More telling would be if House Speaker Nancy Pelosi reversed her earlier position that Congress could not restrict the president when it came to the potential of military force against Iran out of concern for the national security interests of Israel. The fact that she hasn’t, and won’t, speaks volumes about the degree to which a dangerously schizophrenic Israel continues to influence and drive the foreign and national security policy of the Bush administration.
The fact is, on its own the new NIE cannot stop the Bush administration’s desire to bring the Iran issue to a head by spring 2008. The framing of the “crisis,” which began with fears over the Iranian nuclear program, shifted months ago. The focus of attention is now on Iran’s status as a “state sponsor of terror,” a charge the administration has made over and over again, whether in the form of the president’s 2007 State of the Union speech or in the March 2006 National Security Strategy of the United States. Recent legislation passed by the Senate has only added fuel to the fire by naming the Iranian Revolutionary Guard command as a terrorist organization.
There is a school of thought that holds to the notion that because a military strike against Iran makes no sense, it will not happen. This, of course, is not only wishful thinking, it is also irresponsible. By continuing to focus on the Iran issue in terms of so-called threat models and ignoring the underlying reality of an ideologically driven policy objective of regime change in Tehran, those who could prevent a war between the United States and Iran are simply facilitating its inevitability. I’ve seen this pattern of behavior before, in the buildup to the invasion of Iraq. While the world debated the issue of weapons of mass destruction, left unmentioned was the decades-long policy of regime change in Baghdad, instituted during the administration of Bill Clinton and inherited by George W. Bush. The events of Sept. 11, 2001, put regime change on the fast track, and the end result is our current occupation. The WMD issue was simply a facilitator for conflict; war with Iraq for the purpose of removing Saddam Hussein was unavoidable so long as the ideological foundation of American policy remained unchanged. The same can be said of the situation facing the United States and Iran today. The nuclear and terror issues are simply vehicles for implementing a policy of regime change. Take away the nuclear issue and the policy remains. A new facilitator, such as terrorism, is then employed.
In short, the only way to prevent the full implementation of the Bush administration policy of regime change in Tehran is for Congress to directly challenge this policy. If there was ever a moment of redemption for the Democrats in Congress, this is it. Presidential contender Joe Biden, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has said that if the president were to bomb Iran without congressional consent, then he would push for impeachment. But this reactive posture ignores the fact that we would, regardless of Biden’s eventual maneuvering, be at war with Iran as a result of such a strike. Congress, by continuing to support existing war powers resolutions passed in 2001 and 2002, and through its ongoing support of the basic premise underwriting the administration’s policy toward Iran (i.e., the Senate resolution labeling the Iranian Revolutionary Guard command as a terror organization), has tied its hands in terms of constitutionally challenging the president’s contention that he has all the authority required to initiate an attack against Iran.
Rather than wait for disaster to strike, it would behoove Sen. Biden and others to use every parliamentary procedure available to subject the Bush Iran policy to the most critical scrutiny possible in order to deconstruct the unitary executive utopia the president (and vice president) currently resides in. Specific provisions that delink Iran from existing war powers authority, funding restrictions for any military action against Iran, and any measure that reinforces the notion that the president must seek the consent of Congress before military action against Iran would not only send a clear signal to the president about the limitations of his power but also establish clear legal foundation that could be applied, via the constitutional remedy of impeachment, should the president proceed in complete disregard of the will of Congress. But the will of Congress must be expressed, not implied, and soon.
The time for action is now. Joe Biden would be doing America, and the world, a huge favor if he would remove his candidate’s hat and resume the role which he has been empowered by his constituents to serve: overseer of American foreign policy. Hearings must be held, and time is not on our side. If the newly released NIE on Iran is to have any meaning, then let it be that it triggered a reawakening of the Congress of the United States to assert its authority and responsibility in a time of great need.
A former Marine Corps intelligence officer, Scott Ritter was a chief inspector for the United Nations Special Commission in Iraq from 1991 to 1998. He is the author of several books. His “Target Iran” (2006) was recently released in paperback by Nation Books.