CREDIT: Arizona Republic
A Republican member of Congress is seeking co-sponsors for a bill authorizing military action against Iran amid signs that diplomacy between the Islamic Republic, the United States and its international partners may yield concrete results.
Numerous experts, former diplomats, members of Congress and Obama administration officials have cautioned that more sanctions and/or increased bellicose rhetoric coming from Congress could undermine opportunities to solve the Iranian nuclear crisis diplomatically, particularly given signs that Iran may be seeking a way out of the impasse.
Yet, Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) this week is circulating a measure to authorize war with Iran should conditions he lays out — including the complete cessation of any uranium enrichment inside Iran, a point most experts view as a nonstarter — not be met.
The bill is seemingly disguised as one promoting a diplomatic solution but it ultimately gives the president “consent” to use military action:
Congress hereby acknowledges that this Act constitutes current consultation with the President on Iran in order to provide for swift application of all options to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapons capability and provides consent to the necessary and appropriate use of force against legitimate targets in Iran to achieve the objectives described in paragraph (2).
Franks — who said last month he planned introducing an Iran war authorization — says his “objectives” of military action would be to “[d]eter the development of nuclear weapons” and “[d]egrade Iran’s capacity to develop such weapons in the future.” Yet many experts, including current and former U.S. and Israeli security officials, say a military attack would actually encourage Iran to develop nuclear weapons and would only delay such an outcome, not prevent it.
Franks’ bill also contains some misrepresentations of fact. He says he wants to prevent Iran from “gaining a nuclear weapons capability,” but Iran arguably already has that capability, so it’s unclear at the very outset of his measure, what it is he’s trying to achieve. Second, Franks also states that Iran currently has a “nuclear weapons program,” yet U.S. and Israeli officials have said the Iranians have not made a decision to push for a nuclear weapon.
“By all accounts this legislation is a purely Trent Franks production and unlikely to go anywhere in its current form,” says Peace Now’s Lara Friedman. “That said, many believe there is growing support/pressure in Congress (and possibly on Congress) for an Iran AUMF.”
Indeed, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) has said he plans to follow through on his pledge to introduce a bill to green light a U.S. attack on Iran should the new round of negotiations, which are set to begin later this month, go nowhere.
Meanwhile, experts and other lawmakers are advocating diplomacy and urging the Obama administration to explore the new constructive tone coming from Iran. And the American people are on the same page. Seventy-six percent said in a recent poll that they favor direct negotiations as part of a strategy to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.