Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) broke ties with his fellow Republicans on Saturday and reiterated his support for the international negotiations aimed at stopping Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.
“I’m a big fan of trying the diplomatic option as long as we can,” Paul said during a presidential forum organized by Freedom Partners, a group backed by billionaires Charles and David Koch. “I do think diplomacy is better than war.”
Negotiators between Iran, Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the U.S. will continue next month. The talks began after the nations reached an interim agreement in 2013 to freeze Iran’s nuclear program and roll back its stockpiles of enriched uranium; in exchange Iran has been able to sell more of its oil and access overseas bank accounts.
At the Koch-sponsored summit, Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) argued that the talks are endangering America and the world.
“They’ve been negotiating for two years. This is the worst negotiation in the history of mankind,” Cruz said, predicting that Iran will soon be able to launch nuclear strikes against “Tel Aviv, New York or Los Angeles.” “The problem with Iran is Khomeini and the mullahs are radical Islamic nutcases,” he said.
Rubio added, “At this pace, in five years, we’re going to build the bomb for them.”
In Nov. 2014, however, the International Atomic Energy Agency reported that Iran was complying with the terms of the interim November 2013 agreement, meaning that “All of the enrichment related activities at Iran’s declared facilities are under Agency safeguards, and all of the nuclear material, installed cascades, and feed and withdrawal stations at those facilities are subject to Agency containment and surveillance.”
Iran can continue to enrich uranium, but only to the level of 5 percent of U-235, far below the below the 90 percent level needed for a weapon. The IAEA also found that Iran has not made “any further advances” at two enrichment facilities and an unfinished heavy water reactor.
Lawmakers from both parties have advanced legislation that would impose additional sanctions on Iran should the talks fail, though the White House has threatened to veto any such measures. Obama, and foreign leaders involved in the talks, caution that the threat of additional restrictions would provide Iran’s hardliners with an excuse to end the negotiations and unravel international cooperation on the issue.
Paul urged his fellow senators to be patient and let diplomacy run its course. “Are you ready to send ground troops into Iran? Are you ready to bomb them? Are you ready to send in 100,000 troops?” he asked. “I’m a big fan of trying to exert and trying the diplomatic option as long as we can. If it fails, I will vote to resume sanctions and I would vote to have new sanctions,” he said.
“But if you do it in the middle of negotiations, you’re ruining it.”
Iran and the P5+1 countries will have until March 1 to develop a political framework and reach a final deal by July 1.