While the president's announcement that an additional
20,000 troops would be sent to Iraq dominated the headlines last week, the real
story was the president's sharp rhetoric toward Iran and Syria. And recent moves
by the administration only serve to confirm the likelihood of a wider conflict
in the Middle East.
The president stated last week that, "Succeeding in Iraq also requires
defending its territorial integrity and stabilizing the region in the
face of the extremist challenge. This begins with addressing Iran and Syria."
He also announced the deployment of an additional aircraft carrier battle group
to the Persian Gulf, and the deployment of Patriot missile defense systems to
countries in the Middle East. Meanwhile, U.S. troops stormed the Iranian consulate
in Iraq and detained several Iranian diplomats. Taken together, the message
was clear: the administration intends to move the U.S. closer to a dangerous
and ill-advised conflict with Iran.
As I said last week on the House floor, speculation in Washington focuses on
when, not if, either Israel or the U.S. will bomb Iran possibly with
nuclear weapons. The accusation sounds very familiar: namely, that Iran possesses
weapons of mass destruction. Iran has never been found in violation of the Nuclear
Nonproliferation Treaty, and our own Central Intelligence Agency says Iran is
more than 10 years away from producing any kind of nuclear weapon. Yet we are
told we must act immediately while we still can!
This all sounds very familiar, but many of my colleagues don't seem to
have learned much from the invasion of Iraq. House Democrats strongly criticized
the Iraq troop surge after the president's announcement, but then praised
the president's confrontational words condemning Iran. Many of those opposing
a troop surge are not calling for a withdrawal of our troops from the Middle
East, but rather for "redeployment." Redeployment to where? Iran?
We need to return to reality when it comes to our Middle East policy. We need
to reject the increasingly shrill rhetoric coming from the same voices who urged
the president to invade Iraq.
The truth is that Iran, like Iraq, is a third-world nation without a significant
military. Nothing in history hints that she is likely to invade a neighboring
country, let alone America or Israel. I am concerned, however, that a contrived
Gulf of Tonkin-type incident may occur to gain popular support for an attack
The best approach to Iran, and Syria for that matter, is to heed the advice
of the Iraq Study Group report, which states,
"[T]he United States should engage directly with Iran and Syria in
order to try to obtain their commitment to constructive policies toward Iraq
and other regional issues. In engaging with Syria and Iran, the United States
should consider incentives, as well as disincentives, in seeking constructive
In coming weeks I plan to introduce legislation that urges the administration
to heed the advice of the Iraq Study Group. Dialogue and discussion should replace
inflammatory rhetoric and confrontation in our Middle East policy, if we truly
seek to defeat violent extremism and terrorism.