Another senior defense official stated that “this is the way to reduce the risk of confrontation.” But such remarks indirectly acknowledge that there is now an increased risk of such confrontation brought on by Iranian actions, particularly the seizure of the Marshall Islands-flagged Maersk Tigris on Tuesday.
US Naval vessels are reportedly prepared to escort cargo ships through the entirety of the Persian Gulf if tensions in the region continue to escalate, but for the time being the additional security is only being exhibited around the narrow, Iranian-controlled Strait of Hormuz, near where Tuesday’s seizure took place.
This increased security measure and the tensions surrounding them were cited by US Vice President Joe Biden in what Arutz Sheva described as possibly “the most direct public threat made by any US administration of war against Iran in case it pursues a nuclear weapon.”
Speaking on Thursday at an event for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy said of war with the Islamic Republic, “if required, it will happen. It is a risk that we may yet have to take should Iran rush to a bomb.”
Biden pointed to the defensive actions of the US Navy in the Persian Gulf as evidence that “the finest military in history remains at the ready” and the President Obama “is willing to do what it takes to keep our allies safe.”
But the Times of Israel notes that Biden used the same event to chastise opponents of the Obama administration’s efforts to secure a deal with Iran over its nuclear program. Many such opponents, including congressional Republicans, have concluded on the basis of those negotiations that the administration lacks the very will that Biden referred to in his speech.
Legislation is pending in the US Senate to guarantee that Congress will have an opportunity to review any deal that emerges from the P5+1 negotiations that are coming up to a June 30 deadline. Some members of Congress fear that the deal currently taking shape entails far too many concessions to the Iranian regime and secures an insufficient guarantee of compliance and restraints on its nuclear program. But Biden flatly asserted that such critics “don’t get it.”
In his speech, the vice president outlined a series of conditions that the deal will apparently have to meet in order to be deemed acceptable by the administration, including sufficient restrictions to keep Iran a year away from a bomb at all times during the life of the deal, and phased-in sanctions relief that is traded for demonstrated Iranian compliance.
But in previous questioning President Obama has declined to commit to this latter position, choosing instead to focus on the notion that sanctions will “snap back” into place should Iran be found to be cheating. Some analysts consider this proposition unrealistic, arguing that once economic leverage is relinquished it becomes very difficult to secure again.
It is perhaps because of the fear of this loss of leverage that some Republican Senators including freshman Tea Party affiliate Tom Cotton and presidential hopeful Marco Rubio, are making concerted efforts to broaden the pending legislation so as to place demands on Iran that are not limited to its nuclear program.
Politico reports that up to this point the Democratic Party has been successful in blocking these Senators’ amendments to the bill, which would require that Iran acknowledge Israel’s right to exist and would give the nuclear deal the status of a treaty, making it easier for Congress to reject it.
Supporters of the existing bill note that such amendments would likely diminish bipartisan backing for the legislation, lead the president to reinstate his promise of a veto, and make it nearly impossible to convince Iran to accept an agreement that would pass the congressional review.
Nevertheless, Politico reports that Rubio and Cotton have taken procedural steps to force a vote on their provisions. Only two other amendments had been voted on and defeated as of Friday. In addition to Rubio’s and Cottons, 56 other amendments have been introduced, all of them by Republican challengers of the Obama administration’s policies.