Senator Mark Kirk started burnishing his Senate foreign policy credentials as soon as he took office.
He's been to post-Ghadafi Libya. He's lectured on Afghanistan.
But now the Naval intelligence officer's legislative efforts on the foreign policy front may play a high-stakes role in the presidential race.
Recently he pushed hard for a set of strict sanctions on Iran as a punishment for pursuing a nuclear weapon. Those sanction could box in President Obama come election time, writes Mark Landler in The New York Times.
Kirk's chess move will be apparent after some time, but according to the article it gives Obama some difficult choices. Language in the sanction says that America should deal harshly with other countries that continue to deal with Iran financially. If Obama employs those rules he risks new economic instability during an election year. If he doesn't he looks weak on Iran, the paper says.
Senator Mark Steven Kirk, an Illinois Republican who sponsored the sanctions bill, along with Senator Robert Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey, added another variable to the president’s difficult calculus, arguing that sanctions may be the only thing that dissuades Israel from mounting a pre-emptive military strike on Iran’s nuclear installations.
“The first waiver would trigger a whole lot of other waiver applications, potentially gutting the policy,” he said. “The more you gut the policy, the more likely you make military action by Israel. The pro-Israel community would not want a gutting of the sanctions.”
The administration says that it plans to put the sanctions in effect rigorously, and that the modifications it negotiated with Congress will allow Mr. Obama to do so without rattling the oil market. The European Union is expected to impose its own sanctions on Iran’s oil exports next week, making it easier for the United States to carry out its measures.
Kirk, an openly avowed Romney supporter, seems to be enjoying his role in the politics of foreign policy.
Senator Kirk said carrying out the oil sanctions might be less complicated than it appeared, with Saudi Arabia pledging to step up production and with Libya and Iraq both bringing production back online. But the administration’s opposition to the original draft of his legislation, he said, belied the president’s threats to the Iranian government.
“It’s been a strange political journey for the president because he said he was tough on Iran,” Mr. Kirk said.
Well played, Kirk. Well played for now.