Two weeks ago, Rep. Gary Ackerman, the Democrat from New York, delivered an impassioned speech on the House floor defending a controversial resolution he co-sponsored calling on President George W. Bush “to increase economic, political and diplomatic pressure on Iran.”
Since May, when the resolution was introduced, 247 members of Congress have signed on as co-sponsors, including numerous Democrats who are staunch critics of the Bush administration’s prewar Iraq intelligence. Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind., introduced a companion resolution in the Senate on June 2 that is also on the fast track toward approval.
The non-binding resolution, H. Con. Res 362, was introduced just days before the annual American Israel Public Affairs policy meeting in which Iran was the main topic. AIPAC has lobbied Congress heavily to implement sanctions against Iran in language nearly identical to the provisions outlined in Ackerman’s House resolution.
Carah Ong, the Iran policy analyst at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, said in an interview that Congressional Democrats want to prove they are tough on national security and are using Iran as their “scapegoat.”
“Democrats are talking tougher on Iran because they perceive it as a political necessity in my opinion,” she said.
Ackerman’s “resolution could provide political cover if this administration decides to take action against Iran,” Ong said. “It doesn’t help in terms of trying to deal with Iran when you have an administration advocating attacks against Iran.”
The United Nations has imposed three sets of sanctions against Iran over its refusal to suspend uranium enrichment. The U.S. and the and the European Union have implemented sanctions against Iran’s banks. Iran, meanwhile has vehemently denied that it is pursuing a nuclear weapons program. Iranian officials have said its uranium enrichment program is to meet the country’s growing demand for energy.
Washington lawmakers, however, aren’t buying it.
They are responding to the impasse with several resolutions and bills intended to pressure the Iranian regime to abandon its nuclear activities.
The most notable of the measures currently working its way through Congress is H. Con. Res 362 introduced in May by Ackerman.
H. Con. Res. 362 “demands that the President initiate an international effort to immediately and dramatically increase the economic, political, and diplomatic pressure on Iran to verifiably suspend its nuclear enrichment activities by, inter alia, prohibiting the export to Iran of all refined petroleum products; imposing stringent inspection requirements on all persons, vehicles, ships, planes, trains, and cargo entering or departing Iran; and prohibiting the international movement of all Iranian officials not involved in negotiating the suspension of Iran's nuclear program.”
Indeed, two weeks ago, three retired military officials urged Congress to abandon its support for H. Con Res 362 stating that the measure is “poorly conceived, poorly timed, and potentially dangerous.”