Earlier this week Senator Bob Menendez spoke at AIPAC and vowed to use military force to stop Iran from achieving nuclear capability.
when it comes to Iran’s drive to achieve nuclear weapons capability. We cannot, we must not, and we will not stand for a nuclear Iran. Period.
Then yesterday North Korea threatened to use nukes to turn Washington into a “sea of fire,” and Menendez dismissed the threat as “absurd and suicidal;” if North Korea attacks us, that’s the end of North Korea.
At yesterday’s news briefing at the State Department, the spokesperson Victoria Nuland all but dismissed the threat as bluster, and said they couldn’t hurt us if they wanted to.
How serious do you take the threats from Pyongyang?
MS. NULAND: Well, let’s just start by saying that this kind of bellicose rhetoric from the DPRK is not surprising. It’s not new. This regime has regularly missed the opportunity to improve its relationship with the outside world. Let me just take this opportunity to say that the United States is fully capable of defending against a DPRK ballistic missile attack. Furthermore, we are continuing to upgrade our ballistic missile defense capabilities. We remain firmly committed to the defense of the Republic of Korea and Japan and the maintenance of regional peace and security…
QUESTION: Just – when you say that it’s not surprising, does that mean you take it to be more bluster than actual warning of any imminent plans from North Korea of military action?
MS. NULAND: Well, obviously, one has to take what any government says seriously. It’s for that reason that I repeat here that we are fully capable of defending the United States. But I would also say that this kind of extreme rhetoric has not been unusual for this regime, unfortunately.
Let’s be clear: Menendez’s suicide argument and Victoria Nuland’s fully capable of defending argument are arguments for deterrence and containment. You never hear those arguments in the context of Iran’s alleged nuclear ambitions–no, there we have to use military force if Iran even approaches nuclear capability, presumably because Muslims are so irrational.
It’s a double standard that pertains to the special relationship the U.S. has with Israel. Ahmadinejad’s declaration that Israel will disappear from the pages of history was regarded as an existential threat to the Jewish state. Imagine if an Iranian leader said he’d turn Washington or Jerusalem into a “sea of fire.”
Here is Menendez speaking to AIPAC:
Of course of course, the greatest threat to Israel’s security is Iran. It is clear to everyone in this room that there can never be any daylight between the United States and Israel. Not ever. But certainly not when it comes to Iran’s drive to achieve nuclear weapons capability. We cannot, we must not, and we will not stand for a nuclear Iran. Period.
Let’s put the Iranian threat to Israel and the region in perspective. Some people say this is all about Israel. I say it’s about the national interest and security of the United States as well. And Iran with nuclear weapons capability would be emboldened to take more aggressive actions against both Israel and the United States.
Yes, a Shahab 3 missile can hit Israel, but it can also hit a NATO ally. And under our NATO treaty agreement, we are obligated to respond on behalf of any NATO ally. It’s already unacceptable and deplorable support for terrorist groups like Hamas and Hezbollah would only increase. Its provocative behavior around one of the world’s most important strategic waterways, the Strait of Hormuz, could escalate. And a nuclear Iran could unleash an arms race in the world’s most dangerous tinderbox. Clearly, the threat to Israel’s existence would increase dramatically and the situation would become far, far more dangerous.
Once we put the extent of the nuclear threat in this context, it is easy to see why we need to be prepared to act. We need to be absolutely clear that it is the unequivocal policy of the United States to do everything in its power to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapon capability. And absolutely clear that we reject policy options designed simply to contain a nuclear-armed Iran. Containment is not an option for the United States.
Any policy built around the containment of a nuclear Iran is unacceptable. Our clear intention must be to prevent Iran from ever reaching nuclear capacity, I should say. One way to prevent that from happening is through the tough sanctions that I have authored and been passed by the Congress with your help and your advocacy. Sometimes I know you wonder whether your advocacy makes a difference. It does.
In fact, over the past year and a half I have authored three pieces of legislation that have imposed the toughest sanctions that Iran has ever faced, sanctions that are now strangling the Iranian economy and have had a real impact on the behavior of those companies and countries that were in bed with the regime. But we must do more to fully implement these sanctions and make absolutely clear to the Iranian government that unless they change their course, their situation will only get worse and economic struggles and economic international isolation will grow.
…we should not close the door to further discussions. And I’m hopeful that last week’s negotiations between the P5+1 entities and Iran will bring some future progress. But let’s be clear. We will not and cannot talk for talking’s sake. We cannot allow the negotiations to become just a stalling tactic for Iran to buy time. The P5+1 and the broader international community must unite around a simple message, two simple points: We will never accept a nuclear Iran and you cannot outwait us in that goal.
…Of course, sanctions are only a means to a clear end. In this case, Iran engaging in serious meaningful, fruitful negotiations that result in an end to its nuclear ambitions. Sanctions are our last peaceful diplomacy too. But we must also make clear, as President Obama has said, that all options are on the table. And I add that those options must be credible, which is why the Graham-Menendez resolution is so important at this time, standing behind Israel and its ability to protect itself and sending that message to the rest of the world.