House Resolution Calls for Naval Blockade against Iran
A US House of Representatives Resolution effectively requiring a naval blockade on Iran seems fast tracked for passage, gaining co-sponsors at a remarkable speed, but experts say the measures called for in the resolutions amount to an act of war.
H.CON.RES 362 calls on the president to stop all shipments of refined petroleum products from reaching Iran. It also "demands" that the President impose "stringent inspection requirements on all persons, vehicles, ships, planes, trains and cargo entering or departing Iran".
Analysts say that this would require a US naval blockade in the Strait of Hormuz.
Since its introduction three weeks ago, the resolution has attracted 146 cosponsors. Forty-three members added their names to the bill in the past two days.
In the Senate, a sister resolution S.RES 580 has gained co-sponsors with similar speed. The Senate measure was introduced by Indiana Democrat Evan Bayh on June 2. In little more than a week's time, it has accrued 19 co-sponsors.
Congressional insiders credit America's powerful pro-Israel lobby for the rapid endorsement of the bills. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) held its annual policy conference June 2-4, in which it sent thousands of members to Capitol Hill to push for tougher measures against Iran. On its website, AIPAC endorses the resolutions as a way to ''Stop Irans Nuclear Proliferation" and tells readers to lobby Congress to pass the bill.
AIPAC has been ramping up the rhetoric against Iran over the last 3 years delivering 9 issue memos to Congress in 2006, 17 in 2007 and in the first five months of 2008 has delivered no less than 11 issue memos to the Congress and Senate predominantly warning of Irans nuclear weapons involvement and support for terrorism.
The Resolutions put forward in the House and the Senate bear a resounding similarity to AIPAC analysis and Issue Memos in both its analysis and proposals even down to its individual components.
Proponents say the resolutions advocate constructive steps toward reducing the threat posed by Iran. "It is my hope that...this Congress will urge this and future administrations to lead the world in economically isolating Iran in real and substantial ways", said Congressman Mike Pence(R-IN), who is the original cosponsor of the House resolution along with Gary Ackerman (D-NY), Chairman of the sub committee on Middle East and South Asia of the Foreign Affairs Committee.
Foreign policy analysts worry that such unilateral sanctions make it harder for the US to win the cooperation of the international community on a more effective multilateral effort. In his online blog, Senior Fellow in the Middle East Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies Ethan Chorin points out that some US allies seek the economic ties to Iran that these resolutions ban. "The Swiss have recently signed an MOU with Iran on gas imports; the Omanis are close to a firm deal (also) on gas imports from Iran; a limited-services joint Iranian-European bank just opened a branch on Kish Island", he writes.
These resolutions could severely escalate US-Iran tensions, experts say. Recalling the perception of the naval blockade of Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the international norms classifying a naval blockade an act of war, critics argue endorsement of these bills would signal US intentions of war with Iran.
Last week's sharp rise in the cost of oil following Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz's threat to attack Iran indicated the impact that global fear of military action against Iran can have on the world petroleum market. It remains unclear if extensive congressional endorsement of these measures could have a similar effect.
In late May, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert reportedly urged the United States to impose a blockade on Iran. During a meeting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) in Jersusalem, Olmert said economic sanctions have "exhausted themselves" and called a blockade a "good possibility".