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."
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
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