Sens. Graham, Lieberman and Casey set to propose resolution ruling out Iran containment strategy

Last month Jim pointed out that Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) were working on a bipartisan resolution that would put the Senate on record as ruling out a strategy of containment for Iran. “All options must be on the table when it comes to Iran — except for one, and that is containment,” reads a quote at the top of a January press release on Lieberman’s website. Now Sen. Robert Casey (D-PA) has also signed on and the draft resolution is expected to be dropped tomorrow.

The key lines in the resolved case have been highlighted by a Washington policy expert:

(6) Strongly rejects any policy that fails to prevent the Iranian government from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability and that instead would settle for future efforts to “contain” a nuclear weapons capable Iran;

(7) Urges the President to reaffirm the unacceptability of an Iran with nuclear-weapons capability  and to oppose any policy that would rely on containment as an option in response to the Iranian nuclear threat.

Laura Rozen reports that the resolution is not “technically binding”, but would “put additional pressure on the administration to limit diplomatic efforts to resolve concerns about Iran’s nuclear program, without recourse to another war.”

The pressure follows draconian measures proposed by members of Congress in 2011. In November, Ali Gharib reported about an amendment to H.R. 1905, the Iran Threat Reductions Act, which essentially bars contact between U.S. and Iranian officials unless a special waiver is requested by the president 15 days in advance. Associate Professor of Political Science at Swarthmore College, Dominic Tierney, responded in the Atlantic that the bill was based on “severe illusions” and that it would seriously limit the U.S.’s options if a “crisis” with Iran did break out.

According to Harvard’s Professor of International Affairs, Stephen Walt, the Graham-Lieberman-Casey resolution could do more harm than good:

If Congress is serious about U.S. national security, it would do nothing to tie the hands of an administration that clearly takes Iran’s nuclear program very seriously. Trying to rule out containment by fiat is worse than laughable; it is positively dangerous.

Walt added that the resolution isn’t really intended to advance U.S. interests. “It’s merely another opportunity for legislators to pander and posture to AIPAC and other hardline extremists,” he said.

Pundits and analysts that oppose diplomacy with Iran in favor of harsher measures and/or military strikes and Iranian regime change argue that Iran has failed to embrace offers of engagement and is not serious about reaching a negotiated settlement about its nuclear program. But what “options” with Iran will the U.S. be left with if official communication is almost completely prohibited and if even considering containment is being opposed?

If the Obama administration wants to avoid further confrontation with Iran, aren’t these measures making it increasingly difficult for it to do so?

Note: This post was updated with information from Laura Rozen’s Yahoo News report.

Jasmin Ramsey

Jasmin Ramsey is a journalist based in Washington, DC.