Republican presidential candidate for 2016 Rand Paul presents a realistic and pragmatic position on Iran. As a senator, he demonstrates remarkable political maneuvering to avoid war while successfully comforting those who question his ability to be a strong commander in chief.
His consistent support of sanctions until the Obama administration’s nuclear negotiations began separates him from most of his Republican colleagues who want sanctions all throughout and after the negotiation process. In addition, his earlier threat to Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) that he would hold up further sanctions on Iran until Reid added his amendment that said nothing in the bill should be interpreted as a declaration of war or an authorization for the use of force further demonstrates his pragmatic approach.
After ending his votes for renewing sanctions, Paul assured hardline conservatives of his support for congressional oversight of the agreement – though for alternate reasons.
The controversial open letter Paul signed that was sent by most Senate Republicans to Iranian government officials in the middle of the administration’s negotiations, although intended by most of the signers to derail the talks, was expressly supported by Paul to continue his fight to defend congressional checks on presidential power.
While Tom Cotton (R-AK) and other Republicans were motivated by a desire for regime change, Paul has consistently maintained his position that the U.S. government has no business nation-building abroad. In his Conservative Political Action Conference speech, he proclaimed that a government who can’t even be expected to deliver mail effectively can’t be trusted with as complicated a task as installing and up-keeping foreign governments.
Furthermore, he assured support of the administration’s framework for a deal by supporting a bipartisan bill that would punish Iran for actual violations of the nuclear deal instead of pushing to upend the talks entirely.
An admirable trait of Rand Paul is that he has the same consistent reluctance of his father, Ron Paul, when it comes to allowing the president to act unilaterally. Paul maintained that his support of the letter was to ensure that the sanctions he passed as a representative of the people would continue to be dealt with by the lawmakers who wrote them.
Throughout the negotiation process, Paul has fought for maintaining constitutional checks and balances while still defending the negotiations and warning against war.
Paul was asked by Bloomberg on Monday if he supports the deal the Obama administration has sketched with Iran or if he agrees with almost every Republican congressman that it displays American weakness to Iran. He was also asked whether or not he still thinks, as he did in 2007, that Iran is not a threat to the United States.
“We don't know the details of the deal yet,” said Doug Stafford, a spokesman for Paul's Political Action Committee. “Senator Paul will be watching closely and believes any deal must make clear Iran cannot acquire a nuclear weapon, allows for full verification and is approved by Congress. He voted for sanctions both times they were put before Congress and believes only Congress should remove those sanctions.”
War is a serious issue. Negotiating with a nation who we have a tense relationship with should involve a healthy debate which Paul has helped to stimulate. His challenge to the notion that one man, the president, can take us to war or negotiate the terms of a lawfully binding agreement is refreshing. The strategic hurdles he places in front of politicians mindlessly instigating war should be admired.
By presenting a contrast to the establishment Republicans and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who Paul criticizes for causing the current Middle East instability with her interventionism in civil wars, Paul is shaping up to be the most interesting and principled candidate for president of the United States