H.Con.Res. 362: Pushing for a Naval Blockade against Iran?

See, also, Emily Blout, “Is a New Congressional Resolution Declaring War with Iran?” National Iranian American Council, 12 June 2008.

H.Con.Res. 362, new resolution introduced on May 22, 2008 by Representatives Gary Ackerman (D-NY) and Mike Pence (R-IN), is raising controversy in Washington and across the country.  There is a particular clause that some many fear is tantamount to declaring that the President should pursue a naval blockade against Iran, which would be an act of war.  An office of one of the co-sponsors of the bill claims this is not the intention of the legislation and points to a “Whereas” clause in the bill that states “nothing in this resolution shall be construed as an authorization of the use of force against Iran” as evidence that the resolution does not call for a blockade.  Here is the specific language under the “Resolved” section in the resolution that has many concerned:

(3) 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;

The bill was introduced just prior to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee Annual Policy Meeting and urging co-sponsorship is one of AIPAC’s central legislative asks.  They are currently circulating a letter in support of H.Con.Res. 362 and the Senate companion, S.Res. 580.

According to the House leadership, this resolution is going to “pass like a hot knife through butter” before the end of June on what is called suspension — meaning no amendments can be introduced during the 20-minute maximum debate.  It also means it is assumed the bill will pass by a 2/3 majority and is noncontroversial.  As of June 18, the bill already has 169 co-sponsors.  If and when the bill is voted on suspension, there will be a roll call vote and AIPAC will use how members voted on the resolution in the lead up to the elections.

It is unclear if all of the bill’s co-sponsors really know what they’ve signed onto.  Before the legislation is steamrolled to a vote, the language is controversial enough that it should certainly be closely examined, particularly given the heightened state of tensions between the U.S. and Iran.

The language has been circulated to several experts and lawyers and I will post any opinions received.

Carah Ong is the Iran Policy Analyst at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation where her work focuses on Iran, nuclear weapons, missile defense, and the greater Middle East.  This piece first appeared in Iran Nuclear Watch under the title “Sanctions Resolution Raises Controversy” on 18 June 2008.

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