Congress Pushes for War with Iran

By Zunes, Stephen | National Catholic Reporter, July 6, 2012 | Go to article overview

Congress Pushes for War with Iran


Zunes, Stephen, National Catholic Reporter


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 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 made the Iraq War possible.

In response, however, both Republicans and Democrats in Congress have; been working to force this moderate president into going to war against Iran. And they have a lot of support.

Last December, in a 410-11 vote, the House of Representatives passed a bill (HR 1905) that would put into law a restriction whereby "No person employed with the U. S. government may contact in an official or unofficial capacity any person ... serving as a representative of the government of Iran."

Never in the history of this country has Congress ever restricted the right of the White House or State Department to meet with representatives of a foreign state, even in wartime.

The legislation appears to have been designed to push the country toward a military conflict with Iran. History has shown that governments that refuse to even talk with each other are far more likely to go to war.

There is a clause allowing the White House to waive the requirement in cases where a "failure to exercise such waiver authority would pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the vital national security interests of the United States" and only if Congress was notified a full 15 days before any such meetings. The problem is that diplomatic encounters--particularly with countries with which the United States has tense relations--often need to be arranged in less than a 15-day period. The entire Cuban missile crisis lasted only 13 days, for example.

In the event of a crisis that threatens a military confrontation between the United States and Iran, the Obama administration would have to wait more than two weeks before having any contact with any Iranian officials, which by then could be too late.

This May, another resolution (HR 568) apparently designed to encourage a war against Iran passed the House by a 401-11 vote, urging the president to oppose any policy toward Iran "that would rely on containment as an option in response to the Iranian nuclear threat."

Combined with December's resolution, 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 toward Iran.

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."

Though Obama has made clear that Iranian procurement of nuclear weapons would be totally unacceptable, the language of this resolution significantly lowers the bar by declaring it unacceptable for Iran to even simply have "nuclear weapons capability," not necessarily any actual weapons or an active nuclear weapons program.

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