Tough Senate Bill Takes Aim at Iran

As AIPAC Conference Nears, Push for Coordination With Israel

AIPAC Looming: With the AIPAC conference approaching, some lawmakers are pushing for a tougher American stance against Iran.
getty images
AIPAC Looming: With the AIPAC conference approaching, some lawmakers are pushing for a tougher American stance against Iran.

By Nathan Guttman

Published February 27, 2012, issue of March 02, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

With tension between Jerusalem and Washington on the rise over the preferred policy for dealing with Iran, supporters of Israel are urging lawmakers to back a resolution moving the goalposts in this debate closer to the views of Benjamin Netanyahu’s government.

A proposed Senate resolution, supported by the pro-Israel lobby, would shift America’s red line in dealing with Iran from preventing the Islamic Republic’s acquisition of nuclear weapons to stopping it before it achieves “nuclear capabilities.” Authors of the resolution believe that it is the only way to ensure that Iran ceases to be a threat to the region.

Opponents see it as moving America too close to a declaration of war.

The resolution, now gaining signatures in the Senate, will be the legislative centerpiece of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee as it convenes for its annual Washington conference, to take place in early March. The conference is expected to serve as the key arena for discussing American-Israeli differences over Iran as it hosts President Obama, Prime Minister Netanyahu and Republican presidential candidates at a time when experts believe that Israel is nearing a decision on whether or not to launch a military strike.

The Senate resolution, co-sponsored by South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham, Independent Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman and Bob Casey, a Pennsylvania Democrat, was officially rolled out February 16 after weeks of debate over its language.

The resolution, which is nonbinding, urges the president “to reaffirm the unacceptability of an Iran with nuclear-weapons capability and oppose any policy that would rely on containment as an option in response to the Iranian nuclear threat.” Co-sponsors of the resolution argued that it was merely giving weight to a commitment already made by Obama when he spoke out against allowing Iran to obtain nuclear weapons capabilities.

“The purpose of this resolution,” Graham said in a February 16 Capitol Hill press conference, “is to say to the world, to our citizens and to the president, ‘We agree with you, and we have your back, Mr. President.’”

While nuances in the new Senate resolution may seem minor, they could potentially change the way the United States acts in regard to the Iranian nuclear issue. Iran has been continuing its work to enrich uranium as part of a military nuclear program, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency. But it has not yet reached a point of acquiring nuclear weapons. The point of achieving nuclear capabilities, however, is not clear-cut, and Iran may have already passed it. In that case, the Senate resolution could be understood as a call for immediate action against Iran.

“It is a standard that in my opinion is more real and perhaps in some senses higher than saying ‘The red line is when they actually have nuclear weapons,’” said Lieberman, who explained that in his opinion, achieving nuclear capability means having the components to produce a nuclear weapon.

But critics argue that the definition of “nuclear capability” is vague and that it points to top American intelligence and military officials who stated that Iran has not yet made a decision to use its nuclear capability for building atomic bombs. “This Senate resolution is essentially shrinking the space available for the administration to conduct diplomacy,” said Joel Rubin, policy and government director at the Ploughshares Fund, an organization focusing on nuclear nonproliferation. According to Rubin, if the administration adopts the policy suggested by the Senate, it will likely have to turn to a military option.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: 10,000 Israel supporters gathered for a solidarity rally near the United Nations in New York yesterday.
  • Step into the Iron Dome with Tuvia Tenenbom.
  • What do you think of Wonder Woman's new look?
  • "She said that Ruven Barkan, a Conservative rabbi, came into her classroom, closed the door and turned out the lights. He asked the class of fourth graders to lie on the floor and relax their bodies. Then, he asked them to pray for abused children." Read Paul Berger's compelling story about a #Savannah community in turmoil:
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.