Senator Joe Lieberman, in his remarks to the neoconservative Foreign Policy Initiative on Tuesday, told Bill Kristol that the new Congress would press the Obama administration on sanctions but may also formally endorse the use of military force againt Iran.
Lieberman said (PDF):
Nobody wants to use military force against Iran, but there is a base, a broad bipartisan base of support if the Commander in Chief comes to a point where he thinks that’s necessary
Kristol picked up on the possibility of an Iran war resolution and led Lieberman down the path:
Kristol: And so Congress could –
Lieberman: Could express that in some way, but I think that’s not tomorrow, but it may be down the road depending on – I mean, when you think about it, by January it will have been six months since the sanctions began to be applied to Iran, and it’s fair to say that there’s been no voluntary limitation of their nuclear weapons program.
The National Iranian American Council (NIAC) points out Lieberman was careful to say that such legislation would “support” the White House if it decides that a military option is worth pursuing. But the willingness of House Republicans to stand against the White House on foreign policy issues raises questions about how such a resolution would be used.
Incoming House Majority Leader Eric Cantor reportedly told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he will serve as a “check” on Obama and that “the Republican majority understands the special relationship between the Israel and the United States.”
The JTA’s Ron Kampeas commented that he “[couldn’t] remember an opposition leader telling a foreign leader, in a personal meeting, that he would side, as a policy, with that leader against the president.”
Lieberman’s remarks at the FPI, the introduction of legislation endorsing Israeli strikes against Iran earlier this year and Cantor’s comments to Netanyahu, all indicate that Obama will face a tough time controlling the war-talk in Congress.
Perhaps the most important takeaway from Lieberman’s comment is that on Tuesday Secretary of Defense Robert Gates explicitly outlined the dangers of a military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities. He said:
A military solution, as far as I’m concerned … it will bring together a divided nation. It will make them absolutely committed to obtaining nuclear weapons. And they will just go deeper and more covert.
Gates has warned that a military strike might strengthen the Iranian resolve to acquire a nuclear weapon. The U.S. Institute of Peace and the Stimson Center have said that “[e]ven veiled allusions to the ‘military option’ reinforce those Iranian hardliners who argue that Iran requires nuclear weapons to deter the US, and protect Tehran’s security and freedom of action.” But these warnings appear to be falling on deaf ears with hawks in Congress, like Lieberman, who are on record that they may endorse war with Iran.