Republished by arrangement with Think Progress
Returning from a congressional trip to France, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates, Deputy House Whip Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT) is bringing back two clear messages from the U.S.’s Gulf allies. In an interview with the Bennington Banner, Welch emphasized that they support strong sanctions “to try and change Iranian behavior” and there is “broad apprehension in those countries about military action” and serious questions about whether a military strike could stop Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program.
Appearing on Fox News this afternoon, Welch pushed back against hawkish calls for military action against Iran:
I’d say three things. First, there’s widespread concern … that Iran is dangerous, that them having a nuclear weapon is extremely dangerous. … Two, there’s strong support for sanctions. But three, there’s great reservation and caution about when it comes to the question of using military force, with some apprehension about what that would unleash in the Middle East.
Welch went on to lay out a number of the regionally destabilizing steps that could follow an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities:
If you’re Qatar, where you’re fifty miles across the Strait of Hormuz, they feel they will be on the receiving end of any retaliatory response. Turkey, is very concerned about the loss of access to natural gas that heats their homes in the winter. The UAE, which is a strong U.S. ally, … fears what would happen to it with a response and what happens to the sea lanes and their ability to export oil.
Welch, who is a supporter of the Obama administration’s efforts to built a multilateral sanctions regime against Iran, expressed his concern that congressional efforts to tighten sanctions and push for the “military option” are unhelpful. “Frankly, I don’ think Congress is in a situation to micromanage. It turns into a political debate and one -upmanship,” he said.
Indeed Welch is not alone in identifying the potential dangers of a military strike on Iran’s nuclear program. Former Israeli intelligence chief Meir Dagan referred to an Israeli attack on Iran as “the stupidest thing I have ever heard” and, last week, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta called on Israel to “work together” with the international community, adding to his comments back in November that an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities would only briefly delay the country’s nuclear program.