Rand Paul, a US Senator representing Kentucky, is a firm opponent of Washington’s non-nuclear sanctions against Iran and the $350 billion arms deal the US has signed with Saudi Arabia. Recently, as the Senate was discussing non-nuclear sanctions against Iran regarding ballistic missiles and the alleged funding of terrorism, Paul made significant comments in opposition to new embargoes against Iran. Noting that sanctions can also be imposed on Saudi Arabia for similar reasons like ballistic missiles, terrorism and human rights violations, the Kentucky Senator underlined that given the Islamic Republic’s commitment to the JCPOA, a nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers, and lack of global support for new embargoes, any unilateral sanctions against Iran would be unconstructive and unlikely to succeed. He then raised two questions regarding Washington’s dual approach to Iran and Saudi Arabia when it comes to sanctions: First, he asked, if the US is trying to influence Iran’s behavior through new sanctions, why doesn’t it care about Iran’s views on sanctions and whether it considers the new ones a breach of the JCPOA? "What are sanctions if not a hope to change their way of thinking?” he asked. Paul said if Iran ultimately decides to walk away from the nuclear deal, then possible scenarios to counter it should be considered.
But what matters now, he said, is that "Iranian government must change its attitude toward continued expansion of Iran's ballistic missile program.”
Paul reiterates that resorting to sanctions should be an option when there is confidence they will work. But, he conceded, new non-nuclear sanctions against Iran are unlikely to lead to successful results because of their unilateral nature.
He said if the US seeks to get rid of Iran’s missile program, "we should look at who else in the region they perceive as a threat. I do not think they really perceive us as a threat. We have thousands of ballistic missiles, yes, but I think they are primarily concerned with Saudi Arabia and the other [Persian] Gulf sheikhdoms, who already have hundreds of missiles. They also see Israel’s nuclear weapons as a threat.
Elsewhere, Paul said it "is my belief that Iran will never quit developing ballistic missiles unless there is an agreement with Saudi Arabia and/or the rest of the [Persian] Gulf kingdoms to do the same. And so I think new sanctions are a fool’s errand, and they will not work.
New sanctions may even have a counterproductive effect if Iran decides they somehow abrogate the nuclear agreement. If Iran pulls out of the agreement, I think we will really regret hastily adding new sanctions.”
Overall, Paul in his remarks highlighted US efforts to influence Iran’s behavior, especially regarding its ballistic missile program, by imposing new sanctions and referred to Saudi Arabia, other Persian Gulf sheikhdoms and the Zionist regime’s nuclear weapons as some of the threats facing Iran. Referring to these issues is impotent considering that Iran has frequently reiterated the purpose of its missile program is deterrence against regional and trans-regional threats. Therefore, Washington’s silence over terrorist activities and the violation of human rights by Saudi Arabia and other sheikhdoms can be aimed at exaggerating the ‘threats’ posed by Iran and provoking Iranophobia in order to justify US presence in the region under the pretext of ensuring security for its regional allies, as we are seeing the enhancement of US military presence in some regional countries like Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.
The US Senate on June 15 passed the Iran sanctions bill, known as "The Countering Iran's Destabilizing Activities Act”, in a 98-2 vote, with Bernie Sanders and Rand Paul voting against it. It could be said that by passing the bill, the US is trying to push Iran toward violating the JCPOA. The fact is that, due to the fissures in US-EU relations, Washington is not capable of securing European countries’ support for any action against Iran. On the other hand, it does not want to be known in the international arena as the party that breached the nuclear deal. Hence, by stepping up sanctions and building up regional pressure against Iran through developing ties with regional Arab allies and manipulating world public opinion against the Islamic Republic, the United States seeks to force Tehran to violate the JCPOA and to obtain gradually the world community’s support for action against Iran.