Senate resolution: US will back Israeli force on Iran

Resolution that US should support Israel if it were forced to defend itself from Iranian nuclear threat voted in 99-0.

May 24, 2013 02:19
2 minute read.
IAF F-15s refueling midflight [file]

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.

Asserting that 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 exhausted.

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 resolution’s passage.

“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 the resolution.

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.

Anthony 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 consequences.”

“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 added.

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