A bipartisan coalition of senators essentially promised Thursday that the U.S. would take military action against Iran if they become capable of producing nuclear weapons. Just don’t ask them to define “capable.”
Thirty-two senators have signed on to sponsor the six-page resolution that “rejects any United States policy that would rely on efforts to contain a nuclear weapons-capable Iran.” Some believe it amounts to a promise that the U.S. would use force against Iran if they become capable of producing nuclear weapons, though what precisely “capable” means is up in the air.
“I guess everybody will determine for themselves what that means,” Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) said at a news conference on the Capitol Hill. “But to me, nuclear weapons capability means that they have crossed a red line and they’re capable of producing a nuclear weapon. In other words, they have all the components necessary to do that. It is a standard that in my opinion is more real, and perhaps in some sense it’s higher than saying the red line is when they actually have the nuclear weapons.”
Lieberman said that Iran has “only two choices: peacefully negotiate to end your nuclear weapons program or expect a military strike to disable that program. Distraction by negotiation why you become a nuclear power is not an option for you, and containment of a nuclear Iran is not an option for us.”
Still, Lieberman said the resolution was “not an authorization for use of military force,” a sentiment echoed by other senators at the press conference.
“Whatever the consequences of a military strike to disable an Iranian nuclear program, the consequences of living with a nuclear Iran are much more grave,” Lieberman said.
Others at the press conference piled on the rhetoric.
“We’re for real,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT).
“We will end their nuclear weapons program,” said Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE)
Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC) said the purpose of the news conference was to “get away from the political moment” after he was asked a question about the Republican presidential race.
“The purpose is to tell the Iranians that no matter what you think, America is not divided when it comes to dealing with you,” Graham said. “You’ve been able to do what no one else has been able to accomplish. I don’t think they understand how hard it is to bring everybody together in America, but you’ve been able to do it. Why have you been able to do it? Because of your behavior. Because of the outrageous nature of what you want for your people and the world at large.”