2C: the FCNL Staff Blog

Will Senate Set New Red Line for Iran War?

By Kate Gould on 02/14/2012 @ 11:56 AM

Tags: Iran, Middle East

Kate Gould

As early as Wednesday, Senators Bob Casey (PA), Lindsey Graham (SC), and Joe Lieberman (CT) are expected to introduce a resolution that would effectively endorse a new redline for war with Iran, and a new ultimatum that, if pursued by the administration, would virtually guarantee failure for any diplomatic efforts to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran and prevent war.

Sens. Graham and Lieberman publicly announced this resolution a month ago, but the draft text--last updated on February 8th--was only leaked last week. A flurry of press reports indicate that Senator Casey would be co-leading the effort, which has already faced resistance from some Senators, who are concerned that this resolution would undermine diplomatic efforts that could be pursued by the administration to resolve the stand-off over Iran's nuclear program.

Ruling out Diplomacy to Prevent War & a Nuclear-Armed Iran

Though a non-binding resolution, this legislation would ratchet up pressure on the administration to move the 'red-line' threshold--or when the U.S. would take military action--from a nuclear-armed Iran to a "nuclear weapons capable" Iran. As articulated by the Secretary of Defense in January, attempting to build a nuclear weapon is the United States’ “red line” that Iran must not cross but Iran has not yet made a decision to actually build weapon. This resolution significantly lowers the threshold to preventing a "nuclear weapons capable" Iran--a threshold without a precise definition, which some would even argue Iran has already crossed.

As currently drafted, this resolution would call on the administration to rule out a 'nuclear weapons capable Iran'. One of the resolve clauses states that the U.S. Senate "strongly rejects any policy that fails to prevent the Iranian government from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability and that instead would settle for future efforts to 'contain' a nuclear weapons capable Iran".

What about supporting a deal with Iran that, like the one laid out by Ambassadors William Luers and Thomas Pickering, would persuade Iran to agree to grant full access to U.N. inspectors, to ensure Iran's program is solely used for peaceful purposes? What if Iran puts forth a proposal, like they did in 2003, which calls for not only intrusive international inspections of its nuclear program, but also a 'grand bargain' that would entail ending support for Hamas and Islamic Jihad, and agreeing to the Arab League's plan for normalizing relations with Israel, based on Israel's acceptance of an independent Palestinian state?

All of these various outcomes, which would prevent a nuclear-armed Iran as well as preventing war, would be 'strongly rejected', under the ultimatum set by this new resolution.

By rejecting any policy that 'fails to prevent the Iranian government from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability" then that would mean rejecting the best-and many U.S. and other Western officials would say the only-prospect the U.S. has for reaching a diplomatic solution with Iran.

There are a slew of press reports, outlined by Robert Naiman of Just Foreign Policy, that illustrate how conditioning any agreement on a 'nuclear weapons capable' Iran would foreclose any prospect for a diplomatic resolution with Iran.

For example, on January 24, Helene Cooper reported in the New York Times: "Several American and European officials say privately that the most attainable outcome for the West could be for Iran to maintain the knowledge and technology necessary to build a nuclear weapon while stopping short of doing so."

By setting such an impossible ultimatum for diplomacy, without any reference to support for a diplomatic resolution of the stand-off over Iran's nuclear program, the draft February 8th text reads like a thinly veiled endorsement of launching a war against Iran, as many national security and arms control experts have warned.

Col. Larry Wilkerson will be joining myself and FCNL's intern for Middle East policy Hilary Johnson for more lobby visits with Senate offices this week, asking that they oppose this dangerous legislation, but we need your help. Please urge your Senators to oppose this bill, and speak out for diplomacy, not war, with Iran.

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