WASHINGTON -- A top Republican senator made a strong case for military action against Iran Monday night, calling the Obama administration's policy of diplomacy and sanctions "simply not enough," and "a talking point."
Speaking at a gala dinner for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee's annual conference, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the Senate Republican leader, proposed specific Iranian actions that would commit the United States to use force.
After laying out a case that Iran is a "state sponsor of terrorism" in pursuit of a nuclear weapon, McConnell proposed a doctrine that would affirm that "If Iran at any time begins to enrich uranium at weapons-grade levels, or decides to go ahead with a nuclear weapons program, then the United States will use military force to end that program."
To cement the plan, McConnell pledged to introduce a resolution authorizing military force if the "intelligence community" certifies that Iran has reached these thresholds.
McConnell's spoke to some 13,000 people at the Washington Convention Center, gathered to hear Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who met earlier in the day with President Barack Obama for a tense discussion about Iran.
In a strange twist of stagecraft, the house lights came up in the massive hall every time McConnell made reference to military action, resulting in somewhat stilted standing ovations.
In a speech Sunday at the same forum, Obama urged Israel's supporters to eschew "loose talk" of war, but affirmed that the U.S. would be willing to use "military force" to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.
"I have said that when it comes to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, I will take no options off the table, and I mean what I say," Obama said Sunday. "That includes all elements of American power. A political effort aimed at isolating Iran; a diplomatic effort to sustain our coalition and ensure that the Iranian program is monitored; an economic effort to impose crippling sanctions; and, yes, a military effort to be prepared for any contingency."
But Israel's supporters, including Netanyahu and McConnell, have argued that the president's statement was too vague to be fully effective. They want the Obama administration to articulate stronger action should it emerge that Iran is indeed pursing a nuclear weapon.
"What is needed when it comes to Iran is a clear declaratory politcy that would declare what we would do, and why," McConnell said Monday. "In intending to offer 'all options,' it has inadvertently blurred the most important one and that is a determined military operation to end Iran's nuclear program."