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Senate Approves Iran Redlines, House Aims at Western Hemisphere

The Senate passed new redlines for war with Iran while the House demanded a strategy to confront Iran in the Western Hemisphere.

Washington, DC – Just after midnight on September 22, the Senate voted declare that “the United States Government and the governments of other responsible countries have a vital interest in working together to prevent the Government of Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability.” 

The wording of the measure, in emphasizing “capability,” contradicts the redline put forward by President Obama that the U.S. would not allow Iran to develop an actual weapon.  Instead, the Senate voted to conform to the ultimatum demanded by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The resolution, Senate Joint Resolution 41, which was sponsored by Senators Lindsay Graham (R-SC), Joe Lieberman (I-CT), and Bob Casey (D-PA), passed 90-1 after a difficult road. A House resolution containing the same language was passed in March, but its sister bill was stalled at that time by the concerns of Senator Rand Paul (R-KY).  Paul refused to let the measure advance unless it included language assuring it did not authorize military action.

The revamped version that passed the Senate includes Paul’s anti-war-authorization language.  If passed in its new form by the House, it will be sent to the President for his signature. Though the resolution is not legally binding, according to lead sponsor Senator Graham it sends “a strong statement by the United States Senate that we will not allow Iran to possess nuclear weapons capability.” Senator Paul, the single abstaining vote, maintained his position that “a vote for this resolution is a vote for the concept of preemptive war.”

The vote came just days after the House passed another measure, the Countering Iran in the Western Hemisphere Act of 2012 (HR 3783), ratcheting up Congressional pressure aimed at Iran.  The House bill would require the formulation of “a comprehensive government-wide strategy to counter Iran's growing hostile presence and activity in the Western Hemisphere.” 

The immediate impact of the bill, sponsored by Rep.  Jeff Duncan (R-SC), would be to require “the Secretary of State [to] conduct an assessment of the threats posed to the United States by Iran's growing presence and activity in the Western Hemisphere.” While not calling for conflict in the region, Rep. Duncan asserts that the bill “provides the first step to countering Iran’s hostile presence right here at home.”

In the midst of the highly confrontational tone driving the passage of the two measures, President Obama gave remarks before the United Nations that affirmed his consistent stance that the United States wants a diplomatic resolution to the conflict. “So let me be clear—America wants to resolve this issue through diplomacy and we believe that there is still time and space to do so,” he said. “But that time is not unlimited.” 

 

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