DEMOCRATS WARN BUSH NOT TO ATTACK IRAN
By Laurie Kellman
January 19, 2007
WASHINGTON -- Democratic leaders in Congress lobbed a warning shot Friday at the White House not to launch an attack against Iran without first seeking approval from lawmakers.
“The president does not have the authority to launch military action in Iran without first seeking congressional authorization,” Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., told the National Press Club.
The administration has accused Iran of meddling in Iraqi affairs and contributing technology and bomb-making materials for insurgents to use against U.S. and Iraqi security forces.
President Bush said last week the U.S. will “seek out and destroy” networks providing that support. While top administration officials have said they have no plans to attack Iran itself, they have declined to rule it out.
This week, the administration sent another aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf -- the second to deploy in the region. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the buildup was intended to impress on Iran that the four-year war in Iraq has not made America vulnerable. The U.S. is also deploying anti-missile Patriot missiles in the region.
The U.S. has accused Tehran of trying to develop nuclear weapons. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Thursday that Iran would not back down over its nuclear program, which Tehran says is being developed only to produce energy.
Reid made the comments as he and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., spoke to the National Press Club on Democrats' view of the state of the union four days before Bush addresses Congress and the nation. His remarks were the latest Democratic display of concern about the possibility of military action in Iran and Bush's power to launch it.
Last week, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joseph Biden, D-Del., challenged the president's ability to make such a move. In a letter to Bush, Biden asked the president to explain whether the administration believes it could attack Iran or Syria “without the authorization of Congress, which does not now exist.”
Meanwhile, Lee Hamilton, the Democratic co-chair of the Iraq Study Group, told the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Friday that the U.S. must try to engage Iran and Syria in a constructive dialogue on Iraq because of the countries' influence in the conflict.
The Bush administration, and several members of Congress, say they oppose talks with Iran and Syria because of their terrorist connections. Bringing the two countries into regional talks aimed at reducing violence in Iraq was one of the study group's recommendations.
“Do we have so little confidence in the diplomats of the United States that we're not willing to let them talk with somebody we disagree with?” Hamilton asked.
REID STANDS BETWEEN BUSH AND IRAN
By Sarah Wheaton
The Caucus -- Political Blogging from the New York Times
January 19, 2007
Senator Harry Reid, the majority leader, drew a battle line with President Bush on Iran today during a joint appearance with Representative Nancy Pelosi, the Democrats’ leader in the House. As part of the Democrats’ runup to Mr. Bush’s address to the nation on Tuesday night, Mr. Reid reminded the commander in chief that his power does have limits when it comes to military engagement.
“Much has been made about President Bush’s recent saber rattling toward Iran,” Mr. Reid said. “This morning, I’d like to be clear: The president does not have the authority to launch military action in Iran without first seeking Congressional authorization -- a the current use of force resolution for Iraq does not give him such authorization.”
Mr. Reid proposed that by reaching out to Iran’s sizable under-30 population, a group he referred to as “a generation of potential reformers,” and by eliminating America’s dependence on foreign oil, the security threat from Iran could be diminished.
During her remarks, Mrs. Pelosi shifted away from her “six for ‘06” measures, the last of which was passed yesterday, to the older “Innovation Agenda.” Global warming and energy issues are a major part of that set of goals, which also includes spending more on putting in place the No Child Left Behind Act, increasing funds to universities and expanding children’s access to health insurance.
On Thursday, Mrs. Pelosi, the House speaker, announced that she is forming the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming. The committee would not legislate, but it would hold hearings and recommend legislation. Mr. Reid said he backed the House’s efforts, but that a similar group would not be possible in the Senate.
“She has a lot more people to work with,” he said, referring to the 435 representatives and 100 senators.
CHENEY NIXED HELP FROM IRAN
January 19, 2007
Yesterday I wrote about how a bipartisan group of House members recently introduced legislation requiring the Bush Administration to get Congressional approval for any potential military action against Iran. Today, at a speech before the National Press Club, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid endorsed such a constitutional check on President Bush. "I'd like to be clear," Reid said in a prebuttal to Bush's State of the Union Address, "the President does not have the authority to launch military action in Iran without first seeking congressional authorization."
During an interview last week with ABC News, National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley hedged repeatedly when asked whether the Administration had the authority to attack Iran. As did Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Defense Secretary Bob Gates previously favored engaging Iran; now he opposes that. Laura Rozen recently reported in *National Journal*: "US officials, who asked not to be identified, say that the Iran policy has expanded from focusing chiefly on Iran's nuclear ambitions to challenging Tehran's suspected misbehavior across the Middle East." Unfortunately for the Administration, "there are no smoking guns about Iran in Iraq," one informed U.S. source tells Rozen. "That's the problem. Sort of like the WMD." Once again, the case for war may hinge on bad intel.
The tragedy is that this brewing confrontation could have been avoided. According to Colin Powell's top deputy, Lawrence Wilkerson, the Iranians offered in 2003 to help the U.S. stabilize Iraq and cut off funding to Hezbollah and Hamas. But none other than Vice President Dick Cheney, the man responsible for so many of America's current problems in the Middle East, nixed the idea.
"We thought it was a very propitious moment," Wilkerson told the BBC on Wednesday. "But as soon as it got to the White House, and as soon as it got to the vice president's office, the old mantra of 'We don't talk to evil' . . . reasserted itself."
DEMOCRATS, WHITE HOUSE SPAR OVER IRAN AND IRAQ
By Klaus Marre
January 19, 2007
Democratic leaders and the White House on Friday exchanged verbal jabs over the Bush administration's Iraq and Iran policies.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told ABC's "Good Morning America" that President Bush "has dug a hole so deep he can't even see the light" in Iraq, calling the administration's policy a "tragedy" and a "stark blunder."
Pelosi also hinted that Bush quickly moved troops into "harm's way" because he knew Democrats would not cut off funding to U.S. forces already on the ground.
White House spokeswoman Dana Perino called Pelosi's remarks "poisonous" and said they are part of a "sound-bite war" on Capitol Hill.
"The one thing you can say about President Bush is that he's not moving forward with this new plan because he thinks it is popular; he is doing it because he thinks it is right," Perino told reporters. "He is sending troops to Iraq quickly because he wants to win."
Continuing the verbal attacks on the White House, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said at the National Press Club this morning that Bush "does not have the authority to launch military action in Iran without first seeking congressional authorization -- the current use-of-force resolution for Iraq does not give him such authorization."
Perino said she was "puzzled" by Reid's remarks and also fired back at Pelosi.
"There seems to be fanning of flames where there's no fire," Perino said with regard to Reid's comments.
Perino pointed out that Bush and top officials all have stressed that the U.S. focus is on Iraq. The spokeswoman added that, if Iran meddles in Iraq's affairs, it could be dealt with "inside of Iraq."
Also at the Press Club event, Pelosi said the solutions to Iraq's problems "are political and diplomatic, not military.
"As such, they are beyond the ability of our troops, who have performed their difficult and dangerous missions with great courage, to resolve," Pelosi added. "The Iraqis and their neighbors have the most at stake in an unsafe Iraq. The sooner we give them the responsibility for their future, the sooner our troops can come home."