By: Caroline Cohn, National Iranian American Council (NIAC)
Washington, DC - On Friday (June 14, 2013) the House passed its annual defense policy bill, the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), containing numerous provocative measures, including a call for the immediate transfer of military materials to Israel to conduct strikes on Iran.
The provision for sending military materials to Israel-including air refueling tankers and advanced bunker-buster munitions-also requires the President to report to Congress on the steps he is taking to transfer these items. This language, proposed by Representative Peter Roskam (R-IL), aims to ensure Israel’s “independent capability to remove any existential threat posed by the Iranian nuclear program.” It thereby essentially helps the U.S. to outsource its decision to go to war with Iran over its nuclear program.
The measure also calls for two aircraft carriers to be stationed in the “Arabian Gulf” at all times, utilizing a controversial and historically inaccurate term to refer to the Persian Gulf. The National Iranian American Council has been in direct contact with policymakers to correct the term. While the Persian Gulf has been known and recognized as such for more than 2,500 years, "Arabian Gulf" is a term that has been used from time to time since the 1950's by figures including Gamal Abdul Nasser, Saddam Hussein, and even Osama Bin Laden to promote ethnic divisions and support Arab nationalism. The term is used by the House in a section calling for the U.S. to finalize bilateral security agreements with the Gulf Cooperation Council, a coalition of Arab states.
Three amendments to the bill were also passed on the floor late Thursday evening that are non-binding but which represent a ratcheting up of the saber-rattling aimed at Iran. One such amendment was proposed by Jackie Walorski (R-IN), which called for the U.S. to provide military, diplomatic and economic support to Israel if it decides to strike Iran. This amendment mirrors a resolution that passed in the Senate last month that has been criticized as a green light for Israel to launch a war against Iran.
Passed en bloc with Walorski’s amendment was Representative Trent Franks’ (R-AZ) amendment, which established the sense of Congress that Iran’s “ongoing and illegal nuclear weapons program” is a “paramount security concern of the United States.” Franks’ amendment ignores the assessment of U.S. intelligence agencies that Iran has not yet made a decision on whether to pursue a nuclear weapon.
An amendment by Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) was also passed authorizing the Secretary of Defense to “deploy assets, personnel, and resources” to counter "the Iranian presence in Latin America", among other things. This amendment could authorize a military response by the U.S. in the Western hemisphere.
Despite several provocative elements of the bill, one promising amendment with regard to easing tensions with Iran was adopted by the full House. The bipartisan amendment, proposed by Reps. John Conyers (D-MI), Hank Johnson (D-GA), Walter Jones (R-NC) and Keith Ellison (D-MN), clarifies that “nothing in this Act shall be construed as authorizing the use of force against Iran.” This amendment, which makes clear that there is no authorization of war with Iran, is a reaffirmation of the unanimous decision made in the House during last year’s NDAA debate.
The Senate Armed Services Committee is expected to pass its version of the NDAA as soon as next month, after which point the two chambers will have to compromise on a final version in conference to send to the President to be signed into law. In the past few years, the House version has contained hawkish and provocative provisions that have often been removed in conference.
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