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Senators Offer License To Strike Iran Nuclear Program

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Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) unveil a get-tough-on-Iran resolution Wednesday on Capitol Hill.
Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) unveil a get-tough-on-Iran resolution Wednesday on Capitol Hill.

WASHINGTON -- If President Barack Obama feels the need to launch a military strike against Iran's nuclear program, Congress will back him, a group of senators declared Wednesday.

That pledge came along with the unveiling of a resolution on Capitol Hill that appeared designed to pressure Obama into taking a tougher stance on Iran, and to foreclose any option of letting Iran achieve an atomic weapon.

If Iran were on the verge of building a bomb, the resolution would seem to require that the administration destroy it, but Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, said it was more of a show of support for such actions.

"This resolution is not an authorization to use military force," Lieberman said. "But in opposing containment, it certainly is, I would think, sending a message to President Obama that if he decides as commander-in-chief that at any point that a military strike against Iran’s nuclear weapons facility is necessary in the national security interest of the United States, then he can expect broad bipartisan support from the United States Congress."

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), one of 32 co-sponsors on the heavily bipartisan measure, argued that containing Iran was not an option when leaders of the country have insisted Israel be wiped out, when it's building a nuclear program under a mountain that looks more military based than civilian, and when the nation is willing to suffer sanctions to keep its atomic program.

"We're not going to contain people like that, we’re going to stop them," said Graham, although he added that his first choice to curtail the regime was still sanctions.

Both senators argued that sanctions would be more effective if it was clear America is ready to strike, and the proposed resolution shows that.

"It is saying we will not accept a nuclear-armed Iran because they cannot be contained," Graham said. "They will either share the material with terrorists, is the likelihood, or for sure, create nuclear proliferation throughout the Middle East."

"So we’re standing with the president, to say that’s not an acceptable result," Graham added. "I think sanctions can still work, but they will only work if the Iranians believe the military option is on the table."

The White House did not immediately respond to the new legislation, but spokesman Jay Carney said Tuesday that the president would be sticking with the current strategy as Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu visits Washington this week.

"His position is what it has been, which is that we will take no option off the table, but we believe that there is time and space to allow for a diplomatic resolution through the pressure that we are asserting on Tehran through sanctions and other means with our international partners," Carney said.

"We are keenly aware of the fact that Iran has continued to fail to live up to its obligations, continued to behave in a way that casts doubt on its intentions with its nuclear program, continued to engage in the kind of rhetoric that makes this process even more difficult for Iran."

Still, the senators insisted a tougher stand is required with leaders like Iran's.

"They're not building a nuclear power plant for peaceful purposes. They've marching towards nuclear weapons capability," said Graham. "The end game is, sanctions can work and will work if properly applied, but in case they fail ... the Iran regime will not be allowed to possess nuclear capability. And if that means military actions, so be it."

In addition to seeking a verified end to any Iranian nuclear weapons program, the resolution also calls for a dismantling of Iran's ballistic missile program.

Michael McAuliff covers politics and Congress for The Huffington Post. Talk to him on Facebook.