IAF F-15s refueling midflight 390 (R).
(photo credit: Baz Ratner / Reuters)
NEW YORK – With the support of 99 senators both Republican and Democrat, a
resolution passed Congress’s upper chamber on Wednesday declaring US support for
Israeli military action against Iran’s nuclear facilities.
such preemptive action is within Israel’s right to defend itself, the Senate
resolution – strategically telling, but not self-binding by any meaningful
definition – calls on the Obama administration to allow Israel to proceed with
kinetic strikes if it concludes that all other options have been
The vote marks the first time Congress has explicitly gone on
record supporting Israeli military action.
Senator Robert Menendez, who
co-sponsored the bill with Senator Lindsey Graham, said that US policy was at a
“crossroads” on Iran as he stood on the Senate floor to vote for the
“While this resolution makes absolutely clear that
we are not authorizing the use of force, it does make clear that we have
Israel’s back,” Menendez said. “That if Israel is compelled to take military
action in self-defense against Iran’s nuclear program that we should stand with
Israel – using all the tools of our national power – to assist Israel in defense
of its territory, people and existence.”
The show of congressional
resolve is in sync with previous resolutions condemning Iran for its nuclear
activities, but signals a shift in attitudes on the Hill regarding the ultimate
effectiveness of sanctions.
“It’s essentially Congress saying that
diplomacy is not moving forward,” says one source familiar with the crafting of
On the same day as the vote, the IAEA released a new
report claiming that Iran has continued to expand its nuclear activities. Also
on Wednesday, the House Foreign Affairs Committee adopted a new sanctions
package against Iran targeting, among other things, currency loopholes that
allow the Islamic Republic access to the Euro.
The House sanctions bill,
with 344 co-sponsors, will likely see an affirmative vote within the next few
weeks. A companion bill in the Senate is expected soon after.
Cordesman, an expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies,
criticized the resolution.
“It’s more of a gesture of political
opportunism than support for Israel,” Cordesman said. “It’s the type of
resolution you can easily pass if you have no ownership over the military
“Perhaps its more of a litmus test of US support for
Israel, but certainly it’s as close to a hallow gesture as you can get,” he