OTR Interviews

Rubio on Yemen's implosion: 'This is about Iran ... The Obama administration has a history of being wrong'

Florida senator says the fall of Yemen proves Pres. Obama has a 'history of misjudgment and being wrong,' sounds off on why he believes the Obama-Netanyahu rift is personal, Ted Cruz's candicacy and when he will decide whether he's running for president

 

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," March 25, 2015. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Chaos in Yemen. First, Special Forces forced to evacuate. And now Yemen's president reportedly fleeing the country as rebels advance through that nation.

Senator Marco Rubio joins us.Good evening, sir.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO R-FLA.: Good evening, Greta.

VAN SUSTEREN: Senator, last December, President Obama was positive about Yemen. Now disintegrating. And the State Department saying we are, quote, "having a temporary departure from that country." Unless temporary means decades, I don't know what to make of this.

RUBIO: Well, first of all, this is about Iran, again, the source of instability in the region and many parts of the world. These are Shia militias and Shia rebels making advances there. They are equipped, protected and supported by Iran. It's part of their strategy to become the dominant regional power. It's part of encircling Saudi Arabia, Sunni country. So you see their presence in Yemen. They basically invaded Iraq. Obviously, their influence they have in Lebanon. They control Assad in Syria. So, slowly but surely they are carrying out their master plan of regional dominance and Yemen is the latest piece of that puzzle.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is there anything, looking at this map and looking as the country disintegrates and you talk about Iran's influence in Iraq, now fighting ISIS, is there anything positive that we can hang our hat on? Is there anything good going on in our nation's interests?

RUBIO: As regards to Yemen? I don't think there is.

VAN SUSTEREN: Yemen, Iraq, Syria, tell me, where are we winning?

RUBIO: First of all, in Yemen, we have now lost an important base of operation against al Qaeda in the region, in the Arabians Peninsula, which is probably the most dangerous off-shoot of al Qaeda. So we've now lost a place to operate from. If you look across the region at Libya, it is increasingly become the premier operational space for ISIS and other radicals to operate. In Iraq, to the extent ISIS is being pushed back, it is being done by Shia militias controlled by Iran. They've basically invaded the country, and every single day that goes by, they have more and more influence.

You are now seeing more and more reports about how the Shia militia on the ground in Iraq pose a threat to American servicemen and women both there and in the region. So you -- and then, of course -- meanwhile, while Iran is carrying out this master plan of regional dominance, we're at the negotiating table with them. And I continue to believe that much of our strategy in the region at this point is being driven by a desire not to offend them so they don't get up and walk away from the negotiating table.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, what happened? President Obama said at the 2012 Democratic Convention that al Qaeda is on the path to defeat. And then we got them saying -- we keep slapping him in the face with this one -- he said in January of 2014 that ISIS was J.V. Six months ago, he says that Yemen is essentially a success story. And now we look at this map and we just -- you know, there is just nothing there that looks good for us. What happened?

RUBIO: Well, I think he has a history now of miscalculation and misjudgment and, quite frankly, of just refusing to accept the facts of what's happening. They are always more interested in the domestic political spin and getting credit domestically than they are on the truth at it. Time and time again, we have seen them fail as a result of that. So it leads us to believe that they have been so wrong so often about the true threat of ISIS, about the status of al Qaeda, about holding up Yemen as an example of counter-terrorism excellence, what then -- how can we trust that they are going too do, for example, a deal for Iran that is going to make sense for the world and keep us safer?

(CROSSTALK)

RUBIO: This is an administration that has a history of being wrong and they are going to be wrong again when it comes onto Iran.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, then you have got the situation of Prime Minister Netanyahu. Certainly he and President Obama have a lousy relationship. And it's not going to get any better any sooner. How does that fit into this calculus?

RUBIO: It's interesting. Yesterday, the president said it wasn't personal, but I think it is personal. Here is the evidence. His entire political apparatus, a significant number of people that were key to his political machinery were on the ground in Israel supporting B15, which is an outside group in there getting involved to try to oust Netanyahu. They were involved in doing everything from analytics to mobilizing voters on the ground, to polling, to advertising. This is unprecedented that an American president would send his political operatives to another country to oust a foreign leader that he doesn't get along with. And then he says it's not personal. It is personal. It's absurd. And quite frankly, it's dangerous. It puts in danger a very important strategic relationship to the United States, not to mention a nation that's been a strong American ally.

VAN SUSTEREN: What do you make of Senator Ted Cruz jumping in first?

RUBIO: Well, he will be a very strong candidate, as I said. You can see in the past he has made a lot of people excited about the things he stands for. We are blessed as a party. We have a lot of really good candidates. The Democrats are struggling to come up with even one. I think our country will be better for it at the end.

VAN SUSTEREN: Your decision, yes, no, comes when?

RUBIO: You know, soon. As I said, we are getting closer to that date and we understand that if I decide to run for president it's going to take time and energy to do it. So we will make an announcement here fairly soon.

VAN SUSTEREN: One last question. Soon? How do you define soon? I have heard soon from other candidates.

(LAUGHTER)

They say soon to me, is soon like weeks? Days? Months? What is soon? Can you define it for me?

RUBIO: Probably not months, but certainly multiple weeks. And that's important. Like soon means when we are ready to make the decision. There is a lot that goes into something like that and a lot this to announcing whatever direction we go. But it's something I'm increasingly excited about and look forward to sharing with you and others here fairly soon.

VAN SUSTEREN: Senator, thanks. And I may run to the dictionary and look up "soon."

(LAUGHTER)

I get different definitions from everybody. Thank you, sir.

RUBIO: Thank you.