Graham: no ‘containment’ of nuclear Iran

This came in while I was out at lunch:

Graham Introduces Resolution Ruling Out ‘Containment’ Strategy of Nuclear-Armed Iran

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) today introduced a resolution that puts the Senate on record as ruling out a strategy of containment for a nuclear-armed Iran.  The bipartisan resolution currently has 27 Senate cosponsors.

“I’m very pleased the Senate will speak with a strong, unified voice that a nuclear-armed Iran is an unacceptable option for our own national security and the security of our allies throughout the world,” said Graham, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.  “My resolution will afford every Senator the opportunity to speak on this issue and I expect a strong bipartisan vote in support.  Having a political consensus between the White House and Congress that a nuclear-armed Iran is unacceptable is a giant step forward in sending an important message at a critical time.”

The Graham resolution:

·         Strongly rejects any policy that fails to prevent the Iranian government from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability and would settle for future efforts to “contain” a nuclear weapons capable Iran.

·         Urges President Obama to reaffirm the unacceptability of an Iran with nuclear-weapons capability and oppose any policy that would rely on containment as an option in response to the Iranian nuclear threat.

·         Urges continued and increasing economic and diplomatic pressure on Iran until they agree to the full and sustained suspension of all uranium enrichment-related and reprocessing activities, complete cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on all outstanding questions related to their nuclear activities including implementation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Additional Protocol, and the verified end of their ballistic missile programs.

“It’s obvious to most people that once Iran obtains nuclear capability others in the region will respond in kind,” said Graham.  “A nuclear-armed Iran also makes it exponentially more likely this information could fall into the hands of terrorist organizations.”

“I believe, to some extent, sanctions are working and believe they can be successful in helping turn around Iran’s nuclear ambitions,” said Graham.  “However it is imperative the Russian and Chinese assist the international community in changing Iranian behavior.

“Finally, as President Obama said in his State of the Union address, ‘All options must remain on the table’ when it comes to stopping Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon,” concluded Graham.

Co-sponsors of the Graham resolution include: Senators John Boozman (R-Arkansas), Scott Brown (R-Massachusetts), Bob Casey (D-Pennsylvania), Saxby Chambliss (R-Georgia), Dan Coats (R-Indiana), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Chris Coons (D-Delaware), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Dean Heller (R-Nevada), John Hoeven (R-North Dakota), Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma), Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Connecticut), Robert Menendez (D-New Jersey), John McCain (R-Arizona), Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri), Barbara Mikulski (D-Maryland), Bill Nelson (D-Florida), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Mark Pryor (D-Arkansas), James E. Risch (R-Idaho),Marco Rubio (R-Florida), and Chuck Schumer (D-New York).


That’s a pretty good list of sponsors he’s got. And like Graham, I, too, endorse what the president said in the SOTU.

36 thoughts on “Graham: no ‘containment’ of nuclear Iran

  1. bud

    Phillip, it does seem like Graham is giving the president some credit, albeit very reluctantly. Not sure how this dangerous game will turn out but hopefully we can keep Israel on the sidelines and let the diplomatic/sanctions strategy work. We do need to figure out some sort of face saving out so the Iranians can claim something once they give up their nuclear capability. Even when they are big losers in this game. Otherwise they may be tempted to go down in a blaze of glory rather than be completely humiliated. That’s the tricky part. Thankfully we have Obama in the White House and not warmonger McCain who can’t get past war as the only solution to every problem.

  2. Brad

    Bud, can you possibly be serious? “McCain who can’t get past war as the only solution to every problem?” Do you honestly think McCain would be approaching this situation substantially differently from the way Obama is? I don’t.

    This reminds me of something I’ve been meaning to post about just how little deviation there has been, in my lifetime, on major strategic approach from one administration to the next. Thank God.

    Back to the comments: I think Tim is the one on the money here. Ever since the president first consulted with Graham shortly after the election, I’ve seen this pattern where Graham sets out a position that sort of gives Obama a place to be where HE doesn’t have to sound like a tough guy (his base might freak out), but which says things that need to be said without doing any damage to Obama. When he does much what Graham said, the center-right types have little to gripe about, and yet he can still be the “reasonable man” to his base.

    I’m actually having trouble explaining how this works (I don’t think I got enough sleep last night); all I know is that my gut is that Tim is on to something. Graham takes his role as loyal opposition pretty seriously.

    To say again: I like that Graham has pretty much every senator I’d want on MY side on an issue like this. Although I find myself wondering where Dick Lugar is…

    Oh, wait, I remember — he’s living in Virginia….

  3. Phillip

    I recommend this article in today’s NYT for those interested in a glance into the internal divisions within the Iranian leadership. It also shows the degree to which the sanctions and pressure are having a definite effect (something which even Graham has to grudgingly acknowledge with that “to some extent” modifier). This is a very tricky and delicate situation, one that requires persistence and patience, traits not often found in our political leaders.

  4. bud

    Nothing is an absolute but McCain would be more likely to launch an unnecessary war than Obama. The exact amount he would be more likely is impossible to know but I’m 100% certain he would be MORE likely to do so.

  5. Phillip

    “I’ve been meaning to post about just how little deviation there has been, in my lifetime, on major strategic approach from one administration to the next.” If you just turn that looking glass the other way round, that statement could also imply that American governments may change but regardless of party are still beholden to something more permanent, more enduring, perhaps ultimately more powerful: the military-industrial complex.

  6. Brad

    If you wanted to be paranoid, you might say that.

    Here’s the thing — people come up with conspiracy theories like that when they don’t see the logic in the long-term strategies.

    The general policies that the U.S. has followed in my lifetime — not the specific actions, but the general thrust of policy — has made good sense to me. I see the reasons for it, and they have nothing to do with some nefarious industry pulling strings behind the scenes. These are the policies, broadly speaking, that I would follow no matter what the head of General Dynamics or Northrup wanted.

    It’s only when the reasons given for the general policies make no sense to you that you have to look for some outside force acting upon policy, as it, “The Martians are making them do it!”

    The reason to be concerned about the military-industrial complex is that over time, the imperatives of such an industry and its friends in Crystal City and on the Hill is that they may convince the country to build the wrong weapons and materiel, which could then force the country to follow policies that fit the tools at hand, rather than better policies. For instance, if lobbyists and vendors have sold the Pentagon on blowing the budget on small arms, we might have a greater tendency toward large infantry actions. If they’ve gotten us to buy drones, we might want to do everything by remote control…

  7. `Kathryn Fenner

    Phillip is not a paranoid kinda guy, and even so, sometimes paranoids have enemies.

    The general policies make no sense to us because they are wrong-headed (unless you look at them through a lens of financial gain for someone), not because we are paranoid or conspiracy theorists.

  8. Mark Stewart

    It is a near certainty that the military will have planned brilliantly for the last war. The record of anticipating the next’s needs is far less stellar. Not to say they don’t try; but someday a carrier will sink beneath the waves, a satellite network will disappear, or something far worse may happen.

    This seems like one of those times to keep this in mind.

    It would be best if we could ignore Iran’s posturing; but we can’t. However, it does seem like we must leave the power players some kind of avenue out. Or demonstrate our willingness and ability to support a popular revolt ~ should that be attempted again.

  9. Tim

    On foreign policy, McCain would act in pretty much the same manner as Obama would here.

    As for serious changes in Foreign Policy between administrations, I think If McCain were elected in 2000, I doubt we would have gone into Iraq. That engagement always felt too much like defending Bush 1’s honor about cutting and running. Remember who was Defense Secretary way back then, before you make Iraq 2 all about GWB. Def Sec was the one who felt the sting of being blamed for cutting and running by not taking out Saddam. Even GWB wore a uniform. His dad, GHWB, didn’t have to prove to anyone he could face bullets in battle. Not so much his Def Sec. Is that a simplification? Maybe, but the Iraq Invasion in 2003 looks more and more like the exception to US policy continuity, not the rule. Brad, I know you favored it, but you have to give this some thought. Of course, this is my opinion, completely, not a studied analysis. Based somewhat on how GHWB and Skowcroft were ambivalent.

    Interesting aside? Scowcroft is a Mormon who married a Catholic. Sundays must have been fun.

    While McCain is more of a guts and glory guy than Obama, but Viet Nam is a tough memory, and stupid wars mean something to him.

    Look at at the co-sponsors of Graham’s resolution (which is all it is, a Sense of the Senate), as Brad mentioned. This is Obama long ball.

  10. Phillip

    You speak of this “general thrust of policy” in your lifetime, but really, once the Cold War ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union and falling of the Iron Curtain, what exactly was this general agreement, other than maintaining a bloated Cold War-era defense budget that has damaged more pressing domestic needs? Actually, I think rather the opposite, that America has been kind of lurching around, clumsily, ever since about 1990, trying to figure out what its role in the world should be.

    The fans of “big-narrative” scenarios (neocons among them) have tried to paint the “WWII Axis threat equaled Cold War Commie threat equaled Global War on Islamic Terror threat” picture, whereas other American leaders have tried to see the current conditions as the unique set of challenges they are.

    @Mark: Iran is considerably different from Egypt or Tunisia or Libya in this respect: there is no surer way to guarantee domestic Iranian support turning away from a revolt and towards more-or-less support for the status quo than to give a too-ham-handed an imprimatur of American approval, or overt aid and support, to said revolt.

  11. bud

    If someone believes a policy is wrong then they are paranoid? Really Brad, that’s a pretty dispicable thing to say. All Phillip is suggesting, and with very good reason, is that we continue to engage in unnecessary military actions that cannot be explained in terms of protecting American security. That leads to other possibilities such as feeding the military/industrial complex. That’s not paranoia. It’s simply one possible explaination to address what is obviously a misguided approach to national security.

  12. bud

    …the Iraq Invasion in 2003 looks more and more like the exception to US policy continuity, not the rule.

    Indeed. Our other policy interventions, aside from the special circumstances that led to Afghanistan, have all been relatively quick in and out operations for primarily humanitarian reasons (Mogidishu, Kosovo, Granada, Libya, Lebanon, Gulf War 1). Iraq stands alone as a rash, pre-emptive military engagement with little prospect of improving the plight of the downtrodden.

  13. Brad

    Our invasion of Iraq WAS a departure, as I wrote at the time, which is one of the reasons why we had such a huge national argument about it.

    Of course, Vietnam was NOT a departure — it was core to the containment strategy of the Cold War. But we had an even bigger national argument over that.

    In fact, Iraq was specifically a departure from that very strategy. Saddam was pretty much contained; the invasion was about going ahead and getting rid of his regime so we didn’t have to contain him any more. It was as if we had gone ahead and invaded North Vietnam and taken and occupied Hanoi — something we never tried to do back then.

  14. Brad

    Bud: “If someone believes a policy is wrong then they are paranoid?”

    Bud, that’s not what I said at all. It’s one thing to disagree with a policy. It’s another altogether to believe that the policies exist NOT because other people (in this case, a long string of administrations of both parties) have sincerely decided that those policies are the best course for the country, but because there are some scary, unseen, military-industrial moguls pulling their strings behind the scenes. THAT would be paranoia.

  15. bud

    Most Americans favor a somewhat smaller military with an emphaisis on defending the homeland as oppossed to endless overseas operations. And the voters vote that way. From Lyndon Johnson right through to Obama the will of the voters is thwarted. It seems as if once in office something takes hold of the president.

    Take Jimmy Carter for example. He wanted to pull our troops out of South Korea but was met with an avalanche of opposition and eventually caved. Obama promised to pull out of Iraq but then dallied for nearly 3 years before doing what needed to be done. Nixon likewise dawdled getting us out of Vietnam. Example after example shows how a president’s policies become far more hawkish once in office – in opposition to the voters wishes. Why is that?

    Would we really be worse off had we removed troops from South Korea in 1977? Or if we had pulled all our troops out of Vietnam in 1969 instead of 1972? Not sure of the mechanism but clearly there is something at work to bring about this hawkish and expensive behavior. I would suggest the persuasive powers of the military/industrial complex as played out in congress has much to do with it. That’s not being paranoid that’s just acknowledging the very real power of the purse by way of very effective lobbying.

  16. Brad

    This is an argument I have a lot with populists of all stripes. People say that candidates sound good on the stump (usually advocating policies that are not wise, but which are superficially popular), then they get into office and are corrupted by the system.

    That does happen sometimes. But what happens more often is a positive thing — people get into office and find out what governing is really like, and learn a LOT of stuff they didn’t know when they were candidates, and therefore make wiser decisions than the ones they imagined they would make.

    This is one reason why I don’t like any kind of campaign promises, really — even ones that sound good to me. Wait until you see what you’re actually going to be dealing with, and THEN tell me what you’re going to do…

  17. Mark Stewart


    From what I can tell, We let the green revolution of a few years ago wither on the vine; to the Iranians’ chagrin.

    I do think that that experience galvinized the participants in the Arab spring uprisings to realize that they had to be 100% committed to overthrow. The Syrians are experiencing that now.

    Still, I do agree that Iran is unlike the Arab countries; it’s actually much more alike to Israel in many respects, oddly. Or ominously.

  18. Brad

    Phillip, we’re in agreement on the last point. In fact, that’s what I was saying to Bud earlier — people get into office, and then it’s “Oh, s__t! I’m in charge!” And they do everything they can to avoid being the guy who screwed the pooch.

    And that’s a good thing.

    Although I’ll say that I believe Obama’s understanding of security issues are far more sophisticated than that. I was listening harder than most folks to what he said when he was running for office, and the general thrust of his policies haven’t surprised me. Although he did turn out to be even more hawkish than I had supposed…

    And yes, we agree on oil, I think.

    And I, too, would recommend “Why We Fight,” the famous 1943 propaganda series. Very inspiring… 🙂

  19. Phillip

    For us to be beholden as a society to the military-industrial complex is not a matter of comic-book-like scenarios of “nefarious” characters behind the scenes, really pulling the strings. To believe that would indeed be a kind of paranoia.

    There’s no question that money equals power in our system, and the influence of the MIC on that score cannot be denied (here again I highly recommend the documentary “Why We Fight” to anyone who has not yet had the opportunity to see it).

    But the ways in which the MIC has come to dominate much of our decision-making historically are more multifaceted and much more interwoven into many aspects of our existence than easily-mocked conspiracy theories. Our dependence on oil is one such aspect that I think you and I could agree upon, for instance. There are other societal factors, too, ways in which ALL of us as Americans bear responsibility for the state of things, for the unchanged (and sometimes unexamined) assumptions of our foreign policy. Our historic isolation/dominance and ability to block out the idea that there even are other cultures, other societies, that not everybody in the world desires to be American; the materialism of our culture; our decaying educational system; the fact that we’ve escaped wars on our soil since the Civil War; all these contribute.

    Even Obama’s adherence to certain aspects of the GWB security apparatus is borne less out of a sincere belief in the morality or constitutionality of those policies and more because he, like any President, does not want to be the guy who’s in office when the next big terrorist attack happens on US soil, and will do whatever it takes to make sure of that, short of maybe the most egregious Cheney/Woo-ist policies (torture, etc.)

  20. Brad

    To elaborate… you listen to (the original) “Why We Fight,” and you’re reminded of something that relates to something else you said…

    Most Americans DON’T pay attention to the rest of the world. And yet when it comes time to fight, they have to be convinced of the necessity (and STAY convinced of the necessity) for us to wage war successfully. And that means a lot of lowest-common-denominator appeals. In 1943, in addition to Pearl Harbor, there was a lot of quoting Abraham Lincoln and other evocations of simple patriotism, which worked well in that un-ironic age.

    Sixty years later, there was WAY too much emphasis placed on WMD, because that was something everybody thought they understood. Then, the seemingly impossible happened — Saddam had gotten rid of the WMDs he had already had, and there was no sign of any others. So support for the war collapsed, largely because it had been sold on excessively simplistic terms.

  21. Brad

    Actually, I have to take some of that back. I’ve been listening to the original “Why We Fight” since I wrote that last post, and it was richer and more sophisticated than that. It WAS propaganda, of course, which is what it was intended to be. It demonized the Nazis, Fascists and militaristic imperialists in Japan (which wasn’t hard) and evoked warm affection for our own country’s ways, but there’s a lot of rich information there. We today might cringe when told that the Germans had a natural penchant for regimentation and harsh discipline, which supposedly made things easy for Hitler, but not that much of what I’ve heard so far would offend modern sensibilities. It would just sound a bit off in terms of tone, because of the moral certainty that runs through every word…

  22. Phillip

    @Mark: “We let”? Again, I have to reiterate my earlier point which is that a heavy, visible American “hand” in any Iranian revolt is the quickest way to discredit the movement among a wide swath, probably a majority, of Iranians (who, whatever their feelings about Ahmedinejad, are still very distrustful of American intentions when it comes to Iran).

    Also, it’s important to remember that Moussavi, Ahmedinijad’s opponent whose “loss” in the election sparked much of the Green Revolt, is also firmly supportive of Iran’s nuclear ambitions (and, while we’re at it, also has spouted much vitriolic language about the state of Israel). The point is that the Iranian revolt is mostly about democratic reform and the economic/governance incompetence of much of the current regime; it does not equate to a pro-American stance necessarily. Accordingly, were America to heavily involve itself in that way, one can easily imagine the movement splintering into those willing to accept the help and those seeing themselves as pawns in America’s regional interests, which have impacted domestic Iranian politics going back to Mossadegh in the 50s and earlier.

    The point being, if there’s going to be a revolt in Iran, the Iranians are going to have to (and will want to) do it themselves. But that still wouldn’t solve the nuclear question (although maybe enforcing a nuclear-free Middle East, including Israel, would. But I’m not holding my breath on that one.)

  23. Mark Stewart


    I did not mean to imply that we as Americans had any way of controlling what unfolded. I simply meant that, as a country at that time, that we seemed to actually pull away from the idea of encouraging democracy in Iran (on its own terms). I thought that quite unusual – and would chalk it up to the events of 1979. Both countries have an emotional investment in how we view each other.

    That said, it would seem as though we really only have two choices: i) Find ways to strategically promote democracy and, if not a westward tilt, at least a moderation in the rhetoric coming from Iran. Or, 2) If we don’t we will face a country that is both technologically and industrially becoming a rising regional power far different than any other in the Mid East / South Asia region. The combination of this technological prowess combined with the country’s penchant for political and religious vitriol does remind me of pre-war Germany.

    Now for a bit of paranoia … I think it entirely possible that Iran was able to bring down the US drone. China has been developing a serious geo-political posture in the region and has become a key supplier of military technology to Iran. It would seem to me quite plausible that China provided technology “recovered” from the US Navy spy plane incident to enable Iran to infiltrate, or at least disrupt, US military communications and datalinks. Whether crashed or in as undamaged a condition as the Iranians displayed; it seems likely that the drone is now in China for tear-down and reverse engineering. That’s another huge loss of some of our most advanced technology; and potentially an ominous sign for the future.

  24. kc

    Our invasion of Iraq WAS a departure, as I wrote at the time, which is one of the reasons why we had such a huge national argument about it.

    I don’t recall this “huge national argument.” I recall the vast majority of politicians, journalists, and pundits enthusiastically beating the drums for war – ‘scuse me, I mean “regime change” – with most Americans happily falling into line, and a minority of dissenters being told we were “objectively pro-Saddam.”

  25. kc

    Do you honestly think McCain would be approaching this situation substantially differently from the way Obama is? I don’t.

    Well, since McCain thought it was appropriate to joke about bombing Iran in his last campaign, it seems reasonable to think that his approach to Iran would be considerably more bellicose and chest-thump-y, if not outright bomb-y, than Obama’s.

  26. Brad

    That sounds more like what might have been said about people who didn’t want us to go into Afghanistan in ’01. Passions were higher then, and it was more of an outlier position.

    From what I recall, what debate there was over Iraq was fairly sedate.

    Passions grew high about that later. By ’04, you had people on both sides calling each other names. By then, what you remember might actually have been said. But things were calmer at the time of the invasion.

  27. Brad

    And yes, I’m sure someone will go find an exception to what I just said, because there’s always an exception. What I’m questioning is Burl’s assertion that “anyone who questioned the wisdom” was accused of hating America at that time, meaning it was the default response. And I just don’t recall such acrimony being common, much less ubiquitous, at that particular moment.

    I was just reading what I wrote about one dissenter at the time, and everything was pretty civil. And that’s the way I remember it.

  28. Burl Burlingame

    Things must sound different in SC!

    As for myself, the Afghanistan incursion was fine and good and immediately accomplished several goals, and also served notice that the U.S. wasn’t going the play patsy.

    I was pretty neutral on Iraq until it became apparent that all post-campaign planning had been scrapped in favor of deliberate chaos.

  29. bud

    I wasn’t completely neutral on the Iraq invasion at the time. The president along with Colin Powell, Don Rumsfield the VP and others made a pretty good case that this would be a quick and easy invasion with large benefits. I didn’t fully buy into that but they did make a pretty persuasive case which muted by objections to some extent. It wasn’t until later when it turned out all their case was based on a pack of lies did I become furious at the dastardly manipulation of public opinion (and more importantly congressional support) for this disaster that I turned so stridently in opposition to it. That’s why I dispise George W. so. Not, I repeat, NOT because of the 2000 election. That’s a strawman the warmongers bring up everytime someone gives W low marks as a president.

  30. bud

    It gets old going down the Iraq Rathole every time it comes up, but it’s important to keep the facts chrystal clear so that the people of this country and especially those in congress understand how easy it is for a president to manipulate public opinion into supporting a war based on false information. Johnson did it as did W. And it was done several times in the 19th century. Given the high stakes game we’re playing with the Iranians right now we absolutely must not allow the president, even a man I like, to mischaracterize the threats we face. Vigiliance will keep us safe and it will keep us out of bad wars.

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