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The first "resolved" paragraph of the Lieberman resolution affirms that it is a "vital national interest" of the United States to prevent Iran from acquiring a "nuclear weapons capability".
The phrase "vital national interest" is a "term of art". It means something that the US should be willing to go to war for. Recall the debate over whether the US military intervention in Libya was a "vital national interest" of the United States (which Defence Secretary Robert Gates said it wasn't.) It was a debate over whether the bar was met to justify the United States going to war.
The resolution seeks to establish it as US policy that a nuclear weapons capability - not acquisition of a nuclear weapon, but the technical capacity to create one - is a "red line" for the United States. If the US were to announce to Iran that achieving "nuclear weapons capability" is a red line for the US, the US would be saying that it is ready to attack Iran with military force in order to try to prevent Iran from crossing this "line" to achieve "nuclear weapons capability".
Senators from both parties said Thursday that a diplomatic solution was still the goal and they believed the sanctions on Iran were working, but that a containment strategy was less preferable than a military strike on Iranian nuclear facilities if all else fails.
And it is not a political authorisation of force in some far-off future. It is a political authorisation of force today.
"To me, nuclear weapons capability means that they are capable of breaking out and producing a nuclear weapon - in other words, that they have all the components necessary to do that," Lieberman said. "It's a standard that is higher than saying 'The red line is when they actually have nuclear weapons'."
On Thursday, Anthony Cordesman of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies was quoted saying that the November report from the International Atomic Energy Agency "basically laid out the fact that Iran now has every element of technology needed to make a fission weapon".
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.
If the experts and Western officials who believe that Iran already has "the knowledge and technology necessary to build a nuclear weapon" are right, then what that says is that Iran has already crossed the "red line" of the Lieberman bill. And therefore, the supporters of the Lieberman bill are saying that they are ready for war today. Or they are ready for war any time that they decide to join the experts and officials who say that Iran has already crossed the Lieberman "red line", which of course is something that the Lieberman supporters can do anytime they want.
It's as if someone wearing a bag over their head says, "I'm ready for war whenever I see light". All they have to do to see light is take the bag off their head, so they are saying that they are ready for war whenever it is convenient for them to say that they are.
Anyone who supports the Lieberman bill is declaring themselves for war. If AIPAC makes the Lieberman bill an ask for its March policy conference, then at least we'll be done with the pretence that AIPAC is doing anything besides trying to get the US into another Middle East war.