Thursday, July 10, 2008

Rep. Ackerman Continues to Make the Case for H.Con.Res. 362

While some Members of Congress, like Representatives Robert Wexler (D-FL), Barney Frank (D-MA), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) and others, are expressing regrets on H.Con.Res. 362, Rep. Gary Ackerman continues to make the case for his controversial resolution. Today Rep. Ackerman circulated a new "Dear Colleague" letter based largely on his comments to the House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing yesterday.

Below is the full text of the "Dear Colleague" letter.


July 10, 2008

Dear Colleague,

In the Middle East, wherever you see crisis and violence, you'll probably find Iran working to threaten regional stability and U.S. national interests. It’s pursuit of nuclear weapons, its desire to interfere with and undermine legitimately elected governments in Lebanon and the Palestinian territories and its arming of Shia militias in Iraq or warlords in Afghanistan all speak to the need for the international community and the United States to confront Iran’s regional ambitions in a significant and coordinated way.

That’s why, last year, the House has passed legislation to tighten sanctions on Iran’s oil sector and to encourage divestment in companies that do business in Iran. These efforts are designed to convince Iran to abandon both its efforts to develop nuclear weapons and its support for terrorist organizations like Hezbollah and Hamas. In short, sanctions measures are an attempt to avoid war, not to start it. For this reason I drafted H.Con.Res. 362, both to express the deep concerns of Congress about Iranian behavior, and to call for additional non-military pressure to be applied to Tehran.

So it is with puzzlement that I find that some have described a non-binding resolution that I have introduced, along with Mr. Pence and cosponsored by a majority of the House, urging the President to “increase economic, political and diplomatic pressure on Iran” as a resolution declaring war and calling for a naval blockade. Nothing could be further from the truth or my intent. So I’d like to take this opportunity to clarify what H.Con.Res. 362 does and does not do.

First, it is a concurrent resolution. As we all know, it doesn't get presented to the President, and it doesn't get signed, and it thus does not either become law or have the force of law. It's the sense of Congress. Assertions that the resolution constitutes a declaration of war are just absurd.

Second, the final whereas clause of the resolution states as explicitly as the English language will allow "Whereas nothing in this resolution shall be construed as an authorization of the use of force against Iran.” Since a naval blockade is by definition the use of force, the language of this resolution renders the prospect of a naval blockade simply out of the question. This resolution should not be the straw man that some would seek.

Third, the resolution calls on the President to "initiate an international effort to immediately and dramatically increase the economic, political, and diplomatic pressure on Iran.” To point out the obvious, there is no mention of military pressure, much less a blockade and the effort the President is called upon to make is international and diplomatic, not unilateral and military.

Fourth, the resolution calls for the President to seek the international community's support for an export ban on refined petroleum, not a blockade. Iran does not export refined petroleum products, it imports them. Therefore an export ban on refined petroleum would be enforced by customs inspectors and export administrators on the territories of the exporting countries, not in the Persian Gulf. This method is already in use by the international community, including the United States to enforce the four existing UN Security Council resolutions imposing sanctions on Iran.

Fifth, the resolution calls for the President to seek the international community's support for inspections of everything going into or coming out of Iran. This step, like the petroleum export ban, neither mandates nor requires a naval blockade to be put into effect. The inspections called for would be done at ports of embarkation and disembarkation, not by blockade.

Lastly, the whole idea that the resolution calls for a blockade can only be sustained by a determined refusal to read the resolution, or to accept the plain meaning of the words within it. Put simply, the only way to find a blockade or a declaration of war in the text of H.Con.Res. 362 is to insert them by the amending power of imagination alone.




House Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia

1 comment:

John Maszka said...

While diplomacy with Iran may have its challenges, it should be pursued at every length. Iran has a conscription army and nearly 10 million eligible males between the ages of 18 and 32 (Posen, 2003). Iran’s conventional military potential aside, US Intelligence assesses that Iran will likely have nuclear weapons capability within the decade (Select Committee on Intelligence, 2006).

"Je vois plus que jamais qu'il ne faut juger de rien sur sa grandeur apparente." - Voltaire

We should be careful what we assume about Iran, or any country.

The United States needs to be very aware of Iran’s growing political influence in the international community as well. In a sermon commencing the month of Ramadan 2007, the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei accused the Bush administration of war crimes in Iraq, and of attempting to undermine Islam in the Middle East. Amidst chants from worshipers: “Death to America,” Khamenei stated that he has “a firm belief that one day this current US president and the American officials will be tried in a fair international court for the atrocities committed in Iraq.”

American popularity worldwide has plummeted over the 2003 invasion of Iraq and Khameinei’s word’s are falling upon a rising number of sympathetic ears. Any inclination the Bush administration has toward regime change in Iran should be given very, very careful thought. Ultimately, the situation confronting the United States regarding Iran is identical in many respects to the threat of terrorism itself:

A clash of cultures, a stubborn battle of wills, two very different ways of looking at the same reality, a global game of chicken in which neither side wants to back down. This of course is a gross oversimplification of a very complex problem, but there are some basic truths to the argument. The United States and Europe are largely divided on their views of Iran, as well as their views of how best to counter terrorism. One of the greatest challenges facing the United States in its efforts to counter terrorism, is learning to understand those who resort to its use, and developing a coherent construct within which to address terrorism.

The same can be said of Iran. And few can argue that there is no small amount of testosterone in the air, and this stubbornness can be seen on both sides of the standoff. Henry Kissinger has aptly stated that “so long as Iran views itself as a crusade rather than a nation, a common interest will not emerge from negotiations.” But this observation is equally applicable to the Bush administration as well.

Puor bien savoir les choses, il en faut savoir le detail, et comme il est presque infini, nos connaissances sont toujours superficielles et imparfaites.

Unfortunately, what we do know is that the Bush administration cannot be trusted to do what it says. Iraq taught us that lesson. Many experts have long been predicting that Bush would invade Iran before he leaves office. But of course, the Bush administration would never admit to such a thing.

On ne donne rien si liberalement que ses conseils.

But it is the man who follows his own counsel, he's the one that should lead.