House Bill Shifting Red Line for War on Iran Passes Overwhelmingly

The bill calls for a military strike if Iran obtains nuclear "capability"

by John Glaser, May 17, 2012

A bill in the House of Representatives has just been passed which inches the United States dangerously close to war with Iran just days ahead of a second round of diplomatic talks with Iran about its nuclear program.

The vote, passed 401-11, effectively calls for a military attack on Iran when it obtains a “nuclear weapons capability” – an undefined term that, by some interpretations, could already apply to Iran, not to mention Brazil, Japan, the Netherlands, and any other country with a civilian nuclear program.

“Current U.S. policy is that Iran cannot acquire nuclear weapons,” said Dennis Kucinch (D-Ohio), one of the few who voted against the bill. “Instead, H.Res. 568 draws the red line for military action at Iran achieving a nuclear weapons capability, a nebulous and undefined term that would include a civilian nuclear program.”

The shifting of the so-called “red-line” is instructive. Hawkish rhetoric for some time now has been that Iran is developing nuclear weapons and this provides a pretext for war unless we can reverse their course. The problem is that this rhetoric is not true: the U.S. military and intelligence community are in consensus that Iran has no nuclear weapons program.

And so the red-line shifted to include something Iran is doing, namely enriching uranium for peaceful purposes. Some argue that the Iranian government simply having the know-how for building nukes is enough to attack it, but that is an absurd justification for war if for no other reason that knowledge doesn’t amount to an imminent threat. The attack would therefore be a war of aggression - one without the justification for self-defense - which international law designates a serious war crime.

Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, former Chief of Staff for Secretary of State Colin Powell, warned “This resolution reads like the same sheet of music that got us into the Iraq war, and could be the precursor for a war with Iran….it’s effectively a thinly-disguised effort to bless war.”

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