Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is planning to press the Senate next month to pledge U.S. troops, money, and political support to Israel should Bibi Netanyahu launch a preventive war on Iran.
Graham claims his effort would merely make explicit that the U.S. has Israel's back. But when your friend is drunk, you don't hand them the keys. If Graham has his way, he will hand Bibi the keys and lend him our car, while the rest of us ride shotgun.
Graham's planned measure would outsource the decision about whether the U.S. goes to war to the Israeli prime minister, pledging that if Bibi decides to act -- regardless of the consequences and our own calculations -- the U.S. will provide money, troops, and political leverage (presumably at the UN and IAEA where there will be a push to shred the sanctions and the Non-Proliferation Treaty).
Those who support the measure will likely claim that a "credible threat" of war must be issued in order to prevent an actual war. But U.S. military leaders understand the difference between a credible threat, which is already very much on the table given the U.S. presence in the Persian Gulf, and outsourcing the decision of whether the U.S. goes to war to Bibi Netanyahu.
As chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey pointedly said just weeks ago about potential Israeli strikes on Iran, "I don't want to be complicit if they decide to do it." Graham's resolution is about as clear a signal of complicity as you can get.
Graham's mendacity on Iran policy should by now be notorious. His most recent victory was to convince Congress to endorse Netanayhu's redline for war with Iran instead of the redline laid out by the president. The trick was that, in pushing that measure, Graham disingenuously claimed that Obama's redline was nuclear weapons "capability." And Congress bought it. In reality, the president very clearly rejected that redline and said the U.S redline was to prevent Iran from actually getting the bomb, not getting an amorphous "capability."
But Graham (and Bibi) won the battle on the Hill. Both the House and the Senate voted to endorse Netanyahu's redline, not Obama's. To be fair, many in the House and Senate who supported the resolution still have no idea that there is a difference. They read the talking points circulated by Graham and AIPAC (the measure's chief advocates), and to this day think they were simply voting to endorse what Obama had already said.
Now, Graham is herding his willfully ignorant colleagues to support another incremental step towards war with Iran, under the guise of being "pro-Israel" and supporting the president. His new resolution would twist Obama's words that the U.S. "has Israel's back" to mean the U.S. is on call to jump into war with Iran if and when Netanyahu decides it's go time.
According to CQ, Graham said having Israel's back means, "if you get into a fight, I'm coming to help you." He continued:
"There are two different clocks here, the Washington clock and the Tel Aviv clock," he said. "The Israelis are not going to let the window close on their ability to slow down this program. They're going to act... They're going to control their own destiny."
Graham's resolution would make it clear that the United States would provide assistance to Israel "if they have to go because they've decided they are not going to turn their window over to us or anybody else."
Sorry, but there is a difference between not getting in Israel's way and actively supporting a disastrous decision with American servicemembers, money, and international political leverage. Graham is hoping that, yet again, no one notices the difference.
Having Israel's back does not mean supporting preventive war that the entire national security establishment says would be a disaster for everyone involved and could guarantee an Iranian nuclear weapon. Having Israel's back does not mean goading them into making stupid decisions and pledging to bail them out unconditionally.
The Senate should not be handing out promises to enable foreign leaders to decide whether and when the U.S. goes to war. This would not be a mutual defense pact -- it would be a suicide pact.