Senate c'tee: US will aid Israel if it strikes Iran

Resolution sends "strong signal that Washington will not tolerate Tehran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons," says senator.

By JERUSALEM POST CORRESPONDENT
April 18, 2013 00:47
3 minute read.
US Capitol building in Washington D.C.

US Capitol building 311. (photo credit: REUTERS/Jim Bourg)

 
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NEW YORK – An overwhelming majority of the US Senate approved a resolution on Monday that stated the intent of Congress to support the “legitimate self-defense” of Israel, with American diplomatic and military power, if the Jewish state chooses to move ahead with a strike on Iran.

Senate Resolution 65, named in honor of Israel’s 65th anniversary, was brought to the floor by Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-South Carolina) and Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Robert Menendez (D-New Jersey), after a significant lobbying effort from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. The bipartisan pair attracted 79 cosponsors.

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The resolution was passed as a “sense of Congress” proclamation, a piece of legislation that does not carry the force of law. It is essentially a majority opinion issued by the upper chamber of the legislature, which has already approved generous funding for joint military programs with the IDF.

In a possible split from the White House, the resolution states that US policy is to “prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability” – the stated red line of the Netanyahu government.

Obama officials have set a different line: The acquisition of a nuclear weapon – and not merely reaching breakout capacity – has dictated their timeline for action.

The discrepancy is significant, given the extensive revisions made to other sections of the resolution.

Click here for full Jpost coverage of the Iranian threat



Later drafts of the resolution underscored the constitutional requirement of Congress to authorize the use of force or to declare war and noted that this proclamation did neither of those things.

But sources with a pro- Israel organization noted that “in order to give immediate [military] support to an ally, you wouldn’t need additional authorization – you don’t need an action from Congress beyond the authorization of monies, which has already been done.”

Michael Rubin, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and a former Pentagon official, said it would be folly to disregard the resolution just because it came out of the legislative branch and not the executive. He continued that it is the Senate that has led State Department policy on Iran and not the other way around.

“What this resolution does is strengthen diplomacy,” Rubin said. “The Iranians have a bad habit of believing their own propaganda, and they remember the Chuck Hagel hearings. But when you have a sense of resolution like this, it reminds the Iranians that divisions within the United States on Israel aren’t as extreme as they might believe.”

Experts said the resolution serves to both reinforce and undercut US President Barack Obama’s position, which skeptical congressmen fear is overly cautious as the Iranian timeline grows ever shorter.

“As [US Secretary of State John] Kerry has now said, as the president has said, as the military and every relevant branch of American power has said, there’s a finite amount of time for Iran to stop its illicit activities,” said Josh Block, executive director of The Israel Project. “It’s important to make clear that this resolution is about standing with Israel, that the US supports its right to self-defense.”

Ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) told The Jerusalem Post that the resolution, as amended, “expresses strong US support for Israel’s right to self-defense while recognizing Congress’s constitutional role in authorizing US military action overseas.”

“With recent negotiations to end Iran’s nuclear program having broken down, passage of the resolution will send a strong signal that the US will not tolerate Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons,” Corker said. “[The US] will stand by Israel and the international community in enforcement of aggressive sanctions against the regime in Tehran.”

Matthew Duss, a policy analyst at the Center for American Progress in Washington, said that the proclamation “creates certain political commitments when we’re formally talking about military strikes in Congress.”

“Even though it’s not policy, the original draft of the resolution essentially offered a blank check to Israel in the event it decided to strike, and that’s notable because I’m not aware of much precedent for that,” he added.

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