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October 10, 2007

Hillary Clinton Votes Send Mixed Messages on Iran

Recently Hillary Clinton became a Co-Sponsor to S-759, a Senate Bill that would prohibit the use of funds for military operations in Iran without explicit congressional approval. The bill is offered by Sen. James Webb, D-Virginia, as a response to increasing tension between the US and Iran, and deepening suspicions that the White House may be attempting to manipulate intelligence and public opinion to justify an attack on Iran.

The New Yorker reported that as diplomatic efforts by the U.N. have recently indicated successes in addressing Iran's nuclear program, the Bush administration has begun to shift its rhetoric away from the "nuclear threat" to claims that Iran is fighting a proxy war against US forces in Iraq by supplying Iraqi Shiite insurgents with "explosively formed penetrators," and other low-grade weapons. Congress has not substantially challenged this claim, despite protest by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki, who flatly denied Iranian support for the Iraq insurgency. MSNBC reported that Maliki recently told the Council on Foreign Relations that "Our relationships with these countries [Iran and Syria] has improved to the point that they are not interfering in our internal affairs," and also said that cross border support for militias has "ceased to exist."

Yet the Senate apparently ignored Maliki as they considered the Kyl-Lieberman amendment, which echoes claims by the US military that Iran is aiding fighters in Iraq-- despite the lack of independent investigation or proof. The amendment also calls on President Bush to list the Revolutionary Guards as “specially designated global terrorists.” In opposing the amendment, James Webb warned that the move could be tantamount to a declaration of war. Since Congress has authorized the use of force to fight terrorism, this designation opens a loophole that the president could easily exploit.

The disquieting similarity between the Administration's current claims regarding Iran, and the now-discredited claims regarding Iraq and Saddam Hussein prior to the launch of the Iraq war have been noted by a multitude of analysts and commentators. One would think the Senate would react to the Iran "crisis" with skepticism rather than hawkish enthusiasm, and push for reliable investigation and diplomacy. However, the Senate overwhelmingly passed the Kyl-Lieberman amendment, with Clinton joining the majority "Yea" voters.

Conclusion: The passage of the Kyl-Lieberman amendment is a direct step forward in paving the legal groundwork for Bush and Cheney to expand their "long war" into yet another nation which has not been substantively proven to pose a direct danger to the American people.

James Webb's S-759 is a necessary step in establishing a congressional check to the White House's aggressive posturing towards Iran. Peace Action West supports this legislation and we applaud Hillary Clinton for becoming a co-sponsor. Unfortunately, the bill is presently lacking the momentum necessary to even be offered for debate in the Senate, let alone pass in time to block the administration’s build-up to war. However, in the event of an attack on Iran, Sen. Clinton will be able to say she co-sponsored a bill that, if it had passed, could have prevented the attack she helped authorize by voting yes on Kyl-Lieberman.

Immediate action is needed to ensure that this bill gets the support it needs. You can help by contacting your senators at 1-800-614-2803 to demand their support of S-759, which would block funds for strikes on Iran without congressional oversight.

Barack Obama was not present to vote on the Kyl-Lieberman amendment, but said that he would have voted against it.

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