Republican Sen. Rand Paul is criticizing President Donald Trump’s actions toward Iran, saying his decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear agreement and last week’s drone strike that killed the country’s top military general have made the US less safe.
Although Paul is typically dovish when it comes to military action and overseas entanglements, his comments on Iran are a break from other congressional Republicans, who have overwhelmingly backed the President as he’s taken a hard-line approach toward the longtime US foe.
“The Iran agreement wasn’t perfect — and I was a critic of the Iran agreement — however, I think it was a big mistake to pull out of the Iran agreement. We should have tried to build upon the Iran agreement,” the Kentucky Republican said Tuesday in an interview on Fox News. “We’ve now killed one of their major generals. I think it is the death of diplomacy and I see no way to get it back started until the revenge of the Iranian people is somehow sated.”
He continued: “I hate this. I hate that this is where we are going. I have been someone who has been for engagement, but there was much less killing, there was much less violence after the Iran agreement. In fact, there was a lull, a period in which I think we were headed towards a much more stable situation with Iran, and now I think that’s gone. And I think it may be gone for a lifetime.”
In an interview Monday with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on “The Situation Room,” Paul said that “the administration, mainly at (former national security adviser) John Bolton’s behest, tore up the Iran agreement, placed a significant and severe embargo on Iran and then killed one of their major generals.”
“Nobody in their right mind would actually think that would lead to negotiation.”
In 2018, Trump announced the US was pulling out of the landmark Iran nuclear deal it signed with five other nations during the Obama administration, an agreement intended to prevent the country from restarting its atomic program.
US tensions with Iran have dangerously escalated following last week’s drone strike that killed Qasem Soleimani, a top Iranian general whom US officials have claimed was set to carry out an “imminent” attack in the region that would have put American lives at risk, though they have yet to provide details about the intelligence. US military forces in the Middle East have been placed on high alert as intelligence mounts about a threat of an imminent attack against US targets.
CNN reported earlier this week that some Republican lawmakers primed Trump to give the go-ahead to target Soleimani following a series of attacks on the US in the region. Among them were Sens. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who have consistently advised Trump that the consequence of inaction would only make Iran’s behavior worse.
But Paul argues that the killing of Soleimani, which he said on CNN was an “act of war,” will only ratchet up the possibility of an armed confrontation. Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif vowed in an interview with CNN Tuesday that the country will respond “proportionally, not disproportionally” to the US strike against Soleimani.
“It’s unknown how much military escalation, but I think there will be an escalation” by Iran, Paul said on Fox.