Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) has new plans to introduce a resolution threatening war with Iran, and unsurprisingly, he has been applauded by conservative group Christians United for Israel.
Graham promises, "If nothing changes in Iran, come September, October, I will present a resolution that will authorize the use of military force to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear bomb." He believes that this show of force is the only way to convince Iran to cease its nuclear program.
But this proposal, known as "coercive diplomacy," ought to conjure up traumatic events in our nation's history. Former U.S. Ambassadors William Leurs and Thomas Pickering and international security expert Jim Walsh criticize this approach, arguing that "the United States’ experience in solving such problems by the use of coercive action such as war or sanctions that end in war has been highly costly in human lives, resources, and its global position during the past sixty years. As in Vietnam, coercion has often failed to achieve US objectives or a negotiated settlement that gave us most of what we needed."
Graham's proposal will hopefully fail to gain support in Congress, because it is most likely to result in a poor outcome that doesn't even address the issues at hand.
The initiative seems even more brash considering that former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, known for his extreme hostility towards the U.S. and Israel, will be replaced on August 4th by Hasan Rouhani, who promises to "follow a path of moderation" and to be more open concerning Iran's nuclear program. Rouhani's election signifies a shift in Iranian foreign policy that ought to be encouraged. Moreover, his presidency is likely to result in a relatively more stable Iran by addressing the egregious human rights violations and economic lapses during Ahmadinejad's presidency. While Iran still officially holds a staunch anti-American stance (Iran's Foreign Ministry has invited all nations besides the U.S. and Israel to attend Rouhani's inauguration), the perceived threat posed by Iran's nuclear program diminishes in light of Ahmadinejad's removal from power.
Additionally, the U.S. is no position to further extend its presence overseas, especially since Congress approved Obama's initiative to support Syrian rebels by sending arms, ammunition, and perhaps anti-tank weaponry. The U.S. is already indirectly dedicating resources to opposing Iran since they are supporting al-Assad's forces, along with aid from Hezbollah. Potentially, if Graham's initiative passes through Congress, both nations could end up preemptively clashing on Syria's battleground. This would be a terrible outcome for the U.S., considering the significant amount of manpower and resources already allocated abroad and pressing economic issues at home.
Graham and supporting parties could be convinced to drop the proposal if Iran simply forfeited its plans to obtain nuclear weapons and disbanded all related incentives. However, this is unlikely given Iran's firm commitment to create nuclear weapons. British and American intelligence sources think Iran is about a year away from having enough highly enriched uranium to make a bomb, and it doesn't seem as though they plan to stop.
Hopefully, the international community will impose enough economic sanctions to make them reconsider, or under the new president's leadership, Iran reaches the conclusion that they do not need or want a nuclear arsenal. Regardless, coercive diplomacy will only make things significantly more dangerous.