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Can Joe Lieberman Block Diplomacy with Iran that Would Prevent War?


By Robert_Naiman - Posted on 09 February 2012

There's no question that some people in Washington would very much like for the U.S. to have a policy towards Iran whose endgame is war or externally-induced regime change. And they have a long-term strategy to bring this about, which is to block efforts at meaningful diplomacy, so that the only thing left on the table is war or externally-induced regime change.

Now, according to reports from DC, come Joe Lieberman and Lindsay Graham with a new bill. What does their bill seek to do? According to reports from people who have seen the draft bill, in its current form it seeks to block the President from having a policy to "contain" Iran if it develops nuclear weapons capability.

Jasmin Ramsey wrote Wednesday at LobeLog:

The key lines in the resolved [clauses] have been highlighted by a Washington policy expert:
"(6) Strongly rejects any policy that fails to prevent the Iranian government from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability and that instead would settle for future efforts to "contain" a nuclear weapons capable Iran;
(7) Urges the President to reaffirm the unacceptability of an Iran with nuclear-weapons capability and to oppose any policy that would rely on containment as an option in response to the Iranian nuclear threat." [my emphasis on variations of the word "capable" - RN]

A report by Ron Kampeas of JTA confirms that Lieberman's target is making "nuclear-weapons capability" a red line. Why would this policy be so outrageous? Because many U.S. and Western officials believe that it would be unattainable. On January 24, Helene Cooper reported in the New York Times:

Several American and European officials say privately that the most attainable outcome for the West could be for Iran to maintain the knowledge and technology necessary to build a nuclear weapon while stopping short of doing so.

So, if the reports are accurate, then what Lieberman and Graham seek to do is block the President from pursuing a goal that knowledgeable American and European officials say is the "most attainable outcome." In other words, what Lieberman and Graham seek to do is block any kind of meaningful U.S. diplomatic engagement with Iran over the nuclear issue.

Will Lieberman and Graham prosper in their effort to sabotage diplomacy? Even if their bill never becomes law, if it attracts support from Senate Democrats, it will be cited in press reports as a reason that the Obama Administration is constrained from pursuing serious diplomacy.

Something to watch: what New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand does, because she supported Lieberman in December in insisting that no diplomatic effort was acceptable that allowed Iran to continue enriching uranium. So if I'm Lieberman, Kirsten Gillibrand is my next Democratic target in the effort to block President Obama from pursuing meaningful diplomacy to prevent war.

Robert Naiman is Policy Director at Just Foreign Policy.

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