Today the US Senate voted unanimously in favor of a Lindsey Graham resolution, S.Res.65, which “[s]trongly support(s) the full implementation of United States and international sanctions on Iran and urg[es] the President to continue to strengthen enforcement of sanctions legislation.”
The legislation, as expected from a Lindsey Graham product, is full of misstatements, historical revisionism, and war-drum-beating hyperbole. Particularly revolting is the distortion and lies about Iran’s not being in compliance with IAEA nuclear safeguards requirements and the irony of Graham’s using Iran’s refusal to implement UN resolutions as evidence of its rogue status. Also deceptive is the sleight of hand claiming that Iran pursuing a “nuclear weapons capability” is the real violation, rather than an Iranian failure to uphold its agreed upon obligation to not actually divert fissile material to build a nuclear weapon. It is a unilateral lowering of the bar, which is in fact itself a US violation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Most alarming, however, is that this resolution contains among the clearest legislative language to date promising that should Israel decide to attack Iran, the US would back Israel militarily. It is breathtakingly foolhardy for the US Senate to give such carte blanche permission to any foreign country to attack another nation as it sees fit with the promise of the backing of the United States military. The move will likely embolden Israel to continue recent escalation of military action in the region and will likely propel Israel closer to an attack on Iran. In economic theory this is known as “moral hazard.”
The resolved clauses of the resolution must be seen to be believed, so I reproduce them here (see especially the original point (8), which was apparently even too over-the-top for the Senators — the substitute language is just as bad but it adds a layer of vagueness as a fig leaf):
(1) reaffirms the special bonds of friendship and cooperation that have existed between the United States and the State of Israel for more than sixty years and that enjoy overwhelming bipartisan support in Congress and among the people of the United States;
(2) strongly supports the close military, intelligence, and security cooperation that President Obama has pursued with Israel and urges this cooperation to continue and deepen;
(3) deplores and condemns, in the strongest possible terms, the reprehensible statements and policies of the leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran threatening the security and existence of Israel;
(4) recognizes the tremendous threat posed to the United States, the West, and Israel by the Government of Iran’s continuing pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability;
(5) reiterates that the policy of the United States is to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon capability and to take such action as may be necessary to implement this policy;
(6) reaffirms its strong support for the full implementation of United States and international sanctions on Iran and urges the President to continue and strengthen enforcement of sanctions legislation;
(7) declares that the United States has a vital national interest in, and unbreakable commitment to, ensuring the existence, survival, and security of the State of Israel, and reaffirms United States support for Israel’s right to self-defense; and
[Struck out->] (8) urges that, if the Government of Israel is compelled to take military action in self-defense, the United States Government should stand with Israel and provide diplomatic, military, and economic support to the Government of Israel in its defense of its territory, people, and existence. [< -Struck out]
(8) urges that, if the Government of Israel is compelled to take military action in legitimate self-defense against Iran’s nuclear weapons program, the United States Government should stand with Israel and provide, in accordance with United States law and the constitutional responsibility of Congress to authorize the use of military force, diplomatic, military, and economic support to the Government of Israel in its defense of its territory, people, and existence.
A meaningless statement is added at the end which likely guaranteed unanimous support:
SEC. 2. RULES OF CONSTRUCTION.
Nothing in this resolution shall be construed as an authorization for the use of force or a declaration of war.
This last part is Congressional weasel language, as the point was not to declare war but rather to define the circumstances under which war would be authorized. Point (8) lays down those circumstances, which is a trap for any Senator who voted for this bill. Imagine if the criteria in point (8) are satisfied by an Israeli attack on Iran claiming self-defense. Any Senator hesitating to authorize the US military to join Israel’s war would be shown his vote on this resolution and told that he is already on record supporting war in these circumstances. That is how it works on the Hill.
This is an important vote.7:44 pm on May 22, 2013 Email Daniel McAdams