During a round of golf, Sen. Rand Paul got President Donald Trump’s permission to reach out to Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif on the president’s behalf. Proposed by Paul, the mission has the goal of extending an olive branch to the Persian nation in the hopes the tensions between the two countries are lessened as a result — a high task, considering the U.S. just shot down an Iranian drone.
The news may have come as a surprise to the countless critics of the Kentucky senator, especially after he blocked the 9/11 victims bill. But the reality is that Paul has long been a strong anti-war voice both in Congress and in the Republican Party, and the fact he’s willing to work with the president, whether he agrees with most of his policies or not, may help to prevent war with Iran.
In the past, Paul stood against President Barack Obama’s Iran deal, saying that while he preferred diplomacy to war, he thought a better agreement should be put in place. Now that America no longer upholds the deal, Paul could take over as the nation’s diplomatic emissary, breaking with Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign.
While it’s still not official that the senator will talk to Zarif, Trump’s blessing may be seen as a stab in the back by officials such as National Security Adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo due to the senator’s skepticism regarding foreign intervention. Considering that Paul went on the record praising the president for not caving in “amidst a chorus of voices for war,” that might be precisely why Trump accepted Paul’s offer.
In the past, Paul was one of the few in Congress to pressure Pompeo about Iran, asking the secretary whether he believed the president had authority to launch a war against Iran based on the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force, which helped President George W. Bush start the war in Iraq. After failing to answer the question during an April hearing, Paul then alerted the secretary that pursuing conflict without proper authorization from Congress was not going to happen.
“You do not have the permission of Congress to go to war with Iran,” Paul told Pompeo. “Only Congress can declare war.”
And when Obama was still in the White House, Paul made headlines for taking part in a 13-hour long filibuster to attack the then-president for his unconstitutional drone warfare.
While Paul may have had his low moments, making us all wonder if the apple had fallen far from the tree, it’s a relief to know that, at least when it comes to Iran, the senator has the president’s ear.