(CNSNews.com) – At a time of escalating tensions with the Iranian regime over its suspected nuclear ambitions and support for terrorism, Republican presidential hopeful Ron Paul is suggesting that Washington adopt a new approach – don’t impose sanctions, “treat them differently,” and offer “friendship.”
Re-treading ground he covered during earlier primary campaign debates, the Texas lawmaker said on “Fox News Sunday” that the United States had talked to the Soviet Union and China, both nuclear-armed, during the Cold War.
Asked what the U.S. should do to persuade Iran not to pursue a nuclear weapons capability, Paul replied, “Well, maybe offering friendship to them. I mean, didn’t we talk to the Soviets? Didn’t we talk to the Chinese? They had thousands of these weapons.”
He challenged the notion that Iran poses a security threat.
“The Iranians can’t even make enough gasoline for themselves,” he said. “For them to be a threat to us or to anybody in the region, I think it’s just blown out of proportion.”
Recalling the long sanctions campaign against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, Paul reiterated his opposition to imposing sanctions against Iran.
“When you put on strong sanctions, those are acts of war because we did that in Iraq for ten years, and little kids died, couldn’t get medicines and food. It led to war,” he said. “So, I would say treat them [the Iranians] differently and it’d be less threatening.”
Paul is a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, which last Wednesday marked up strong new bipartisan sanctions legislation, targeting the oil industry, banking sector, the nuclear program and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
Among other things, the measure provides for sanctions against foreign companies, or foreign subsidiaries of U.S. companies, doing business in Iran.
It also authorizes the president to provide financial and political assistance to groups supporting democracy in Iran, on condition they are committed to non-violence and promote human rights and the equality of women.
Paul, who opposes the Iran Threat Reduction Act, issued a statement on Saturday calling the sanctions contained in the legislation “definite steps toward a U.S. attack on Iran.” He expressed concern that the legislation had been approved by voice vote rather than a recorded one.
Paul said the provision in the bill allowing sanctions against interests doing business with Iran “would have a dramatic impact on U.S. commercial and diplomatic relations with Russia and China.”
He also questioned the wisdom of providing assistance to Iranian opposition elements.
“Considering the disturbing aftermath of our ‘democracy promotion’ operations in places like Egypt, Iraq, Libya, where radical forces have apparently come out on top, it may be fair to conclude that such actions actually undermine U.S. national security rather than bolster it,” he said.
“We must change our foreign policy from one of interventionism and confrontation to cooperation and diplomacy.”
The Iran Threat Reduction Act aims to bolster and close loopholes in last year’s Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act. When that legislation was passed by the House by a 408-8 vote in June 2010, Paul was one of just two Republicans to vote “no.” (Rep. Jeff Flake (Ariz.) was the other.) The Senate version passed 99-0.
Paul’s views on Iran enlivened a GOP presidential debate in Ames, Iowa, last August, when he suggested that it was understandable for Iran to want a nuclear weapon capability and accused Republican hawks of trying to build a case for war against Iran, “just like we did in Iraq.”
“Anyone that suggests that Iran is not a threat to this country, is not a threat to stability in the Middle East, is obviously not seeing the world very clearly,” retorted former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum.