Senators Open Back Door for War With Iran

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, waves, as he boards his plane, while leaving Mehrabad airport en rout to Venezuela to
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, waves, as he boards his plane, while leaving Mehrabad airport en rout to Venezuela to attend Hugo Chavez's funeral ceremony in Tehran, Iran, Thursday, March 7, 2013. Ahmadinejad has left for Caracas to attend the funeral of his Venezuelan ally Hugo Chavez. Ahmadinejad is the head of an Iranian delegation that flew out of Tehran on Thursday. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

As of this writing, nearly half of the Senate has signed on to what is nicknamed the "Back Door to War" resolution, which calls for the U.S. to pledge military support for a potential Israeli attack on Iran -- a commitment that would drag the United States into another war in the Middle East. This bipartisan resolution (S. Res. 65) introduced by Senators Lindsey Graham (SC) and Robert Menendez (NJ) signals a green light for a U.S.-Israeli war that former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates warned could "prove catastrophic, haunting us for generations in that part of the world."

On Tuesday, thousands of activists from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) lobbied every senator's office in support of the Back Door to War with Iran Resolution. AIPAC's activists also lobbied every representative's office to support a new round of broad sanctions against Iran, and called on the House and Senate to shield U.S. military aid to Israel from the sequester's prescribed cuts.

Back Door to War Today... Front Door to War Tomorrow

Unlike the House sanctions bill, the resolution on the Senate side is non-binding, which means that it cannot become law. However, Senator Graham admitted that it could lay the groundwork for legislation committing the United States to war against Iran. In an interview with the Washington Post, Sen. Graham highlighted how this resolution could be a stepping stone to a binding authorization for U.S. military force against Iran:

"First, you make the argument containment is not a good idea. [...] Then weeks or months pass. If the Iranians are still moving toward a nuclear capability then the next logical step would be to say, 'Mr. President, here is force authorization.'"

In other words, this resolution could be a precursor to a full-on authorization of military force (AUMF) against Iran that -- like the post 9/11 AUMF and the Iraq AUMF -- would authorize the United States to launch yet another war. Alarmingly, even Senators Ron Wyden (OR) and Barbara Boxer (CA), who vigorously opposed the AUMF for war with Iraq, cosponsored this resolution.

Senator Graham's articulation of the bigger plan for this resolution is a reminder that the United States isn't going to launch a war overnight. Instead, it takes a number of smaller steps to slowly build acceptance for the idea of deploying thousands of U.S. troops to attack a foreign country, as in the build-up to the invasion and occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan.

The most dangerous provision of S. Res. 65 is at the end of the resolution, after a laundry list of anti-Iran "whereas" clauses:

[Congress] urges that, if the Government of Israel is compelled to take military action in self-defense, the United States Government should stand with Israel and provide diplomatic, military, and economic support to the Government of Israel in its defense of its territory, people, and existence.

Delegitimizing War: Some Good News Too

Thankfully, not all the news is bad. The resolution includes a reminder of the success that the peace and security community has had in delegitimizing war in the face of these endless rounds of saber-rattling legislation. The last line of the resolution stipulates that "nothing in this resolution shall be construed as an authorization for the use of force or a declaration of war." If it weren't for the tens of thousands of pro-peace citizen advocates who mobilized to tone down previous rounds of saber-rattling legislation, this 'non-authorization of war' language would no doubt have been left out altogether.

The 'non-authorization of war' language is an important reminder that concerned citizens who oppose a war of choice have influence on Capitol Hill -- but it's not enough. While it doesn't authorize war, the Back Door to War with Iran resolution strongly encourages -- and hence lays the groundwork for -- a U.S./Israel attack on Iran.

Former officials from the U.S. national security establishment are also warning against this reckless move, with Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, the former chief of staff for Secretary of State Colin Powell, warning that "resolutions like S. Res. 65 would call for the United States surrender to another country the right to sweep the U.S. into a disastrous war." Former CIA Veteran Paul Pillar and former White House official Gary Sick have also blasted the legislation.

Pro-peace citizen lobbyists can still defeat this resolution the same way the peace and security community has defeated pro-war initiatives in the past -- through calling, writing, and lobbying your senators to oppose this legislation.

You can find out whether your senators have cosponsored this dangerous legislation and take action at the Friends Committee on National Legislation's website.