McConnell to AIPAC: Administration's Iran policy 'contains a critical flaw'

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said the Obama administration’s policy toward Iran “contains a critical flaw” that does not clearly articulate when force would be used against Tehran.

Speaking to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference Monday evening, McConnell said President Obama’s threat that “all options are on the table” to stop Iran has “lost its intended purpose,” and the minority leader laid out his own policy for authorizing force in the Senate.

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“Tonight I am prepared to propose such a policy,” McConnell said. “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.”

McConnell said that the United States and Israel “face a day of reckoning” in the coming weeks and months.

“What is needed when it comes to Iran is the one thing the administration hasn’t provided, and that’s a clear, declaratory policy that states what we will do and why,” McConnell said. “And if the administration is reluctant for some reason to articulate it, then Congress will attempt to do it for him.”

Republicans have attacked Obama repeatedly in recent months over Iran, and the AIPAC conference has given them an opportunity to charge that the president has not done enough for Israel.

McConnell’s criticisms followed House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), who spoke earlier Monday. The Republican presidential candidates are all scheduled to address the conference on Tuesday.

Democrats have defended the president’s record on Israel. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) spoke following McConnell and before Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Pelosi said the administration and Congress have acted on their commitment to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.

She said that the sanctions enacted were the strongest ever by Congress, and have taken away funding for Iran’s nuclear program.

“In short, Iran is feeling the bite of our sanctions, and our actions reaffirm our message,” Pelosi said. “The president was very clear on Sunday, as he said in this room — 'Iran’s leaders should understand,' he said, 'that I do not have a policy of containment. I have a policy to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.' "

Obama told the AIPAC crowd Sunday that there has been too much “loose talk of war,” which he said has aided Iran by driving up oil prices. Obama said his actions show that he has consistently stood for Israel’s security.

During their meeting at the White House on Monday, Obama urged Netanyahu to give diplomacy and sanctions time to play out.

But McConnell said that the Obama administration was forced into issuing tough sanctions on Iran by Congress in December. He said that the administration is now relying too heavily on sanctions, just as it relied too heavily on nuclear negotiations when Obama first took office.

“Make no mistake: Iran has a goal in mind, one that it has pursued for years through terrorism, covert actions and, I believe, through the active pursuit of a nuclear weapons program that would only bring its broader goals within closer reach,” the minority leader said.

He said that a clear declaration about when the United State would strike Iran would ensure for Israel “that Iran will never enter into a zone of immunity from which it can coerce and intimidate other countries.”