Richard Burr, Republican of Winston-Salem and North Carolinas senior U.S. senator, has been in Washington long enough to know exactly what hes doing. In hitching a measure to tighten sanctions on Iran to legislation now in the Senate, Burr is playing foolhardy election-year politics with a delicate negotiation.
That negotiation between Iran and Western countries is trying to ensure that Iran does not develop capability for nuclear weapons. But tougher sanctions against that country, long a U.S. nemesis, arent going to improve the chances of success in those nuclear talks.
Even the top pro-Israel group in the United States, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, isnt as vehement in its support of tougher sanctions anymore, at least not right now, recognizing that a nuclear risk is a worldwide risk. AIPACs position traditionally has gotten the attention of members of both parties in Congress.
But Burr and Republicans persist. Could this be an election-year maneuver? Maybe GOP leaders think that if they can get Democrats to vote against a bill with tougher sanctions on Iran in it, they can call them out as somehow soft on terrorism.
Sledgehammers will not persuade Iran or its allies, such as they are, to cave in and bend to the will of nations in the West. But heavy-handed tactics might indeed push them away from the negotiating table, undoing what progress has been made and simply bringing such talks to a halt.
Democrats note that issues of this sort rarely turn partisan. Were Ronald Reagan president and were the nation engaged in such negotiations in some form, Republicans in Congress would be screaming if Democrats dared to politicize the situation. Maybe Democrats should tune up their vocal cords.