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Jun-19-2012 15:48printcomments

Congress Pushes for War with Iran

Though it is not legally binding, the resolution does limit the president’s options politically.


(SANTA CRUZ, CA) - In another resolution apparently designed to prepare for war against Iran, the U.S. House of Representatives, in an overwhelmingly bipartisan 401–11 vote, has passed a resolution (HR 568) urging the president to oppose any policy toward Iran “that would rely on containment as an option in response to the Iranian nuclear threat.”

With its earlier decision to pass a bill that effectively sought to ban any negotiations between the United States and Iran, a huge bipartisan majority of Congress has essentially told the president that nothing short of war or the threat of war is an acceptable policy. Indeed, the rush to pass this bill appears to have been designed to undermine the ongoing international negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program. According to Iranian-American analyst Jamal Abdi, a prominent critic of both the Iranian regime and U.S. policy, the motivation for the resolution may be to “poison those talks by signaling to Iran that the President is weak, domestically isolated, and unable to deliver at the negotiating table because a hawkish Congress will overrule him.”

President Obama’s “red line” on Iran — the point at which his administration would consider taking military action against the country — has been the reactionary regime’s actual procurement of nuclear weapons. The language of this resolution, however, significantly lowers the bar by declaring it unacceptable for Iran simply to have “nuclear weapons capability” — not necessarily any actual weapons or an active nuclear weapons program. Some members of Congress have argued that since Iranians have the expertise and technological capacity to develop nuclear weapons, they already have “nuclear weapons capability.” The hawkish Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT) has argued that "everybody will determine for themselves what [capability] means."

In case there was any doubt about the intent of Congress in using this language, when Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) offered a clarifying amendment to a similar clause in a recent Senate resolution — declaring that “nothing in the Act shall be construed as a declaration of war or an authorization of the use of force against Iran” — both its Republican and Democratic sponsors summarily rejected the amendment.

Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, former chief of staff for Secretary of State Colin Powell, noted how "this resolution reads like the same sheet of music that got us into the Iraq war, and could be the precursor for a war with Iran. It's effectively a thinly-disguised effort to bless war."

As the liberal Zionist group Americans for Peace Now observed, the legislation suggests that “unless sanctions imminently result in Iran voluntarily shutting down its entire nuclear program (and somehow deleting the nuclear know-how from the brains of its scientists), military force will be the only option available to the Obama Administration and will be inevitable in the near term.”

Though it is not legally binding, the resolution does limit the president’s options politically. As pundit and former Capitol Hill staffer M.J. Rosenberg has noted, the bill was “designed to tie the president’s hands on Iran policy.” And, as with the case of Iraq, the language of such non-binding resolutions can easily be incorporated into binding legislation, citing the precedent of what had been passed previously.

The End of Containment

There is enormous significance to the resolution’s insistence that containment, which has been the basis of U.S. defense policy for decades, should no longer be U.S. policy in dealing with potential threats. Although deterrence may have been an acceptable policy in response to the thousands of powerful Soviet nuclear weapons mounted on intercontinental ballistic missile systems aimed at the United States, the view today is that deterrence is somehow inadequate for dealing with a developing country capable of developing small and crude nuclear devices but lacking long-range delivery systems.

Indeed, this broad bipartisan consensus against deterrence marks the triumph of the neoconservative first-strike policy, once considered on the extreme fringes when first articulated in the 1980s.

This dangerous embrace of neoconservative military policy is now so widely accepted by both parties in Congress that the vote on the resolution was taken under a procedure known as “suspension of the rules,” which is designed for non-controversial bills passed quickly with little debate. Indeed, given the serious implications of this legislation, it is striking that there was not a single congressional hearing prior to the vote.

The resolution also demonstrates that the vast majority of Democrats, like Republicans, have embraced the concept of “full-spectrum dominance,” the Bush-era doctrine that not only should the United States prevent the emergence of another rival global superpower such as China, but it should also resist the emergence of even a regional power, such as Iran, that could potentially deter unilateral U.S. military actions or other projections of American domination.

Limiting the President

It is unprecedented for Congress to so vigorously seek to limit a president’s non-military options in foreign policy. For example, in 1962, even the most right-wing Republicans in Congress did not push for legislation insisting that President Kennedy rule out options other than attacking Cuba or the Soviet Union during the Cuban missile crisis. What might be motivating Congress is the fact that, in electing Barack Obama in 2008, the American people brought into the White House an outspoken opponent of the U.S. invasion of Iraq who not only withdrew U.S. combat forces from that country but promised to “change the mindset” – the idea that the United States could unilaterally make war against oil-rich Middle Eastern countries that did not accept U.S. domination – that made the Iraq war possible. Both Democratic and Republican hawks, therefore, appear determined to force this moderate president to accept their neoconservative agenda.

Deterrence, when dealing with a nuclear-armed party, is indeed a risky strategy. The international community does have an interest in preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons, as well as in forcing India, Pakistan, and Israel to disarm their already-existing arsenals. All reasonable diplomatic means should be pursued to create and maintain a nuclear-free zone in that volatile region.

However, the idea that deterrence against Iran would not work because the country’s clerical leadership, which controls the armed forces, would decide to launch an unprovoked nuclear attack against Israel or the United States — and therefore invite massive nuclear retaliation that would cause the physical destruction of their entire country — is utterly ridiculous. The far more realistic risk to worry about is the enormous devastation that would result from a U.S. war on Iran.

The real “threat” from Iran is if that country achieves nuclear capability, it would then have a deterrent to a U.S. attack that was unavailable to its immediate neighbors to the east (Afghanistan) and west (Iraq), both of which were invaded by U.S.-led forces. Both Democrats and Republicans appear to be united in their belief that no country should stand in the way of the unilateral projection of military force by the United States or its allies.

Indeed, this resolution is not about the national security of the United States, nor is it about the security of Israel. It is about continuing U.S. hegemony over the world’s most oil-rich region.


Stephen Zunes is a professor of politics and chair of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of San Francisco and a columnist for Foreign Policy In Focus. His latest book (co-authored by Jacob Mundy) is Western Sahara: War, Nationalism and Conflict Irresolution (Syracuse University Press, 2010).


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lou sweet July 6, 2012 5:11 am (Pacific time)


lou sweet July 4, 2012 10:47 am (Pacific time)

bring it on ! why did it take so long ! next, hurry up towards n korea ....

rockiey57 June 23, 2012 8:56 am (Pacific time)

They want war so our children not theirs can go get killed in the name of "freedom"

geral June 21, 2012 7:47 am (Pacific time)

The united states of america is now forever known as the BEAST, the BrainEntrAinmentSTate, a country w/o conscience, a people w/o heart who are cursed with a national character predominantly w/o soul . http://www.sosbeevfbi.com/hightechassau.html http://www.sosbeevfbi.com/part4-worldinabo.html http://sosbeevfbi.ning.com/profiles/blogs/drones-etc?xg_source=activity

mildred June 20, 2012 12:01 pm (Pacific time)

Gee, Joan, I would hate to disrupt your sweet Wal-Mart lifestyle. Always be positive! Write a five page journal entry to get those feelings out. Oh dear!

JohnWV June 20, 2012 8:53 am (Pacific time)

Iran is only Israel's current fixation. America's entire electoral system has been corrupted by Netanyahu's Israel, AIPAC, Israel Firsters and ingenious distribution of enormous amounts of Jewish money. Our representative democracy is nearly defeated and the destruction of America as we know it well underway. Termination of the criminal treachery and treason demands immediate priority. The Government of the United States must again serve American interests, not the Jewish state's relentless pursuit of invulnerability, territorial conquest and apartheid supremacist empire in, and beyond, the Mideast.

JohnWV June 20, 2012 8:52 am (Pacific time)

However did we get it all so backwards? As a signatory to the Non Proliferation Treaty, Iran has the right to develop and implement nuclear technology. Israel rejected the NPT and has no such right. Yet, the Jewish state has ICBM nukes and openly threatens Iran; actually campaigns for war against Iran. Israel, not Iran, should be sanctioned and forced to reveal its nuclear machinations to IAEA inspection. However did we get it all so backwards?

Anonymous June 20, 2012 6:57 am (Pacific time)

Ok, our President is weak. He has no clue about foreign policies. All he knows is to bow down to kings and other State officials. He is weak all the way around. How much longer do you want to talk to Iran? Now with Egypt ran by Islamist, they all threaten to wipe out Israel and then the US. And you are damn right, we are limiting the President. Just in case you forgot, he is the President not the King or Dictator he wants to be. He's been getting away with too much, it's time that Congress and the Senate take their power back and make the decisions. Off course Obama does not want to attack Iran. He himself is a Muslim, in bed with the Muslim Brotherhood, which is a Terrorist Organisation and with the Black Panthers, which are illegal. So, go figure, Obama is out for the destruction of our Country, he don't care about the American people, the Country or our Security. But wait, he keeps selling out the Country to Mexico, China and the Muslims, preferably the Islamic terrorist. Take that for an answer

Real American June 20, 2012 5:34 am (Pacific time)

I can't believe that this guy is allowed to write a "whole story"! ask him if he would send his family to live in Iran before, or after it gets leveled, and regime change! You are sooo anti-US, maybe you should go back to the middle east pal!

Editor: Dude, the Doctor does live in Iran, and Israel is a war crime state that has nothing coming, religion in government is a negative and Israel doesn't get a free pass man.  

joan June 20, 2012 5:23 am (Pacific time)

American policy is going to bring us to world war 3. If we lived with a nuclear Russia and China during the cold war and live with nuclear North Korea now, we can live with a nuclear Iran - and that is if even they ever build a bomb. But by attacking Iran, this will cause the entire Middle East to explode - and every country there now is unstable and facing civil unrest. Congress may want war with Iran but they clearly do not understand the after effects. They seem to think the US is so mighty that their military power will make Iran a small little skirmish. Well, it will be catastrophic and draw in players like Russia and China. And then we call all see what a nuclear war is really like. Thanks Congress - hope you encourage all your sons and daughters to sign up in the military. But won't matter much anyway, because a strike on Iran will really bring the war back to the USA - unrelenting terror attacks.... And why focus on the economy? There won't be one once oil prices hit $500 a barrel or more and the oil stops flowing.

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