Is Iran making war on our soldiers in Iraq?

Jim Henley of Unqualified Offerings has proposed that Congress should investigate the Bush Administration’s claims that Iran is providing direct support of the Iraqi insurgency. If Congress can then verify the Administration’s claims independently, it should steadfastly back additional action:

If Congress can validate the Administration’s case, the US should then go “the full Adlai Stevenson.” The US operates in Iraq under a security-council mandate (pdf). Iranian intelligence does not. Therefore, the UN Security Council is the appropriate first venue to seek a remedy. This will mean the US government will need to have a more impressive case than Colin Powell’s famous travesty of February 2003. It will need to stand up to independent scrutiny.

After all that, Congress should entertain a Presidential request for a declaration of war, if the Administration determines that it wants to attack Iran in response to demonstrated Iranian aid to Iraqi forces in conflict with American troops. As always, there may be good reasons not to resort to war even in the face of covert support for attacks on US troops deployed abroad. That’s a political determination to be made. But a unilateral executive decision to attack Iran on the basis of unaudited claims merits nothing but opposition. So does a Congressional decision to shirk its responisibilities under the constitution by taking the word of another branch of government, especially in light of the sad history of the last five years.

Hat tip: James Joyner

IMO this suggestion is so sensible and so timely that I can’t imagine Congress proceeding along these lines. It’s a lot more fun making hay at the expense of your political opponents than proving something that alienates your base.

The growing tension between the United States and Iran is, perhaps, the gravest issue ( facing the country right at this moment with the possible exception of Iraq and, if Iran is indeed supplying the insurgency the issues are interconnected. It won’t wait for political posturing. It’s signficantly more urgent than any of the issues tackled in the incoming Congress’s “First 100 Hour” push.

If the Administration’s claims are found to be false, we can hope that the investigation would discourage the Administration from ratcheting up tensions.

If the Administration’s claims are found to be true, the support of the Congress would strengthen the President’s hand in dealing with an enemy whose activities is killing American soldier’s in the field and further destabilizing an already teetering Iraq. That would send a powerful message to Iran’s leaders and would provide more leverage in dealing with Iran than keeping our cards to our vests on what Iran is doing with respect to Iraq possibly could.

If the Administration’s claims are found to be unprovable, at least the Congress would, at last, have exercised its Constitutional responsibilities.

I’ve been quite consistent in my views on Iran: I don’t believe that military action against Iran is in our national interests. But I do believe that some action is long past due and we should act on the basis of national consensus in matters of foreign policy. Both the Congress and the President are the agents of that consensus.

Vigorous and decisive action by Congress in this matter is urgently needed. It would be much better than the street theater we’ve been seeing from it for the last few weeks. Or years.

I’ll be writing my Representative (Rahm Emmanuel) and my Senators (Durbin and Obama) on this matter and I urge you to do the same.

8 comments… add one
  • I agree it’s probably a good idea, but I don’t have much confidence anything definitive will be proven. It will likely be possible to show that certain equipment originated in Iran, particularly homemade IED’s, but it’s something else to prove the Iranian government is responsible and not independent actors sympathetic to the Shia militias. The Iranians are not stupid and will take great pains to ensure traceable items will be “cleaned” or not sent at all.

    Often, when a country needs to maintain deniability, they will purchase weapons through a third party so the transaction never touches their hands. Even if the equipment has serial numbers, it can’t be traced back to Iran. Iran and Syria have done this for years with Hezbollah, though Hezbollah’s use of C-802 anti-ship missiles and advanced anti-tank missiles in the conflict last summer demonstrates a direct connection.

  • We’re going to have a hard time maintaining a theory that weapons sales constitute intervention. American weapons are everywhere, as are Russian, Chinese, Czech, French and so on. Iranian agents are a different matter.

    I like the idea of Congress taking a leading role in this. But let’s put a sweetener on the table: if it is determined that the case against Iran is a result of cherry-picked intel, pressured analysts, self-interested and unreliable defectors, then Vice President Cheney will resign.

  • PD Shaw Link

    I agree with Andy that conclusive proof seems unlikely, but it is my understanding that the Explosively Formed Penetrator IEDs are precision weapons that are not likely to be easily characterized as homemade.

    I went to the Obama Presidential announcement this morning and have little confidence that he would want to address this issue unless forced to. Foreign policy agenda: Bring the troops home, strengthen our alliances, strengthen our military, strengthen Homeland Security, and export American values. Getting tough with Iran might run counter to those goals.

  • PD Shaw Link

    Here is a good case for economic and diplomatic pressure on Iran that argues that Iran is more vulnerable to isolation than most pundits believe and that there are cautious elements within Iran’s government that would respond:

  • Good article, PD.

  • PD,

    Actually, most, if not all, of the EFP’s in Iraq are “homemade.” They’re surprisingly easy to build once you have a basic design. Homemade weapons are not as efficient and therefore don’t have the range and penetration power of “factory” designs, but they are more than good enough to penetrate the relatively light armor on an armored hummer at close range.

    I would expect the Iranians to funnel weapons to their allies in Iraq and provide them direct assistance, but even if proven I don’t think that’s a necessarily a casus belli. It’s hard to say though – During the Cold War funneling weapons was par for the course and could be done without much fear of Soviet reprisals, but in an asymmetrical world and an asymmetrical war those old rules may no longer apply.

  • Looks like I’m not the only one comparing the cold war to current events:

  • Ken Hoop Link

    Yeah, Andy, it was good and it only described, as did the Meforum
    piece, the results Of Iranian double agents outsmarting the dual loyalist Feith. Feith, who has written papers for the Likud interests advocating a general ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, created false intelligence in an attempt to ensure Israeli hegemony in the Mideast by eliminating the Baathist rival.

    Well now the neocons have got a bigger and stronger rival but the smart thing for America to do is cut losses,admit it was outwitted, and cede to Iran its rightful influence in the Mideast. Israel has many nuclear WMDs and hasn’t signed one treaty. Iran should be prevented from possessing one? Iran has no right to influence it’s neighbor of majority Shia
    affinity, but America does? Imperial hubris, right Mike Scheuer.

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