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 US 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 US 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."