Speaking at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference on Sunday, President Obama warned that “already there is too much loose talk of war” and that “such talk has only benefited the Iranian government, by driving up the price of oil.” But Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), speaking at AIPAC yesterday evening, ignored those warnings when he threatened a congressional resolution authorizing the use of military force against Iran. McConnell told the AIPAC audience:
MCCONNELL: All that’s been lacking until now is a clear declaratory policy. And if the administration is reluctant for some reason to articulate it, then Congress will attempt to do it for them. So tonight I make the following commitment in support of the policy I have proposed, and it is this: If at any time the intelligence community presents to Congress an assessment that Iran has begun to enrich uranium to weapons grade levels or has taken a decision to develop a nuclear weapon. [...]
I will consult with the president and joint congressional leadership and introduce before the Senate an authorization for the use of military force.
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Congress has not voted on such a resolution since October 2002 when it passed a resolution giving President George W. Bush the authority to use military force to overthrow Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and initiate the Iraq War.
While McConnell is endorsing an open discussion of military force against Iran, neither the president — as illustrated in his comments to AIPAC on Sunday — former military and intelligence leadership, nor the American public are at ease with the rush to military action.
The IAEA has expressed serious concerns about possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear program but neither U.N. nuclear agency nor U.S. intelligence reports have concluded that Iran has restarted its nuclear weapons program. Last week, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta told Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), “our intelligence makes clear that [the Iranians] haven’t made the decision to develop a nuclear weapon.” Panetta said in January that Iran will need “about a year” to produce the nuclear weapon and about 2 to 3 years to “put it on a deliverable vehicle of some sort.” But last November, Panetta also warned that using military force would only delay Iran’s nuclear progress.