In spite of a National Intelligence Estimate from last December that found that Iran had halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003, Congress may soon give President Bush a weapon to use to strike at Iran—and claim that he is simply enforcing the wishes of Congress.
A resolution, H Con 362, is gathering momentum in the U.S. House and has a counterpart in the Senate. It calls for a crackdown on Iran by "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."
Inspect persons and vehicles entering or departing Iran? Prohibit the international movement of Iranian officials?
How could this be enforced without a blockade or military action? That's what observers who want to avoid war with Iran are asking. It's widely believed that President Bush has ordered preparations to be made for a military strike against Iran and has been restrained by the extreme reluctance of many Pentagon officials to take on another military action in the Middle East.
"I'm all for stricter sanctions against Iran, but the blockade part goes too far," U.S. Rep. Barney Frank, who originally supported the resolution, told the Advocate. "I'm going to call the sponsors and tell them I'm changing my vote."
The resolution highlights the wrenching question of how far the U.S. will go to support Israel's real or perceived security needs. It was pushed in Congress by AIPAC (American Israeli Public Affairs Committee), the powerful pro-Israeli lobby.
In fact, as the resolution gathers steam in Congress, two former officials of AIPAC who in 2005 were indicted for spying—illegally passing classified American defense information to Israeli journalists and reporters— are still awaiting trial.
Meanwhile Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice reportedly wants to set up a sub-embassy-level diplomatic station in Tehran to process visas and relay messages from the U.S. to the Iranian government.