Russia, everybody else, all the other nuclear powers. Iran wants a weapon, not for leverage against Saudi Arabia, Egypt or Turkey.
They want a weapon to trigger a global cataclysm that will bring about the arrival of a 13th imam. I know this sounds bizarre. But this is their theology and we should take ’em seriously since they’ve dedicated their life to spreading it. This is a very real risk. And let me tell you about negotiations, it is a tactic that Iran is using and here’s why, in 2003 the world told Iran, “You cannot have any enrichment capability.” Then it became, “Okay, you can enrich but only up to 20%.”
Then it became, “Okay, you can enrich over 20% but you have to ship it overseas.” Now it’s, “Okay, you can enrich it 20% but you can only use it to a research reactor.” At this pace in five years we’re gonna build the bomb for them. I mean, that’s the direction this is going. They use negotiations as a tactic.And they are trying to buy as much time as possible to acquire the capability of being able to build a weapon. And once they do, they don’t even have to build a weapon. They just have to prove that they have a delivery system, which they’re continuing to develop, unabated and untouched by the sanctions, a weapon design that they can easily buy from multiple people around the world and the last is the enrichment capability. And if you can enrich at 3%, you can enrich at weapon grade. It’s the same equipment, it just takes a little longer.
JONATHAN KARL: But Senator Paul, ask the question, so what do you want, you wanna bomb Iran?
SENATOR MARCO RUBIO: I think there’s a risk of a nuclear Iran is so high that nothing should ever be off the table. It’s unacceptable we can’t live with a nuclear Iran and can’t contain ’em.
SENATOR TED CRUZ: And– and let me–
SENATOR MARCO RUBIO: You have to do whatever you have to do.
SENATOR TED CRUZ: –let me answer that.
JONATHAN KARL: V– very quickly, ’cause I am outta– I am really outta time. So go ahead.
SENATOR TED CRUZ: All right, the question of what we should do, number one, I filed legislation in terms of what we should be doing with Iran. The legislation I filed would immediately reimpose sanctions, would strengthen them to make them more crippling. And and lays out a clear path that Iran can follow to lift the sanctions.
If it wants to lift the sanctions it must disassemble all 19,000 centrifuges, it must hand over the enriched uranium, it must shut down its ICBM program which exists for one reason only and that’s to carry a weapon of mass destitution to America or our allies and it must be stop being the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism. If you wanna negotiate with them you need more stick and less carrot.
JONATHAN KARL: Senator Paul?
SENATOR RAND PAUL: And if we renew sanctions now, negotiations end and inspectors are forced out of the country. Are we better off or worse off? Our two choices then are nuclear weapon– nuclear weapon at that point or military action.
SENATOR TED CRUZ: And let me be clear, let me– let me make a final point on this, John, beyond sanctions a strong commander in chief would make abundantly clear on the global stander no circumstances will Iran be allowed to acquire nuclear weapons capability. Either they will cease or we will stop them. Ironically weakness increases the chance of military conflict. No one wants to see a military conflict. But the weakness and appeasement of this administration only encourages the Iranian Mullahs to move forward more. There is a reason why in January, 1981 Iran released our hostages the day Reagan was sworn in because they understood they were no longer dealing with the weakness and appeasement of Jimmy Carter.
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