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A New Democratic Split Over Iran

Hilllary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama have found a new fault line on Iran. And it's in the mail to President Bush.

Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) released a letter today, signed by himself and 29 Senate colleagues, warning Bush not to take military action in Iran without Congress's consent. Webb's office said the goal was to "clarify any ambiguity as a result of a recent Senate amendment urging designation of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization," and to express "concern that the administration's increasingly provocative rhetoric has undermined diplomatic efforts with Iran."

One of the 30 signatories was Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, who voted for the Senate amendment and has taken grief from her Democratic opponents ever since. The measure, written by Sens. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) and Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.), was opposed by many Democrats for giving Bush too much leeway, including Webb, who was one of the amendment's harshest critics.

Sen. Barack Obama, who missed the Kyl-Lieberman vote but said he opposed it in principle, was not on the list. Nor has Obama endorsed either of the two pending Senate bills that would require Bush to seek congressional approval before invading Iran -- including one written by Webb and cosponsored by Clinton.

The Clinton campaign offered one explanation: shameless politicking. "If Senator Obama isn't just playing politics and really believes Kyl-Lieberman gave the President a blank check for war, he would have signed the letter today and would have fought to stop the resolution before it came up for a vote," said spokesman Phil Singer. "Instead he did nothing, remained silent, and spoke out only after the vote to engage in false attacks against Senator Clinton."

Obama spokesman Bill Burton said the Illinois Democrat introduced a bill today that would reverse Kyl-Lieberman while clarifying that nothing Congress has passed, including the 2002 resolution authorizing the use of force in Iraq, permits the U.S. to invade Iran.

"Senator Obama admires Senator Webb and his sincere and tireless efforts on this issue," said Burton. "But it will take more than a letter to prevent this administration from using the language contained within the Kyl-Lieberman resolution to justify military action in Iran."

Neither Kyl nor Lieberman signed the letter. Nor did Senate Majority Harry Reid (Nev.) or Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (Mich). Sen. Biden, the Foreign Relations chairman and another Democratic presidential contender, voted against Kyl-Lieberman, and like Obama, said no to Webb today.

"Sen. Biden voted against the amendment urging the designation of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist group," said spokesperson Elizabeth Alexander. "He strongly opposed it because he believed it could be used by this President to justify military action against Iran. He has also made clear many times his view that the President lacks the authority to use force against Iran absent authorization from Congress. He didn't need to clarify that position - he's been clear from the start."

--Shailagh Murray

Here's the letter:
November 1, 2007

President George W. Bush
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear President Bush:

We are writing to express serious concerns with the provocative statements and actions stemming from your administration with respect to possible U.S. military action in Iran. These comments are counterproductive and undermine efforts to resolve tensions with Iran through diplomacy.

We wish to emphasize that no congressional authority exists for unilateral military action against Iran. This includes the Senate vote on September 26, 2007 on an amendment to the FY 2008 National Defense Authorization Act. This amendment, expressing the sense of the Senate on Iran, and the recent designation of the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist, should in no way be interpreted as a predicate for the use of military force in Iran.

We stand ready to work with your administration to address the challenges presented by Iran in a manner that safeguards our security interests and promotes a regional diplomatic solution, but we wish to emphasize that offensive military action should not be taken against Iran without the express consent of Congress.


Jim Webb, Daniel Akaka, Max Baucus, Barbara Boxer, Sherrod Brown, Robert Byrd, Maria Cantwell, Tom Carper, Robert Casey Jr., Hillary Rodham Clinton,Chris Dodd, Byron Dorgan, Richard Durbin, Dianne Feinstein, Tom Harkin, Tim Johnson, John Kerry, Amy Klobuchar, Herb Kohl, Patrick Leahy, Claire McCaskill, Barbara Mikulski, Patty Murray, Jack Reed, John D. Rockefeller IV, Bernard Sanders, Debbie Stabenow, Jon Tester, Sheldon Whitehouse, Ron Wyden

By Post Editor  |  November 1, 2007; 8:45 PM ET
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Not only should Barack have signed the letter but he should have been on the senate floor to vote against the original resolution. He should also be on the senate floor working to get some sort of veto-proof majority together on the SCHIP bill. For all the campaign advice Barack Obama is getting on walking the line straddling attacks of Clinton's record and his above-the-fray image, really the best thing he could do to galvanize support would be to actually accomplish something as a Senator. He's been to plenty of diners in Iowa and New Hampshire and South Carolina. You're name is out there with the public, the cameras will find you wherever you decide to go. Why not go to Washington? What a novel campaign tactic that would be!

Posted by: screeeeeaaaaam | November 2, 2007 4:36 PM | Report abuse

I'm baffled that out of 535 Members of Congress, there isn't one member--from a secure (liberal) district--who doesn't flat out call "Bull----!" on 90% of the things Bush says.

Honestly, if the president makes ridiculous claims and direct threats directed towards the "Democrat" Congress (as Bush passive-aggressively mispronounces their Party name); there should be at least 1/535 who can walk out in front of the cameras and simply say: "With all do respect, the president is a full of s--t, and he can go ahead and s--k my balls." Thank the reporters for their time, and then go back to the daily business on the Hill.

Perhaps if they were that direct with the president he may actual catch on. They try to explain to him why he's so wrong about everything, but the man is too thick and ignorant to understand their rational thoughts and arguments.

They have to start treating the president no differently than when you house train a dog. Take a rolled up newspaper, hit him in the noise with it, while saying in a firm voice: "No! Bad president." If that doesn't work, rub his nose in 'it.

Posted by: mcgrupp10799 | November 2, 2007 10:15 AM | Report abuse

In his heart, Bush is already at war with the entire planet. Empeach ASAP.

Posted by: xira | November 2, 2007 9:20 AM | Report abuse

Obama should have just signed the letter. He can introduce legislation if he likes but when all he does is miss the original vote- he can no claim a perfect record- wasn't in Congress on the 2002 vote and spoke against it- was in Congress for the 2007 vote- spoke against it but still didn't bother to vote- something for his constituents to think about if he is representing them well.

Anyway- clearly the letter is important as a statement to the President- and to the nation as to where these Senators stand. Any action is good if it says we don't accept another war.

What people often forget is that the President can send troops to Iran without Congress's approval. He just needs to come back to them for money and the issue is always if you don't approve the money you are hurting the troops.

Let us as a nation pray that George Bush and Dick Cheney don't involve us in another war, declared or undeclared before we finally have them out of Office.

Posted by: peterdc | November 2, 2007 8:55 AM | Report abuse

Like Clinton said, "fool me twice, shame on you." War is big business, and business is good for radical RepubTurds. Congress must do everything possible to prevent out-of-control Bush Jr. from starting WWIII before he and the church lady thrill the world by going back to their tiny ranch. In addition to restoring dignity to the White House, the next Democratic president will have to restore national diplomacy and rebuild the bridges that another dogmatic Republican president has burnt. The process could take decades.

Posted by: con_crusher | November 2, 2007 12:10 AM | Report abuse

George W. Bush has the demeanor of a cowboy and the IQ of a Texas rock. After spending a day to read the letter, he probably let out one of those annoying uppity chuckles of his. Webb's on the right track, but Bush Jr. only listens to veto-proof legislation.

Posted by: con_crusher | November 2, 2007 12:05 AM | Report abuse

It looks like many are missinformed about the real nature of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.

This is not just an elite, intelligence, police, military service but it also controls a substancial portion of the iranian's economy, such as factories, pharmaceutical companies, banks, food distribution etc... By labelling them "terrorist" it has also a direct impact on the iranian banking system and its relation with the world international banks.

This will have a big impact on the iranian economy and may put them in a difficult position. However, this will not prevent them to continue their nuclear program but they will certainly be more incline to negociation.

The only solution is a strong partnership and tight control on their program, supervised by the international community, to insure that the technology is not diverted for weaponery. This would benefit everybody and give US a way to be positively involved in Iran.

Posted by: nam | November 1, 2007 11:30 PM | Report abuse

How perfectly typical.

Hillary in another attemp to play both sides of an important issue, and Obama actually being practical and presenting a real live BINDING resolution.

WHAT A CONCEPT!!! ....A lawmaker actually interested in making a law, instead of the meaningless "sense of the senate" crap or another "non-binding" resolution.

Again, Obama takes a firm stand, Obama takes action, and Hillary continues to triangulate.

Posted by: julieds | November 1, 2007 11:26 PM | Report abuse

...return to senders....

George Bush, POTUS

Posted by: kolp999 | November 1, 2007 10:35 PM | Report abuse

Why in the world did they pass the amendment in the first place? Now they think a letter will make a difference? Clinton is trying to have it both ways again. It is just political cover. She should have never voted for the amendment, giving Bush cover to brand the Iranians as terrorists. Now he can do whatever he pleases because he already has authority to go after terrorists. Clinton is just playing politics.

Posted by: goldie2 | November 1, 2007 9:53 PM | Report abuse

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