Interviews

Rep. Ron DeSantis calls for a 'stronger stance' against Iran

This is a rush transcript from "Your World," February 1, 2017. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST:  With us now, Florida Republican Congressman Ron DeSantis.  He's a former JAG officer himself.  

Congressman, we see these things, sadly, more often than we like.  This was the first counterterrorism operation of the young Trump presidency.  And these are always the risk of such operations.  

But it comes on the same day that we have gotten reminders that there's still a lot of saber-rattling going on in that region of the world, Yemen, one of the seven countries we have identified to sort of tighten visitation into this country, also with Iran, you know, being particularly provocative as of late.  

What do you make of all of this?  

REP. RON DESANTIS, R-FLORIDA:  Well, where he was, that is the absolute tip of the spear when you're talking about operations in Yemen.  

And this is a guy, given the nature of his work, he's done things that we will never know about just because of the classified nature of it.  It's a huge loss for our country.  But that area in particular is a disaster, because you hit on it, Neil.  It's war-torn.  You have Al-Qaida elements.  

But then you have the Houthis that are being funded and supported by the Iranian government.  And their influence over the last three or four years have expanded dramatically throughout the Middle East.  It's well-documented that the Iran deal flushed them with cash.  

They're saber-rattling in terms of doing missile, ballistic missile tests, which the Obama administration basically let them get away with.  I think NSC Adviser Flynn's statement was important because it says we're going to stop the policy of letting Iran get away with more belligerent behavior after more belligerent behavior just so we can keep this Iran nuclear deal, this piece of paper intact.  

I think that they're going to be tougher on Iran and I think our Gulf allies will be very happy to see that.  

CAVUTO:  Congressman, by the way, a map we were showing were not the seven countries, per se.  I believe four of those were among those cited, but this is just a map of the region in Yemen in particular where this young hero was killed.  

But it all happens on the same day, a point you were mentioning earlier, Congressman, where General Flynn was talking about Iran and particularly the unusual nature of the statement he made today at the White House briefing.  I want you to react to this, General Flynn.  

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LT. GEN. MICHAEL FLYNN (RET.), NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER:  Instead of being thankful to the United States in these agreements, Iran is now feeling emboldened.  As of today, we are officially putting Iran on notice.  

Thank you.  

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAVUTO:  Congressman, what does that mean, putting Iran on notice?  

DESANTIS:  Well, I think the point was correct, that we did this Iran nuclear agreement.  It was really a radical change in American policy.  And we have been able to monitor the results.  

And the results haven't been that Iran is now a part of the community of nations as being more productive.  Iran is expanding its influence.  It's belligerent.  So the nuclear deal has really empowered Iran.  

So they agree with that.  That's what we have been saying in the Congress for a long time.  What does it mean to be on notice?  I'm not sure, but I think, at a minimum, I think the Trump administration has got to be open to tougher sanctions against Iran.  General Mattis was talking with the allies in the Gulf about trying to combat Iranian influence into all these hot spots.  

I think you are going to see a much stronger stance towards Iran.  And here's the thing, Neil.  When you're weak against a country like Iran, that really whets their appetite for even more belligerent behavior.  I think a stronger stance will end up putting Iran back in the box that they belong in.  

CAVUTO:  All right, well, I guess it depends on what a stronger stance means, Congressman.

We know that the National Security Council is having a briefing as we speak at the White House on this very issue.  The Iranians have since tried to clarify that the missile test was not nuclear in nature, so they haven't violated either U.N. sanctions or U.N. rules that were in effect or anything having to do with this agreement.  What do you say to that?  

DESANTIS:  Well, why would you be doing a ballistic missile test, if not to deliver a very significant ordnance, usually a nuclear warhead?  That's why people do that.  It's a show of their strength.  

And so they have done this multiple times since the Iran deal has been agreed to.  We have been arguing in Congress they have been violating the agreement habitually.  The Obama administration would never say that.  Now it looks like the Trump administration is saying that.  That opens up for more actions from the Congress in terms of sanctions, but also opens them up to enforce the Iran deal, some of the provisions against Iran.  

I would say the Iran deal has failed, but Trump has said during the campaign he's going to find provisions and really turn the screws on them.  

CAVUTO:  Now, do you think it would warrant just leaving that deal, canceling that deal?  Some have said, whatever you think of Iran, whatever you think of this deal, if we get into the position where the U.S. just canceling international agreements, then that could be a slippery slope. And that could even lead to more trouble.  What do you say to that?  

DESANTIS:  Well, I do think that there's a point to be made about there's other countries involved in the Iran deal.  I think some of our allies aren't as threatened by Iran as we are.  So, they may not have the exact same view.  

But I do think that the secretary of state, secretary of defense should work with some of these countries, because it would be better if we had a united front against Iran, rather than us unilaterally canceling the deal.  

But you look at Iran's conduct, they're not living up to the deal.  There's just really no way around that fact.  

CAVUTO:  Is it your sense, too, whatever happened to this NSC meeting and all of this occurring back and forth with Cabinet appointments and all that, that the president could be at a disadvantage on this?  

He has got close to the key figures there in his national security team, but he doesn't have the whole team together.  Does that make a difference to you just watching this, or no?  

DESANTIS:  Absolutely, it does.  

We finally now have a secretary of state.  The delay was for no good reason.  And, look, if you have the votes to vote one of these guys down, then do it.  But they didn't have the votes to do that and they just delayed for the sake of delay, as if that was accomplishing something.  

So I do think that this has not been a good way to stand up an administration.  And I think the Democrats in the Senate are playing games for no good reason with this.  So, I have a lot of sympathy for the frustration that the Trump administration has had over this.  

CAVUTO:  All right, Congressman, thank you for taking the time.  We know you have had a crazy day as well.

END

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