On Wednesday, Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, widely considered a potential 2016 presidential contender, called for President Barack Obama to supply ammunition to parts of the Syrian opposition to help them bring down the regime of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad.
“Syria is awash in arms, both weapons from the Syrian regime that are being captured and weapons that are coming in from third parties in other countries,” Rubio said, speaking at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy about his recent trip to Israel and Jordan.
“What the opposition really needs is access to ammunition. And I think one of the things we can consider, if we can identify a couple of responsible groups — or more responsible groups that we feel have built capacity — ammunition is something we can provide. … And I think that’s a step I’m prepared to advocate for.”
Rubio said that reports that the Obama administration is considering sending more aid — like body armor — to Syrian opposition are a good sign, but he thinks the U.S. should go a step further.
With radical, anti-American factions taking the lead in the nearly two-year long battle against the Assad regime, Rubio fears if the U.S. doesn’t support and strengthen elements of the opposition that might be more receptive to America, the hostile groups will hold the upper hand once Assad falls — which Rubio believes he will.
According to Rubio, the fall of Assad is in America’s interest because it would be a sharp blow to the government of Iran.
“I think the loss of Assad is the ultimate sanction against Iran in terms of Iran’s influence in the region,” he said.
“Again, Iran used Assad and used Syria to give weapons and aid to Hezbollah and also to, you know, to stage other operations in the region. That’s why they are so heavily involved in what’s happening there now. So that’s also in our national interest.”
Rubio added that after witnessing the West’s action in Libya, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is intent on developing nuclear weapons.
“I personally believe that the ayatollah, the supreme leader, has concluded that he wants a weapon,” Rubio said.
“They believe it is the ultimate insurance policy. They are convinced that the U.S. and the West want to overthrow them and get rid of them, and this is the ultimate way to ensure their grip on power is to have a nuclear weapon. They — and I don’t think this is an exaggeration to say, I don’t know this for a fact, but I’m pretty confident of it — they saw what happened to Muahammr Gadhafi and said ‘We don’t want to be Gadhafi — we want to be North Korea.’”
Rubio said that he believes the only thing that can convince Iran to stop its pursuit of nuclear weapons is if the Iranian regime thinks “they can lose control” of their country.
“I don’t want to sound like some sort of war hawk or, you know, talking cold warrior kind of deal,” Rubio said. “This is not what this is about. This is trying to deal with reality.”