Washington, DC - Even as concerns about military conflict with Iran have sparked a viral anti-war campaign in which Israelis and Iranians are sharing messages of mutual friendship, lawmakers in Washington are ratcheting up tensions between the two countries.
A controversial new measure in the House of Representatives, presented as a commemoration of the 64th birthday of the State of Israel, includes language endorsing Israeli military action on Iran.
The resolution, H.Con.Res.115, includes a clause on the nuclear standoff with Iran that endorses “the use of military force if no other peaceful solution can be found within a reasonable time.” The measure’s sponsor, freshman Representative Ann-Marie Buerkle (R-NY), has not clarified what is meant by a “reasonable time.”
Buerkle's resolution comes as concerns about a military showdown have reached a fever pitch, but it is not the first to endorse Israeli preventative military strikes on Iran. Similar language was included in a measure introduced first in 2010 by Representative Louis Gohmert (R-TX).
That measure never gained support from Congressional leadership, or from any Democrats, and did not reach the House floor for a vote. The influential pro-Israel lobby American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC)reportedly opposed the Gohmert resolution on the grounds that it distracted from efforts to increase Iran sanctions. But AIPAC has yet to signal whether it supports or opposes the new Buerkle resolution, and Congressional aides have recently suggested that the group has begun lobbying for war with Iran.
Still, it is unclear if Buerkle’s measure will advance. While resolutions commemorating Israel’s founding have enjoyed broad bipartisan support in the past, only four Democrats signed onto the Buerkle resolution (Reps. Dan Boren [OK-2], Dennis Cardoza [CA-18], Tim Holden [PA-17], and Richard Neal [MA-2]) when it was introduced, compared to 64 Republicans.
There are indications the measure is less about celebrating Israel’s birthday than it is aimed at scoring political points against the President by using Israel as a wedge issue. Buerkle sent out a request for signatures to her Congressional colleagues that criticized the Obama Administration as having “strained our relationship with Israel.”
Efforts by some in Congress to endorse Israeli strikes, though to date unsuccessful, have also been criticized as undercutting the President’s ability to prevent a war with Iran. By signaling support in Congress for Israeli strikes--in spite of the President’s efforts to achieve a diplomatic solution--Israeli officials may be led to believe Congress will mitigate the President’s ability to press back against such strikes.
The measure is also drawing ire for containing a number of misleading and factually inaccurate statements, such as overstating the number of Israelis who have been killed in rocket attacks-twenty-one-as totaling in the “hundreds.” It also asserts that Iran is engaged in "ongoing efforts to acquire nuclear weapons," contradicting the findings of the U.S. and Israeli intelligence communities that Iran has not made the decision to build a nuclear weapon.
U.S. military officials have warned in dire terms that a new military confrontation in the Middle East would be harmful to U.S. interests and not achieve Israel’s security goals regarding Iran’s nuclear program. Several reports have indicated the U.S. would be drawn into any such conflict and that Iran would be more likely to build a nuclear weapon were there nuclear facilities to be attacked. Most recently, a Pentagon simulation found that, in the immediate aftermath of an Israeli strike, two hundred U.S. servicemembers would be killed in Iranian retaliatory strikes.
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