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Van Hollen cosponsors Iran blockade bill

Chris Van Hollen (D-MD-8) — chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and my congressman — became the 208th co-sponsor [1] of House Concurrent Resolution 362 [2] on Tuesday. That resolution expresses

the sense of Congress regarding the threat posed to international peace, stability in the Middle East, and the vital national security interests of the United States by Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons and regional hegemony, and for other purposes.

While that resolution is only a “sense of Congress” bill, it is asking — make that “demanding” — this president do things like this…

(3) 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; …

(emphasis added) …seems to me like waving a red cape in front of a bull in a china shop.

True, the resolution affirms that nothing in it shall be construed as authorizing use of force against Iran, but (a) little details like that are not likely to bother Cheney or Bush, (b) a blockade — and that’s what it is — is an act of war. Note also that while allegedly thoughtful internationalist types like Van Hollen may think “international effort” means “U.N. approval,”, Bush et al are likely to claim some “coalition of the willing” including Albania and the Fiji Islands is close enough for government work.

There’s also that little matter of last fall’s National Intelligence Estimate [3] (NIE), which seems to have gone down the memory hole, or into the Beltway’s equivalent, a “la la la I can’t hear you la la la” hole. On this, H.Con 362 is nothing if not brazen, citing and essentially ignoring the finding in the same sentence; we’re back to preventive acts of war:

Whereas the November 2007 National Intelligence Estimate reported that Iran was secretly working on the design and manufacture of a nuclear warhead until at least 2003, but that Iran could have enough highly enriched uranium for a nuclear weapon as soon as late 2009;

Well, what more do we need — anchors aweigh! In fact, the NIE [4] also said, “inter alia”*:

This NIE does not assume that Iran intends to acquire nuclear weapons. Rather, it examines the intelligence to assess Iran’s capability and intent (or lack thereof) to acquire nuclear weapons, taking full account of Iran’s dual-use uranium fuel cycle and those nuclear activities that are at least partly civil in nature. […]

Tehran’s decision to halt its nuclear weapons program suggests it is less determined to develop nuclear weapons than we have been judging since 2005. Our assessment that the program probably was halted primarily in response to international pressure suggests Iran may be more vulnerable to influence on the issue than we judged previously. […]

Our assessment that Iran halted the program in 2003 primarily in response to international pressure indicates Tehran’s decisions are guided by a cost-benefit approach rather than a rush to a weapon irrespective of the political, economic, and military costs. This, in turn, suggests that some combination of threats of intensified international scrutiny and pressures, along with opportunities for Iran to achieve its security, prestige, and goals for regional influence in other ways, might—if perceived by Iran’s leaders as credible—prompt Tehran to extend the current halt to its nuclear weapons program. It is difficult to specify what such a combination might be.

(Emphases added.) Now it’s true that a blockade would affect Tehran’s cost-benefit approach — but I’m not sure whether Congressional co-sponsors ought to be so sure how it would affect it, or even destroy it. Putting themselves in their Iranian counterparts’ shoes for just a moment, wouldn’t they be rushing to speak before the Majlis or whatever it’s called saying “we must never let ourselves be dictated to this way! Iran must have a nuclear weapon, now more than ever!” To say nothing of the real powers that be in Tehran.

For more on this, visit “Just Foreign Policy,” where those of us in Van Hollen’s and other co-sponsors’ districts can dash off yet another “disappointed” message [5] to our elected representatives.

* I feel so smart when I say “inter alia”! I almost wonder whether some percentage of Congress co-sponsored this thing for that reason alone.

PS: Almost forgot: might not have learned about this except for an e-mail from the Gordon Clark for Congress [6] campaign to the Montgomery County Progressive Alliance [7] mailing list. From the Green Party candidate’s statement in the e-mail:

Rep. Van Hollen claims that the Iraq war is ‘Bush’s war,’ conveniently ignoring that it is a Democratic House – which Rep. Van Hollen himself helps leads as chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee – which continues to fund the war, including the $162 billion they approved just last week. Now Rep. Van Hollen has attached his name to a measure that is a major step toward war with Iran, a conflict that would dwarf even the Iraq war in its deadly, chaotic and destabilizing effect on the Middle East and world.

I call on Rep. Van Hollen to remove his name from H. Con. Res. 362 immediately, and to do everything in his power to keep this terribly destructive measure from passing.

UPDATE, 6/27: H.Con.Res. 362 is a legislative priority [8] of the powerful American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). Via dailyKos diarist Tom J [9].

9 Comments (Open | Close)

9 Comments To "Van Hollen cosponsors Iran blockade bill"

#1 Comment By Nell On June 27, 2008 @ 5:29 pm

This is seriously bad news; I’ve tried to talk about it in a couple of comment sections, to no effect. Weenie warmongering at its worst. In one breath: we demand a naval blockade of the Straits of Hormuz. In the next: but we’re not authorizing the use of force.

Riiiiight. Because Iran’s response to an act of war might well be the very “provocation” the Cheneyites have been seeking for so long. And then it’s on.

The list of co-sponsors is sickening. This is such irresponsible crap.

#2 Comment By Thomas Nephew On June 27, 2008 @ 5:52 pm

I know you’re down on Jim Webb, but I recall he was pretty good about saying what all could go wrong in the Persian Gulf; I remember getting this vivid impression of carrier groups inching their way around in a tight space like SUVs in an underground parking garage. I know they can defend themselves pretty well, but you’d think we’d all agree picking *another* fight right now is the last thing we need.

I assume Webb’s not one of the cosponsors on the Senate side … [10] (only 18 cosponsors in the Senate, says govtrack). Evan Bayh (D-IN) is the principal sponsor there.

#3 Comment By Paul On June 27, 2008 @ 7:30 pm

A blockade is traditionally considered an act of war.

#4 Comment By Laura On June 27, 2008 @ 10:44 pm

We don’t need to think twice about how such a “blockade” would be considered if it were happening anywhere near the US. The arrogance of this move is overwhelming.

#5 Comment By Thomas Nephew On June 27, 2008 @ 11:02 pm

A blockade is traditionally considered an act of war.
…explaining, I suppose, why they tiptoe around calling it that, and do the general “weenie warmongering” Nell speaks of. Like Bush and torture, they want all the “conveniences” of the act without any of the inconveniences of calling it by name.

how such a “blockade” would be considered if it were happening anywhere near the US.
Well, that would be different because we would never just attack some other country with no good reason… oh wait. We would never secretly develop a nuclear weapon and use it …never mind.

#6 Comment By Nell On June 29, 2008 @ 4:16 pm

Oh, you’re right; this issue is one of Webb’s strongest points. He and Lugar clearly were hoping to get Adm. Fallon before the Armed Services Committee to bust holes in the propaganda about ‘Iran sponsoring attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq’, but Fallon was bounced as CENTCOM chief in favor of Petraeus before that could happen.

He won’t co-sponsor, and I’d expect he would vote ‘no’ if it comes to a vote. Which I hope it doesn’t…

#7 Pingback By Impeaching Bush/Cheney may Be the Only Way to Stop WW III « The Bush/Cheney Impeachment Papers On July 1, 2008 @ 3:02 pm

[…] exactly been making the night news: there’s a bill encouraging the US to blockade Iran which newsrackblog’s Thomas Nephew, who discovered this, likens to “waving a red cape in front of a bull in a china […]

#8 Pingback By newsrackblog.com » » Gordon Clark (Green-MD-8) on Congress and impeachment On July 13, 2008 @ 4:00 am

[…] warming, and to some extent on the storm clouds gathering for a possible Iran war; as I noted at the time, I first learned about the execrable H.Con.Res.362 bill demanding a blockade of Iran via a press […]

#9 Pingback By Takoma Park Impeach Bush & Cheney On July 13, 2008 @ 4:51 pm

[…] warming, and to some extent on the storm clouds gathering for a possible Iran war; as I noted at the time, I first learned about the execrable H.Con.Res.362 bill demanding a blockade of Iran via a press […]