Giuliani sketches foreign policy vision; business ties could complicate bid

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Story highlights

  • Rudy Giuliani spoke Monday on ISIS, the Iran nuclear deal and the US relationship to Russia
  • The ex-New York City mayor's words come amid expressing interest in being secretary of state

(CNN)Rudy Giuliani has been mentioned for several potential Cabinet positions in Donald Trump's administration, but it was clear Monday night that he really wants to be secretary of state.

The former New York City mayor spoke Monday about his foreign policy vision at the Wall Street Journal CEO Council and, according to the Wall Street Journal's description, Giuliani "suggested several times that he would be interested in the (Secretary of State) post." He also laid out some potential foreign policy priorities.
    He discussed the fight against ISIS and Mideast peace in addition to US relations with Russia, which he said is not a military threat, and China, which he said Trump will seek to engage on trade. He seemed to waver on how highly a Trump administration would prioritize renegotiating the Iran nuclear deal. Terrorism was at the top of Giuliani's potential international agenda.
    Giuliani said that ISIS "short-term, I believe, is the greatest danger, and not because ISIS in Iraq and in Syria, but because ISIS did something al Qaeda never did -- ISIS was able to spread itself around the world." He pointed to attacks in Orlando, Florida, and Nice, France, as examples of the unique threat posed by a global terror network like ISIS.
    Regarding the Middle East, Giuliani warned against regional tensions being stoked by Iran. But Giuliani -- a strident critic of the nuclear deal with Iran negotiated by the Obama administration -- seemed to back off of a total withdrawal from that agreement, suggesting that reworking the deal would be a lower priority than combating terrorism.
    "You have to set priorities. So if the priority is, let's eliminate ISIS, maybe you put that off a little bit. And you get rid of ISIS first. And then you get back to that," Giuliani said, when asked if he would potentially spend his first two years as secretary of state locked in a diplomatic fight over the Iran deal.

    Business ties a problem

    Trump's transition team, however, is also looking into whether his business ties would complicate his confirmation and his role as the top diplomat, according to a source familiar with transition talks.
    Some of those ties, previously reported, including lobbying for Citgo, a US-based subsidiary of the Venezuelan oil conglomerate, at his old law firm. His current firm has also done business with Qatar.
    The source said some of another financial issue regarding Giuliani, like the money he took from the Iranian exile group MEK, may not be as much as a concern, as the group who had many of the GOP establishment lobbying on their behalf and paid for speaking engagements.
    Business ties might not be the only difficulty. Republican Sen. Rand Paul called the ties to foreign governments "worrisome," but said more importantly, Trump should pick a Secretary of State who opposed the Iraq war like Trump said he did.
    Sen. Paul: Giuliani foreign ties 'worrisome'
    Sen. Paul: Giuliani foreign ties 'worrisome'

      JUST WATCHED

      Sen. Paul: Giuliani foreign ties 'worrisome'

    MUST WATCH

    Sen. Paul: Giuliani foreign ties 'worrisome' 02:21
    "I hope Donald Trump will pick somebody consistent with what he said on the campaign trail -- Iraq war was a mistake, regime change in the Middle East is a mistake."
    Both Giuliani and John Bolton, another possible Secretary of State nominee, were notable supporters of the invasion of Iraq. Trump was not involved in politics at the time and now says he opposed the Iraq war despite a 2002 radio interview in which he expressed grudging support. But he pushed the idea that he was opposed to the war repeatedly on the campaign. http://www.cnn.com/2016/09/20/politics/donald-trump-iraq-war-reality-check/

    Russia and China

    Giuliani also issued a cavalier dismissal of the threat posed by Russia, calling for a more cooperative relationship while also suggesting that military force be more readily threatened.
    "Russia thinks it's a military competitor, it really isn't," Giuliani said. "It's our unwillingness under (President Barack) Obama to even threaten the use of our military that makes Russia so powerful."
    And the former New York City mayor said a Trump administration would "prefer to engage with (China) on economic issues such as trade," even as diplomatic tensions between the two nations grow as a result of the standoff over territorial claims in the South China Sea.
    Giuliani is among those rumored to be under consideration by the Trump transition team for secretary of state. Other names include John Bolton, a veteran diplomat and former US ambassador to the UN under President George W. Bush, President of the Council on Foreign Relations Richard Haass and Sens. Bob Corker and Jeff Sessions.