I. H.R. 4133 on Israel
The bill passed the U.S. House on a vote of 411 to 2 with eight abstentions. H.R. 4133 bemoans the fall of regimes believed to be stabilizing forces in the Middle East and blames Iran for trying to exploit the turmoil in the area. The bill calls for dramatically expanded arms aid and arms sales to Israel, along with unconditional loan guarantees. Commitment to Israel would be in the context of defending Israel as an explicitly “Jewish State.”
Most Democrats in the U.S. House voted for this bill, in spite of the fact that Israel has long been the recipient of very generous aid packages and has been amply furnished with U.S. military armaments. This aid provides a disincentive for Israel to stop building settlements outside its territorial boundaries.
Legislatively rendering Israel as an explicitly “Jewish State” creates an obstacle for obtaining full citizenship for the many non-Jewish residents of Israel and makes it more difficult to achieve a settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
II. Holding Nuke Reduction Hostage
The Pentagon authorization bill of $642 billion before the U.S. House of Representatives would halt the reduction from 2,200 to 1,550 nuclear warheads by 2018 if President Obama fails to spend $88 billion to upgrade nuclear labs and $125 billion over ten years to replace aging nuclear warhead-armed bombers and submarines, and land-based nuclear missiles. It contains at least $100 million to build a new lab in New Mexico and $500 million for next year to build a new ballistic missile submarine. President Obama had previously delayed funding for the new New Mexico lab to build triggers for nuclear bombs until 2017.
Included in the bill is a provision to condition reduction, consolidation or withdrawal of tactical nuclear weapons from Europe on meeting certain difficult conditions; also, it mandates a report on possibly reintroducing tactical nuclear missiles to South Korea.
These provisions would increase government spending significantly and drive the nation further away from the vision of a nuclear weapons-free world articulated by President Obama early in his presidency. Article VI of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, signed by the United States, requires signatory nations to be taking significant steps toward ridding the world of nuclear weapons.
III. The Poison Pill Letter on Iran
Democrats were among the 44 U.S. senators who sent a letter to President Obama urging him to end negotiations with Iran, tighten sanctions to make them hurt Iran more and make more credible the threat of a military atttack.
These provisions represent a retreat from sensible policy but any attempt to increase the possibility of a military attack helps put the United States on a disastrous policy track. The likely consequences of a U.S. attack would be many people killed; a redoubling of any Iranian effort to build a nuclear bomb; and a violent “blowback” by the Iranians against the United States.
The best option would be to live with the possibility of Iran developing a nuclear bomb. That option is not now on the table.