Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

House Resolution Seems to "Demand" Blockade of Iran

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

House Resolution Seems to "Demand" Blockade of Iran

Article excerpt

On May 22, Reps. Gary Ackerman (D-NY) and Mike Pence (R-IN) introduced H.Con.Res.362, with the relatively mild title of expressing the sense of Congress regarding the "threat posed to international peace, stability in the Middle East, and the vital national security interests of the U.S. by Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons and regional hegemony." However, the resolution's four "resolved" clauses go well beyond "expressing concern." The first declares that preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons is vital to U.S. security interests. The second urges the president to impose sanctions on Iran's central bank, international banks that continue to do business with sanctioned Iranian banks, energy companies investing $20 million or more in Iran's energy sector in any year since 1996, and all companies doing business with Iran's Revolutionary Guard. Clause four urges the president to lead a diplomatic effort to support the governments in the region against Iranian efforts at hegemony.

If those three clauses weren't enough to create friction with our friends and allies and unite the Iranian people behind their most hawkish leaders, resolved clause three would seem to guarantee it. It "demands" that the president initiate an international effort to increase economic, political and diplomatic pressure on Iran to "suspend its nuclear enrichment activities by, inter alia, prohibiting the export to Iran of all refined petroleum products; imposing stringent inspection requirements on all persons, vehicles, ships, planes, trains, and cargo entering or departing Iran; and prohibiting the international movement" of Iranian officials.

After many groups pointed out that clause three could only be enforced by the imposition of a total land, sea, and air blockade of Iran-an act of war-Ackerman and Pence circulated a letter to their colleagues saying that "these assertions are absolutely false and, frankly, utter nonsense." (Perhaps Ackerman and Pence have a different definition of the word "all" than most people do.) They argue that the resolution clearly says that "meeting the challenge from Iran must be done using all appropriate political, diplomatic, and economic levers," and pointed out that the resolution says elsewhere that "nothing in this resolution shall be construed as an authorization of the use of force against Iran." (This is not in the resolved clauses, but is the 21st "whereas" clause.)

Perhaps not coincidentally, AIPAC's annual conference was held in Washington June 2 at 4, and one of the main items on the Israel lobby's agenda was to generate congressional support for H.Con.Res.362 and its Senate counterpart, S.Res.580. As a result, by mid-July H.Con.Res.362 had amassed 248 co-sponsors.

The resolution's four "resolved" clauses go well beyond "expressing concern."

S.Res.580, introduced by Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN) on June 2, is a bit more moderate. Its first two resolved clauses are the same as those of H.Con.Res.362. Instead of calling for a blockade, however, clause three only "demands" that the president lead an international effort to increase pressure on Iran to suspend its nuclear enrichment activities "by, among other measures, banning the importation of refined petroleum products to Iran." The clause that "nothing in this resolution shall be construed to authorize the use of force against Iran" is resolved clause four. …

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