A Vote For
Military Force Against Iran?
House Resolution, H.
Con. Res. 362
by Ira Glunts
/ August 2nd, 2008
Ordinarily, the American
Israel Policy Action Committee (AIPAC) has an influence on U.S. foreign
policy which goes unchallenged. In the case of the current House resolution, H.
Con. Res. 362, despite the intense pressure exerted by AIPAC, some members of the
United States House of Representatives who initially were about to rubber stamp
this reckless non-binding resolution promoted by the powerful pro- Israel lobbying
group, are having a change of heart. After receiving many thousands of messages
which pointed out that the resolution could be interpreted as Congressional
authorization for military action against Iran, some legislators began
expressing their own reservations.
On May 19, 2008, a 12-member
House delegation led by House Speaker Pelosi met with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. At that lunch
meeting, Olmert proposed that a naval blockade be
imposed on Iran
in order to stop its uranium enrichment program. Present at this meeting were
Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, House Foreign Affairs
Committee Chairman Howard Berman, and AIPAC loyalists Reps. Nita Lowey and Gary
Ackerman. Three days after this meeting, Mr. Ackerman introduced the resolution
H. Con. Res. 362 in the House.
The legislation calls for
"prohibiting the export to Iran
of all refined petroleum products; and imposing stringent inspection
requirements on all persons, vehicles, ships, planes, trains, and cargo
entering or departing Iran."
This certainly sounds as if the resolution is seeking the blockade which Prime
Minister Olmert had requested. A military blockade is
an act of war. The passage of this resolution would add the voice of the United
States House of Representatives to the growing calls for armed intervention
AIPAC, the highly
influential advocate for the Israeli government on Capitol Hill, is the author
and tireless promoter of H. Con. Res.
362. Israel has openly declared that it seeks armed
intervention in order to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear
There are many in the Bush
administration who are known to favor bombing either Iran's alleged nuclear weapons
sites or their military bases, among them, Vice President Dick Cheney. It was
reported in Israel, and has
since been corroborated by Time, that, during the President's May visit to Israel, the U.S.
delegation convinced the Israelis that America
would attack Iran
before the Bush term expired. Time claims that the administration has reversed
its policy and now favors negotiations, although the U.S.
government's true intentions are not actually
Over 5000 AIPAC activists
went to The Hill at the beginning of June where in 500 separate meetings they
lectured our representatives and Senators about the great importance American
supporters of Israel
attribute to the swift passage of their Iran legislation. Initially, the
results were predictable based on past performance. Congressman rushed to offer
their support. As of today, 259 members of Congress have co-sponsored the
legislation in a truly extraordinary show of loyalty to the pro-Israel lobby.
An unnamed AIPAC official predicted the legislation would quickly and easily
become law with no amendments, "like a hot knife through butter." But
strangely that did not happen.
The legislation is presently
stalled. Mark Weisbrot reported that the Chairman of
the House Foreign Relations Committee, Rep. Howard Berman, has promised that H.
Con. Res. 362 will not be reported out of the committee until the
"blockade" clause is removed. Ghandi Peace
Brigade activist Leslie Angeline wrote, after lobbying
on the Hill, that Berman indicated he had "no intention of moving the bill
through his committee unless the language is first altered to ensure that there
is no possible way it could be construed as authorizing any type of military
action against Iran."
My requests to the House Foreign Relations Committee for information about the
immediate future of the resolution and to verify statements attributed to
Berman did not receive a response.
Many people, already alarmed
and Israeli saber-rattling, were startled at the aggressive tone of the AIPAC
resolution. They reacted especially adversely to the clause prohibiting imports
of refined petroleum which appeared to demand a blockade. Even if a blockade
did not materialize, passage of the resolution could be understood by the Bush
administration as a Congressional authorization for the use of force against Iran. At the
very least, passage of H. Con. Res. 362 would indicate a lack of Congressional
resolve to prevent the U.S. from expanding America's Middle East war to Iran.
This is especially worrisome in light of the fact that, as Seymour Hersh has written in the New Yorker, a Congressional
delegation led by Nancy Pelosi has already authorized 400 million dollars for
covert operations in Iran
aimed at arming dissident groups and subverting Iranian nuclear sites.
Galvanized by the extreme
language of the AIPAC resolution and the growing evidence that both the U.S.
and Israel are considering an attack on Iran before the end of Bush's
presidency, activist groups started asking their members to send emails and
make phone calls to their legislators in order to express concerns about H.
362. Among the groups that
had formal actions were Peace Action, United for Peace and Justice, the
National Iranian-American Council, the Friends Committee on National
Legislation, Code Pink, Just Foreign Policy, the Madison Institute for Peace
and Progressivism, Jstreet, Voters for Peace, AfterDowningStreet, and the Campaign Against Sanctions and
Military Intervention in Iran. According to reports, members of the House of
Representatives received tens of thousands of messages asking lawmakers to
oppose the legislation, many specifically citing the "blockade"
The non-binding resolution
is built on a series of assumptions which selectively and inaccurately reflect
the conclusions of American and UN intelligence sources. The legislation
ignores the key conclusion of the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) and the
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) which state that there is no hard
evidence that Iran
has an active nuclear program. The NIE report, which was published in November
2007, states that evidence indicates that Iran abandoned its nuclear weapons
program in 2003.
Rep. Gary Ackerman has
written two separate letters to the members of the House which explain the
importance of his resolution. He described as "nonsense" the claim
that the legislation calls for a blockade of Iran. Ackerman stated that the
qualifying clause which expressly says that the resolution should not be taken to assert that military force should be used
against Iran, makes it clear that no use of such force could be implied
by the resolution. The problem is that if the resolution is quoted by those
seeking to use military force, as an indication of Congressional support, it
would be very easy for them to selectively quote the "blockade
clause" and omit the denial of authorization of force clause. Ackerman
also stated that the prohibition of refined petroleum clause is meant to be
enforced voluntarily in the exporting countries and not in the Persian Gulf. The phrase "entering or departing Iran" in
the resolution tends to contradict that claim.
Reps. Robert Wexler and
Barney Frank have publicly said that they will attempt to alter the legislation
in order to eliminate all ambiguity about its demanding the use of military
force. Neither has withdrawn his co-sponsorship, however. Three Congressman have withdrawn their co-sponsorships and others
have expressed concern about the legislation in general and about the
"blockade clause" in particular. Rep. Ron Paul went further in a
speech on the House floor in which he warned that the resolution is indeed a
call to war.
Obama met with House Democrats on July 29. At that
meeting, Rep. Howard Berman, who is so far refusing to report H.
Con. Res. 362 to the House
for a vote, asked about the candidate's opinion of the current state of
negotiations with Iran
over its nuclear program. The Democratic candidate, reflecting a reluctance
many share about appearing "soft" on Iran said, according to Rep.
Shelly Berkley, "if the
Iranians don't accept a deal now because they think they're going to get a
better deal from the next president, they're mistaken."
If Berman thought he was going to get a statement from Obama
supporting negotiations and/or opposition to military threats, he was mistaken. Obama has been making
a major effort to court the Jewish vote, so he is not about to criticize the
Bush administration's or anyone else's use of a military threat against Iran.
initiated and supported by AIPAC usually passes in the House quickly with only
15 to 20 dissenting votes. The unexpected delay in committee and the growing
opposition to the legislation may reflect the increasing and understandable
concern about the role of AIPAC in creating American foreign policy in the
Middle East and the alarm that Iran will be the next target of America's expanding
war in that region.
What will be the fate of H.
Con. Res. 362? Even if it is held up indefinitely in the House Foreign Affairs
Committee, the fact that it has 259 co-sponsors means that it expresses
"the sense of the House" regarding the alleged threat posed by Iran
and a willingness of a majority of members of the House to support AIPAC's Iran foreign policy.
It is clear that the antiwar
movement has emerged as a voice in the ongoing debate concerning Iran. However,
if military confrontation with Iran is to be avoided, the peace movement must
convince our politicians not only to oppose legislation like H. Con. Res. 362,
but, more importantly, to renounce the world view of AIPAC and the neo-cons
which has been the foundation of the Bush administration's Middle East
policies. This means the work has just begun.
first visited the Middle East in 1972, where he taught English and physical
education in a small rural community in Israel.
He was a volunteer in the
Israeli Defense Forces in 1992. Mr. Glunts lives in Madison, New York
where he operates a used and rare book business, writes and is a part-time
reference librarian. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.