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What the Iran Deal Means for Republicans

Neoconservatives and others with fond memories of George W. Bush’s first-term foreign policy don’t like the Iranian nuclear deal. They doubt that it will stop Tehran from building a bomb. But they should appreciate its potential to halt their slide into irrelevance within the Republican Party.

Over the last few years, President Obama and his partisans have been the leading apologists for Bush-era warrantless wiretapping. When Obama launched an unauthorized war for regime change in Libya, 87 House Republicans [1] voted with Dennis Kucinich to limit the scope of intervention.

Even more Republicans opposed Obama’s request for an “unbelievably small [2]” war in Syria, including the GOP minority leader and whip in the Senate. Most conservative talk radio hosts were against it, along with grassroots Tea Party groups.

Many Republicans disliked applying sequestration to the defense budget, but they preferred it to tax increases. Danielle Pletka and Thomas Donnelly fretted [3] ahead of the 2010 elections that “libertarians and Tea Party darlings” were going to transform the party into “a combination of Ebenezer Scrooge and George McGovern;” Pletka returned [4] to this theme after Obama was re-elected.

The most hawkish conservatives follow a simple script: Obama is an apologizing appeaser while Republicans are the muscular party of Reagan and anyone to the right of Jimmy Carter. That narrative is complicated by the fact that they often side with the Obama administration—when they aren’t divided among themselves—against the rest of the right on military interventions and civil liberties questions.

Iran brings the foreign-policy debate back to the hawks’ comfort zone. The Iranian ayatollahs have been villains since at least the 1979 hostage crisis, much longer than Saddam Hussein was so perceived before the Iraq war. As a state sponsor of terrorism, it is not an undeserved reputation.

Muammar Gaddafi was equally infamous, but for many conservatives the question of whether to go to war hinged on their trust—or more precisely, lack of trust—in a Democratic president. For them, Syria also turned in part on wariness of Obama, as do drones and the national surveillance program.

This time around, the president isn’t asking conservatives to trust him with a humanitarian intervention. He is asking them to trust him with a nuclear agreement intended to prevent war.


Republican lawmakers, aided by Democrats like New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez, are insisting on zero enrichment as a condition for relaxing any sanctions against Iran. Some would even like to authorize the use of military force. There are no partisan or opportunistic reasons for any Republican to resist such legislation.

In the Senate, Rand Paul—who has supported some sanctions—may be alone. If he decides to push back against Marco Rubio, John McCain, and Lindsey Graham this time around, it’s hard to envision Ted Cruz or even Mike Lee joining him.

Paul has sought to demonstrate that skepticism of U.S. interventionism doesn’t imply indifference to Israeli security. When it came to cutting foreign aid, he repeatedly said hewould begin with countries that are burning our flag and chanting ‘Death to America’” and hostile to Israel.

That will not be so easy a case to make with Iran. “The real Iran is what the leader of Iran, Khamenei, said yesterday,” argued [5] Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu late last week. “He called Jews ‘rabid dogs’ and said that they were not human. The public responded to him with calls of ‘Death to America! Death to Israel!’”

The hawks’ op-eds and 2014 attack ads write themselves. Obama, John Kerry, and the mullahs are on one side, Israel and the GOP on the other.

Grassroots conservative sentiment will not necessarily be in favor of war, but it will be skeptical of any Obama-negotiated deal. Supporters of military strikes will repeatedly contend that sanctions relief comes before any Iranian concessions. The Tea Party isn’t going to buy Obama’s assurances to the contrary.

But if the gathering storm can hold off until a Republican is once again in the White House, why trust those whose foreign policy advice helped bring down the last Republican presidency and cost the GOP control of Congress?

Conservatives asking questions along those lines may struggle to be heard. It remains to be seen whether the Geneva talks set in motion anything that can roll back Iranian nuclear ambitions. There are good reasons to fear it will roll back Republican foreign policy more than a decade.

W. James Antle III is editor of the Daily Caller News Foundation and author of Devouring Freedom: Can Big Government Ever Be Stopped? [6]

Follow @jimantle [7]

33 Comments (Open | Close)

33 Comments To "What the Iran Deal Means for Republicans"

#1 Comment By Puller58 On November 25, 2013 @ 5:38 am

The issue with Iran should also be seen as the nations desperate for more trade wanting sanctions on Iran gone. (The Indians have been trading with Iran for a while now, and other countries in the EU are hardly interested in putting Israel’s interest above their own.) The GOP’s foreign policy situation at the moment is one of “nothing from Obama” as their basic reaction. 2016 offers a chance to change course, but will they?

#2 Comment By spite On November 25, 2013 @ 6:14 am

I think it was Patrick Buchanan that said that the regimes of Mao and Stalin were far more “crazy” (assuming that is the right word to use in international diplomacy) than Iran. Despite all the dire warnings of the apocalypse from some, I see Iran having nuclear weapons as a good thing, it will force the regime to become more responsible and middle eastern politics will be forced to embrace peace as well.

#3 Comment By Michael N Moore On November 25, 2013 @ 8:31 am

You will notice that whenever Secretary Kerry testifies before Congress his wife, Theresa Heinz Kerry (as in Heinz Foods), sits directly behind him nodding in agreement. Is this to show that Mr. Kerry has a loyal spouse? No. This is a message to Congress that agribusiness is tired of war and wants a more peaceful world to export their crops. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hegal from Nebraska is another manifestation of this trend. And President Obama hails from the financial center of agribusiness, Chicago.

Congress knew Theresa Heinz Kerry before she was Mrs. Kerry. She has been a political force to be reckoned with at the intersection of politics and food for some time. What we are witnessing is the “Godzilla versus Mothra” of US power politics as agribusiness takes on the war-mongering of the military industrial complex and their favorite customers, Israel and Saudi Arabia.

As you enjoy your breakfast burrito this morning say a prayer for US agribusiness.

#4 Comment By balconesfault On November 25, 2013 @ 10:03 am

You hint at the real issue here …

Grassroots conservative sentiment will not necessarily be in favor of war, but it will be skeptical of any Obama-negotiated deal … The Tea Party isn’t going to buy Obama’s assurances to the contrary.

It’s not just the “most hawkish conservatives” who consider Obama “an apologizing appeaser”. That’s the script that everyone on the right pretty much reads from at times.

For the non-neocons in the GOP, the challenge is how to acknowledge that the President is probably doing a better job with respect to Iran than a President Romney would have done … and almost without doubt a much much better job than an administration of Senator “Bomb Bomb Iran” McCain and Ms. Palin would have managed.

I’m not going to hold my breath.

#5 Comment By KXB On November 25, 2013 @ 10:09 am

Michael Moore raises an interesting point – given that American corps increasingly draw their profits not from sales within America, but outside its borders, how long are they willing to be silent while the Israel Lobby destabilizes the global economy for its narrow interests?

Think of Boeing – which recently received sales orders worth hundreds of billions from Emirates Airlines and Qatar Airlines. While the Emirates distrust Iran, they would almost certainly be targeted for Iranian retaliation if Israel struck Iran. These lands were empty 3 decades ago, and are now trying to sell themselves as a handy stopover between the US/Western Europe and the markets of India & China. But if the risk of war does not diminish, then airlines may relocate their operations. Istanbul is another popular city for connections between the U.S. and Asia.

Boeing is increasingly looking to non-union Southern states for manufacturing. But, those same Southern states, with their evangelical streak, seem to think that anything Israel does is OK with God. But Israeli intransigence may not be good for Boeing’s bottom line. El Al is small potatoes in terms of buying power, and fewer people fly into Ben Gurion airport than BWI.

#6 Comment By Johann On November 25, 2013 @ 11:16 am

Another mis-characterization by the hawks is that Iran is using the North Korea playbook. That is to say they agree to a deal to get money and attention, break their end of the deal later, create another crisis and get another deal, over and over again. But in reality, Iran is nothing like North Korea. Their government and people are far more open, accessible, and connected to the rest of the world.

#7 Comment By WorkingClass On November 25, 2013 @ 11:21 am

The Iran deal means there is hope we will not be led into World War Three. It has the same meaning for Democrats and Republicans and is welcome buy everyone except those who profit from war and weak minded people who internalize the war monger’s lies.

#8 Comment By Clint On November 25, 2013 @ 11:24 am

Yuval Diskin, former head of Shin Bet,
“I have no faith in either the prime minister or the defense minister. ( Benjamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak ) I am very mistrustful of a leadership that makes decisions based on messianic senses…. I’ve seen them from up close. They’re not messiahs, either of them, and they are not people whom I, on a personal level at least, trust to lead the State of Israel into an event of that scale and also to extricate Israel from it. I am very worried that they are not the people whom I truly would want to be at the helm when we set out on an endeavor of that sort.”

#9 Comment By chipotle On November 25, 2013 @ 11:46 am

Danielle Pletka and Thomas Donnelly fretted ahead of the 2010 elections that “libertarians and Tea Party darlings” were going to transform the party into “a combination of Ebenezer Scrooge and George McGovern;” Pletka returned to this theme after Obama was re-elected.

Let’s be clear. Danielle Pletka isn’t fit to lick the soles of George McGovern’s shoes. How much of the blood of 4,000 American troops and 100,000 dead Iraqi civilians (not to mention permanently-scarred American combat veterans) is on her hands is a question for practitioners of the moral sciences.

#10 Comment By William Dalton On November 25, 2013 @ 11:57 am

If Rand Paul doesn’t oppose his party’s warhawks who are trying to scuttle peace negotiations with Iran, or at least remain silent, he will lose the main portion of those Republicans who made the Party take his father seriously and who propelled him to his seat in the U.S. Senate.

If Rubio, Cruz, and company continue to beat the drum for the Israeli fearmongers to continue Iranian sanctions, that will be to Rand Paul’s benefit. The Republican rank and file have come to the point where already half are as tired of war as the rest of the country, and the numbers are growing that understand, in the war against Sunni extremism, such as brought us the embassy bombings in Africa, the attacks on our ships and bases in the Arabian peninsula, and has been ambushing and laying bombs for U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, and throughout the world, not to mention the attack on 9/11, it is Iran, with its agents of “terrorism”, which has been their most fearsome enemy and, in that respect, our best ally. Has our vaunted ally, Israel, done nearly as much to assist us?

There has been a few decades in which Republicans have been able to pluck away some Jewish votes from Democrats by upstaging them in support for Israel. But that era, too, is coming to an end. The Republican Party has more chance to win over Hispanic voters with conservative social values than it does Jewish voters (a smaller minority) with support for the extremists of the Israeli government, with which even American Jewry has lost patience. The Republican candidate for President who stands against the Party’s leaders who have prostituted themselves with Bibi Netanyahu and Sheldon Adelson will not only win the 2016 nominiation, but also the election.

#11 Comment By Myron Hudson On November 25, 2013 @ 1:40 pm

A common thread I keep seeing now is the reference to us being ‘tired of war’. Well, yes, but weariness and lack of fortitude or commitment is not the primary factor despite what The Economist (an increasing disappointing publication) would have us believe.

The fact is that we are no longer deceived by the warmongers and if there is anything we’re tired of, it’s their lies.

William Dalton, I hope you’re right.

#12 Comment By Jon Harrison On November 25, 2013 @ 3:12 pm

I fear Rand Paul will fall in line with the hawks. I don’t see him remaining silent, and I don’t see him coming out against provocations and the road to war, because neither course will play in the battle for the Republican nomination in 2016. Anti-Iran and anti-Islam sentiment is a much stronger current in GOP ranks than the pro-peace, realist position.

#13 Comment By Michael N Moore On November 25, 2013 @ 3:40 pm

William Dalton said: “The Republican Party has more chance to win over Hispanic voters with conservative social values than it does Jewish voter…”

This is something that I frequently mull over.

The Republicans have siphoned off 50% of the Catholic vote from the Dems by using the issues of affirmative action and right to life. As one Jewish sociologist said: “American Jews earn like Episcopalians, but vote like Puerto Ricans”. This would seem to make them vulnerable to moving the dial up to 50% for the GOP by hammering away on Israel.

It should also be noted that American Jews bring a lot more to the politics than votes. They participate fully in elections and public affairs. This has a political force multiplier effect.

On the other hand, the non-Paul Republicans do have a long history with the military industrial complex and I believe that many of the Christian Zionist are employed in this tax-intensive enterprise. Israel is, of course, an incredibly valuable ally of US military contractors because it can get liberal US Jews to lobby for military spending on Israel’s behalf.

So I think that we are talking about a mix of aspirational politics and bird in the hand politics when it comes to Republicans and the Jewish vote.

I also think that Prime Minister Netanyahu is an American political operative who relocated to Israel. He is tied into the wealthier, more conservative, and more rabidly Zionist elements in the US. They are dance partners in moving both countries away from domestic liberalism and international peace activism and into a revival of 19th Century imperial ideology.

#14 Comment By Michael N Moore On November 25, 2013 @ 3:51 pm

KXB said: “Michael Moore raises an interesting point – given that American corps increasingly draw their profits not from sales within America, but outside its borders, how long are they willing to be silent while the Israel Lobby destabilizes the global economy for its narrow interests?

I see the fundamental contradiction of the War Party is that increasingly there interests conflict with the general economic interests of the Country. The classic example of this was early on in the Bush-Cheney Administration there was a confrontation with China that looked ominous but fizzled out. Why? I suspect that the billions of soybeans and bonds that China buys made this war unpalatable. I think that this is what is now happening in the Middle East. Wider economic forces have had it with the irrationality of the enterprises that have controlled this debate to date.

#15 Comment By Ken Hoop On November 25, 2013 @ 3:53 pm

“As a state sponsor of terrorism, (Iran) it is not an undeserved reputation.”

A willful invasion of Iraq based on willfully told lies: State terrorism.
Reckless campaign of drone bombing across Mideast: State terrorism
Assisting Saddam’s war with Iran while knowing he was using chemicals: State terrorism.
Overthrowing Mossadegh in 1953: State terrorism.
Subsidizing various Israeli attacks on Lebanon, Gaza…..etc etc.

#16 Comment By Clint On November 25, 2013 @ 4:49 pm

Rand Paul,
“I haven’t seen what the sanctions are yet. But what I would say is that I am a little bit concerned about having new sanctions in the middle of negotiations, whether that leads to more negotiation or less negotiation. And I think there’s at least a reasonable argument that adding new sanctions — and I’ve supported every one of the sanctions so far, but adding new sanctions in the middle of the negotiation, whether that’s a good idea or not or whether that scares them away from the table. My goal is I want the outcome to hopefully be one that’s not war. I think we’ve had quite a bit of war in the last decade. I would like to have an outcome where Iran agrees not to create nuclear weapons, but at the same time we do it without having to have a war.”

#17 Comment By James Marshall On November 25, 2013 @ 6:58 pm

When do inspections of Israel’s nukes start?

#18 Comment By EarlyBird On November 25, 2013 @ 7:34 pm

Unless a Very Big Event occurs which the hawks can milk, Republicans are still going to have a very tough time in 2016 convincing the American people – including grass roots conservatives – that they are the “serious” foreign policy party. Iraq and George W. Bush obliterated that notion and it is likely to take a generation or more to correct that.

#19 Comment By Jim Evans On November 26, 2013 @ 4:00 am

Iran’s young people are open to the West, a strategic opportunity, thus, with a peaceful diplomatic relationship with western powers, over time Iran would likely drift further towards the West, as those well-disposed young people move into society and upwards into positions of power & influence over time.

Does the U. S. want to drive Iran further into the Russian sphere of influence? Does the U. S. want to alienate the young people of Iran over time and lose that strategic advantage over Russian influence, which apparently offers little in the way of attractiveness to young Iranians?

It is in the United State’s interest to see an Iran which is independent from Russia and China. Iran wants to maintain independence from Russia and likely is wary of Chinese domination, too.

So, we have what is known in diplomacy as a convergence of interests between the U. S. and Iran, both want to see Iran as a mature, peaceful, trading nation, which is independent of Russia and China. (The longstanding, unstated U. S. diplomatic goal of an Iran dependent on the U. S. is not going to happen. Better to facilitate the successful independence of Iran who then answers to normalized diplomacy and understands and responds to nuanced diplomatic signals).

Iran wants to be a responsible nation-state in the community of nations, but as an independent actor, is that such a hard thing to understand and work with over time?

Doesn’t the U. S. and the West have enough confidence in their ability to offer things of value to Iran via a workman-like economic relationship at equal arms-length negotiation, that over time Iran will work with the West where Iranian interests and U. S. interests converge?

#20 Comment By Marco On November 26, 2013 @ 4:04 am

Typical RINO Chatter!

Iran must be stopped and they will be stopped! We must fight the war abroad first so we don’t have to fight it at home. Iraq did have WMD’s and many of them went to “SURPRISE” Syria! Instead of retrieving them we punked out and now Iran is in control of the weapons and Syria.

Freedom doesn’t have a price tag. Reagan knew this and so did Winston Churchill. War is coming and there is nothing you can do about it. You are either with freedom or with tyranny.

#21 Comment By Michael N Moore On November 26, 2013 @ 2:39 pm

Marco, Did someone pay you to write a parody of an American conservative.

“JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel is looking to hire university students to post pro-Israel messages on social media networks — without needing to identify themselves as government-linked, officials said Wednesday.”


#22 Comment By Clint On November 26, 2013 @ 4:39 pm

@ Marco:

Ronald Reagan,
“In the weeks immediately after the bombing, I believe the last thing that we should do was turn tail and leave. Yet the irrationality of Middle Eastern politics forced us to rethink our policy there. If there would be some rethinking of policy before our men die, we would be a lot better off. If that policy had changed towards more of a neutral position and neutrality, those 241 marines would be alive today.”

#23 Comment By Johann On November 26, 2013 @ 7:42 pm

With all due respect Marco,

Even though Iraq under Saddam was the Baath party, the Arab nationalist party, which was founded in Syria, they were always more enemy than friends mainly because the Saddam regime in Iraq was a Sunni minority government, and the Assad regime in Syria was an Alawite (Shia sect) minority government. And they especially hated each other after the fist gulf war when Syria was a part of the coalition to extract Iraq from Kuwait.

So its not likely that Saddam exported his WMD to Syria. And definitely not Iran who Iraq had a major war with. Maybe Turkey? That would be much more likely.

#24 Comment By john On November 27, 2013 @ 5:41 am

In the case of Rand Paul the apple did fall far from the tree. If anything he is Tea party lite, confused and hypocritical. Typical of a person who has no problem with big government when that government enforces his agenda. Furthermore, with Chris Christie leaning further to the right and apparently into the Tea Party web I think 2016 will end with a Democratic presidency. It’s unfortunate that the voters might have the choice between a Tea Party acolyte and Hillary Clinton. Perhaps there is an independent waiting in the wings. Maybe we’ll see a Jesse Ventura moment.

#25 Comment By James Jones On November 27, 2013 @ 10:20 am

All of the comments on Rand Paul are tentatively correct. Mr. Paul has the right ideology, but the problem with him is that he has already gone to Israel, prostrated himself for campaign cash, and thus will likely be beholden to them when the time comes.

The fact is, no American politician can criticize Israel and survive these days, although I have faith that era may be ending. Few politicians can be relevant and stay in the headlines without support for Israel being part of their repertoire.

I am cautiously optimistic that we can be a country again acting in our own interests, shunning AIPAC and others that corrupt the political process on the Hill.

#26 Comment By Jamie Estevez On November 27, 2013 @ 1:57 pm

The hawks are the reason I do not vote for Republicans anymore. I am completely third party now. I made the mistake of voting Democrat in 2012 (except I wrote in Ron Paul for President) due to the Republican hostility towards organized labor, but quickly became angry at the Democrats who turned around and started pushing for homosexual marriage and arming, funding and training Sunni Islamists in Syria who were murdering my Orthodox Christian brothers and sisters.

#27 Comment By Clint On November 28, 2013 @ 6:12 am

Rand Paul called for an end to foreign aid.

“Jerusalem – Sen. Rand Paul’s call to end U.S. foreign aid, including to Israel, set off a debate not only within Mr. Paul’s Republican Party in America, but also among Israelis, for whom decades of U.S. financial backing have become an accepted norm.”

#28 Comment By Richard Parker On November 28, 2013 @ 1:10 pm

It is time for Peace with the People of Iran. If you know our history there, our own hands are very bloody. I never voted for him, but I stand with our President on this issue.

#29 Comment By “Michael N Moore On November 29, 2013 @ 11:00 am

Clint said:

“Rand Paul called for an end to foreign aid…”

It is important to remember that much of so-called “foreign aid”, particularly aid to Israel, is, in actuality, aid to the US military industrial complex. Countries like Israel are literally forced to spend 75% of aid on US arms. The Israel lobby group “FLAME” promotes this in its advertisements aimed at the American market.

You can be sure that a taste of this money finds its way back to Congress along with more direct pro-Israel contributions.

#30 Comment By FreeOregon On November 29, 2013 @ 5:53 pm

The present deal with Iran makes perfect sense once you acknowledge that SANCTIONS FAILED. (The “success story” is just face saving propaganda.) Sanctions drove Iran into a Russian / Chinese embrace. Sanctions, especially the SWIFT exclusion, also became counterproductive, undermining the Petrodollar. Did you notice that part of the Iran deal is a promise not to sell oil for gold? What’s that got to do with a nuclear program?

Iran has seized the peace initiative. The Shia are pointing the way to peace in the Middle East. It’s not necessarily the peace the US would like because it also pushes the US out and aside.

If this is so, then the US has made the best of a bad situation. The US had lost all leverage. This also came at a time when the NSA revelations destroyed US credibility. Liars have few choices. Change had become a necessity.

There’s nothing the Republicans or Democrats can do to leave this new path to peace or restore US credibility. More sanctions empower Russia, China, and Iran. Fewer sanctions do the same, but at least give the US some maneuvering room.

As for Israel, it hitched its wagon to a declining world power. At the first opportunity Israel will jump ship. It too has little choice. The only impediment is that for the moment Israel sees no alternative. And it won’t unless and until it finds a way to align its interests with those of one of the rising powers, most likely Russia or China.

#31 Comment By Cityeyes On November 29, 2013 @ 6:11 pm

The War Party has suffered two notable setbacks in recent times. Setbacks driven by grass-root American public opinion. Bubble up diplomacy. I applaud Kerry and Obama on Syria and Iran. It has been a long-time since an American president tried to prevail over the War Party and put American interests first. The war drums are increasingly beating louder and louder. The most effective propaganda machine ever devised is mobilized and on overdrive. The trusty and rusty (infectious) Sword of Damocles is being wielded in reckless abandonment, regardless of innocent-collaterals. But as in “Vita Lampada” (Sir Henry Newbolt)schoolboys and schoolgirls (ordinary folks in the U.S.) are rallying from the ranks to ask that their kin and taxes not be hurled into yet another meaningless war that is unrelated to core American interests. Charity begins at home.

#32 Comment By Jim Houghton On November 29, 2013 @ 10:13 pm

“…for many conservatives the question of whether to go to war hinged on their trust—or more precisely, lack of trust—in a Democratic president.”

Not so. Their fear was that a Democratic president, especially this one, might score a successful foreign-policy move. Any analysis of what the Right does or doesn’t do that fails to take into account a blind and enraged determination to see Obama fail on every front — regardless of the consequences — is an incomplete and meaningless analysis.

#33 Comment By Victor Tiffany On December 1, 2013 @ 11:01 am

Antle wrote: “It remains to be seen whether the Geneva talks set in motion anything that can roll back Iranian nuclear ambitions. There are good reasons to fear it will roll back Republican foreign policy more than a decade.”

Republican (aside from Sen. Paul) and Democratic (with few exceptions) “foreign policy” is Pax Americana, euphemism for “empire.” This might be good for American corporations, but it’s bad for American security. All empires collapse for one reason or another, and the collapse is — with one exception — always violent.

It’s long past due for the American elite to follow the example set by Gorbechev and dissolved the American Empire as he dissolved the Soviet Empire. If we can’t afford to feed our own people (food stamp reductions), then we shouldn’t be spending money on a world-wide imperial presence.

So if the Republican “foreign policy” is to start wars because of rumors of a state having a weapons, then it should be rolled back. Republican opposition in the House to comprehensive immigration reform and gay rights pretty much guarantees a Democrat in the White House for the foreseeable future. Of course, that still leaves empire builders in charge, but at least the Dems are not hankering to go to war and keep Americans in a constant state of hatred (for others) and fear (of the backlash wars often provoke.9-11 was such a backlash for the Operation Desert Storm.