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Resolution would promise US aid if Israel forced to hit Iran

If passed by Senate, non-binding motion would pledge military, economic assistance to Jewish state in war of self-defense

Ilan Ben Zion, a reporter at the Associated Press, is a former news editor at The Times of Israel. He holds a Masters degree in Diplomacy from Tel Aviv University and an Honors Bachelors degree from the University of Toronto in Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, Jewish Studies, and English.

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) (photo credit: AP/Ann Heisenfelt)
Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) (photo credit: AP/Ann Heisenfelt)

A bipartisan group of senators on Thursday sponsored a resolution committing the US government to preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons and vowing that if Israel attacks Iran in self-defense, the United States will assist its ally.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D- NJ) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) are the chief sponsors of the measure, which specifies the US would provide military, diplomatic and economic support to Israel in case it launches a war of self-defense.

They said Thursday that the resolution is a clear message to Iran that the US will take all necessary steps to ensure Tehran does not acquire a nuclear weapon.

“No one wants another conflict anywhere in the world militarily, but we also don’t want a nuclear-capable Iran,” said Graham at a news conference.

If the non-binding resolution is passed, the US Senate would condemn “in the strongest possible terms” statements by Iranian leaders (cataloged at length in the document) calling for the destruction of Israel, and would proclaim that “the policy of the United States is to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon capability and to take such action as may be necessary to implement this policy.”

The resolution also strongly endorses unilateral penalties against Iran.

The measure comes a day after world powers met in Kazakhstan and proposed concessions to Tehran to maintain diplomatic channels that aim to rein in Iran’s nuclear program.

Most far-reaching in the new resolution is the last of its eight clauses, which states that should Israel be “compelled to take military action in self-defense” against Iran, “the United States Government should stand with Israel and provide diplomatic, military, and economic support to the Government of Israel in its defense of its territory, people, and existence.”

The bill comes on the heels of a separate bipartisan bill that would ramp up sanctions on Iran to punish it for its nuclear program.

Rep. Ed Royce, the Republican chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Rep. Eliot Engel, the panel’s top Democrat, said their measure builds on current laws that have undercut the Iranian economy, causing high unemployment and inflation while daily oil production and the value of the country’s currency, the rial, have dropped.

The legislation would extend penalties, targeted now at financial entities, to human rights violators and individuals who transfer technologies to Iran that are used by human rights abusers. The bill would penalize individuals involved in censorship or corruption.

Both bills have strong support from AIPAC, and will be discussed at the lobby’s annual confab next week.

Graham said his nonbinding resolution was neither a declaration of war nor authorization to use military force.

“This is not a green light to Israel to do anything other than defend itself. … We will be there,” Graham said.

Joining Menendez and Graham in proposing the resolution were Sens. Chuck Schumer, (D-NY), Susan Collins (R-Maine), John Hoeven (R-ND) Bob Casey (D-Pa), and Richard Blumenthal, (D-Conn).

The senators told a news conference that they hope to pass the measure before President Barack Obama’s trip to Israel on March 20.

On Thursday, President Shimon Peres met with Wendy Sherman, the under secretary of state for political affairs and the top American negotiator with Iran over its nuclear program. Sherman briefed the president on the progress made in the talks.

Iranian top negotiator Saeed Jalili said the international community’s concessions offer represented a “turning point” by world powers to compromise on Tehran’s uranium-enrichment program after years of delicate negotiations that nearly dissolved last June.

The proposal, which would allow Iran to keep a limited amount of highly enriched uranium — but not to make any more — stops short of demanding the full shutdown of an underground nuclear facility, and offers to remove some trade sanctions that have hurt Iran’s economy.

“I continue to be convinced that [US President Barack] Obama is determined to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons and that Obama and the American government will not cease their important efforts until a solution is found to prevent the Iranian danger,” said Peres after the meeting.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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