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Tea Party Caucus members endorse Israeli attack on Iran

Now that the congressional supporters of the Tea Party movement have formed their own caucus, their policy positions are becoming easier to track. Expanding their foray into foreign policy, 21 members of the new caucus have now come out explicitly endorsing Israel’s right to strike Iran’s nuclear program. Almost two dozen Tea Party-affiliated lawmakers cosponsored ...

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Now that the congressional supporters of the Tea Party movement have formed their own caucus, their policy positions are becoming easier to track. Expanding their foray into foreign policy, 21 members of the new caucus have now come out explicitly endorsing Israel’s right to strike Iran’s nuclear program.

Almost two dozen Tea Party-affiliated lawmakers cosponsored a new resolution late last week that expresses their support for Israel "to use all means necessary to confront and eliminate nuclear threats posed by the Islamic Republic of Iran, including the use of military force."

The lead sponsor of the resolution was Texas Republican Louie Gohmert, one of four congressmen to announce the formation of the 44-member Tea Party caucus at a press conference on July 21. The other three Tea Party Caucus leaders, Michele Bachmann, R-MN, Steve King, R-IA, and John Culberson, R-TX, are also sponsors of the resolution. In total, 21 Tea Party Caucus members have signed on, according to the latest list of caucus members put out by Bachmann’s office.

The resolution cites threats by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to "annihilate" the state of Israel, endorses other means to persuade Iran to stop pursuing nuclear weapons, and states the lawmakers’ support for an Israeli military strike "if no other peaceful solution can be found within reasonable time."

"Members of the Tea Party caucus can and do speak for themselves," said Gohmert in an emailed statement, "but most if not all members have strong beliefs that we should not turn on our backs on our best friends and reward those bent on our destruction. This resolution was borne out of concern for the threat, not merely to Israel, but also to the United States." 

Notably absent from the resolution — and indeed, from the Tea Party Caucus — is Ron Paul, the Texas congressman and 2008 presidential candidate. Paul, who leads the libertarian wing of the Tea Party movement, was one of only 11 members of the House to vote against the recent Iran sanctions bill, which he called "very, very dangerous and not well thought out"; in 2007 he expressed his concern that "a contrived Gulf of Tonkin-type incident may occur to gain popular support for an attack on Iran."

There’s little chance the resolution, which has 46 co-sponsors in total, will see a vote on the House floor any time soon. But the resolution signals increasing interest by the Tea Party and its congressional supporters in foreign policy.

Last week, a Tea Party-affiliated grassroots organization launched a nationwide campaign to build popular opposition to the administration’s nuclear reductions treaty with Russia, called New START. The group is led by Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’s wife Ginny and it dovetails with similar efforts by former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney.

The resolution also continues a theme among Tea Party leaders, such as Sarah Palin, who are seeking to separate the movement’s domestic policies, which call for small government and fiscal restraint, from libertarian views on foreign policy, promoting instead an aggressive, unilateralist view of world affairs and unchecked military spending.

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Read the whole resolution here.

Now that the congressional supporters of the Tea Party movement have formed their own caucus, their policy positions are becoming easier to track. Expanding their foray into foreign policy, 21 members of the new caucus have now come out explicitly endorsing Israel’s right to strike Iran’s nuclear program.

Almost two dozen Tea Party-affiliated lawmakers cosponsored a new resolution late last week that expresses their support for Israel "to use all means necessary to confront and eliminate nuclear threats posed by the Islamic Republic of Iran, including the use of military force."

The lead sponsor of the resolution was Texas Republican Louie Gohmert, one of four congressmen to announce the formation of the 44-member Tea Party caucus at a press conference on July 21. The other three Tea Party Caucus leaders, Michele Bachmann, R-MN, Steve King, R-IA, and John Culberson, R-TX, are also sponsors of the resolution. In total, 21 Tea Party Caucus members have signed on, according to the latest list of caucus members put out by Bachmann’s office.

The resolution cites threats by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to "annihilate" the state of Israel, endorses other means to persuade Iran to stop pursuing nuclear weapons, and states the lawmakers’ support for an Israeli military strike "if no other peaceful solution can be found within reasonable time."

"Members of the Tea Party caucus can and do speak for themselves," said Gohmert in an emailed statement, "but most if not all members have strong beliefs that we should not turn on our backs on our best friends and reward those bent on our destruction. This resolution was borne out of concern for the threat, not merely to Israel, but also to the United States." 

Notably absent from the resolution — and indeed, from the Tea Party Caucus — is Ron Paul, the Texas congressman and 2008 presidential candidate. Paul, who leads the libertarian wing of the Tea Party movement, was one of only 11 members of the House to vote against the recent Iran sanctions bill, which he called "very, very dangerous and not well thought out"; in 2007 he expressed his concern that "a contrived Gulf of Tonkin-type incident may occur to gain popular support for an attack on Iran."

There’s little chance the resolution, which has 46 co-sponsors in total, will see a vote on the House floor any time soon. But the resolution signals increasing interest by the Tea Party and its congressional supporters in foreign policy.

Last week, a Tea Party-affiliated grassroots organization launched a nationwide campaign to build popular opposition to the administration’s nuclear reductions treaty with Russia, called New START. The group is led by Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’s wife Ginny and it dovetails with similar efforts by former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney.

The resolution also continues a theme among Tea Party leaders, such as Sarah Palin, who are seeking to separate the movement’s domestic policies, which call for small government and fiscal restraint, from libertarian views on foreign policy, promoting instead an aggressive, unilateralist view of world affairs and unchecked military spending.

Read the whole resolution here.

Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at josh.rogin@foreignpolicy.com.

Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.

A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.

Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C. Twitter: @joshrogin

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