In the next couple of weeks, the House of Representatives may consider H.Con.Res. 362, a non-binding resolution on Iran. H.Con.Res. 362 is the latest in a series of provocative and counter-productive Congressional initiatives on Iran.
Council for a Livable World joins other organizations in urging Members of Congress not to co-sponsor this provocative measure and to vote “No” on H.Con.Res. 362 if it comes to a vote.
* This resolution reprises and magnifies the Bush Administration’s longstanding sticks-and-saber-rattling-and-no-carrots approach to dealing with Iran – an approach that is increasingly recognized even by senior U.S. intelligence and military officials as inadequate and unconstructive.
Worse still, H. Con. Res. 362 risks reinforcing the most reckless tendencies of those in the Bush administration who have not yet given up on the idea of striking Iran militarily before leaving office.
The sanctions demanded in H. Con. Res. 362 go far beyond existing sanctions and previously proposed sanctions for dealing with Iran. The impact of these additional sanctions would be to undermine any chance for diplomacy to succeed in achieving a negotiated resolution to all of the outstanding issues between the U.S. and Iran.
* For example, H. Con. Res. 362 demands that the president initiate an international effort “prohibiting the international movement of all Iranian officials not involved in negotiating the suspension of Iran’s nuclear program.” Implementation of such a measure would decrease chances of persuading Iran to come to the negotiating table and make impossible the kind of discreet, preparatory contacts that could help build confidence. Such a measure would also undermine efforts to resume U.S.-Iran talks in Baghdad over Iraq security.
* Furthermore, H. Con. Res. 362 contains a mixed message – on the one hand stating that it should not be construed as authorizing the use of force against Iran, and on the other demanding that the President impose harsh sanctions that would be difficult if not impossible to implement outside the context of using force. This mixed message, even if unintentional, is irresponsible; in the event that the Administration does eventually try to impose a naval or air blockade on Iran, members of Congress who support H. Con. Res. 362 risk being viewed as having approved this option in advance.
The resolution thus risks sending a message to the Bush administration and the world that Congress supports a more belligerent policy toward, and, potentially, belligerent actions against, Iran.
Perversely, H. Con. Res. 362 completely fails to acknowledge the November 2007 U.S. National Intelligence Estimate, which found that Iran had abandoned its covert nuclear weapons program in 2003. It also ignores the findings of International Atomic Energy Agency Director Mohammed ElBaradei, who has consistently said there is no evidence of diversion of nuclear materials for a nuclear weapons program.
* Likewise, H. Con. Res. 362 fails to reflect a key finding of the November 2007 National Intelligence Estimate on Iran, which concluded that “some combination of threats of intensified international scrutiny and pressures, along with opportunities for Iran to achieve its security, prestige, and goals for regional influence in other ways, might – if perceived by Iran’s leaders as credible – prompt Tehran to extend the current halt to its nuclear weapons program.”
Sanctions alone are of limited use and cannot replace diplomacy as the sole means for resolving the outstanding issues between the U.S. and Iran. Before pushing for another new round of sanctions against Iran, Congress should urge the President to pursue diplomacy without preconditions, a policy that has not even been tried.
Prominent Iranian intellectuals, academics, dissidents and human rights defenders, many of whom have suffered increasing arrests and prosecutions, have urged the U.S. to stop threatening Iran and enter into direct negotiations to resolve the crisis. Congress should listen.
* Clearly, there are serious outstanding questions and concerns regarding Iran’s nuclear program. The best way to resolve these questions would be for the U.S. to drop preconditions and enter into direct, comprehensive, bilateral talks with Iran.