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Mark Kirk, Foreign Policy Voice of the GOP

John Kerry’s visit to the Senate Banking Committee in an effort to stave off a further round of sanctions while U.S.-Iran negotiations are proceeding in fits and starts produced revealing comments from Mark Kirk, currently the Senate’s leading Netanyahuite.

Kirk first challenged the professionalism of State Department number three Wendy Sherman, followed with his now standard references to Munich and Chamberlin, and then, in a bold bid to produce a memorable soundbite, said “How do you define an Iran moderate? An Iranian who is out of bullets and out of money.”

What does this mean exactly? That Kirk believes all Iranians are—by their genes—bloody minded killers if given the chance? That only if they are starved and beaten down is it possible to deal with them? Or does it not apply to ordinary Iranians, but only their politicians? Kirk perhaps had in mind Mir Hussein Moussavi, the leader of the Green movement, and possibly the presidential leading vote-getter in 2009, now under house arrest. Perhaps he was a moderate only because he was out of bullets. (Like pretty much all Iranian politicians, Moussavi supports maintaining Iran’s ability to enrich uranium. I doubt you will find any Iranians who back Netanyahu’s view that only Israel, of all the nations in the Mideast, should be permitted full access to the nuclear fuel cycle.)

If this is what passes for foreign policy thinking among top Republicans, the party is in a very bad way. I suspect there are Republican office holders who hold alternate views—including those that understand Iran as a complicated country in a mellowing phase a generation and a half after a tumultous revolution, one which probably can be dealt with on a rational basis, as we now deal with Russia and China. But they are almost completely silent. In the vacuum, the Mark Kirks represent the brand of the GOP. Making ignorant and belligerent comments about Iran has now become a form of Republican electioneering.

about the author

Scott McConnell is a founding editor of The American Conservative and the author of Ex-Neocon: Dispatches From the Post-9/11 Ideological Wars. Follow him on Twitter at @ScottMcConnell9.

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