Congressional Debate on Iran Shifts with Defense Authorization Passage

May 18, 2012

Amendment makes clear: no authorization for ‘the use of force’

WASHINGTON — Today the House of Representatives declared unequivocally that nothing in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) authorizes the use of force against Iran. This declaration is the result of a bipartisan amendment lead by Congressmen John Conyers (D-MI), Keith Ellison (D-MN), Walter Jones (R-NC) and Ron Paul (R-TX). The amendment was included in a package of amendments agreed to by voice vote.

“This declaration slams the brakes on those in Congress who would drive the United States toward a third war in the Middle East,” said Dylan Williams, J Street’s Director of Government Affairs. “It brings Congressional policy into line with the mounting consensus of American and Israeli security experts who believe that a combination of tough, targeted sanctions and diplomacy is the best way to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.”

J Street lobbied in support of the amendment, generating more than 600 telephone calls to Congressional offices in less than 24 hours.

This latest Congressional statement regarding the use of force in Iran comes the day after the House of Representatives finally voted on a resolution (H.Res.568) following a clarification by the resolution’s co-lead that it did not constitute an authorization for the use of force against Iran.

Scores of Members of Congress also expressed their belief in diplomacy as the best means of preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons by supporting an amendment to the NDAA offered by Reps. Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Conyers, which would authorize the appointment of a high-level representative for diplomacy with Iran, and eliminate the US Government’s “no contact” policy with Iranian officials. J Street also lobbied in support of the Lee-Conyers amendment, which garnered 77 votes in favor during floor consideration of Friday morning.

“We are seeing a real shift in the debate on Capitol Hill,” said Williams. “The drumbeat to war has slowed and Members are supporting the President’s approach of allowing sanctions and diplomacy to work. They are realizing that the voices of those calling for war, though loud, are not representative of the Israeli or American security establishment, nor of the American Jewish community.”