At The American Conservative, Daniel DePetris calls “Senator Rand Paul’s initiative to open dialogue with Tehran urgent, necessary, and prudent.” Paul has been tapped for engagement with Iran on behalf of the Trump administration. DePetris writes (abridged):
The U.S. and Iran have been trapped in a rapid series of escalations that nearly resulted in American airstrikes on Iranian soil last month.
Civilian tankers have been sabotaged in the Persian Gulf, mortars have been launched in the direction of bases where U.S. troops are stationed, an American drone has been shot down, Tehran’s oil sales have declined by roughly 86 percent since April 2018, and senior U.S. officials have settled on a strategy that largely consists of making the lives of the Iranian people as miserable as possible until Tehran signs a better nuclear deal.
If there is any direct communication between American and Iranian officials, it is hidden from public view. All of this has made Senator Rand Paul’s initiative to open dialogue with Tehran urgent, necessary, and prudent.
According to a July 17 story in Politico, Paul recently pitched himself to President Trump as a possible presidential emissary to the Iranians—someone who could sit down with Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif and begin a conversation on the issues that have nearly resulted in military conflict. Trump apparently accepted Paul’s pitch while the two were on the golf course last weekend. His decision, while not yet confirmed by the White House, suggests that Trump is slowly beginning to recognize the deficiencies of the maximum pressure policy that National Security Adviser John Bolton, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and outside counsels like the Foundation for Defense of Democracies’ Mark Dubowitz have peddled for years.
The junior senator from Kentucky is a non-interventionist who has the audacity to search for diplomatic solutions before doing what most of his colleagues on Capitol Hill would have long preferred—involuntarily reaching for more punitive options.
With Zarif only in New York for another few days, does Paul have the time for a one-on-one meeting? Would the Iranians be interested in meeting with the senator, even if he does have the president’s ear? Or is Khamenei, still seething over the administration’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal and watching his government’s oil exports disappear, dead set on banning any contact with the Americans for as long as Trump remains in the Oval Office?
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