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Is Congress Pursuing a Backdoor Approach to a War With Iran?

June 24, 2008 - by Donny Shaw

A pair of non-binding resolutions that are quickly gaining bipartisan support and sponsorship in the House and Senate call on the President to block all oil imports to Iran. As the bills themselves state, “Iran must import around 40 percent of its daily requirements for refined petroleum products,” which makes the sanctions a potentially effective economic incentive to keep the country from pursuing nuclear weapons capability. The problem is that it would likely require an all-out naval blockade, which is widely considered an act of war.

The bills both state that nothing in them “shall be construed as an authorization of the use of force against Iran.” But, if they instituted a blockade, Iran would probably disagree. Here’s part of the action clause of the House resolution:

>That Congress—
>demands that the President initiate an international effort to immediately and dramatically increase the economic, political, and diplomatic pressure on Iran to verifiably suspend its nuclear enrichment activities by, inter alia, prohibiting the export to Iran of all refined petroleum products; imposing stringent inspection requirements on all persons, vehicles, ships, planes, trains, and cargo entering or departing Iran; and prohibiting the international movement of all Iranian officials not involved in negotiating the suspension of Iran’s nuclear program.

As Justin Logan at Cato at Liberty notes, these prohibitions will require policing. He asks, "If the shipment of refined petroleum products to Iran has been “prohibited,” and a tanker sails toward it anyway, what happens? Who will be enforcing the “stringent inspection requirements on all person, vehicles, ships, planes, trains, and cargo entering or departing Iran?”

According to truthout, sources close to the congressional leadership say the bill will likely come to the House floor this week, and “once it hits the floor, it’s bound to pass like a hot knife through butter.”

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