On Thursday, Congress sent a new package of sanctions on Russia, Iran and North Korea to President Trump’s desk.
The Senate voted 98-2 to approve the sanctions bill, with Senators Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., voting ‘no.’
Sen. Sanders said that while he strongly supports sanctions against Russia and North Korea, he voted against the sanctions package because he worries that new sanctions against Iran would weaken Tehran’s resolve to honor the nuclear weapons deal it agreed to with world powers in 2015 under the Obama administration.
“Following Trump’s comments that he won’t recertify Iran’s compliance with the nuclear agreement I worry new sanctions could endanger it,” Sanders tweeted.
A spokesperson for Paul said that the Senator only supports sanctions against North Korea.
“I’m really not in favor of new sanctions against Russia now or new sanctions on Iran,” Paul said in June.
“Everything we say Russia’s done wrong. So China does,” Paul said, giving examples of cyber-espionage, the suppression of speech and multiple human rights violations.
Paul said that sanctions against Russia would be akin to “tweaking their nose,” arguing that the U.S. needs to focus first on improving our own cyber security. “Everybody in the world who can spy, spies,” he concluded, including the United States.
With regards to Iran, Paul said in a June op-ed that sanctions against Saudi Arabia should be considered.
“If you wanted to influence the behavior of Iran, you might consider sanctioning Saudi Arabia in equal fashion,” he said. “Let us have sanctions on both countries regarding ballistic missiles, and let us say we will remove them when they come to the table to discuss reducing their armaments. Another way of doing it would be to withhold the $350 billion worth of new weapons and missiles to Saudi Arabia until both sides come together to discuss an arms control treaty. Perhaps you could say we are going to withhold that offer until Saudi Arabia agrees to negotiate with Iran.”
“It is my belief that Iran will never quit developing ballistic missiles unless there is an agreement with Saudi Arabia and/or the rest of the Gulf kingdoms to do the same. And so I think new sanctions are a fool’s errand, and they will not work.”
“New sanctions may even have a counterproductive effect if Iran decides they somehow abrogate the nuclear agreement. If Iran pulls out of the agreement, I think we will really regret hastily adding new sanctions,” he continued.
In the House, the sanctions package passed Tuesday in a 419-3 vote, with Reps. Justin Amash, R-Mich., Thomas Massie, R-Ky., and Jimmy Duncan, R-Tenn., voting ‘no.’