Interventionists Attempt to Isolate Rand Paul Over Iran Deal


Only The Shadow knows…. ||| Al Jazeera
Al Jazeera

At The American Conservative, W. James Antle III has a shrewd, pessimistic take on how GOP opposition to the Iran nuclear deal threatens to isolate intervention-skeptic Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky):

The most hawkish conservatives follow a simple script: Obama is an apologizing appeaser while Republicans are the muscular party of Reagan and anyone to the right of Jimmy Carter. That narrative is complicated by the fact that they often side with the Obama administration—when they aren't divided among themselves—against the rest of the right on military interventions and civil liberties questions.

Iran brings the foreign-policy debate back to the hawks' comfort zone. The Iranian ayatollahs have been villains since at least the 1979 hostage crisis, much longer than Saddam Hussein was so perceived before the Iraq war. As a state sponsor of terrorism, it is not an undeserved reputation. […]

Republican lawmakers, aided by Democrats like New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez, are insisting on zero enrichment as a condition for relaxing any sanctions against Iran. Some would even like to authorize the use of military force. There are no partisan or opportunistic reasons for any Republican to resist such legislation.

In the Senate, Rand Paul—who has supported some sanctions—may be alone. If he decides to push back against Marco Rubio, John McCain, and Lindsey Graham this time around, it's hard to envision Ted Cruz or even Mike Lee joining him.

Whole thing here; Antle's 2010 Reason profile of then-candidate Paul here.

Interventionists recently seen stomping on Paul's Iran positioning include longtime critics Jennifer Rubin at the Washington Post ("Rand Paul: Worse than Obama on Iran") and the Washington Free Beacon.

After the jump read what Paul told me in late August when I asked whether the U.S. has "moral standing" to stop nuclear proliferation in Iran and elsewhere:

Q: What about developments pursuant of nuclear weapons? Iran, North Korea….Do we actually have moral standing to stop that, and what are the tools that you think are appropriate?

A: You know, what we've been trying with Iran is sanctions, and I think the sanctions have had some influence, and I think they've at least superficially brought the Iranians to the point where they'd like to negotiate. I think ultimately, though, that no successful negotiation will happen unless Russia and China are included in it.

I think we've made the mistake of having sort of superficial show-votes in the Security Council. There's always going to be—particularly as we came out of the Cold War—there's ah, I guess the best way to describe it is Russia feels a diminished manhood. And they want to assert their manhood, and assert their former superpowerdom by voting against us in the Security Council, and I think they will. But I think if you were to talk to them one-on-one in a basis, same with China, and convince them that 1) trade with us is important and that we want to expand trade with them, but in order to do that we need to quit diverting so many resources to Iran. If you just get Iran to behave we'd all trade better, we'd all make more money, and it'd be much better for all of our countries.

But I think you need their influence. Because if both Russia and China were to not trade with Iran, and go and talk to Iran, and say "Look, just cut this nonsense of building a nuclear bomb, and we'll see if we can get some of the sanctions relaxed; we're talking with the United States"—I don't think we're going to be able to talk with Iran directly probably very well, although I'm not sure that doesn't happen. But I think through Russia and China.

The same goes for North Korea. I think China holds the cards for us with North Korea. I think they're inept and poverty-stricken and unable to really do anything; even the weapons they make usually don't work. So I don't think we fear North Korea as a great ability to attack the United States. But they have a nuclear weapon and they need to be watched for that reason and contained. And I think one of the ways you contain them, is that 1) you shouldn't feed them. When they run out of food, we shouldn't give them any. But we should encourage China that it's to China's benefit with us, and our relations, to try to control North Korea.

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  1. Republicans really are going to be stupid enough to let themselves get distracted by this, aren’t they?

    Given that the Senate cannot do anything about it anyway, the Pauls and Grahams of the world should just say, “Agree to Disagree. Now about that Obamacare…”

    1. you can never underestimate the ability of Repubs to let the foolish get in their way.

      1. Circular firing squad. Ready, Fire! Aim.

      2. Also, why does Jennifer Rubin still have a column? Is it 2005 and I didn’t notice? Her brand of Republican is deader than JFK.

    2. People like Graham don’t have a problem with Obamacare. They just claim to so they can get what they want re: Iran.

    3. “Republicans really are going to be stupid enough to…?”

      Is that even a question?

    4. Given that the Senate cannot do anything about it anyway, the Pauls and Grahams of the world should just say, “Agree to Disagree. Now about that Obamacare…”


  2. There’s always going to be?particularly as we came out of the Cold War?there’s ah, I guess the best way to describe it is Russia feels a diminished manhood.

    Have you seen their top guy? Virile as Bill Clinton in his heyday!

  3. Being a non-interventionist in foreign policies when it comes to conflicts and war is one of the few things that me and my libertarian friends agree with

    1. I am really confused why you not only take the time to read this site, but then go the extra step of posting here.

      1. Hey, she’s halfway there. Now if we can just convince her to be less interventionist on the domestic side…

        1. She’s a dude actually.

      2. What about legal weed? Or is Alice Bowie your real name?

    2. No, we really don’t agree. See, we believe that initiating force is wrong (principles). You believe in whatever is politically expedient to use against your opposition (principals). There is no agreement here.

  4. Partisan politics aside, the sanctions regime is a unique opportunity given Iran’s current account problems and Europe’s willingness to cooperate in sanctions.

    We’re not likely to get Iran into this position again anytime soon, and I think it’s important–for the security of the United States–to get everything we can from Iran’s predicament with this agreement.

    And I’m not convinced this agreement does that.

    This seems like Obama’s negotiation with the Syrians over chemical weapons. Obama went charging in with the intention of intervening militarily and only grabbed at the Russian agreement to save himself from the political embarrassment of having his authorization request for military action in Syria shot down in Congress.

    Meanwhile, his actions basically gave Syria a free hand to do whatever it wants with the rebels–so long as it doesn’t involve chemical weapons.

    Obama is not above selling American security interests down the river in order to score short term political points here at home. I’m not saying that as a cut on Obama; I’m saying that as a warning against an agreement that may not be in America’s long term security interests.

    Right now, we have Iran by the balls, and we shouldn’t let go until we get everything we can in the interests of American security. We certainly shouldn’t let go just because it gives Obama a badly needed political victory.

  5. The head milquetoast over at the Weekly Standard is screaming “Munich! MUNICH!!

    1. You talkin’ about the “Abject Surrender by the United States” article?

      The title might be over the top, but I think the points they raise about enrichment are valid.

      1. Ken, the points about enrichment seem to be an ill-informed notion that all enrichment is the same.

        The level of enrichment required for nuclear power is significantly less than for nuclear weapons.

        Iran is a signatory to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty. That treaty allows enrichment for the purposes of nuclear power.

        From what I read about the agreement, enrichment for nuclear power is allowed but any higher percentage enrichment is prohibited.

        On the surface this seems right to me. Does it have any chance of working? Is there any way to verify that Iran is living up to the agreement? I don’t know.

        But, I still firmly believe in the mantra that countries that trade with each other are much less like to start wars with one another.

        1. My reasoning on the sanctions hasn’t changed in more than a year. I wrote what I thought about the sanctions over a year ago in this thread here:

          “All the options seem to come in variations of three flavors:

          1) War
          2) Sanctions
          3) Appeasement

          I find appeasement the sorriest of the three options, but I don’t want to go to war either. And in the this case, I don’t think the sanctions are open ended. I think they’re for a specific purpose and for a specific period of time. I’d be all open to offering Iran a free trade agreement! …just as soon as they abandon their nuclear weapons program.

          I’m not even sure the sanctions will ultimately work…but I think we have to try sanctions first–regardless of whether you prefer appeasement to war.”


          Now that the sanctions have, indeed, worked in driving Iran to an agreement, I don’t trust Obama not to snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory–for his own personal political reasons.

          1. You made general comments about your philosophy towards sanctions and foreign policy. But, what about the specifics of uranium enrichment by Iran.

            Do you agree with the position that all enrichment must stop, as in the referenced article?

            1. Without knowing the specifics, I’d prefer they agreed to stop all enrichment to letting them do some.

              I suspect the Russians would be perfectly happy to supply them with whatever level of enriched uranium they need for civilian purposes.

        2. But, I still firmly believe in the mantra that countries that trade with each other are much less like to start wars with one another.

          If you followed that link, you’ll see that I agreed, but this was a special situation.

          This is why the sanctions worked this time:

          “Amid the usual hyperbolic conspiracy theories, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said something incisive in a televised address last week: that the West is waging economic “war” against Iran.

          He’s right, and the Iranian rial’s death spiral is the first clear sign that we’re on a path to victory. The 40 percent drop by the rial against the dollar since late September is a symptom of larger woes: oil exports are at 1 million barrels a day, down from 2.2 million last year; quarterly oil revenue is down by about $15 billion a quarter; inflation, officially at 25 percent, is probably closer to 70 percent; unemployment is probably three times higher than the official 12 percent; and the country has been hemorrhaging foreign-currency reserves, which were estimated at about $110 billion at the end of 2011.”

          —-Bloomberg Editorial, October 7, 2012


          1. This was a race to see whether Iran could test a nuclear device before they ran out of foreign reserves. If they had been able to test a device, the whole point of the sanctions would have been moot and the Europeans would have bailed on sanctions.

            Our only chance was to try to make Iran burn through their reserves before they could test a device; we did that, and it worked.

            Now the test is whether Barack Obama has the fortitude to do what’s in America’s best interests–or do what’s in his own best interests, politically–and if they’re not the same thing, then I guess I just don’t have any faith in Obama to do the right thing.

        3. “Iran is a signatory to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty. That treaty allows enrichment for the purposes of nuclear power.”

          Hasn’t Iran already been found to be in non-compliance with the Nuclear non-Proliferation Treaty?

        4. The level of enrichment required for nuclear power is significantly less than for nuclear weapons.

          Which raises questions about the heavy water reactor at Arak.

          1. People really should take time to read the actual statements before spouting off (that Ken neocon in particular):

            Iran has committed to no further advances of its activities at Arak and to halt progress on its plutonium track. Iran has committed to:

            ? Not commission the Arak reactor.

            ? Not fuel the Arak reactor.

            ? Halt the production of fuel for the Arak reactor.

            ? No additional testing of fuel for the Arak reactor.

            ? Not install any additional reactor components at Arak.

            ? Not transfer fuel and heavy water to the reactor site.

            ? Not construct a facility capable of reprocessing. Without reprocessing, Iran cannot separate plutonium from spent fuel.

      2. It’s a special double-issue, centerfold, scratch-n-sniff insert, four-cover Collectible Iranians-Have-Won issue!

        Bolton and Stephen Hayes are blubbering in despair along with Snake Plissken – I mean – Bill Kristol (I confuse the two sometimes…).

        1. Just because I despise those guys doesn’t mean they’re wrong.

          Broken clocks, twice a day…

      3. John Bolton and the Weekly Standard staff are hardly paragons of libertarian thinking.

        1. If they said that the primary purpose of government is to protect people’s rights, would you disagree with them?

          1. Whose rights are you protecting with sanctions? It has the opposite effect actually. It weakens the ability of the Iranian citizens to escape their government through trade.

          2. You know they fully expect the American people to pay for military action and the consequential shock in the energy market for their pet project, so whose rights are they really concerned about?

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