The American Israel Public Affairs Committee's (AIPAC) annual policy conference is coming up this weekend, and one of their top priorities is to secure U.S. backing for an Israeli strike on Iran. Today, the AIPAC ask was taken up by two Senators who have been in the lead on pushing for aggressive U.S. policy on Iran: Lindsey Graham and Robert Menendez.
Think Progress' Hayes Brown has the story:
Two hawkish Senators want to set U.S. policy in favor of prematurely pulling the “military option” trigger against Iran, pledging American backing of absolutely any strike by Israel against Iran and its nuclear program.
Brown quotes the key part of the legislation:
Urges that, if the Government of Israel is compelled to take military action in self-defense, the United States Government should stand with Israel and provide diplomatic, military, and economic support to the Government of Israel in its defense of its territory, people, and existence.
As Brown notes, while the resolution is not a Congressional authorization to use military force, it does "serve as an official announcement of U.S. policy to support any Israeli strike."
Iran expert Gary Sick tells Open Zion's Ali Gharib why the resolution is so problematic. "Initiating a war is the gravest step any nation can take," he said. "This legislation would effectively entrust that decision to a regional state. Such a decision is an American sovereign responsibility. It cannot be outsourced." Gharib adds that "while non-binding Congressional resolutions don't directly make policy, the language therein often manifests itself both in later, binding legislative efforts and, more frequently, in the public discourse."
What the Think Progress report doesn't mention is that the Graham-Menendez resolution is exactly what AIPAC will push for at its conference, which begins on Sunday. The Jewish Telegraphic Agency's Ron Kampeas reports:
[AIPAC's] agenda will focus on the Congress enacting legislation that would designate Israel a “major strategic ally” of the United States -- a relationship not enjoyed by any other nation -- and on facilitating a U.S. green light should Israel decide to strike Iran. Should the measures being considered by the Senate and the House of Representatives pass, it would constitute the most explicit congressional sanction for military action against Iran’s suspected nuclear weapons program.
Here's an easy prediction to make: the Graham-Menendez resolution will get ample support in Congress. AIPAC tells Kampeas that they will be bringing 13,000 activists to the conference, similar to last year's "record break[ing]" number. Next Tuesday is when the lobbyists will swarm Capitol Hill.
Last year, an AIPAC-backed resolution that critics derided as a "blank check for war" was introduced ahead of the AIPAC conference. That resolution was meant to align U.S. policy with Israeli policy on the Iranian nuclear energy program. The bill called on the U.S. to prevent Iran from attaining nuclear-weapons "capability"--a nebulous term. The House of Representatives passed the Iran "capability" bill in March 2012, but it took a bit more time for the Senate to pass it, due to Kentucky Senator Rand Paul's objections. Still, the Senate passed the "capability" bill in September 2012, and AIPAC celebrated, as M.J. Rosenberg noted at the time:
AIPAC applauds the Senate for rejecting a policy of containment of an Iranian nuclear weapons capability and calling for an increase in sanctions against the world’s leading state sponsor of terror.
Expect a repeat of last year's legislative performance after the AIPAC conference closes out.