Defending himself against charges of isolationism, Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul told voters in Iowa on Thursday that western sanctions against Iran are "acts of war" that are likely to lead to an actual war in the Middle East.
Paul, one of the leading contenders to win next week's Iowa caucuses, said Iran would be justified in responding to the sanctions by blocking the flow of oil through the Strait of Hormuz. He compared the western sanctions to a hypothetical move by China to block the Gulf of Mexico, which Americans would consider an act of war.
He also said he would not respond militarily to keep the strait open—because he would not consider it an act of war against the U.S. But if he were president, he would report to Congress on the issue, leaving it up to lawmakers to declare war if they wanted.
"I think we're looking for trouble because we put these horrendous sanctions on Iran," Paul told a midday audience at the Hotel Pattee in Perry, Iowa. He said the Iranians are "planning to be bombed" and understandably would like to have a nuclear weapon, even though there is "no evidence whatsoever" that they have "enriched" uranium.
Apparently alluding to Israel and its nuclear-weapons arsenal, Paul said that "if I were an Iranian, I'd like to have a nuclear weapon, too, because you gain respect from them."
To approving applause from a crowd of about 125, the Texas congressman said that "we always seem to have to have a country to bash," linking the current saber-rattling against Iran to previous hawkish rhetoric that led to conflicts in Iraq, Libya and elsewhere.
"If you want to quiet things down," he said, referring to Iran, "don't put sanctions on them" because it's "just going to cause more trouble."
He said an Iranian blockade would be the most likely response to tighter sanctions because Iran has "no weapons of mass destruction" and shutting down the strait is "the most" it could do.
"I think the solution" to current tensions with Iran "is to do a lot less a lot sooner and mind our own business and then we would not have this threat of another war," he said to applause.