Now, three Members of Congress — Reps. John Conyers (D-MI), Keith Ellison (D-MN), and Barbara Lee (D-CA) — are introducing an amendment to an intelligence authorization bill that would demand a government report about the possible consequences of an attack. Conyers and Ellison, among others, also used the amendment process to tag the Defense authorization — another big appropriations bill likely to pass — with language stating that Congress was not authorizing war with Iran.
The first public comments by members on the amendment, which has the support of pro-peace groups, could come this afternoon when the Rules Committee meets to decide on its inclusion in the larger bill. The amendment, Section 306 of the new bill, reads in full that:
Not later than 60 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Director of National Intelligence shall submit to the congressional intelligence committees a report containing an assessment of the consequences of a military strike against Iran.
The Director of National Intelligence James Clapper has already said that Iran has not made a decision to build a nuclear weapon — an estimate in line with reported U.S. assessments and also the U.N. atomic watchdog and Israeli assessments — and made clear that he thinks Iran can be dissuaded from building a bomb.
But his views on the consequences of a strike are unlikely to satisfy militaristic voices in Congress. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), a prominent hawk on Iran, publicly disagreed with Clapper’s Iran assessments during a hearing this winter. Last year, Graham called on Clapper to resign.
While President Obama, like others, considers a potential Iranian nuclear weapon a threat, this Spring he lamented the “loose talk of war” and called on those who are pushing an attack on Iran to hold open discussions about the possible consequences:
If some of these folks think that it’s time to launch a war, they should say so and they should explain to the american people exactly why they would do that and what the consequences would be.
Instead of hawkish bluster, the Obama administration maintains its options while pushing a negotiated diplomatic solution, which the administration considers the “best and most permanent way” to end the crisis. That’s because Israeli and American experts have noted that attacking could push Iran into building a weapon, and potentially ignite a regional war. Those are exactly the sorts of potential consequences of an attack on Iran that the Obama administration has called for a forthright conversation on, which Conyers, Ellison and Lee are now bolstering. And its exactly the conversation the hawks don’t want to have.