May 17, 2012

House Vote on Iran Is No Endorsement of “Zero Enrichment” Redline

Contact: Jamal Abdi
Phone: 202-386-6408
Email: [email protected]

NIAC Policy Director Jamal Abdi issued the following statement in response to House passage of H.Res.568, a resolution concerning Iranian nuclear weapons capability:

The pro-peace community won an important battle this week as opposition to H.Res.568 and its Senate companion forced the bills’ sponsors to address dangerous ambiguities in the legislation. The resolution rules out containing a “nuclear weapons capable” Iran, a term the resolution does not define but that many interpreted as ruling out uranium enrichment — the “red line” for war that opponents of diplomacy have pressured the United States government to adopt.

Although the resolution received strong support in the House today, this only came after the lead Democratic sponsor, Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA) went on the record to clarify there is no authorization for war and made clear that the Congress was not opposing a diplomatic solution that would potentially allow for Iranian enrichment of uranium for strictly civilian purposes. Instead, Rep. Berman made clear that Iran would not have a “nuclear weapons capability” unless it masters fissile material production, builds and tests a warhead, develops a delivery vehicle, kicks out international inspectors, and shuts off the cameras of international nuclear inspectors. Rep. Berman further backed his statement with testimony from the Director of National Intelligence.

Although Congress adopted the language of hardliners by endorsing Iranian nuclear weapons “capability” as the U.S. redline, the statement on the floor rejected the “zero enrichment” ultimatum endorsed by the former Bush Administration, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and Congressional hawks. Instead, the definition provided on the floor moves the House closer to the Obama Administration’s inspections-based approach. President Obama has avoided the “capability” red line, instead stating that the U.S. would not allow Iran to actually build or acquire a nuclear weapon.

A group of 12 Senators have strongly backed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s insistence that no diplomatic agreement allow for Iranian enrichment, but the House debate on the resolution makes clear that this is not the unified position of supporters of the measure.

In addition, after being questioned about their resolution on the Senate floor, the lead sponsors of the Senate companion resolution, S.Res.380, made clear that their resolution does not constitute authorization for war. They further stated their belief that President would have to return to the Congress for any such authorization. However, the Senate has still failed to address the ambiguities in the term “nuclear weapons capability.”




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