Today, the Senate is expected to vote on an “extremely threatening” amendment to the Defense Authorization Bill introduced by Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Jon Kyl (R-AZ). The “sense of the Senate” amendment could “lead to a tit-for-tat escalation resulting in military confrontation between the US and Iran.”
The legislation accuses Iran of fighting “a proxy war against the Iraqi state and coalition forces in Iraq” and threatens to “combat, contain and [stop]” Iran. The right wing has quickly latched onto the amendment, claiming it “unflinchingly…calls on America to win” against Iran.
Appearing on Fox News today, Kyl attempted to downplay the legislation’s implications, claiming “this is not intended to be an authorization of military force against Iran.” Watch it:
In reality, the amendment is a clear call for military action against alleged Iranian agents inside Iraq. From the text of the legislation:
(3) that it should be the policy of the United States to combat, contain, and [stop] the violent activities and destabilizing influence inside Iraq of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran, its foreign facilitators such as Lebanese Hezbollah, and its indigenous Iraqi proxies;
(4) to support the prudent and calibrated use of all instruments of United States national power in Iraq, including diplomatic, economic, intelligence, and military instruments, in support of the policy described in paragraph (3) with respect to the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran and its proxies.
As Jonathan Schwarz noted, the amendment is a “Sense of the Senate” resolution, “which means it has no legal force, but as the Congressional Research Service will tell you, ‘foreign governments pay close attention to [such resolutions] as evidence of shifts in U.S. foreign policy priorities.’”
Analysts are warning that “the growing US focus on confronting Iran in a proxy war inside Iraq risks triggering a direct conflict in the next few months.” Kyl said his legislation would “pass rather handily.”
UPDATE: TPMtv today looks at how the Lieberman-Kyl amendment is similar to the 1998 Iraq Liberation Act, which officially put the U.S. on record as supporting regime change in Iraq.