Sen. Rand Paul Embraces Iran Containment Option. And Ronald Reagan.

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., highlighted the foreign policy approach of the late President Ronald Reagan (left) in suggesting Washington should not rule out a policy designed to contain a nuclear-armed Iran. (Staff graphic from wire photos)

Kentucky GOP Sen. Rand Paul, the tea party darling, will never be U.S. defense secretary. That is, if he was held to the standards established last week by his own party.

In a speech Feb. 6 at the Heritage Foundation in which Paul touted his vision for a true “conservative foreign policy,” Paul suggested a policy of containment toward a nuclear-armed Iran might not be such a bad idea. At worst, it should be one of several options considered by American officials.

Here’s what Paul said, according to a copy of his speech provided by an aide:

“No one, myself included, wants to see a nuclear Iran. Iran does need to know that all options are on the table. But we should not pre-emptively announce that diplomacy or containment will never be an option.

“In a recent Senate resolution, the bipartisan consensus stated that we will never contain Iran should they get a nuclear weapon. In the debate, I made the point that while I think it unwise to declare that we will contain a nuclear Iran, I think it equally unwise to say we will never contain a nuclear Iran. War should never be our only option.

“Let me be clear. I don’t want Iran to develop nuclear weapons but I also don’t want to decide with certainty that war is the only option.

“Containment, though, should be discussed as an option with regard to the more generalized threat from radical Islam. Radical Islam, like communism, is an ideology with far reach and will require a firm and patient opposition.”

His remarks came less than one week after his Senate GOP mates suggested Chuck Hagel, the former senator-turned-President Obama’s defense secretary nominee, preferred to contain a nuclear-armed Iran than prevent it. They proceeded to skewer and try to disqualify Hagel over that matter (and several others).

Rand indirectly aligned himself with Hagel, on this the Iran issue at least, saying “all options” should be on the table.

Paul has, at times, annoyed Senate Republicans veterans, like when Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., griped earlier this year about dealing with Paul’s objections to terrorism detainee policies as the chamber was acting on its 2013 Pentagon policy bill.

One thing is for sure, if Paul’s embrace of an Iranian containment plan doesn’t further rile some of his GOP colleagues,  his repeated embracing of their ideological hero, former President Ronald Reagan, likely will.

After all, Paul referred to Reagan 14 times. He said The Gipper’s foreign policy approach most resembles his. Not Obama’s first-term policies. And not most congressional Republicans’ desired approach. A sampling:

“Everybody now loves Ronald Reagan. Even President Obama tries to toady up and vainly try to resemble some Reaganism. Reagan’s foreign policy was robust but also restrained. He pulled no punches in telling [then-Soviet Union leader Mikhail] Gorbachev to ‘tear down that wall.’ He did not shy from labeling the Soviet Union an evil empire. But he also sat down with Gorbachev and negotiated meaningful reductions in nuclear weapons

“Many of today’s neoconservatives want to wrap themselves up in Reagan’s mantle but the truth is that Reagan used clear messages of communism’s evil and clear exposition of America’s strength to contain and ultimately transcend the Soviet Union.”


John T. Bennett

John T. Bennett

Bennett is the Editor of Defense News' CongressWatch channel. He has a Masters degree in Global Security Studies from Johns Hopkins University.
John T. Bennett