A Dangerous Move in Congress

by Judy Reynolds and Claude Garrod

Representative Mike Thompson has joined 251 of his colleagues in supporting a resolution (House Concurrent Resolution 362) that promises to give President Bush the ammunition he needs to take us to war with Iran.

This resolution, introduced on May 22, 2008 with little fanfare and an eerie silence from the major media, excoriates Iran with the terrorism and nuclear weapons claims made by President Bush over the past years, and calls for an international effort to prohibit the export to Iran of all refined petroleum products and the imposition of "stringent inspection requirements on all persons, vehicles, ships, planes, trains, and cargo entering or departing Iran." According to several retired military personnel, inspections of this nature could "not be accomplished without a blockade or the use of force," while implementation of these measures, without a Security Council resolution, "could be construed as an act of war."

Thompson claims that the resolution can be amended to ensure that there is no possible way to interpret it as authorizing any type of military force. He points to the clause that states, "nothing in this resolution shall be construed as an authorization of the use of force against Iran." He ignores the finding clauses of the resolution that themselves present an obstacle to negotiations with Iran and add support to Bush's war agenda.

The beginning "Sense of Congress" paragraph of HCR 362 notes a threat to international peace, to stability in the Middle East and to "the vital national security interests of the United States" by Iran's "pursuit of nuclear weapons and regional hegemony . . ." Many of Bush's belligerent claims that are half truths or lies regarding Iran's covert nuclear weapons program and terrorist horrors, including support of Hezbollah, Hamas, Shi'a miltants inside of Iraq, anti-government warlords in Afghanistan, and a "massive rearming campaign by Syria," are presented as "facts."

These "facts" have been disputed by many sources, including Iraq's Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki who, according to the Washington Post, has stated that Iraq's relations with the Iranians had "improved to the point that they are not interfering with our internal affairs." Muhammed Sahimi, a professor of chemical engineering and material science at the University of Southern California who has published extensively on Iran's nuclear program, has effectively "deconstructed" HCR 362 and its companion resolution in the Senate (SR 580). He has noted that, "Both resolutions are replete with factual errors, exaggerations, halftruths, and even outright lies." His "deconstruction' publication can be found at

There has never been a hearing before a neutral deliberative body on these issues. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the agency that is investigating Iran's nuclear program, has never made a finding that Iran is developing a nuclear weapon. The terrorism charges are based solely on newspaper reports full of hearsay allegations. Now we have a trial by Congressional resolution.

The Bush administration has made several moves that indicate they are pursuing a negotiated solution with Iran. In July, Undersecretary of State Williams Burns was sent to Geneva to participate in talks with Iran on its nuclear policy. U.S. officials have floated a proposal for opening a low-level diplomatic office in Tehran. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has stated, "everybody recognizes what the consequences of any kind of conflict would be. . . (T)he diplomatic and economic approach to dealing with Iran . . . is the strategy and is the approach that continues to dominate." A Congressional resolution that insists that Iran is a "threat" to international peace, stability in the Middle East and our vital national interest cannot be used to further diplomacy. To the contrary, HCR 362, with its accusatory approach, is the antithesis of a diplomatic solution.

In addition, Bush continues to beat the drums of war. Last December, in response to the finding by the National Intelligence Estimate that Iran had halted its nuclear weapons program in the fall of 2003, Bush was adamant that his policy remained the same, stating that the best diplomacy "is one of which all options are on the table." This would include bombing Iran. As recent as June 12 of this year, Bush again raised the possibility of a military strike against Iran to "thwart Tehran's presumed nuclear weapons ambitions." In late July, Bush administration officials reassured Israel's defense minister that the U.S. had not abandoned all possibility of a military attack on Iran. HCR 362's belligerent "fact-findings" can only fuel this fire.

Gates has been quoted as warning that a preemptive strike on Iran will "create generations of jihadists, and our grandchildren will be battling our enemies here in America." Congress should take this warning seriously and realize that HCR 362 has no value except to serve as a threat to negotiations with Iran or a potential excuse by Bush to justify an attack on Iran. Congress should stop wasting its time in trying to "amend" the resolution. The only solution that will serve the cause of diplomacy and a negotiated peace with Iran is the defeat of HCR 362.