SIMI VALLEY, California — If elected president in 2016, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul told reporters here he won’t tear up President Barack Obama’s nuclear arms deal with Iran if the Iranian regime is complying with the deal.
“I think a lot of people have said they would chop it up, cut it up, do all this—I think really I would look to see whether Iran is complying,” Paul said at a press conference at a gun range on Wednesday morning ahead of the debate.
“The agreement itself — if Iran were to comply and if Iran were to agree to peaceful purposes — would actually be good.”
The deal allows deployment of nuclear weaponry by Iran, but only after 2025.
“The reason I’ve been against the agreement is I fear that they’ve been dishonest in the past and that we don’t have leverage to try to get them on the correct path should they go in the wrong direction,” he said.
“But I think if anyone says they’re going to cut it up [in 2017] without looking at whether they’re complying, I think that’s also a mistake.”
Yet when asked about the Iran deal more in depth in an exclusive interview afterward, Paul said he wants Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to formally classify Obama’s backroom deal with Iran, Russia, China, and Europe as an international treaty.
That reclassification would block Obama’s implementation of the international treaty — because the Senate is very unlikely to approval the treaty with the two-thirds support required by the constitution.
“I’ve suggested we go into executive session and simply declare it a treaty and vote on it up or down,” Paul said. “I think it could be done at any point in time, but I think that those in charge have decided they don’t want to take that tactic,” Paul said. “But that’s what I would have done had I been in charge.”
Currently, the GOP’s leadership, including McConnell, are treating Obama’s deal under special non-treaty rules that ensure it survives unless it gets two-thirds disapproval by Congress. So far, Obama has rallied 41 Democrats to preserve his deal by blocking the GOP’s disapproval proposal.
A treaty debate “would be better than the votes we’ve been doing. Unfortunately, we’re not having a great deal of success,” Paul said.
The Democrats’ stonewall of the deal disapproval debate, however, may harm Democrats in the long run. That’s because the deal provides Iran’s theocracy with at least $50 billion in so-far frozen funding and allows Iran to buy and develop sophisticated weapons and to build a force of long-range nuclear weapons after 2025. The deal allows Iran’s officials to block verification inspections and doesn’t restrict Iran’s funding of allied jihad groups in Lebanon, Syria,or Yemen.
Paul has a direct responsibility for putting McConnell in charge of the Senate.
The person who ran against McConnell in last year’s primary, Matt Bevin, is a conservative who has proven electability statewide in Kentucky since Paul campaigned for and endorsed McConnell. Bevin has since won the GOP primary for governor in Kentucky and is potentially going to win the general election. Paul could have stayed neutral in the primary against McConnell, giving Bevin a chance last year, but he chose to endorse McConnell against the conservative Bevin. It’s unclear if moving forward Paul will do anything about McConnell’s continued lack of leadership over Congress’s upper chamber.