Senate resolution on Iran may be bipartisan, but it could lead to war
The Senate is considering a bipartisan resolution on Iran that denounces containment and could be taken as an authorization of US force against a nuclear Iran. But containment is the second-worst option. A preventive strike that could lead to war in the Middle East is the worst.
Gallery Monitor Political Cartoons
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
The tough tone is admirable, but the resolution, which awaits action in the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, is seriously flawed. Although non-binding, this resolution expressing the sense of the Senate confuses the issue and is simply bad policy.
Cosponsored by Democrat Robert Casey of Pennsylvania, Republican Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, and Independent Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, the resolution calls on the president to “reaffirm the unacceptability of an Iran with nuclear-weapons capability.” And it has him “oppose any policy that would rely on containment as an option in response to the Iranian nuclear threat.”
As a retired Air Force colonel with experience as a student, instructor, and practitioner in the national security arena, I have two major concerns about this document, although I also see a silver lining.
One issue is the definition of “nuclear weapons capability.” There is a vast difference between having the capability to produce nuclear weapons and actually doing so.
It is not irrational to argue that Iran already possesses “nuclear weapons capability” and has had it for some years. The Iranians possess the uranium and the ability to enrich it and may be nearing a plutonium reprocessing capability. They certainly have the scientific and technical expertise to produce a weapon given the time and a political decision to do so.
The resolution also calls for “the full and sustained suspension of all uranium enrichment-related and reprocessing activities.” In other words, it would seem to have Iran give up most if not all of its nuclear programs, peaceful and otherwise.
There is a legitimate dispute as to whether Iran has the right under the nonproliferation treaty (NPT) to have full nuclear fuel cycle capability. But this dispute must be decided by negotiation, not a resolution.
Iran is an NPT signatory but has not fully complied with International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspection and other procedures. A negotiated agreement wherein Iran retains a civilian nuclear program, as it is entitled to under the NPT with IAEA inspections and safeguards, would resolve this dispute and ease fears of an Iranian nuclear weapons program.
But the resolution has another problem beyond the capability issues. It asserts that containment is not an acceptable outcome. President Obama has already made this clear, so why object to the resolution?
The short answer is that the document adds nothing on this point and, more importantly, could be taken to authorize the use of force if Iran gets a nuclear weapon. The resolution blocks a containment strategy and endorses US military action regardless of any other circumstances.