Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Leonard Weiss and Larry Diamond: Congress must stop an attack on Iran

Congress must stop an attack on Iran

By Leonard Weiss and Larry Diamond, LEONARD WEISS is a senior science fellow at the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University. LARRY DIAMOND is a senior fellow at Stanford's Hoover Institution. February 5, 2007
DESPITE ANGUISH and anger over the Bush administration's decision to escalate its failing war in Iraq, Congress is unlikely to cut off funding. Even most opponents of the war fear that they could be blamed for not supporting the troops in the field and for a possible descent into even greater catastrophe in the face of a precipitous U.S. withdrawal from Iraq. But nothing prevents Congress from using its power of the purse to prevent an American attack on Iran. President Bush's neoconservative advisors and pundit supporters have been beating the drums of war with Iran since 2003, when the president declared Iran to be part of an "axis of evil." Recall that a senior administration official told The Times that Iran should "take a number" in the wake of the invasion of Iraq. In his recent address to the nation on the troop surge in Iraq, Bush issued more threats to Iran. Now the president has named a Navy admiral to head the U.S. Central Command and dispatched a second aircraft carrier and minesweepers to the Persian Gulf, presumably to prevent Iran from closing the Strait of Hormuz in the event of conflict. These developments and other administration moves could presage an air attack on Iran's nuclear facilities. Iran is not innocent of dangerous and provocative behavior. Tehran has supported insurgent groups in Iraq, including helping to provide sophisticated explosives that have killed U.S. soldiers. And Iran's continued development of a nuclear enrichment facility is in defiance of the international community's demand to halt those actions. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's repulsive statements about the Holocaust and Israel add to the nervousness about Iran's future actions. But war is not yet justified, except in the minds of those who have been lobbying for it for years. Iran is still years away from being a nuclear threat, and our experience with "preventive war" in Iraq should teach us a thing or two. Launching another such war without international approval would leave us even more politically isolated and militarily overstretched. Attacking a Middle Eastern country — one much stronger than Iraq and with the ability to cut off oil supplies from the Strait of Hormuz — could inflame the region, intensify Shiite militia attacks on our soldiers in Iraq and stimulate terrorist attacks on Americans and U.S. interests worldwide. But recklessness, not prudence, has been the hallmark of this administration's foreign policy. Beyond this, the president and vice president subscribe to what some call the "unitary executive," which is a fancy way of saying they believe that Congress cannot prevent the president from doing almost anything he wants.

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