Around the world with Sen. Tom Cotton

by Roby Brock (roby@talkbusiness.net) 572 views 

U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., says President Donald Trump has restored American credibility by showing force and demanding changes from North Korea, Syria, and Iran.

In a wide-ranging interview on international affairs, Cotton appeared on this week’s edition of Talk Business & Politics.

Cotton said Trump’s strike on a Syrian airfield sent a signal to the Assad regime and to Moscow that the U.S. will back up rhetoric with military power when needed. Cotton advocates a “peace through strength” approach similar to the Reagan administration.

“You can both put pressure on our adversaries, and confront our adversaries, while also negotiating with them,” Cotton said. “The engine of history can move pretty fast if the United States exercises that kind of leadership in the world.”

Some highlights from Sen. Cotton’s discussion of world affairs, which you can watch in full in the video below:

NORTH KOREA

The only acceptable diplomatic outcome for the United States is that North Korea denuclearizes, and that’s one reason why President Trump has worked so closely with the Chinese government. So they can bring pressure to bear, since they conduct 90% of all of North Korea’s trade, provide so much of North Korea’s energy, provide so much of their security guarantees. Ultimately, it will require China bringing some of that pressure to bear on North Korea.

… Now, I think some of the steps they’ve taken, like suspending coal imports from North Korea, are largely symbolic. And President Trump needs to continue to put pressure on the president of China to take further, substantial actions to make it clear to the Kim regime in North Korea that the United States is not going to live with a nuclear-armed North Korea that can strike the United States of America. And if China wants to stop us from doing things that are offensive to their interests, like deploying advanced ballistic missile defenses to South Korea, because we have them there for the North Korean threat, but of course, China views them as a threat to them as well. It’s in their interest to work with us to denuclearize North Korea.

IRAN

The fundamental problem with Iran is not their nuclear program, but the nature of their regime. It is a radical theocracy that tries to export its worldview throughout the Middle East. You know, nuclear weapons are just another kind of weapon, and we have other countries that possess nuclear weapons that we don’t view as a threat… Ultimately, we cannot let a regime like that obtain nuclear weapons.

On the Trump administration certification that Iran is complying with an Obama-era nuclear agreement.

So, it’s largely a fact-based question whether Iran is or is not complying with that nuclear deal. But the President said in that certification letter that they were undertaking a broader review of Iran’s behavior on all fronts, and that it may warrant additional sanctions. It may also warrant additional action in the Middle East to support our allies who are trying to confront Iran’s campaign of imperial aggression. Whether it’s Saudi Arabia, or the United Arab Emirates, or Israel, and so forth.

In sanctions relief, they’ve got millions and millions of dollars in straight cash from the United States government, Swiss francs, and euros flowing in the dark of night into Iran. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t impose new sanctions. And we can impose sanctions under the nuclear deal for non-nuclear activities. For things like supporting insurgencies against our allies, or supporting terrorism.

SYRIA

He [Trump] said, if you use chemical weapons, we’ll strike you again. And as Jim Mattis said, I suspect Bashar al-Assad regrets that decision, and he won’t do so again. Which is not just a humanitarian gesture, but it’s important for the troops that we have on the ground there. Now, they’re undertaking a broader review of all Syria policy inside the administration, as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has said, it’s hard to see how the Assad family remains in power. Not as a matter of American policy only, but simply as a matter of the fact on the ground.

Ultimately, political solutions come about through diplomatic negotiations. But I think one core flaw of the Obama administration’s policy in Syria, but really more broadly around the world, is they didn’t see the way to marry up pressure, and sometimes force, with diplomacy.

Given Russia’s relatively muted reaction since those strikes, I do believe it was successful. But, President Trump did in one night what President Putin of Russia has done to three straight presidents for 15 or 20 years. He wrong-footed him and put him in an impossible situation, either he has to back down and lose face all around the world, to be shown powerless to defend his own clients, or he has to escalate in a way that he does not have the military or the economy to support, and that strains his interest in other regions as well. That’s one reason why I think you’ve seen such a muted response.

CUBA

I would be very happy to see a day in which we can trade freely with the Cuban people, and we can sell our rice, and our poultry, and our other products into Cuba. Travel there freely and vice versa. But right now, you really can’t do that. If you’re doing business in Cuba, your money is basically going to the Castro regime, and this is not simply a matter of humanitarian protection of the liberty of the Cuban people. This is about our core interests.

The Cuban intelligence services are one of the most hostile adversarial services in the world. They rank up there with Russia, and China, and Iran, against the interests of the United States. I can’t get into all the details, but I can assure you that Cuban intelligence services are constantly working against the interests of the United States, and of our citizens. And until that changes, it’s hard for me to see supporting those kind of expanded ties with Cuba.

Watch Sen. Cotton’s full interview at this link. Also, Cotton discussed President Trump’s first 100 days in office in a separate interview, which you can view here.

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