GOP eyes Iran in shaping defense bill

House Republicans are hammering out the details on a spending plan that would open the door to financing weapons systems that could be used in a potential conflict with Iran.

GOP leaders on the House Armed Services Committee plan to incorporate a bill introduced by panel member Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas) into their final version of the defense-spending bill for fiscal 2013. 

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Conaway’s bill, brought to the House floor on Tuesday, would authorize and appropriate funding for fiscal 2012 and 2013 “to enhance readiness and U.S. military capabilities” in the Middle East.

“This bill demonstrates to a defiant Iran that the United States will take military action in order to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear capability, should economic sanctions and diplomacy fail,” according to Conaway’s legislation. 

The legislation also calls for enhancing the “military capabilities of our Persian Gulf allies” and leveraging those allies into “regional strategic partnerships” to counter any military threats from Iran. 

Finally, Conaway’s bill states that U.S. policy toward Iran should be geared toward taking “all necessary measures, including military action if required” to prevent Tehran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. 

The Texas Republican told The Hill on Thursday that his staff was still working with committee leadership on which elements of his bill will be folded into the defense-spending legislation.

If it’s included in the fiscal ’13 defense bill, the Conaway language would pave the way for the committee to funnel DOD dollars into weapons and equipment that would be key in waging a military conflict against Iran.

Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) said Wednesday night the panel was already eyeing increases to particular weapons and intelligence systems in the House draft of the defense bill. 

When asked if Conaway’s bill will in fact be folded into the House defense bill, McKeon spokesman Claude Chafin said on Thursday that the chairman “was very supportive of the legislation.” 

Tehran’s ongoing military buildup, including the possible addition of a nuclear weapon to its arsenal and its recent aggressive actions in the Strait of Hormuz, constitute proof enough that Tehran could be gearing up for a fight, House Republicans argue. 

Programs that could receive increased funding include airborne surveillance systems and bombs capable of blasting through hundreds of feet of reinforced concrete to hit a target, McKeon said during his speech at the Alexander Hamilton Society on Wednesday. 

U.S. naval forces in the Persian Gulf have already beefed up their fleet to deter a possible Iranian attack. 

The Navy has doubled the number of mine-hunting vessels in the region and outfitted its warships with powerful Gatling guns to counter Iran’s small, fast-moving patrol boats. 

Conaway said there was “no question” the military would be ready to respond if the Obama administration decided to take action against Iran. However, Tehran “must understand when the president says all options are on the table [it will] include kinetic action,” he added. 

McKeon first voiced his intentions to beef up the Pentagon’s ability to counter the threat posed by Iran in March. 

“We are doing what we can to make sure [the United States] is protected … and that is what we are going to do,” McKeon told reporters during a March 21 briefing on Capitol Hill. 

McKeon last month said Congress must begin to “allocate resources for contingencies like Iran” and that the fiscal 2013 defense-spending bill will reflect “appropriate resourcing” for those programs.