Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said on Tuesday that he plans to introduce a resolution authorizing war with Iran if “nothing changes” regarding the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program by the end of the year.
“If nothing changes in Iran, come September, October, I will present a resolution that will authorize the use of military force to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear bomb,” Graham told a “cheering” audience at a conference put on by the right-wing group Christians United for Israel, according to CQ Roll Call.
“The only way to convince Iran to halt their nuclear program is to make it clear that we will take it out,” Graham said, echoing comments he made last week, calling the war authorization “the last card to play in a very dangerous situation.”
But experts and former top officials have been warning that ratcheting up pressure and rhetoric against Iran — particularly after Iranians just elected the most moderate presidential candidate available to them — would be counterproductive. “While it will take time to secure an agreement to resolve all concerns, diplomacy will only succeed if we are prepared to leverage existing sanctions and other incentives in exchange for reciprocal Iranian concessions,” said a letter signed by 29 former government officials, military officers, diplomats, and national security experts.
And while some members of Congress are calling on the administration to focus on diplomacy, former U.S. Ambassadors William Leurs and Thomas Pickering and international security expert Jim Walsh recently criticized this “coercive diplomacy” approach to Iran favored by Graham in a piece in the New York Review of Books:
“Coercive diplomacy” is an oxymoron. Invariably the coercive side dominates the diplomatic side. Intransigent enemies who threaten US interests and security cannot be ignored; yet the United States’ experience in solving such problems by the use of coercive action such as war or sanctions that end in war has been highly costly in human lives, resources, and its global position during the past sixty years. As in Vietnam, coercion has often failed to achieve US objectives or a negotiated settlement that gave us most of what we needed. Yet the US has been impressively successful in achieving its objectives when it has placed diplomacy above punitive measures.
Graham has been suggesting, directly and indirectly, the use of military force against Iran since at least 2010:
- September 20, 2010: “If you use military force against Iran, you’ve opened up Pandora’s box. If you allow Iran to get a nuclear weapon, you’ve emptied Pandora’s box. I’d rather open up Pandora’s box than empty it.”
- November 6, 2010: “[If President Obama] decides to be tough with Iran beyond sanctions, I think he is going to feel a lot of Republican support for the idea that we cannot let Iran develop a nuclear weapon.”
- November 6, 2010: “Instead of a surgical strike on their nuclear infrastructure, I think we’re to the point now that you have to really neuter the regime’s ability to wage war against us and our allies. And that’s a different military scenario. It’s not a ground invasion but it certainly destroys the ability of the regime to strike back.”
- May 18, 2012: “We should tell the Iranians, no negotiations, stop enriching, open up the site on the bottom of the mountain, a secret site. Then we will talk about lifting sanctions. You are not going to get to enrich uranium any more, period.”
- October 21, 2012: “I think the time for talking [with Iran] is over.”
Indeed, back in March of this year, after Graham and Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) said they planned to introduce a (later slightly watered-down) resolution pledging U.S. military support to Israel should it decide to attack Iran, the South Carolina Republican explained to the Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin his process toward mainstreaming war: “On his Iran resolutions, Graham favor[s a] step-by-step approach. ‘You have to build a case,’ he explained: First, you rule out containment, then pledge support to Israel, and if that doesn’t work, tell Obama, ‘Mr. President, here’s authorization.’”
Graham may have difficulty winning support for his resolution as many of his colleagues are already on record opposing an Iran war authorization.