Rand Paul clarifies: No containment on Iran


File: Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is out with another clarification of his foreign policy positions, saying unequivocally in a Washington Post op-ed that he is against a strategy of containment when it comes to Iran.

Asked Sunday about his 2012 vote against a bill that would have prevented a policy of containment -- that is, allowing Iran to have nuclear weapons or nuclear weapons programs but keeping tabs on them -- Paul said all options should be left on the table. (Paul was the lone vote against the legislation.)

That led some to say that the potential 2016 presidential candidate was open to a policy of containment -- or, at the very least, that he wasn't ruling it out.

He says in his new op-ed that he's 100 percent against containment, but that the United States should never telegraph its moves or take options off the table:

I am not for containment in Iran. Let me repeat that, since no one seems to be listening closely: I am unequivocally not for containing Iran.

I am also not for announcing that the United States should never contain Iran. That was the choice I was given a few months ago and is the scenario being misunderstood by some in the news.

To be against a “we will never contain Iran” resolution is not the same as being for containment of a nuclear Iran. Rather, it means that foreign policy is complicated and doesn’t fit neatly within a bumper sticker, headline or tweet.

Those who reduce it to such do a disservice to their reporting and, potentially, to the security of our nation.

To some people this may seem to be a nuance, but it is, in fact, an incredibly important detail in the consideration of war.Nuance has been a bit lacking in our foreign policy of late. Whether through preemptive war or “red lines” that were crossed without consequence, the extremes of foreign policy have had their way, and it has not worked.

Read more here.

Paul made much the same point in his interview with ABC on Sunday, saying clearly that he's against containment but that it shouldn't be outlawed as a strategy.

Here's the transcript:

Paul: This particular resolution, I tried for six months to attach an amendment to it saying that we should not — it had to do with containment. We should not have containment as our policy, which I agree, in preventing them from having a nuclear weapon.

The way they wrote the resolution — and I’m a stickler on what the wording is, because I don’t want to have voted for something that declared war without people actually thinking through this.

The way they worded it is they said containment will never ever, ever be our policy. We woke up one day and Pakistan had nuclear weapons. If that would have been our policy toward Pakistan, we would be at war with Pakistan.

We woke up one day and China had nuclear weapons. We woke up one day and Russia had them. That doesn’t mean I was for any of that. And I think we should do everything possible to keep Iran from having it.

But people who say they want to say and beat their chest and say, by golly, we will never stand for that, they are voting for war, should we wake up one day and Iran has a nuclear weapon. That doesn’t mean I’m for Iran having a nuclear weapon, nor am I for containing Iran…

Aaron Blake covers national politics and writes regularly for The Fix, the Post’s top political blog.
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Aaron Blake | April 16