On Saturday (Sept. 22) the U.S. Senate voted 90 to 1 to pass a non-binding resolution that would prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. The lone senator voting against the resolution was Rand Paul, son of Ron Paul the well-known libertarian.
Rand Paul argued that the resolution was de-facto a declaration that the U.S. would wage a pre-emptive war. The resolution was introduced months ago by three senators: Lindsey Graham, Bob Casey and Joe Lieberman.
The Joint Resolution 41 rejects any U.S. policy "that would rely on efforts to contain a nuclear-weapons-capable Iran". Senator Richard Blumenthal said in Senate::“We know that Iran would create access for terrorists – access for them – to these nuclear weapons, making the Middle East a nuclear tinbox. We cannot trust this regime. We know that fact beyond any potential doubt.”
The bill itself claims that it should not be misinterpreted as endorsing military force. However, Paul argues that the resolution would lead to war eventually and in effect endorses a pre-emptive war against Iran. No doubt defenders of the bill will say that the resolution simply states that an offensive pre-emptive attack against Iran is a viable option. However it goes further than that. The resolution implies that if other methods do not prevent Iran from being nuclear capable then there will be a pre-emptive war because the U.S. will not follow a policy of containment.
Paul said in Senate: “A vote for this resolution is a vote for the concept of pre-emptive war.” While the resolution does not directly call for military intervention it does imply that if other methods do not work that the U.S. would intervene militarily since it would refuse to adopt a policy of trying to contain a nuclear capable Iran. The resolution does not even speak of rejecting a policy of containing Iran if it had nuclear weapons but of rejecting such a policy even if Iran only had a nuclear weapons capability.
Since Iran is not attacking the U.S. or even threatening a first strike, Paul seems correct that the resolution puts Iran on notice that the U.S is willing to engage in a pre-emptive war against it. This is a direct threat to Iran and, to follow U.S. logic, Iran would be quite justified in attacking first! This would be a pre-emptive war in self defense.
This resolution comes just as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been pressing the U.S. to draw a red line which, if crossed, would lead the U.S. to military action against Iran. This resolution perhaps is not immediate enough to suit Netanyahu but it does imply that if other tactics do not work the U.S. would wage a pre-emptive attack even if Iran were just capable of making nuclear weapons.