House adopts hard line on Iran. Would stance move US closer to war?
A House resolution approved Thursday talks of preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapons 'capability.' It's a murkier but redder line than obtaining weapons, and critics say it lowers the threshold for military action.
Dissatisfied with President Obama’s assurances that the United States will not tolerate Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon, the House of Representatives has come up with its own red line: It says Iran must be stopped before achieving a nuclear weapons capability.Skip to next paragraph
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That may sound like a fine line between the two, but critics of the House resolution say it has the potential to move the US closer to war with Iran.
The problem with this new formula, some nuclear experts say, is that no one knows exactly what “nuclear weapons capable” means. What the ambiguity of this new red line for Iran does do, others add, is lower the threshold at which military action would be undertaken to stop Iran’s nuclear program.
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The House resolution, with 314 sponsors, calls on Mr. Obama “to reaffirm the unacceptability of an Iran with nuclear-weapons capability.” The resolution goes on to demand reaffirmation of US “opposition to any policy that would rely on containment as an option in response to the Iranian nuclear threat.”
The House approved the resolution Thursday, six days before the US and other world powers are to sit down with Iran in Baghdad for talks on the Iranian nuclear program. The vote was 401 to 11.
An initial session of talks in Istanbul last month led to suggestions from both sides that an interim diplomatic breakthrough – one that slows Iran’s nuclear progress by removing to another country much of the enriched uranium Iran has stockpiled – might at least be possible.
The House resolution could disrupt the diplomatic channel, some regional experts say, by signaling to the Iranians that the US is unlikely to stick by any compromise that would allow Iran to retain a uranium enrichment program.
But some House members, including several Democrats, said the Baghdad meeting next week made this the right time for a resolution putting Iran on notice. “What better time for this body to send an unambiguous message that Iran must never be allowed to achieve a nuclear weapons capability?” said Rep. Howard Berman (D) of California, ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. The message must be that Iran’s “nuclear weapons program must end once and for all,” he added.