The U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday evening approved a non-binding resolution that “strongly supports United States policy to prevent the government of Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability, rejects any United States policy that would rely on efforts to contain a nuclear weapons-capable Iran; and urges the president to reaffirm the unacceptability of an Iran with nuclear-weapons capability and opposition to any policy that would rely on containment as an option in response to the Iranian nuclear threat.”
H. Res. 568, introduced by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), chairwoman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, had 314 sponsors.
Americans for Peace Now (APN) urged members of Congress to “vote NO or PRESENT on this resolution.”
APN argued that “Supporters of H. Res. 568 suggest that this resolution is simply an articulation of tough positions to address the threat of Iran obtaining nuclear weapons, consistent with current U.S. policy. The text of H. Res. 568 tells a different story: its explicit goals are to lower the bar for war, to tie the President’s hands in negotiations, and to effectively take all options, except the military option, off the table.”
A similar bill in the Senate, introduced by Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) has 74 co-sponsors but has yet to be introduced to the floor.
The House resolution passed under suspension rules, meaning that there was no opportunity to amend it.
APN had urged Congress members in a letter to amend the resolution to make explicit that it did not authorize use of force and to substitute “acquisition of weapons” for “acquiring a nuclear capability.” APN argued that “capability” is too vague a term to establish a “red line” triggering military action.
The APN letter suggested the entire legislation had been conceived and shoved down Congress’ throat by AIPAC, in a sneaky attempt to subvert diplomatic efforts: “It appears to be no coincidence that H. Res. 568 is being brought to a vote now, just as a new round of Iran diplomacy is set to take place on May 23. This resolution was introduced in March during the AIPAC policy conference and has been a centerpiece of AIPAC lobbying since then.”
But according to The Hill, Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.) said the timing of the resolution was certainly not a coincidence and was intended outright to influence the meeting next week of the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and Germany with Iran.
“What better time for this body to send an unambiguous message that Iran must never be allowed to achieve a nuclear weapons capability, and that its nuclear weapons program must end once and for all?” Berman told The Hill.
Support for sanctioning Iran has been bipartisan, as House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) was among the members supporting the bill.
“The most significant threat to peace, regional security and American interest in the Middle East is Iran’s nuclear program,” Hoyer said. “This resolution makes clear that it is in America’s security interest not to contain a nuclear Iran, but to prevent one.”
APN charged that “during these three months, the House has refrained from holding a single hearing or markup dealing with this resolution – a resolution that could have a profound impact on U.S. national security and the possibility of war. Now, it is being brought to a vote without House members ever having been given the chance to debate its contents, hear expert testimony, or offer amendments – including, for example, an amendment to make clear that H. Res. 568 is not an authorization of use of force.”
Israel’s “red line” is nuclear capability, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government has been seeking the same commitment from the Obama administration.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) urged the U.S. and Israel on Monday to align their “red lines” on that would trigger a military strike on Iran, The Hill newspaper reported.
McCain, speaking to the center for Strategic and International Studies, did not elaborate on what the “red lines” should be.
Iran has been saying that its nuclear program is for peaceful civilian purposes only. The status of its nuclear weapons program is not precisely known, although in recent days some reports have suggested that the Iranians have achieved the capability to manufacture weapons.
A two-day meeting ended Tuesday in Vienna between Iranian and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) officials, ahead of a new round of talks between Tehran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany over Iran’s nuclear program, which is scheduled to be held in Baghdad on May 23.
IAEA deputy director general and head of the Department of Safeguards, Herman Nackaerts, told reporters “it is important now that Iran let us have access to people, documents, information, and sites.”
IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano said on May 4 that gaining access to the Parchin military site, southeast of Tehran, will be the priority for the UN nuclear watchdog when talks resume.
Tehran rejected requests by IAEA delegations to inspect the Parchin site during their visits to Iran from January 29 to 31 and February 21 to 22 and has made it clear that a framework must be agreed on for any access or visit.
Claims have been made that Iran may be trying to sanitize the Parchin site of any evidence of explosives tests.
A report released Tuesday by the Rand Corporation, a think tank that has strong Pentagon ties, strongly recommended against an Israeli or U.S. military strike on Iran and suggested that containment, while “dangerous”, would be preferable.
“An Israeli or American attack on Iranian nuclear facilities would make it more, not less, likely that the Iranian regime would decide to produce and deploy nuclear weapons. Such an attack would also make it more, not less, difficult to contain Iranian influence,” it said. “To prevent the rivalry between Israel and Iran from escalating into armed conflict, the United States should continue to discourage an Israeli military strike while strengthening Israeli capabilities in preparation for a future in which Iran may have managed to acquire nuclear weapons. U.S. leaders should bolster security cooperation and intelligence sharing with Israel while maintaining pressure on Iran, thus weakening its capacity to project power and fueling the debate within Iran over nuclear weapons.”
The AntiWar blog published a script it suggested its readers use when calling their representative in Congress (partial quote):
“I ask that you vote no on this resolution when it comes up for a vote today and to demand language stating that there is no authorization for war with Iran. Please have the courage to speak out publicly against the push for war and in support of a diplomatic resolution to resolve the nuclear standoff and other critical issues like human rights in Iran.”
Content by JTA was included in this article.
About the Author: Yori Yanover has been a working journalist since age 17, before he enlisted and worked for Ba'Machane Nachal. Since then he has worked for Israel Shelanu, the US supplement of Yedioth, JCN18.com, USAJewish.com, Lubavitch News Service, Arutz 7 (as DJ on the high seas), and the Grand Street News. He has published Dancing and Crying, a colorful and intimate portrait of the last two years in the life of the late Lubavitch Rebbe, (in Hebrew), and two fun books in English: The Cabalist's Daughter: A Novel of Practical Messianic Redemption, and How Would God REALLY Vote.
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