Rand Paul Getting Cornered on Iran Sanctions

Since Rand Paul is meeting today with his brain trust to plot a probable presidential campaign, it’s worth noting that bitter enemy Lindsey Graham is moving to isolate the Kentuckian on the volatile issue of sanctions on Iran, one foreign policy area where “realism” has yet to make a comeback within the GOP. Dave Weigel has the story:

“Each candidate on the Republican side embraced a bold foreign policy,” Graham said. “They rejected leading from behind. So, from my point of view, the Republican conference is going to made up of more traditional national security Republicans, and this era of flirting with isolationism, I think, has passed.”

If that was too subtle, Graham found a better way of putting it when he talked to Washington Post reporter-blogger Jennifer Rubin. “The cavalry is coming over the hill,” he said. He would move this week to advance the Iran sanctions bill, the Iran Nuclear Negotiations Act of 2014. “If we get it marked up, there will be a lot of bipartisan support….”

Iowa Senator-elect Joni Ernst favored sanctions during her campaign. So did Colorado Senator-elect Cory Gardner, South Dakota Senator-elect Mike Rounds, and West Virginia Senator-elect Shelley Moore Capito. Come January, there’s a clear Senate supermajority in favor of sanctions. Graham, knowing that, wants to move before the November 24 expiration of the current agreement with Iran.

That leaves Senator Rand Paul in the position to challenge Graham’s theory. Paul never has co-sponsored the sanctions. Before the midterms, in a speech at the Center for the National Interest, Paul mentioned Iran only once. “In light of the new threat posed by ISIS,” he said, “I believe it is even more imperative that Tehran and Washington find an effective diplomatic solution for limiting the Iranian enrichment program. A nuclear-armed Iran would only further destabilize a region in turmoil.” Paul was not bending-he was waiting for the administration’s process to work.

On Wednesday, Paul is meeting with his brain trust to talk 2016. On Thursday, he’ll face the choice of bucking almost everyone in his party on Iran sanctions. Next year, he may find himself even more isolated on foreign policy in a resurgent GOP.

I wouldn’t be real shocked if Paul flip-flops on this issue as he has on Middle East policy and a number of other foreign policy matters. But if so I bet his old man–who spent a good part of his 2012 campaign arguing with other Republicans about Iran–pitches a fit or bites his tongue.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.