Senator Joe Lieberman on Tuesday signaled that the incoming Congress may consider endorsing war with Iran.
Speaking before the Foreign Policy Initiative, a neoconservative think tank formed by many of the chief architects of the Iraq war, Lieberman was questioned by accomplished war advocate Bill Kristol about how the new Congress will factor into Iran policy.
Lieberman said that Congress would focus on pressing the Administration on sanctions, but also suggested Congress may decide to formally endorse military options against Iran. According to Lieberman, Congress’ role should include “that we express what I believe is actually there in the Congress and I think it’s there in the American people. Nobody wants to use military force against Iran, but there is a base, a broad bipartisan base of support if the Commander in Chief comes to a point where he thinks that’s necessary.”
MR. KRISTOL: And so Congress could —
SENATOR LIEBERMAN: Could express that in some way, but I think that’s not tomorrow, but it may be down the road depending on — I mean, when you think about it, by January it will have been six months since the sanctions began to be applied to Iran, and it’s fair to say that there’s been no voluntary limitation of their nuclear weapons program.
While Lieberman was careful to say that such a Congressional action endorsing war would be in “support” of the President if he decides force is necessary, the pro-war crowd is clearly trying to turn up the pressure on Obama and is unlikely to be satisfied with compromise. Republicans have already demonstrated a willingness to undermine the President on foreign policy, with incoming Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s suggestion to Benjamin Netanyahu that Republicans would be a “check” on Obama as just the latest example. Earlier this year, House Republicans introduced a resolution endorsing Israeli strikes against Iran, undercutting the authority of the President and his civilian and military leadership to prevent such an attack by sending a signal that Congress would stand with Israel instead of the President.
Lieberman, who recently joined his Senate colleague Lindsey Graham to “up the rhetorical ante” on Iran by endorsing the military option against Iran, buys into the argument offered by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last week that escalating war rhetoric against Iran should be part of US policy. This is the next step in paving the path to war—whether under Obama or, as was the case with Iraq in the 90’s, to tee up war for the next President. Once the war threat is out there, it doesn’t go away.
Such advice defies pushback from Defense Secretary Robert Gates and dire warnings about the consequences of strikes from US military leaders. It ignores a recent USIP-Stimson report that states, “Even veiled allusions to the ‘military option’ reinforce those Iranian hardliners who argue that Iran requires nuclear weapons to deter the US, and protect Tehran’s security and freedom of action.” And it flies in the face of Iranian democracy activists and human rights defenders who say that war can only undercut their cause.
Lieberman argued yesterday in the Wall Street Journal that Obama can seize an opportunity to forge a “bipartisan foreign policy” by teaming up with new Republican leadership in Congress to thwart “anti-war Democrats and isolationist Republicans.” But it is unclear how long Lieberman and the pro-war crowd will be willing to wait before pushing to further undercut the President by signaling that Congress is ready for war with Iran.