Posted by Thomas Nephew on 3rd November 2008
I received an e-mail from Representative Chris Van Hollen’s office last week on the subject of H.Con.Res. 362, known to its detractors as the “Iran blockade resolution.” (The e-mail may be read here.)
A disturbing part of that resolution (in my opinion) is:
[Congress] demands that the President 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;…
(emphases added) …which — given this administration’s “ready, fire, aim” methods — still seems to me like “waving a red cape in front of a bull in a china shop.” The gist of Van Hollen’s response to my own e-mail expressing opposition to H.Con.362 is this:
Some have interpreted language in the resolution as authorizing a blockade of Iran. The resolution makes no mention of military pressure-much less a blockade. H. Con. Res. 362 calls for the President to seek the international community’s support for an export ban on refined petroleum, not a blockade. Iran does not export refined petroleum products, it imports them. Therefore an export ban on refined petroleum would be enforced by customs inspectors and export administrators on the territories of the exporting countries, not in the Persian Gulf. This method is already in use by the international community, including the United States to enforce the four existing UN Security Council resolutions imposing sanctions on Iran.
Finally, I draw your attention to the final whereas clause of the resolution which states in explicit language, “Whereas nothing in this resolution shall be construed as an authorization of the use of force against Iran.” Since a naval blockade is by definition the use of force, the language of the final whereas clause of this resolution renders the prospect of a naval blockade simply out of the question.
First, it is of no consequence whatsoever that Iran imports refined petroleum products — in fact, preventing imports is the traditional purpose of a blockade. Second, the resolution itself speaks of “stringent inspection requirements on all persons, vehicles, ships, planes, trains, and cargo entering or departing Iran.”
Now I’m not alone in suspecting that the language of the resolution is a reckless demand for a naval blockade — whatever its sponsors may have intended, the measures envisioned can not be carried out without inspections and, if necessary, interdictions at sea. From a July 10, 2008 letter by Lawrence Korb, Vice Admiral Jack Shanahan (ret.), and Lt. General Robert Gard, Jr. (ret.) urging Congress to abandon the resolution:
• The language demanding the President initiate an international effort “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,” is of particular concern because despite the protests of its sponsors, we believe that implementation of inspections of this nature could not be accomplished without a blockade or the use of force.
• Immense military resources would be required to implement such inspections of cargo moving through the seas, on the ground and in the air. The international community has shown no willingness to join in such an activity. Without a Security Council Resolution, implementation of these measures could be construed as an act of war.