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January 22, 2005

Democrats and Iran: Look Who Supports Bush's Next War


by Joshua Frank

By now you have probably heard about the Bush Administration's secret plan to attack Iran and how US Special Forces units have been operating in the country for some time. Seymour Hersh, the maverick journalist for The New Yorker, broke the story earlier this week.

"The immediate goals of the attacks would be to destroy, or at least temporarily derail, Iran's ability to go nuclear. But there are other, equally purposeful, motives at work," writes Hersh. "The government consultant told me that the hawks in the Pentagon, in private discussions, have been urging a limited attack on Iran because they believe it could lead to a toppling of the religious leadership."

It is a scathing indictment. The Bush Administration, which has avoided going through Congress to initiate its covert operations, is conducting this potential invasion much differently than the invasion of Iraq. The reasons may be political in nature. The US public, or at least those who opposed the Iraq war, made it somewhat difficult for Bush to instigate war against Saddam Hussein's regime.

Gathering in the streets, and later on Capitol Hill, they forced a public discussion, carefully scrutinizing Bush's motives. Now that many of Bush's claims about Iraq's WMD program and ties to al-Qaeda have been disproven (though Bush might beg to differ), Bush and company may be struggling to garner sufficient support to justify waging another war with an already strained military.

But the Bush administration may not have to worry about the opposition for round two. After all, the Democrats have long agreed that Iran must be dealt with militarily.

Recently, the Democratic Party's rising "progressive" star Barack Obama said he would favor "surgical" missile strikes against Iran.

As Obama told the Chicago Tribune on September 26, 2004, "[T]he big question is going to be, if Iran is resistant to these pressures [to stop its nuclear program], including economic sanctions, which I hope will be imposed if they do not cooperate, at what point ... if any, are we going to take military action?"

He added, "[L]aunching some missile strikes into Iran is not the optimal position for us to be in" given the ongoing war in Iraq. "On the other hand, having a radical Muslim theocracy in possession of nuclear weapons is worse." Obama went on to argue that military strikes on Pakistan should not be ruled out if "violent Islamic extremists" were to "take over."

Senator John Kerry echoed this sentiment on May 29, 2004, when he told the Washington Post that the Bush Administration has not "been tough on the [Iran] issue … which is the issue of nuclear weaponry, and again just like I said with North Korea, you have to keep your eye on the target."

Even DNC chair hopeful Howard Dean, allegedly the liberal arm of the Democratic Party, concurs Bush has not been tough enough on Iran. The Forward quotes Dean as saying, "The United States has to ... take a much harder line on Iran and Saudi Arabia because they're funding terrorism."

In fact, while campaigning for president, Dean contended that President Bush had been far too soft on Iran. In a March appearance on CBS' Face The Nation, Dean even went so far as to say that "[President Bush] is beholden to the Saudis and the Iranians."

Foreign Policy expert Stephen Zunes wrote of the Democrats' platform in Foreign Policy in Focus on August 12, 2004:

"One possible target for American forces under a Kerry administration is Iran. The platform implies an American right to such military intervention by stating that 'a nuclear-armed Iran is an unacceptable risk to us and our allies.' No concern is expressed, however, about the already-existing nuclear arsenals of Iran's neighbor Pakistan or of nearby Israel. Iran has called for a nuclear-free zone in the region, which the Democrats appear to reject, apparently because it would require America's regional allies to get rid of their nuclear arsenals as well. The Democrats, like the Republicans, believe that instead of pushing for multilateral and verifiable arms control treaties, the United States can effectively impose a kind of nuclear apartheid, unilaterally determining which countries can have nuclear weapons and which countries cannot."

So are we really supposed to believe the Democrats will ever offer up any significant opposition to Bush's military dabbling in Iran?

Not unless by "opposition to" you mean "support for."

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  • Joshua Frank is the author of Left Out!: How Liberals Helped Reelect George W. Bush, just published by Common Courage Press. You can order a copy at a discounted through Josh's blog at www.brickburner.org. He can be reached at brickburner@gmail.com.

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