Over the past several weeks, there has been a growing debate in Congress, the blogosphere and throughout the media about a controversial non-binding resolution (House Concurrent Resolution 362), which expresses the sense of Congress regarding the threat Iran's nuclear pursuit poses to international peace, stability in the Middle East, and the vital national security interests of the United States.
This resolution's introduction and the subsequent debates that have taken place across the country have come at a time when the United States faces grave security challenges. It also comes at a time when Congress and the US must be especially careful -- given the monumental foreign policy failures of President Bush -- and remain vigilant in deciding which direction to take our nation, especially as it relates to our policy in Iran.
In the coming weeks, the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, of which I am a member, may vote on House Concurrent Resolution 362. Given my growing concerns regarding this resolution, including its failure to advocate for direct American engagement with Tehran and open language that could lead to a US blockade of Iran, I will lead an effort to make changes to this resolution before it comes to the Foreign Affairs committee for a vote. Despite being a cosponsor of this resolution -- these changes will ultimately determine whether or not I will continue to support H. Con. Res. 362.
My rationale for originally supporting H. Con. Res. 362, which currently has 230 cosponsors, was to urge the Bush administration to pursue a policy to place additional economic, political and diplomatic pressure on Iran as part of an international endeavor to prevent Tehran from moving forward on its nuclear program. Given my intense distrust of President Bush and his administration's disastrous foreign policy record, I also sponsored legislation (H. R. 3119), which if passed into law would prohibit the use of funds for military operations in Iran unless authorized by Congress and prevents the president from unilaterally going to war.
It is still my belief that it is in America's strategic interest to use strong diplomacy and directly engage Iran in order to prevent the Iranian government from developing nuclear weapons and to avoid a third regional war. However this diplomatic surge will only be successful if the US takes the lead role along with our European allies in directly engaging Iran. American engagement with Iran must be done from a position of strength and with sufficient leverage. In this vein, New York Times columnist Tom Friedman recently pointed out in a May 2008 article, "When you have leverage, talk. When you don't have leverage, get some -- by creating economic, diplomatic or military incentives and pressures that the other side finds too tempting or frightening to ignore. That is where the Bush team has been so incompetent vis-à-vis Iran."
It should have been an American representative last week along with European Union High Representative Javier Solana sitting down with Iranian leaders and offering an incentives package as part of an international effort to suspend a key part of Iran's nuclear program. It is my goal to add language to H. Con. Res. 362 highlighting a more effective American strategy that calls for direct engagement with Tehran for the purpose of thwarting Iran's nuclear weapons program and ending its support for international terrorism.
It is clear that despite carefully worded language in H. Con. Res. 362 that "nothing in this resolution should be construed as an authorization of the use of force against Iran" that many Americans across the country continue to express real concerns that sections of this resolution will be interpreted by President Bush as "a green light" to use force against Iran.
The language that is most disconcerting in the resolution is the third resolved clause, which demands that the president initiate among several things an "international effort to impose stringent inspection requirements on all persons, vehicles, ships, planes, trains, and cargo entering or departing Iran."
I firmly believe it was not the intention of the authors of this resolution to open the door to a US blockade or armed conflict with Iran. However, I fully understand and share the American public's mistrust of President Bush and his administration, which has abused its executive powers, willfully misled this nation into a disastrous war in Iraq and disturbingly continues to beat the Iran war drum.
To that end, I am not willing to leave even the "slightest crack" open for this president to unilaterally set this nation down another disastrous path of war in Iran. It is unacceptable for Congress once again to leave the door open for President Bush to exploit -- as he did when Congress authorized the use of military force against Iraq in a 2002 resolution. I believe it is essential that Congress remove the language in H. Con. Res. 362 that could lead to president Bush's unilateral imposition of a blockade on Iran.
We are in a unique moment in American history because the misgivings about the Bush administration's intentions and policies run so deep that the President is not trusted to carryout security policies that are in the best interest of our nation. As we debate H. Con. Res. 362, it has become clear that Congress must counter the Administration's tendencies of preferring armed conflict over diplomacy, and we must make every effort to change the text of this resolution. The stakes are too high for Congress to kowtow to this Administration; therefore, I am preparing to offer amendments to H. Con. Res. 362 and articulate a responsible policy that places America in the strongest possible diplomatic position to thwart Iran's nuclear program and the difficult security challenges we face.