Read the letter from APN to Congressional staff on the importance of amending the initiatives being discussed with them by AIPAC, followed by the specific flaws and suggested fixes as seen by APN.
Tomorrow, thousands of activists will be on the Hill, brought there by AIPAC. These activists will be visiting your office and will claim to speak for all Americans, and especially American Jews, who care about Israel. We want you to know: they do not speak for the entire Jewish community.
Most American Jews recognize that Israeli-Palestinian peace is a vital U.S. and Israeli interests - that without peace, Israel cannot have real security and cannot survive as a Jewish state and a democracy. Most American Jews, too, support resolute U.S. leadership to achieve it. Regrettably, the AIPAC-backed initiative that we understand will be introduced in the House (and possibly the Senate) this week omits any mention of support for peace, or U.S. leadership to achieve peace. The initiative appears to focus exclusively on strengthening U.S.-Israel security cooperation on a number of fronts. We urge members of Congress to amend this bill to include language recognizing the importance of Israeli-Palestinian peace and supporting U.S. leadership to achieve it.
Likewise, virtually all American Jews recognize that a nuclear-armed Iran would pose a serious threat to Israel and U.S. national security interests. We believe that addressing this threat requires a sober, rational approach, not the adoption of reckless positions or support for precipitous military action. In this regard, the activists coming to the Hill tomorrow will be pressing your boss to support an Iran-focused resolution (H. Res. 568 or S. Res. 380, which are substantively identical). Regrettably, these initiatives are deeply flawed and conflict with the best interests of both the U.S. and Israel (the flaws are discussed in detail below, as well as suggested ways they can be fixed). We urge members of Congress to refuse to co-sponsor or vote H. Res. 568/S. Res. 380 unless and until the flaws are corrected.
If you have any questions about either of these issues, or any other issue related to the quest for peace and security in the Middle East, please don't hesitate to contact me.
Director of Policy and Government Relations
Americans for Peace Now
Problem #1: Lowering the bar for war.
The longstanding U.S. position is that Iran cannot be permitted to acquire nuclear weapons, and that attempting to build a nuclear weapon is a "red line" for the United States. H. Res. 568 and S. Res. 380 attempt to move that "red line" and, in doing so, to lower the bar in terms of what the U.S. considers unacceptable and an automatic trigger for military action.
Specifically, these resolutions shift the red line from not permitting Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon, to not permitting Iran to acquire nuclear weapons capability. As of this writing, U.S. military and intelligence officials are clear that they believe Iran has not crossed any red line in terms of acquiring nuclear weapons. They do not believe Iran is building a nuclear weapon, nor do they believe Iran is actively attempting to do so, nor do they believe Iran has made a decision to do so. On the other hand, the red line for what constitutes nuclear weapons capability is ambiguous (Senator Lieberman has suggested that "everybody will determine for themselves what that means"). Some could argue that it has already been crossed by Iran, since Iran has the expertise and the technical ability to produce a nuclear weapon.
These resolutions not only shift the red line and lower the bar for military action, but they actively misrepresent existing U.S. policy in order to conceal this shift - suggesting that the language in the resolutions is nothing more than a reiteration of longstanding U.S. policy. In reality, the resolutions seek to impose a profound shift in the longstanding U.S. policy - a shift that could have profound effects, including making war potentially imminent and inevitable.
Suggested fix: Change all references in the resolutions about Iranian "capability" to produce nuclear weapons to instead refer to Iranian "acquisition" of nuclear weapons, consistent with U.S. policy.
Problem #2: Laying out unrealistic conditions for diplomacy.
H. Res. 568 and S. Res. 380 each include a faint nod to diplomacy, but lay out an end-game for diplomacy that, if endorsed by Congress, will make it inordinately more difficult, if not impossible, for the U.S. to even attempt to negotiate with Iran. Most notably, H. Res. 568 and S. Res. 380 appear to require that Iran permanently end all enrichment as a precondition for diplomacy and as a condition for any diplomatic resolution to this crisis.
This is a demand that goes beyond what has already been required by the United Nations Security Council - which has called for Iran to halt its enrichment activities, but not as a precondition for negotiations - and would undermine international unity on Iran. It is also a clear non-starter for any possible diplomacy with Iran. The goal of the U.S. and the international community should be to inspect and verify the uranium enrichment activities that are currently underway inside Iran - activities which Iran has a legal and legitimate right to pursue as long as it meets its international obligations as a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Our goal should be to ensure that such activities are truly for peaceful purposes.
By instead insisting on an end to Iranian enrichment as a precondition for diplomacy and a resolution of this crisis, Congress in effect is saying that it rejects diplomacy and a diplomatic resolution.
Suggested fix: Delete/revise language related to the requirements on Iran's nuclear program to make it consistent with United Nations Security Council language, NPT obligations, and IAEA requirements.
Problem #3: Taking all options, except the military option, off the table.
We often hear that, with respect to Iran, "all options are on the table." This phrase is generally understood as code for "the military option is on the table," but in truth it expresses a responsible approach to a critical U.S. national security challenge - an approach according to which officials responsible for U.S. national security genuinely have all possible options under consideration and at their disposal.
H. Res. 568 and S. Res. 380, however, seek to change the meaning of "all options are on the table" to "the only option left on the table is the military option." H. Res. 568 and S. Res. 380 explicitly take the option of containment (of either a nuclear-"capable" or a nuclear-armed Iran) off the table. They lay out unrealistic preconditions for diplomacy. They suggest that unless sanctions imminently result in Iran voluntarily shutting down its entire nuclear program (and somehow deleting the nuclear know-how from the brains of its scientists), military force will be the only option available to the Obama Administration and will be inevitable in the near term.
Indeed, these resolutions can be easily construed as de facto authorizations of use of force against Iran - without any Congressional discussion or debate about what a new war in the Middle East could actually mean for U.S. interests, including Israel. Reading between the lines, the message of these resolutions is that Congress wants a war, and in the near term.
Finally, members of Congress should recognize that non-binding measures of this nature often reappear subsequently as part of binding legislation. Members who support H. Res. 568 or S. Res. 380 will find it difficult to oppose the same pro-war message later, if/when it appears as part of a bill that will formally foreclose the President's options on an issue of vital U.S. national security or more explicitly call for war.
- Add language to the resolutions stating explicitly that the resolutions are not authorizations of the use of force;
- Replace language rejecting containment of a nuclear-weapons-capable Iran with language that focuses clearly on the unacceptability of a nuclear-armed Iran;
- Remove language urging that any option be taken off the table or implying that any option has been taken off the table; and
- Add language urging redoubled U.S. and multilateral efforts to leverage both sanctions and diplomacy to achieve a non-military resolution to this crisis.