Senate Passes Measure Rejecting Containment Of A ‘Nuclear Weapons Capable’ Iran

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) sponsored the Iran resolution (Photo: Getty)

The Senate passed a resolution early on Saturday by a vote of 90-1 “joining” President Obama in rejecting any policy that would seek to contain Iran “as an option in response to the Iranian nuclear threat.” However the non-binding measure — which all but two Democrats voted for — breaks significantly with the president’s policy on containment’s threshold.

In passing the resolution, the Senate is now on record as “reject[ing] any United States policy that would rely on efforts to contain a nuclear weapons-capable Iran.” The wording of “nuclear-weapons capable” is important because many non-proliferation and nuclear experts have said that Iran is currently capable of building a bomb.

President Obama, however, has said his policy is to not contain an Iran with a nuclear weapon:

And what I have said is, is that we will not countenance Iran getting a nuclear weapon. My policy is not containment; my policy is to prevent them from getting a nuclear weapon — because if they get a nuclear weapon that could trigger an arms race in the region, it would undermine our non-proliferation goals, it could potentially fall into the hands of terrorists.

What’s more, the Senate resolution did not define “capable” and various lawmakers in favor of this language have offered a wide array of meanings.

Therefore, the Senate’s threshold for military action to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons (experts and U.S. and Israeli officials have argued that a military strike would only delay, not prevent, an Iranian bomb) is more immediate than Obama’s and dangerously vague.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said recently that the United States would know if Iran decides to push for a nuclear weapon and in that case, there would be time for an appropriate response. The Obama administration has indicated that it takes no option off the table in its effort to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, including military force.

As Ali Gharib noted over at the Daily Beast, passing the measure puts the Senate in league with Mitt Romney and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — who lost his a recent public relations battle on Iran to the Obama administration — over the president.

President Obama has said that he won’t allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon. The Obama administration is aware, not only of the threat an Iranian nuclear weapon poses, but also the potential negative consequences of a military attack on Iran, such as those outlined in a new bipartisan expert report released last week. And that, coupled with U.N., U.S. and Israeli assessments that Iran has not yet decided on whether to build a nuclear weapon, leads the administration to pursue a diplomatic solution with Iran, a track the it deems the “best and most permanent way” to solve the nuclear crisis.