Originally Published: 10/3/2007
By The Issue Wonk
In May, HR 1585, the Defense Authorization Bill, passed the House of Representatives. The Senate version, S 1547, passed October 1, 2007. The two versions are now in a conference committee to work out the differences. (To track the bills, please see GovTrack.) To my thinking, the biggest difference is the Lieberman-Kyl Amendment No. 3017, proposed by Senators Joe Lieberman (I, CT) and Jon Kyl (R, AZ). It was proposed on September 20, 2007 and passed the full Senate on September 26th by a vote of 76 to 22. (For full text, see GovTrack; to see how the senators voted go to Senate vote summary.) The Amendment is entitled Sense of Senate on Iran and sets out how the Senate believes Iran should be handled and why.
Findings. The Amendment starts with the “Findings” of the Senate which it gleaned from the statements of General David Petraeus and Iraq Ambassador Ryan Crocker, as well as the most recent National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iraq, issued in August 2007 (see Key Judgments); the Report of the Independent Commission on Security Forces of Iraq, issued September 7, 2007; and the Department of Defense report, “Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq,” prepared in March 2007 but, according to this Amendment, released September 18, 2007.
Sense of the Senate. The Amendment goes on to state what it believes based on the “Findings.” It says that the future transition and structure of the U.S. military presence in Iraq will have “critical long-term consequences for the future of the Persian Gulf and the Middle East.” It goes on to state that Iran poses a threat to the security of the region and threatens the prospects for democracy in the region. It states that it is in the “vital national interests of the United States to prevent [Iran] from turning Shi’a militia extremists in Iraq into a Hezbollah-like force that could serve its interests inside Iraq, including by overwhelming, subverting, or co-opting institutions of the legitimate Government of Iraq.” From this point on the “Sense of the Senate” begins to state what it believes the U.S. military should be doing. It says:
(3) that it should be the policy of the United States to combat, contain, and roll back the violent activities and destabilizing influence inside Iraq of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran, its foreign facilitators such as Lebanese Hezbollah, and its indigenous Iraqi proxies;
(4) to support the prudent and calibrated use of all instruments of United States national power in Iraq, including diplomatic, economic, intelligence, and military instruments, in support of the policy described in paragraph (3) with respect to the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran and its proxies;
(5) that the United States should designate the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps as a foreign terrorist organization under section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act and place the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps on the list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists, as established under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and initiated under Executive Order 13224; [Emphasis added.]
Contested Findings. The Findings upon which the Senate based this Amendment can be contested on several fronts. First, General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker are political appointees who have a vested interest in continuing and escalating the U.S. military presence in the region. Their testimonies, especially that of Petraeus, were criticized and contradicted by others.1,2 And don’t forget that all those putting together the three reports are members, in some form, of the Bush administration, with vested interest in presenting reports favorable to the president, if not edited by the president and/or his staff.
The West End Journal had plenty to say about the NIE report:
The report goes on to say: “Over the next year Tehran, concerned about a Sunni reemergence in Iraq and U.S. efforts to limit Iranian influence, will continue to provide funding, weaponry, and training to Iraqi Shia militants. Iran has been intensifying aspects of its lethal support for select groups of Iraqi Shia militants, particularly JAM [Sadr’s Jaish al-Mahdi], since at least the beginning of 2006. Explosively formed penetrator attacks have risen dramatically.”
Notice that the penetrating explosives which have created such havoc are not included as part of the list of efforts Teheran is supporting or specified as one of those types of weaponry Teheran is supplying. It is a separately standing sentence that can be inferred to be part of what Iran is supplying, but we know enough about how intelligence has been polished by now to know that the responsibility of the inference would be ours rather than the intelligence community. I take that to mean that the penetrating devices are not being supplied by Iran, because if the intelligence community had reason to think so, the White House would certainly have insisted it be put in the NIC. [sic] But if the weapons are not from Teheran, then where are they from? I don’t know. Maybe they are home grown; maybe purchased elsewhere. Moscow? China? Very curious, this failure to say what the Bush Administration has implied but which American reporters have not established, their reports restricted to the fact of how the weapons keep pace with whatever are our defenses. Are only the Iranians smart enough to keep up with Americans?
Could Iran be supplying aid to the Shia of Iraq? Certainly. Is it the only one supplying aid to the factions? Absolutely not. "The great irony is that while of these accusations towards Tehran are supported by thin evidence, plenty of evidence does exist that another of Iraq’s neighbors, U.S.-ally Saudi Arabia, is supporting resistance groups in Iraq, and intends to continue to do so.”3 75% of all foreign fighters crossing into Iraq come across the Saudi border, far more than across Syria’s border.4 Zalmay Khalizad, the former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq and presently the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, wrote recently, “Several of Iraq’s neighbors, not only Syria and Iran but also some friends of the United States, are pursuing destabilizing policies there.”5
So, if evidence against Iran is “thin,” and evidence against other countries is incontrovertible, why the emphasis on Iran? That’s a subject for another day. The subject for today is, could the Lieberman-Kyl Amendment lead to an attack on Iran? Senator Jim Webb (D, VA) believes it could act like the Authorization for Military Force Against Iraq and be interpreted by Bush to be the “go ahead.” He said:
Those who regret their vote 5 years ago to authorize military action in Iraq should think hard before supporting this approach. Because, in my view, it has the same potential to do harm where many are seeking to do good. . . At best, it’s a deliberate attempt to divert attention from a failed diplomatic policy. At worst, it could be read as a backdoor method of gaining Congressional validation for military action, without one hearing and without serious debate. (Think Progress)
This is a very dangerous amendment, setting us up to attack yet another country rather than pursuing diplomacy.
1 Glantz, Aaron. Facts Belie Petraeus’ Case, Say Humanitarian Groups. OneWorld.net, September 14, 2007.
2 Youssef, Nancy A. & Fadel, Leila. What Crocker and Petraeus Didn’t Say. McClatchy, September 10, 2007.
3 Jamail, Dahr. The Royal Treatment: Saudi Involvement in Iraq Overlooked. Foreign Policy in Focus, September 18, 2007.
4 Smith, Col. Daniel, U.S. Army (Ret.) Why Saudi Arabia? Why Now? Foreign Policy in Focus, August 6, 2007.
5 Khalizad, Zalmay. Why the United Nations Belongs in Iraq. The New York Times, June 20, 2007.
© The Issue Wonk, 2007