Highlights
 
Quotable
When we fill our souls up with creativity, artistry and intelligence ...we have a better chance at avoiding the behavior that leads to destruction.
Rick DellaRatta
Original Letters Blog US Casualties Contact Donate

 
September 28, 2007

Anti-Iran Hawks Win Partial Victory in Congress

by Jim Lobe

Amid growing speculation about prospects for military action against Iran, neoconservatives and other hawks won a significant – if somewhat incomplete – victory in rallying the Democratic-led Congress to its side.

In a 76-22 vote Wednesday, senators approved a non-binding amendment to the 2008 defense authorization bill that called for the administration of President George W. Bush to designate Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) "a foreign terrorist organization."

Among those voting for the measure was the Democratic front-runner for the 2008 presidential election, Sen. Hillary Clinton.

At the same time, the House of Representatives voted nearly unanimously – 408-6 – for another measure, the Iran Sanctions Enabling Act, which would force Bush to impose sweeping sanctions against foreign companies that invest more than 20 million dollars in Iran's energy sector.

That bill, which is opposed by the Bush administration itself due to strong pressure from Washington's European and Asian allies and key multinational companies, is considered likely to stall in the Senate through the remainder of this year.

But its huge margin of approval, which some observers said was boosted by this week's controversial visit to New York by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, helped demonstrate once again how responsive members of both major parties are to the so-called "Israel Lobby," which has made the sanctions bill its top legislative priority this year.

Both votes took place amid an intensifying struggle within the administration over control of Iran policy, with hawks, led by Vice President Dick Cheney and his neoconservative advisers, pitted against the State Department and Pentagon chief Robert Gates and his top military brass.

The State Department, while never ruling out military action, has consistently argued for continuing diplomatic efforts to address both alleged Iranian backing for anti-Shi'ite militias in Iraq and Iran's rejection of U.N. Security Council demands that it freeze its uranium-enrichment program.

For the past two months – since the last time the and Iranian ambassadors met in Baghdad – the struggle appears to have reached an impasse.

In late July, Bush agreed in principle to a proposal by Cheney for cross-border military strikes against IRGC targets that have allegedly been involved in training and supplying Iraqi Shi'ite militias, according to Philip Giraldi, a former military intelligence and CIA officer, writing recently in the American Conservative.

But the Pentagon brass, which has become increasingly outspoken about the overextension of ground forces in Iraq and the uncertainty about how Iran would react, countered with a more cautious strategy of building a new military base and extending patrolling along suspected smuggling routes, according to knowledgeable sources.

Similarly, the diplomatic dialogue between the and Iranian ambassadors in Baghdad over stabilizing Iraq – originally launched last May – has not resumed since their second and last meeting in late July when Amb. Ryan Crocker publicly complained about Tehran's alleged increase in support, via the IRGC, for Shi'ite militias that were attacking troops.

In testimony here two weeks ago, Crocker said he "found no readiness on the Iranians' side at all to engage seriously on these issues," while Gen. David Petraeus, Washington's top military commander in Iraq, charged that Tehran was engaged in a "proxy war" against the in Iraq.

Last month, the Washington Post reported that the administration had decided in principle to designate the IRGC, which, in addition to its military role, controls a number of large businesses that could be subject to sanctions, but had yet to determine whether it would name the entire organization. or only its elite unit, the Quds Force. That no announcement has yet been made is indicative of the continuing infighting around Bush.

The continuing paralysis, however, appears to have favored the hawks, who have pressed their campaign for cross-border military action against Iran in the opinion pages of such neoconservative publications as the Weekly Standard, the National Review, and the Wall Street Journal.

Their calls for action became so intense that the commander of the Central Command and Petraeus' superior, Adm. William Fallon, who has been trying to get authorization to negotiate an "incidents at sea" agreement with Iran, complained publicly that "this constant drumbeat of conflict is ...not helpful and not useful.

"It is not a good idea to be in a state of war. We ought to try and to do our utmost to create different conditions," he told al-Jazeera.

In fact, the first call for cross-border attacks on Iranian targets was made by the Senate's "independent" Democrat, Joseph Lieberman, who is regarded as particularly close to the powerful American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

Indeed, it was Lieberman and Republican Sen. John Kyl – the honorary co-chairs of the pro-Likud Committee on the Present Danger (CPD) – who co-sponsored the Senate amendment naming the IRGC as a terrorist group in an effort clearly designed to help tilt the internal balance within the administration.

As introduced, the amendment, which, according to several Capitol Hill sources, was drafted by AIPAC, actually went considerably further, deploying language that some senators argued could be interpreted as authorizing war against Iran.

Among other provisions, it called for the to "combat, contain and roll back the violent activities and destabilizing influence inside Iraq of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran...and its indigenous Iraqi proxies...and "the prudent and calibrated use of all instruments of United States national power in Iraq, including...military instruments, in support of (that) policy…"

But those paragraphs were deleted after Democratic Sen. Jim Webb delivered a passionate speech in which he charged that the amendment "is Dick Cheney's fondest pipe dream" and "could be read as tantamount to a declaration of war."

In a further softening, the drafters changed one policy statement that claimed it was a "vital national interest" to prevent Iran from turning Shi'ite militias in Iraq into its proxies to a "critical national interest." The previous wording generally connotes an interest over which the would be prepared to go to war.

Still, the fact that the amendment was approved by a significant margin – and with the support of key Democrats, including Clinton and Majority Leader Harry Reid – is certain to be used by hawks within the administration as an indication of bipartisan support for a more aggressive policy toward Iran.

(Inter Press Service)


comments on this article?
 
 
Archives

  • US Jews Open to Palestinian Unity Govt
    3/26/2009

  • Bipartisan Experts Urge 'Partnership' With Russia
    3/17/2009

  • Obama Administration Insists It's Neutral in Salvador Poll
    3/14/2009

  • NGOs Hail Congressional Moves to Ease Embargo
    3/12/2009

  • Call to 'Resist and Deter' Nuclear Iran Gains Key Support
    3/7/2009

  • Washington Ends Diplomatic Embargo of Syria
    3/4/2009

  • Diplomatic, Aid Spending Set to Rise Under Obama Budget
    2/28/2009

  • Many Muslims Reject Terror Tactics, Back Some Goals
    2/26/2009

  • Lugar Report Calls for New Cuba Policy
    2/24/2009

  • U.S.-Israel Storm Clouds Ahead?
    2/20/2009

  • Calls Mount for Obama to Appoint 'Truth Commission'
    2/20/2009

  • Washington's Praise of Venezuelan Vote Suggests Dιtente
    2/19/2009

  • Rightward Shift in Israeli Polls Creates New Headaches
    2/13/2009

  • US Advised to Back Somalia Reconciliation Efforts
    2/12/2009

  • Hawks Urge Boosting Military Spending
    2/5/2009

  • More Troops, More Worries,
    Less Consensus on Afghanistan
    2/4/2009

  • Report: Most Citizens Kept in Dark on Govt Spending
    2/2/2009

  • Obama Raises Hopes of
    Mideast Experts
    1/28/2009

  • Obama Picks Israel-Arab, Afghanistan-Pakistan Negotiators
    1/23/2009

  • Rights Groups Applaud Move to Halt Gitmo Trials
    1/22/2009

  • Obama Offers Internationalist Vision
    1/21/2009

  • Around the World, High Hopes for Obama
    1/20/2009

  • Liberals, Realists Set to Clash in Obama Administration
    1/19/2009

  • Obama Urged to Take Bold Steps Toward Cuba Normalization
    1/15/2009

  • Bush Foreign Policy Legacy Widely Seen as Disastrous
    1/14/2009

  • Clinton Stresses 'Cooperative Engagement,' 'Smart Power'
    1/14/2009

  • Networks' Int'l News Coverage at Record Low in 2008
    1/6/2009

  • Amnesty Calls on Rice to Drop 'Lopsided' Gaza Stance
    1/3/2009

  • Israeli Attack May Complicate Obama's Plans
    12/30/2008

  • Report: Recognizing Hamas Could Help Peace
    12/19/2008

  • Business Groups Support Dismantling Cuba Embargo
    12/8/2008

  • Mumbai Massacre Seen as Major Blow to Regional Strategy
    12/5/2008

  • Obama Urged to Quickly Engage Iran, Syria
    12/3/2008

  • Diplomacy, Multilateralism Stressed by Obama Team
    12/2/2008

  • Obama Foreign Policy: Realists to Reign?
    11/28/2008

  • Hemispheric Group Calls for Major Changes in Americas Policy
    11/25/2008

  • Greybeards Urge Overhaul of Global Governance
    11/21/2008

  • Intelligence Analysts See Multi-Polar, Risky World By 2025
    11/21/2008

  • Obama Urged to Strengthen Ties with UN
    11/20/2008

  • Obama-Tied Think-Tank Calls for Pakistan Shift
    11/18/2008

  • Obama Advised to Forgo More Threats to Iran
    11/17/2008

  • First, Close Gitmo,
    Say Rights Groups
    11/11/2008

  • Obama's Foreign Policy:
    No Sharp Break From Bush
    11/11/2008

  • Coca Cultivation Up Despite Six Years of Plan Colombia
    11/7/2008

  • Obama to Seek Global Re-engagement, But How Much?
    11/6/2008

  • Two, Three, Many Grand Bargains?
    11/3/2008

  • Moving Towards a 'Grand Bargain' in Afghanistan
    10/19/2008

  • Top Ex-Diplomats Slam 'Militarization' of Foreign Policy
    10/16/2008

  • Bush Set to Go With a Whimper, Not a Bang
    10/15/2008

  • Pakistan 'Greatest Single Challenge' to Next President
    10/8/2008

  • Senate Passes Nuke Deal Over Escalation Fears
    10/3/2008

  • Brief Talks With Syria Spur Speculation
    10/1/2008

  • Iran Resolution Shelved in Rare Defeat for AIPAC
    9/27/2008

  • Bipartisan Group Urges Deeper Diplomacy with Muslim World
    9/25/2008

  • White House Still Cautious on Georgia
    9/6/2008
  • More Archives


    Jim Lobe, works as Inter Press Service's correspondent in the Washington, D.C., bureau. He has followed the ups and downs of neo-conservatives since well before their rise in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks.

    Reproduction of material from any original Antiwar.com pages
    without written permission is strictly prohibited.
    Copyright 2014 Antiwar.com