5 Politicians Pushing the US Closer to a Disastrous War With Iran
Mark Kirk, R-Illinois
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Republican candidates for president have made Iran a top issue in their attacks on President Barack Obama. While US and Israeli intelligence have concluded that Iran is not pursuing a nuclear weapon, Rick Santorum recently suggested that “the issue of the day come this fall” could be the existence of a “nuclear Iran,” And Mitt Romney used his recent speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) to pledge that he would “station multiple carriers and warships at Iran's door.”
President Obama, too, has made Iran a campaign issue, telling reporters at a March 6 press conference, “What’s said on the campaign trail -- those folks don’t have a lot of responsibilities...when I see the casualness with which some of these folks talk about war, I’m reminded of the costs involved in war.”
But lost amidst the focus on what the presidential candidates say about Iran's nuclear program is a recognition that, on this issue, it has been Congress moving toward a more confrontational stance with the Islamic Republic. Congress' belligerent stance exists despite the fact that there are International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors on the ground in Iran, and that Iran has a right to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes as a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
In the House and in the Senate, elected officials have been drafting legislation and issuing statements meant to ratchet up the pressure on Iran. President Obama may be pushing back against the " loose talk of war," but Congress is heavily engaged in just that kind of talk, and a lot more.
Here are five politicians serving in the Congress who have done a lot to push the US toward a belligerent stance on Iran, moving us ever closer to another disastrous “war of choice.”
1. Senator Mark Kirk, R-Illinois
Currently recovering in Chicago from a stroke, this senator has made an indelible impact on the Obama administration's Iran policy. Elected to office partly on the strength of campaign donations from advocates for Israel, Kirk is the co-author of the most consequential sanctions bill yet on Iran, the Kirk-Menendez bill.
In late 2011, Kirk joined forces with Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) to attach an Iran sanctions amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for 2012. The bill's aim was to, in the words of conservative writer David Frum, sever “Iran from the entire global payments system.” The amendment prohibits US financial institutions from doing business with the Central Bank of Iran and from doing business with any foreign bank that knowingly deals with Iran's main bank.
Despite the Obama administration's misgivings— officials worried the sanctions would send the price of oil up—the amendment passed 100-0 in the Senate. President Obama signed it into law on New Year's Eve, with the amendment stipulating that the sanctions would go into force 60 days later.
The sanctions are now having their desired effect, and the Iranian populace, including the opposition movement that many US hawks claim to want to help, is bearing the brunt of their impact. The crippling measures have helped to devalue the rial, the Iranian currency, and have contributed to rising unemployment. They have also damaged the quality of medical care in Iran. And international traders have reported that Iran is “having trouble buying rice, cooking oil and other staples to feed its 74 million people weeks before an election.” (When Kirk was asked whether sanctions would lead to hardships on the Iranian citizenry, he said, “it's okay to take the food out of the mouths” of Iranian citizens since their government allegedly plotted “an attack directly on American soil.”)