Senate Resolution 380 was introduced last week by Senators Joseph Lieberman, Lindsey Graham, and Robert Casey. It basically says it should be the policy of the United States to prevent Iran “from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability” and it “rejects any United States policy that would rely on efforts to contain a nuclear weapons-capable Iran.” Notice that language: nuclear weapons-capable. So far, U.S. policy as articulated by the Obama administration has been to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons, but this resolution says that Iran even having the know-how is unacceptable.
What this does is remove any ability to negotiate a peaceful settlement with Iran. These Senators are trying to outlaw diplomacy and make war inevitable. As Paul Pillar recently wrote, “the resolution calls for terms that are understandably nonstarters for Iran,” like ruling out any Iranian nuclear program (even one that is under international supervision and inspection) and like calling for an end to Iran’s ballistic missile programs. I kid you not.
This is a blank check for the President to wage war with Iran, and once it is written the President will be pressured to cash it. By ruling out alternatives to war, this measure could be used by the current or future president as justification for war without the need for further Congressional authorization. Modern presidents have tended to take an extremely broad view of their prerogatives under the War Powers Act.
This measure contradicts and confuses the existing United States ‘redline’ that Iranian acquisition of a nuclear weapon is unacceptable. Instead of reinforcing existing standards, the measure lowers the bar to assert that even the capability to pursue a nuclear weapon would be grounds for war. This is dangerous policy to be toying with.
Acquisition is very different from capability. Nuclear weapons capability is a nebulous term that could theoretically be applied to every state from Canada to the Netherlands that possesses civilian nuclear capabilities. We should not be staking questions of war on such a shaky foundation.
The resolution, Robert Wright tells us, has met at least some resistance in the Senate, but the bad news is that AIPAC is expected lobby hard for it “in three weeks when up to 10,000 activists culminate its annual conference.” The resolution is currently non-binding, but, Wright points out, when AIPAC lobbies for non-binding resolutions, they usually end up in binding legislation.
As further illustration of how off-the-charts hysterical this resolution is, the “capability” language basically would mean that the time for attacking Iran is already here. Wright:
Does “capability” mean the ability to produce a bomb within two months? Two years? If two years is the standard, Iran has probably crossed the red line already. (So should we start bombing now?) Indeed, by the two-year standard, Iran might well be over the red line evenafter a bombing campaign–which would at most be a temporary setback, and would remove any doubt among Iran’s leaders as to whether to build nuclear weapons, and whether to make its nuclear program impervious to future American and Israeli bombs. What do we do then? Invade?