US Republican presidential hopefuls have ratcheted up their rhetoric against Tehran and denounced the Obama administration’s efforts to reach an agreement with Iran over its nuclear energy program, with Senator Marco Rubio calling on Washington to bomb Iran’s nuclear infrastructure.
Rubio, the first-term senator from Florida and a candidate for the 2016 presidential elections, told participants at a Republican Party reception in New Hampshire on Friday that the world, particularly the Middle East, is in chaos because of President Barack Obama’s policies.
The Cuban American politician, known as an ultimate opportunist within the party, warned of a coming terrorist attack on US soil and even raised the specter of Iranian missiles striking the United States.
“We may have to decide at some point what is worse: a military strike against Iran or a nuclear-armed Iran,” the 43-year-old said during a question-and-answer session.
“I am not cheerleading for war. I don’t want there to be the need to use military force, but a nuclear Iran is an unacceptable risk for the region and the world,” he added.
He went on to say that “Iran is developing long-range rockets that will at some point, in less than a decade, be capable of reaching the East Coast of the United States.”
Iran and P5+1 group of countries - the US, Britain, France, China, Russia and Germany - reached a mutual understanding on Tehran’s nuclear program on April 2 in Switzerland. The two sides are expected to start drafting a final deal which they seek to sign by the end of June.
If a final deal is reached, it would lift all international sanctions imposed against the Islamic Republic in exchange for certain steps Tehran will take with regard to its nuclear program.
Rightwing elements in the Republican Party along with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and some of their allies accuse Iran of pursuing military objectives in its civilian nuclear program.
Iran rejects the allegation, arguing that as a committed signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), it has the right to use nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.
Rubio, who has recently emerged as one the strong supporters of Israel in the Senate, said earlier this week that the United States must abandon the Obama administration’s drive to reach a comprehensive agreement with Iran, and renew its commitment to Israel and strengthen the military.
“If America accepts the mantle of global leadership... then our nation will be safer, the world more stable, and our people more prosperous,” Rubio said.