There is reason to be concerned with the recent resurgence of rhetoric and threats involving Israel, the United States, and an allegedly nuclear weapon-seeking Iran. What is surprising, however, is the complicity of Congress in this dangerous path toward military confrontation. Recent headlines have signaled this complicity – yet too often, these headlines come and go without much attention or critical reflection.
For instance, we recently learned – from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer editorial board and other sources – that more than 200 members of the U.S. House of Representatives have co-sponsored a non-binding resolution (H.Con.Res.362) urging President Bush to utilize "all appropriate economic, political, and diplomatic means" to make certain that Iran does not acquire nuclear weapons capability. The resolution specifically mentions "imposing stringent inspection requirements on all persons, vehicles, ships, planes, trains, and cargo entering or departing Iran." Such an embargo, if enforced with a naval blockade, would require the approval of the United Nations, according to Ethan Chorin, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Yet no such provision is included in the resolution. While this development has received serious attention from various online news sources, it has drawn little interest from the mainstream media.
Have we already forgotten the December 2007 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) report that expressed "high confidence" that Iran, back in 2003, halted its attempt to develop a nuclear weapon? President Bush, however, interpreted this new information as a "warning signal" – and Congress followed suit. As the NIE report became public, Congress was busy authorizing up to $400 million to conduct covert operations in Iran, according to journalist Seymour Hersh in The New Yorker last month.
Israel continues to play its part in this drama, as well. Last month, over 100 Israeli fighter jets engaged in major military exercises over the eastern Mediterranean – meant as a threat to Iran, U.S. officials suggested. Asked about using military action against Iran, President Bush has repeatedly confirmed, "All options are on the table" -- including the use of tactical nuclear weapons to destroy Iran’s nuclear sites. If attacked, Iran recently promised to "react fiercely." On June 20, Mohamad ElBaradei, head of the U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), confirmed, "A military strike...would be worse than anything possible. It would turn the region into a fireball" (Reuters). The consequences would be devastating for the Iranian people and the stability of the Middle East.
Here’s one positive note: it appears that U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates opposes military action against Iran. Now Congress needs to follow Gates’ lead – instead of continuing to aid and abet the Bush Administration’s inclinations toward war with Iran. In the meantime, we must reject the uncritical presumption that the U.S. "wouldn’t possibly" attack Iran; it is our responsibility, as citizens of this nation, to continue carefully monitoring the situation – and to speak out when necessary.
Luke Hansen, S.J.