House Takes Aim at Iran, But No Call for War

By JTA

Published May 18, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share

An overwhelming majority in the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution rejecting containment of Iran’s suspected nuclear weapons program, but a sponsor made clear that the bill did not authorize use of force.

The non-binding resolution, which also says it is in the U.S. “vital interest” to keep Iran from achieving a nuclear capability, passed 401-11 on Thursday, and a similar resolution is under consideration in the Senate.

The language it embraces is in line with “red lines” Israel has suggested could trigger a military attack.

The Obama administration also rejects containment but has resisted making “capability,” as opposed to the acquisition of a nuclear weapon, a red line for a military strike.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee praised passage of the resolution, saying in a statement that “Congress and the administration must remain united in preventing the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism from acquiring the capability to build an atomic bomb.”

Dovish pro-Israel groups, including Americans for Peace Now and J Street, have sought assurances that the resolution and similar proposed legislation were not an authorization for war, and in floor debate, one of the resolution’s sponsors, Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.), the senior Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said that this was the case.

“There is no authorization for the use of force,” Berman said. “There is nothing in this resolution, and there is no intention in this resolution, to provide that authorization.”

The House Armed Services Committee leadership this week approved amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act, to be considered in coming days, that would also make explicit that similar language does not authorize the use of force, and that would recommend appointing a special envoy to exhaust diplomatic avenues of pressing Iran to keep it from obtaining a bomb.

Such amendments may still be subject to debate, but the inclusion of the amendments in the bill makes their passage more likely.

Americans for Peace Now praised the committee chairman Rep. Howard McKeon (R-Calif.) and its senior Democrat, Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), as “wise and commendable” for attaching the amendments to the bill.

In his floor speech on the resolution urging containment, Berman also outlined the specifics of “capability,” the first time a leading lawmaker has done so.

“There are three elements, as defined by the Director of National Intelligence,” he said. “Fissile material production, one. Design, weaponization, and testing of a warhead, two. A delivery vehicle. To be nuclear-capable, you really have to have to master all three elements. While Iran has the delivery system, they have not yet mastered – but they are making progress – on steps one and two. And if one day, when they’ve mastered all the other elements and they kick out the inspectors and they shut off the cameras, I will consider them nuclear-capable.”

Another of the bill’s chief sponsors, however, suggested that it was time to move beyond diplomacy and sanctions as a means of confronting Iran.

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), the chairwoman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, in her floor remarks, said that U.S.-led efforts to pressure Iran to end its suspected weapons program were unlikely to bear fruit.

“The most recent set of negotiations are just another way for them to hold off Western sanctions and buy time to further their capabilities,” she said. “We need to stop the regime before it possesses the capability to develop nuclear weapons, not before it makes the decision to develop nuclear weapons—because we may not know they have made that decision until it is too late.”

Israel continues to express skepticism about the utility of Iran’s talks with major Western powers, due to resume in Baghdad in May 23.

The Obama administration has ratcheted up its efforts in recent days to reassure Israel that a military option is on the table and is endeavoring to keep Israel from going ahead with a strike while talks with Iran are underway.

Daniel Shapiro, the U.S. ambassador to Israel, said in a speech this week that the military option was not just “available, but ready.”

Iran denies it is developing a weapon, although reports by western analysts suggest it is advancing in such a quest.

Arriving in Prague on Friday for a state visit, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, accused Iran of “buying time” with the talks.

“I have to say I see no evidence whatsoever that Iran is serious about ending its nuclear program,” he said.

In an interview with CNN, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said that “our primary concern is that Iran will not be blocked when the time is still there to block them.”

Barak met Thursday in Washington with U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

An effort in the Senate to pass new sanctions on Thursday targeting Iran’s energy sector ahead of the May 23 talks was stymied when the Republican leadership exercised its prerogative to block it.

Democrats had hoped to pass the sanctions partly as a means to pressure Iran during the talks, and they blasted the minority leader, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), for his hold.

McConnell said he wanted language inserted that made clear at the option of a military strike, but Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), the majority leader, said he was blindsided. “I feel I’ve been jerked around,” he said.

McConnell said he hoped to have a revised bill before the 23rd.


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!
  • "I’ve never bought illegal drugs, but I imagine a small-time drug deal to feel a bit like buying hummus underground in Brooklyn."
  • We try to show things that get less exposed to the public here. We don’t look to document things that are nice or that people would like. We don’t try to show this place as a beautiful place.”
  • A new Gallup poll shows that only 25% of Americans under 35 support the war in #Gaza. Does this statistic worry you?
  • “You will stomp us into the dirt,” is how her mother responded to Anya Ulinich’s new tragicomic graphic novel. Paul Berger has a more open view of ‘Lena Finkle’s Magic Barrel." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: Hundreds of protesters marched through lower Manhattan yesterday demanding an end to American support for Israel’s operation in #Gaza.
  • Does #Hamas have to lose for there to be peace? Read the latest analysis by J.J. Goldberg.
  • This is what the rockets over Israel and Gaza look like from space:
  • "Israel should not let captives languish or corpses rot. It should do everything in its power to recover people and bodies. Jewish law places a premium on pidyon shvuyim, “the redemption of captives,” and proper burial. But not when the price will lead to more death and more kidnappings." Do you agree?
  • Slate.com's Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • 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.