U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell will deliver a major policy address to the 2012 AIPAC Conference tonight in which he outlines the threshold for American intervention to end the Iranian nuclear weapons program. The proposal provides clarity and specificity to the administration's stated policy on Iran's nuclear efforts as well as a concrete plan for the role of Congress in providing authority for the use of military force if required.
"If at any time the intelligence community presents the Congress with an assessment that Iran has begun to enrich uranium to weapons grade levels, or has taken a decision to develop a nuclear weapon -- consistent with protecting classified sources and methods -- I will consult with the President and joint congressional leadership and introduce before the Senate an authorization for the use of military force," McConnell said in prepared remarks. "This authorization, if enacted, will ensure the nation and the world that our leaders are united in confronting Iran, and will undermine the perception that the U.S. is wounded or retreating from global responsibilities."
McConnell stressed that he has the same goal as the administration in stopping Iran from developing a nuclear weapons program. But the White House's repeated insistence that "all options are on the table' in dealing with Iran became a threat that has "lost its intended purpose,' and has blurred what McConnell identified as an important option in preventing a nuclear-armed Iran -- military action to end Iran's nuclear program before it is successful.
"The administration has used this same language about preserving all options in developing its policy toward Libya, Iran, and, now, Syria," McConnell said. "Clearly, the threat has lost its intended purpose. And the markers this administration has identified, whether they be a program to enrich uranium to weapons grade levels, or a decision to construct a weapon, are only truly red lines if crossing them brings about painful consequences.
"Another way to put it is that the administration's mistake has been to pursue negotiations, and sanctions consecutively rather than simultaneously, without articulating a clear military consequence for the crossing of red lines."
McConnell said the only way the Iranian regime can be expected to negotiate is if the administration imposes the strictest sanctions while at the same time enforcing a "firm declaratory policy" that reflects a commitment to use force.
"This is so crucial a step, I believe, that tonight I am prepared to propose such a policy -- that is, a policy which has the clarity and the specificity that the situation demands," McConnell said in prepared remarks. "And that policy is this: if Iran, at any time, begins to enrich uranium to weapons grade levels, or decides to go forward with a weapons program, then the United States will use overwhelming force to end that program."