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July 11, 2008

Congressional Hearings Are Needed to Forestall an Attack on Iran


by Scott Ritter

There is increasing discussion and speculation about the possibility of an American military strike against Iran prior to President Bush leaving office. The justification for such an attack is derived from Iran's continued refusal to adhere to Security Council demands that it suspend its enrichment of uranium (a program Iran contends is exclusively for peaceful energy purposes) and Bush administration assertions that Iran operates as a state sponsor of terror. While Iran denies any wrongdoing on its part, the Bush administration has successfully positioned itself, both domestically and internationally, so that it is Iran which must demonstrate its innocence of the charges made against it, as opposed to America proving its guilt.

There are those who say that such observations are moot. The Bush administration may want to act against Iran, this thinking goes, but is unable to do so due to an overstretched military strained by open-ended conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan and a worsening economic situation at home brought on, in part, by soaring oil prices, and as such any military attack on Iran would be an act of madness. Such reasoning may not be enough to give pause to those within the Bush administration who cling to an ideology which links the national security of the United States to a transformed Middle East, one where regimes such as the theocracy in Tehran must be eliminated if there is to be any hope of long-term peace and stability. For these true believers, it is not action against Iran which would constitute an act of madness, but rather any failure to act.

Contrary to popular belief, the U.S. military has sufficient military capacity to initiate, and sustain, military strike options ranging from a limited attack against one or two targets, lasting less than a day, to a massive aerial bombardment of Iran lasting 30-45 days. Current speculation holds that the Pentagon is leaning toward the limited strike option, but given the fact that no one can predict how Iran would respond to even a limited air strike against its territory, the potential for escalation exists which finds the United States engaged in an all-out aerial onslaught against Iran is all too real.

Those who look to the Congress of the United States to prevent or forestall an attack against Iran do so in vain. Congressional inaction on the issue of Iran has created a situation where there are no Constitutional impediments to the Bush administration taking military action. Not only has the U.S. Senate passed a non-binding resolution (Kyl-Lieberman) which labels the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Command as a terrorist group, but it has left in place, unchanged, two war powers resolutions (September 2001 and October 2002) which give the President free reign to use military force against the forces of terror, state and non-state sponsored alike. Efforts to have the US Congress make use of its power of the purse to mandate that the President must seek, and get, Congressional approval to strike Iran before any U.S. taxpayer funds can be expended, have likewise failed to gain any momentum. This failure to act itself serves as a facilitator for military action, since it demonstrates not only a lack of will in the U.S. Congress to oppose military action against Iran, but conversely, a recognition on the part of Congress that such action is not only within the right of the President to initiate, but also represents a legitimate course of action.

Those who have formulated the policies of the Bush administration which have placed Iran and America on a collision course have done so not on a whim, but rather based upon deep and sincere ideologically based conviction which holds that such a course of action is in the best interests of the United States. The ideologues who populate the current Bush administration, especially those associated with the Office of the Vice President, imbued with an unprecedented level of influence on matters pertaining to national security and defense, may feel obliged to initiate a military strike against Iran prior to leaving office, not for the purpose of achieving any permanent result, but rather to ensnare a new President in a situation where the political-military options for Iran policy are limited by the reality of ongoing conflict.

It may transpire that there is no military clash between Iran and the U.S. and the future President of the United States enters office free to undertake any policy direction he chooses. However, to sit back and do nothing in hopes of such a scenario unfolding is akin to planning to fund your child's college education by playing the lottery. You might win, but the overwhelming odds are against you. It is high time for Congress to stop gambling on the future of the United States by doing nothing about the issue of Iran. There has never been a more pressing need than the present for Congressional hearings about American policy toward Iran. Getting Congress to act should be the highest priority for every American citizen, before it is too late.

 

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Scott Ritter is a former UNSCOM weapons inspector in Iraq and the author of Target Iran: The Truth Behind the White House's Plans for Regime Change (Nation Books, 2006).

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